Network hardware problems at a merchant bank last week have raised concerns about a reliability problem with a batch of Compaq PCs.
Complaints about a Compaq PC are focusing on 'a faulty network card' which experts believe could possibly affect tens of thousands of PCs.
But Compaq says the problem is related to a simple software upgrade and is not planning to recall any PCs.
A leading city bank, which asked not to be named, received a batch of Compaq computers, the Deskpro EN 400, last month. But the company experienced severe network problems with the new PCs.
The problem, it emerged, was that the network cards in the new PCs had the same media access control (Mac) address - the unique string of numbers and letters hard coded on a network card that gives a PC its unique identity on a network.
Network integration specialists GABC diagnosed the problem for the bank. "The problem was not the Compaq equipment but the Intel Nics (network interface cards) - they all had the same Mac address," a spokesman said.
"A Compaq engineer told us that up to 60,000 PCs could have duplicate addresses and will have to be taken out of circulation," he said.
Compaq denied that the problem was with the cards. Scott Kortright, product manager for networking devices at Compaq stated: "The problem revolves around incompatibility with the driver and the Nic, not faulty hardware."
"There is no recall. This has been a known incompatibility and one which we thought was fully communicated to our global customer base. If customers such as the UK bank are having problems, they need only download the current compatible drivers off the Web," Kortright said.
But GABC said fixing all the affected cards could be a lengthy task. "Any network that has two or more of the same Nics could fail. It is not a difficult job to replace them. It takes five to ten minutes per PC but the problem is finding them all," the spokesman said.
Panacea Services Limited, which supplied the computers to the bank, wrote a field visit report, which stated "ten machines have been delivered and eight have faulty network cards."
A source at Panacea Services Limited said: "Most customers use 3Com cards but the ones that Compaq used were Intel. We are having reports in, but the fault happened recently, so it is early days."
Compaq says it changed the Nic on the Deskpro EN 400 in May and told customers that previous drivers would no longer support this Nic. Compaq says the old driver software displays duplicate Mac addresses even though they are OK.
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