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An Intel Corporation’s representative in Munich, Germany, confirmed Friday a problem with the company’s latest I/O controller, dubbed ICH6, that can cause personal computers based on the recently unveiled chipsets from Intel to freeze or work unstably.

Intel confirmed a report from [H]ard|OCP web-site about pulling back some i915P/G and i925X-based mainboards because of failure found with the ICH6-series of I/O controllers, chips that handle operation of add-in PCI and PCI Express x1 cards, USB, Serial ATA and other controllers. According to official statement from the company the issue discovered recently is not connected with silicon fabrication process, but should be treated as a fab excursion. A thin layer of film had not been properly removed from die pad areas of a number of ICH6-series chips at some stage of manufacturing.

“Some customers have received a limited number of ICH6 I/O controllers that have encountered a Fab excursion (anomaly). This excursion makes these products susceptible to leakage in the Real Time Clock (RTC) circuitry.  This was caused by incomplete removal of a thin film on the die pad area. This anomaly will likely exhibit itself as a failure to boot, a system hang, or other anomalous system behavior,” an Intel’s spokesman Christian Anderka told X-bit labs.

Intel does not identify which ICH6-series chips are affected, but says that possibly all iterations of the I/O controllers can have the problem. Intel supplies four versions of the latest I/O controllers: ICH6, ICH6R, ICH6RW and ICH6W.

Mainboards and personal computers that have defective ICH6-series controllers installed either do not boot at all, or hang, or behave “strangely”.

Intel said that all chips shipping now and after the product launch are unaffected by the issue. The company revised its process of manufacturing and believes that only a limited number of chips do not have the thin film properly removed from the die pads. The Santa Clara, California-based chipmaker said that it did not expect end-users to get mainboards with flawed ICH6-series controllers.

“We believe almost none of the impacted products have reached the end customers and we are working with our customers to find the impacted products and replace them with fine products. All product shipping now uses the new manufacturing process and is unaffected,” Mr. Anderka indicated.

While Intel declines to comment on the number of faulty I/O controllers that are typically referred as South Bridges shipped to customers, the company announced earlier this week that more than 150 000 resellers worldwide as well as the world’s leading makers of personal computers were in position to ship the new systems based on the i915P/G and i925X-based mainboards and Intel’s new Pentium 4 processors.

Some resellers stopped selling the new i915P/G and i925X-based mainboards and Intel confirmed that stores, system integrators and mainboard makers will have to do some additional testing to verify that they have solid and stable components in stock. Intel will exchange faulty ICH6 chips or mainboards to its customers.

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