Intel has begun fixing a problem with a number of its
motherboards that can be crippled when someone unplugs the computer.
The problem occurred with some of Intel's SE440BX-2 motherboards in conjunction with certain power supplies, said spokesman
Daniel Francisco. The SE440BX-2 is used in desktop computers with Intel's
Pentium II processor.
Unfortunately, seeing if your machine has the problem could leave you with
a dead computer: "You'll know you have a board with this problem if you
unplug [your computer], plug it back in...and it won't turn back on,"
Francisco said. It's not enough to merely hit the power switch on the
computer; the machine actually has to be completely unplugged.
People who think they have this problem should contact the place where they
bought the computer, Francisco said.
The motherboard is home to the core pieces of a computer, including the
main processor, its memory, and slots to plug in expansion circuit boards.
Intel began shipping the faulty motherboard to computer companies on
October 1, and Intel discovered the problem October 23. The Intel
motherboards shipping now don't suffer the problem, Francisco said. He said it
affected a "relatively small number of boards," but declined to say exactly
how many motherboards suffered the problem.
Intel has notified computer manufacturers and can
send those companies a test kit that will identify motherboards with the
problem, Francisco said. The problem can be fixed by adding some additional
circuitry to the motherboard.
The problem comes from the interaction under certain conditions of the
motherboard with certain power supplies--the box in the computer that
converts electricity from a wall socket into a form useful to the computer.
Some power supplies emit an electronic signal that actually reprograms the
motherboard's flash BIOS,
the device where the computer looks for the first instructions it needs to
To fix the problem, Intel attaches new capacitors, electronic devices that
prevent the power supply's signal noise from affecting the flash BIOS.