Computer makers typically offer free accessories, software, and service with their computers, but last month Toshiba America inadvertently included something else with its notebooks: a virus.
The virus, called AntiEXE, was introduced into some workstation notebooks during final end-user testing, said Toshiba spokesperson Eric Greene. The affected notebooks run Windows 3.11 or Windows for Workgroups. Machines running Windows 95 or NT are at negligible risk because installation automatically eradicates the virus in almost all cases, according to Greene. Toshiba has not found any Windows 95 notebooks with the virus, he said.
The AntiEXE virus, which causes intermittent data loss, infected notebooks shipped in the United States and Latin America between August 7 and August 25. Fewer than 1 percent of notebooks were affected, according to Toshiba.
Analysts said the material threat to retail customers was slight, but the mishap poses questions about Toshiba's quality control.
"The overall affect will be relatively minor," said Gerry Purdy, CEO of marketing research firm Mobile Insights. "But it does suggest an issue of how the company is going to rectify its software quality assurance program to make sure this is not going to happen in the future."
Toshiba spokesperson Lynda Orban described the inclusion of the virus as an anomaly that won't be repeated.
"We have revised our testing as well as materials handling procedures to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.
Orban declined to specify what changes Toshiba had made.
Infected machines can be cleansed by running standard virus protection software. Toshiba is also alerting its customers to virus elimination commands and software available on its Web site.
Notebooks potentially infected includethe Tecra 730XCDT and 510CDT; Portege 300CT and 660CDT; Satellite Pro 460CDT, 440CDX, 430CDT, and 430CDS; and Satellite 220CDS.