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HP acts on faulty memory

HP claims to have uncovered an industry-wide problem which could cause notebooks to suffer the dreaded blue screen, or other system problems.

HP claims to have uncovered an industry-wide problem which could cause notebooks to suffer the dreaded blue screen, or other system problems.

The company announced last month that as many as 900,000 of its own notebooks could be affected by a design flaw in certain notebook memory modules manufactured by third-party suppliers. When combined with a common industry architecture the flawed memory modules “could potentially result in blue screens, intermittent lock-ups or memory corruption” HP warned.

The problem lies in a circuit design flaw which could cause parts of the memory to become corrupted. To be affected, the memory modules must be combined with one of a number of Intel chipsets and Pentium processors.

As the memory modules are supplied by third party manufacturers, including Infineon, HP believes that other manufacturers could have used the same combination of parts and hence will face the same problem, a view supported by research firm Gartner Group. “This episode reinforces the value of buying from a vendor with a strong support system,” it said in an advisory. “Because the memory modules are industry-standard parts, buyers of PCs from other vendors should contact their account executives to determine the status of their modules. Gartner believes the faulty modules may have been in widespread circulation before August 2003.”

“HP is the first technology company to publicly announce the existence of this problem, which we discovered by conducting our own ongoing and routine testing of our notebook products,” said Ronald Kasik, a director of HP Personal Systems Group’s customer care team. “We are taking immediate steps to notify customers, partners and our employees to rectify the situation as quickly as possible. While the probability of occurrence of this issue with the memory modules is low, we think its important to notify our customers of this potential problem.”

HP’s willingness to be open about the problem has won plaudits from industry analysts. “When an industry problem like this occurs, vendors often gamble and hope the user won’t realise it isn’t a virus or the generic ‘software problem’ that has become an industry default,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst, The Enderle Group. “HP is one of the few companies that takes customer needs seriously and has the tools to identify and rectify the problem in a timely fashion. In this day and age it is refreshing to see a vendor value trust more than money.”

HP Middle East said it has not yet received any reports from customers with the problem. HP has set up a dedicated web site for customers and partners to discover if they have the problem or not. A diagnostic tool can be downloaded to test machines for the flawed memory and HP will replace any modules that are found to be defective at no cost to the owner.

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