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Potential Pentium III bug easy to diagnose

Consumers who want to know if they are affected by a bug inside some Pentium III computers at least have the satisfaction of knowing it's easy to get an answer.

Consumers who want to know if they are affected by a recently revealed bug inside some Pentium III computers at least have the satisfaction of knowing it's easy to get an answer.

Intel has set up a Web site providing details on how a bug in the memory translator hub, or MTH, can cause Pentium III computers to freeze and display a blue screen. The site also contains a utility to determine if a given computer contains the part.

Consumers are being urged to contact manufacturers and dealers as well if they are experiencing problems.

The MTH was incorporated into nearly 1 million Pentium III computers, according to analysts' estimates. Computers containing the component started shipping in November. Many second-tier manufacturers included MTHs, although Hewlett-Packard, among other large manufacturers, included it in some business PCs. The MTH allows computer makers to link the fast 820 chipset with inexpensive standard memory rather than pricey Rambus memory.

The component is only found in a subset of Pentium III computers. Only computers containing Intel's 820 chipset, a 133-MHz system bus and a Pentium III running at 533 MHz or greater are affected. Computers containing Rambus memory do not contain MTHs. PCs with Pentium IIIs running at 550, 650, 750 or 850 MHz likely do not have MTHs inside.

Intel has said that it will fix the problem by changing the motherboards inside PCs containing MTHs and by swapping standard memory with faster Rambus memory.