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Retail chain pulls HP P4s from the shelves

Faulty BIOS escapes into wild

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Last week Hewlett-Packard crowed that it had sold out of Pentium 4s: it also told The Register that no machines containing a faulty BIOS supplied by Intel had escaped into the public.

Today it has egg on its face, after its P4s were hauled off the shelves at Best Buy retail outlets in the US - to have BIOS upgrades which should have been performed in factories.

Anyone attempting to purchase computer systems featuring Pentium 4 chips at Best Buy outlets in Houston, Texas; Jacksonville, Florida and elsewhere in the southern US were told Pentium 4 systems were no longer available, according to IDG.

It quotes a sales rep for Best Buy in Houston, who said a number of HP Pavilion computers with the 1.4GHz Pentium 4 chip inside were pulled from shelves because "they were running too fast". Users trying to purchase Pentium 4 machines from BestBuy.com will also come up empty-handed.

Sales reps were also telling customers that overheating and performance issues were to blame for the recall, but the real reason seems to be in order to upgrade the BIOS on display models.

As previously reported by The Register, early samples of Intel's D850GB mobo shipped with the first release of the BIOS, version 3.0 which did not contain the processor updates necessary to fix an erratumnotbug which could lead to data corruption.

A new rev of the BIOS, version 5, was produced before the launch of Pentium 4 and manufacturers were told to perform the necessary upgrade.

An Intel spokesperson described what happened with Best Buy as an "anomaly" which affected display models that had slipped through the net. This is supported by postings from a Best Buy employee which said the retailer had returned systems to get the BIOS upgrade performed by HP (probably a sensible move given some of the comments by sales staff).

Systems would be on sale again from Saturday, the employee said, adding that the store was prepared to refund any customers who got "their panties in an uproar".

BIOS rev 5.0, published on 20 November, when the chip launched and Intel's P4 support pages first went live, contains corrections for 40 known errata - only one of which might result in data corruption. This is a relatively straightforward upgrade which Intel recommends if users are running an older version of the BIOS.

However, it still beggars the question of how many systems with older versions of the BIOS have managed to find their way into the channel? ®

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