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Screen found for Pentium III bug

Dell begins to manufacture desktops containing Intel's "Coppermine" Pentium III processors again, as a test has been developed to detect a minor, recently detected flaw.

Dell has begun to manufacture desktops containing Intel's "Coppermine" Pentium III processors again, as a test has been developed to detect a minor, recently detected flaw.

The flaw, more like a 24-hour flu, becomes apparent in the "boot-up" sequence and essentially forces computer owners to hit the "on" button twice, according to Michael Sullivan, an Intel spokesman. If a computer contains a chip with the flaw, it does not start until the second try.

"It is like starting something twice," he said. The flaw is not in all Coppermine chips but only in 1 to 2 percent of them, he added.

Although a small bug, Dell earlier this week suspended manufacturing of OptiPlex GX110 computers, which contain the new chip. Intel has now developed a test to detect if a processor contains the bug, stated a Dell spokewoman. As a result, Dell is testing its processors and shipping computers again.

The bug will be eliminated from the circuitry of the chip in the next "stepping," or manufacturing tweak, of the processor, which is expected early next year.

Coppermine was the code name for the most recent generation of Pentium IIIs. Released on Oct. 25, they differ from earlier Pentium IIIs in that, among other reasons, they are made on the more advanced 0.18-micron manufacturing process.

Chips made on this process have smaller transistors than older Pentium IIIs manufactured on the 0.25-micron manufacturing process, making the new chips both faster and more efficient. Because of earlier delays, however, Coppermine chips have been in relatively tight supply, although shipments are increasing, sources have said.