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Intel recalls new Sandy Bridge PCs after discovering chip flaw

Intel's admitted there's a problem with its new Sandy Bridge chips that causes components within the machines to degrade over time. Customers should expect a recall.

Here's some potentially annoying news for anybody who's recently bought a computer with one of those fancy new Sandy Bridge chips inside -- Intel has admitted today that there's a serious flaw with many machines packing this latest tech, which have been shipping since 9 January. The company hasn't announced details of a recall, but said it would be working with manufacturers to fix the problem.

Here's what's happened. A support chip codenamed Cougar Point that's been used alongside computers using second-generation Core i5 and Core i7 quad-core processors is faulty, and, "In some cases, the Serial-ATA (SATA) ports within the chipsets may degrade over time," Intel said, "potentially impacting the performance or functionality of SATA-linked devices such as hard disk drives and DVD-drives."

Translation: if you own an affected machine, it might stop working one day as parts of your computer stop talking to other important parts, including your hard drive. Intel says it has devised a "silicon fix", which is a euphemism for "the problem can't be fixed with an update" -- they're going to have to manually replace the affected chips within every computer.

Obviously that duty doesn't fall only to Intel, but to PC manufacturers such as MSI or HP as well. We've contacted computer manufacturers as well as Intel for comment on how they plan to solve the problem, and as soon as they get back to us, we'll let you know what's going to happen. For now however, hold off on buying any new second-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 quad-core systems -- these are the only affected systems that could have been sold to end consumers.

This is going to hit Intel pretty hard -- it's already stated that the total cost to repair and replace affected units will probably be around $700m, which might provide some comfort to anyone who's just learned their new computer could very well erode itself from the inside out. But probably not.

Intel doesn't expect to achieve "full volume recovery" until April, which means it's going to be a few months at least until Intel gets back on its feet in terms of shipping new Sandy Bridge machines.

This story is still evolving, and we're waiting to see what Intel and other manufacturers are planning to do, so bear with us. For now, however, we'd certainly recommend holding off on buying a new Sandy Bridge computer if the one you want is an affected model.