News sites panic over P4 glitch

Storm in tea cup

A number of news sites who should know better, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and ZDNet, have run shock, horror stories claiming that the P4 shipped with the wrong drivers. Breathless parallels were drawn with the PIII 1.13GHz and Caminogate recalls.

Here are the facts:

Early samples of Intel's D850GB mobo shipped with the first release of the BIOS, version 3.0. Most of these boards - our own test sample is an example - were delivered with an updated BIOS, version 4.0, on a CD. This included such vital corrections as a stuck keyboard numlock light.

Version 5.0 of the BIOS contains the first processor updates for the P4, correcting known errata. This version is available for download from Intel's support site. According to Intel, only one bug of the 40 currently listed was serious enough to threaten data corruption, erratum number 31:

"N31. REP MOVS Instruction with Overlapping Source and Destination may Result in Data Corruption

"Problem: When fast strings are enabled and a REP MOVS instruction is used to move a string and the source and destination strings overlap by 56 bytes or less, data corruption may occur.

"Implication: When this erratum occurs, data corruption may occur.

"Workaround: It is possible for the BIOS to contain a workaround for this erratum."

BIOS rev 5.0, published on 20 November, when the chip launched and Intel's P4 support pages first went live, contains a correction for this fault and a note recommending users to update should their systems be running an older version of the BIOS.

Our test P4 was delivered with the first version of the BIOS installed. It has been running heavy-duty benchmarking software almost continually for two weeks (overclocked to 1.6GHz) without misbehaving once. We have now updated it to the current release of the BIOS, a process that takes about two minutes using the completely-automated Express BIOS Update mechanism.

For MSNBC to state: "Early shipments of Pentium 4 chips to personal-computer makers included the wrong piece of software code," is not only misleading, it's simply not true. ®

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