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Sony to recall half-million laptops on heat risk

Potential overheating problems on Sony's Vaio laptops prompt the company to announce a recall of 535,000 units, including some sold since January.

Sony Vaio CW series laptop
Sony Vaio CW series laptop Sony

Sony announced Wednesday that it plans to recall around 535,000 Vaio laptops due to overheating problems.

The company said that a flaw in the temperature control can create an excessive buildup of heat that distorts the shape of the unit. Though Sony hasn't heard of any problems with the Vaio in Japan, it said it received 39 complaints of overheating and distortion from customers abroad.

The company also noted the possibility that the heat buildup could create skin burns but hasn't received any report of this, according to the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

The recall would encompass some 259,000 laptops in the U.S., 103,000 in Europe, 120,000 in Asia, and 52,000 in Japan and include F and C series Vaios on the market since January of this year, said the Journal. Users who own Vaios covered by the recall can either have Sony pick up the laptop for repair or download a software update that would fix the temperature flaw.

Sony, which is eyeing a return to the black for its fiscal year ending March 2011, doesn't expect the recall to put a major dent into upcoming earnings.

This isn't the first time Sony has had to issue a recall due to heating problems. In 2008 the company recalled more than 400,000 Vaio laptops due to overheating issues. And in 2006 Sony conducted a massive recall of notebook batteries after it discovered that some were overheating or exploding. This defect affected not only its own laptops but those of other PC vendors, such as Dell, HP, and Apple, which all used Sony batteries in their portable PCs.

Update, 9:30 a.m. PDT: In an e-mail response to CNET, Sony pointed to a Web page that contains an official statement on the problem (though it doesn't use the word "recall") and lists the model numbers affected by the flaw. The company is advising customers to download the software update to fix the issue.