HP plans to let notebook customers swap out certain memory modules that it claims are compromised by a recently discovered design flaw.
The problem causes affected machines to fail when used in conjunction with power-management techniques in Intel’s mobile chipsets and processors, HP director of customer engineering and sustaining marketing, Ronald Kasik, said.
It affected certain types of notebook memory modules made by Samsung Electronics, Infineon Technologies and Winbond Electronics, he said.
A Samsung spokesperson said the company was investigating the issue. Representatives for Infineon and Micron did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Winbond is based in Taiwan, and its representatives were not available for comment.
Intel’s processors use power-management techniques such as throttling back the clock speed or shutting down portions of the chip not being used.
When the chip did this, it put the memory module into what was called self-refresh mode, Kasik said.
The problem could occur under certain conditions when the memory module tried to leave that self-refresh mode and reactivate. This could cause the memory module to fail, and could crash the system resulting in data loss, he said.
HP Australia product manager for notebooks, Matt Dalton, said the flaws affected products produced by HP between March 2002 and July 2003 — all of which were sold in Australia.
Dalton said HP would not be undertaking a full recall of products, as the flaw did not present any safety issues. Instead, HP has devised a tool to enable consumers to identify whether they have a flawed product. It is available from www.hp.com.
He said customers could choose to either replace the memory module with new stock sent to them by HP, or have HP fix the problem. Those who replaced the memory module independently would receive a free 32MB USB memory key.
Memory modules will be available in densities of 128MB, 256MB and 512MB.
Dalton said HP was also offering a customised tool for IT managers to check corporate HP notebooks potentially affected by the flaw. HP did not want to put the burden of replacing the faulty memory modules on resellers.
“Our resellers can direct customers to the website,” he said.
HP said the memory problem extended to any notebook manufacturer that was using memory modules from the above companies and Intel’s mobile technology in their notebooks.
However, according to IBM Australia communications manager, Heather Jones, the company’s ThinkPad and ThinkCentre PCs are not affected by the memory chip recall.
“IBM does extensive testing of all memory sources and system configurations,” she said.
“During IBM qualification testing activities in mid-2003, we detected failures with at least one memory source similar to what HP is reporting. This memory source was disqualified for the affected systems and never shipped by IBM.”
Jones said IBM had retested products following revelations of the memory chip flaw, and could verify none of its products were affected.