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Pentium bug discovered

Earlier this month, a number of reports were posted to the Internet regarding the possibility of a problem with some Pentium® processors which could cause computers to "lock up". Intel has now confirmed this problem and has identified a software "workaround" that can be implemented through the operating system.

Basically, the problem occurs when the processor receives a specific invalid instruction. As a result, the system may "freeze" and have to be turned off and rebooted to return to normal operation.

Referred to by Intel as "Invalid Operand with Locked CMPXCHG8B Instruction erratum", the invalid instruction has not been found in any commercial software. The problem will only occur when someone has intentionally created this invalid instruction because they want to freeze the system.

Intel has tested the problem and found that it does affect the Pentium® processor, Pentium® processor with MMX™ technology, Pentium OverDrive® Processor and Pentium OverDrive processors with MMX technology. It does not affect the Pentium® Pro processor, Pentium® II processor and i486™ and earlier processors.

Intel's workaround has been made available to operating system vendors (such as Microsoft and Linux), who in turn must create and supply a "patch" to their users.

For Windows 3.1, Windows 95 and Windows NT users, Microsoft has issued the following statement regarding the problem:

"Microsoft has worked closely with Intel to understand and characterize the effects of the recently uncovered Pentium® processor erratum, and we're in the process of studying the implementation of potential of potential workarounds in order to meet the needs of our customers," said Moshe Dunie Vice-President Windows Operating Systems Division at Microsoft. "Since this erratum can only be exploited by a program that was developed with malicious intent and deliberately uses this illegal instruction, following common-sense computing practices, such as not downloading or running executables from unknown sources, can protect a user from this problem."

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Last Revised on 12/12/97 sab [an error occurred while processing this directive]