Intel admits PII serial confusion

The serial ID was only supposed to be on Pentium IIIs. But it turns out that some Pentium II notebooks have the controversial tag, as well.

Chip giant Intel Corp. admitted on Wednesday that its controversial processor serial number had been inadvertently included in one of its lines of mobile Pentium II processors.

"We were informed by a customer that the chip ID was present in the mobile Pentium II processor in mobile module form," said George Alfs, a spokesman for the company. The processor serial number, or chip ID, is a 96-bit number that uniquely identifies the processor to any piece of software that requests the ID. The issue is at the centre of a privacy fight between Intel and several consumer rights organisations.

According to Alfs, the serial number circuitry was included on the mobile Pentium II as a way to test the manufacturing process for creation of the Pentium III. On most factory lines, the circuit was switched off before it left the factory. However, one line failed to disable the controversial feature.

"These slipped through," said Alfs, adding that Intel is working on a fix for users who want to turn off the serial number. The patch is similar to the one the company has put in place for users who want to turn off the chip ID on Pentium III processors. "There is a BIOS update patch that will work around the issue -- essentially, it will turn it off so that it can't be used," said Alfs.

According to Intel, there was no intent to introduce the serial number on notebook PCs. "Certainly, we had no intention to turn this on for the Pentium II," said Alfs. "The processor serial number is only a Pentium III feature."

Take me to the Pentium III Special.