Hewlett-Packard Co. said Friday that it will replace memory modules in some of its notebooks with an "industrywide" design flaw that can cause system lockups.
The problem is tied to the interaction of DRAM from several manufacturers and several chip sets, all designed by Intel Corp. The flaw, which could result in system lockups, is being solved through a comprehensive recall that could affect up to 900,000 of HPs notebooks, a company representative said.
Although HP classified the problem as one that will affect the notebook PC industry as a whole, it appears that the company is the only one currently taking action. A representative from Dell Computer Corp. said that the company was "looking into it."
The HP notebooks that are covered by the recall include: the Compaq Evo Notebook N610c, N610v, N620c, N800c, N800v, N800w, N1000c, and N1000v; the Compaq Presario 1500, 2800, x1000, and x1200; the HP Compaq nx7000; and the HP Pavilion zt3000.
HPs replacement program will allow a customer to receive a small kit, containing a screwdriver as well as instructions for the customer on how to replace the faulty DRAM modules, which may include 128MB, 256MB, and 512MB versions. The customer can then ship the DRAM to HP using a return envelope and receive a new module for free.
"This is about doing right by the customer," said Mike Hockey, a spokesman for HP in Austin, Texas.
The flaw affects a complex matrix of products. According to Hockey, the lockups appeared when memory from Samsung Semiconductor Inc., Winbond Electronics Corp., Infineon Technology Inc. and Micron Technology were used with Intels Intel 845MP, 845MZ, 852PM, 852GME and 855PM mobile chip sets and either the Mobile Pentium 4 or Pentium M microprocessors. However, the glitch was not caused by the chip sets or processors themselves, he said, but by the memory from the four manufacturers.
Specifically, Hockey said, the flaw resulted from a poor self-refresh exit timing circuit, which governs an execute refresh cycle. When the timing was thrown off, the DRAM could become corrupted.
Because the flaw potentially affects such a range of products, HP characterized the flaw as an "industrywide" problem.
Representatives from Micron could not be reached for comment.