Dell Computer is warning as many as 400,000 of its notebook computer users that their machines may contain defective memory chips.
A memory problem has occurred with certain models of its Latitude and Inspiron notebook lines, which could lead to problems such as system hangs, Windows 'blue screen' errors and other potentially less noticeable warning signs. The issues only occur, however, when the machines are brought out of suspend mode.
A Dell spokesperson said the bug can corrupt or destroy files and the notebooks' memory modules must be replaced. Dell has posted a downloadable diagnostic software program to its website, which can check notebooks for the bug.
The root of the problem has been traced to an undisclosed component vendor that supplied the direct PC maker with faulty Ram modules. As a result, when affected computers go into 'sleep mode', the user data is sent to the system's flawed Ram.
Until the machine's memory modules can be replaced, however, Dell suggests changing the suspend settings using the basic input/out system software from 'suspend to memory' to 'suspend to disk'.
The problem was discovered after Dell found that many of its customer service callers were complaining that their computers froze following system failures, leading to a loss or corruption of data.
As a result, Dell sent a letter to customers this week who had purchased Latitude and Inspiron notebooks shipped between 1 February and 20 November, 1999. In the letter, the supplier warned that the affected models included the Latitude CpiA, CpiR, CPt, CPx and CS and the Inspiron 3500, 3700, 7000 and 7500.
The Dell spokesperson said: "We know where the customers are and we are contacting them and providing them with utility disks."
If a diagnostic test shows faulty memory, Dell said it would ship new memory to customers overnight. Alternatively, consumers can send their notebooks back to the PC supplier for memory replacement at the company's expense.
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