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HP Offers Free Computer Fix
Story Filed: Wednesday, August 23, 2000 7:52 PM EDT
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Hewlett-Packard Co. is offering a free fix for a possible computer defect that has already cost another computer maker more than $2 billion in a court settlement.
Hewlett-Packard is one of four computer makers facing class-action lawsuits over the alleged defect in floppy-disk controllers, which could corrupt or destroy data stored by millions of computer users. The lawsuits allege the companies knowingly sold PCs with the faulty component.
HP did not admit any liability but said Wednesday it would offer a free software ``patch'' that can be downloaded from a company Web site and used to fix the problem.
``We are not at all acknowledging anything because we are not aware of any instance where this has affected a HP customer, but we are offering the software patch to eliminate any potential problems,'' spokeswoman Anne McGrath said.
She added that the lawsuits are ``without merit'' and would be vigorously defended in court.
HP, along with Compaq Computer Corp., Packard Bell NEC Electronics Inc. and eMachines Inc., were sued separately last fall within days of a $2.1 billion settlement in a similar case against Toshiba American Information Systems Inc. Toshiba did not admit liability or acknowledge the possibility of a defect in its computers.
In each of the remaining cases, filed in federal court in Beaumont, Texas, five plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and an injunction halting production of the computer hardware at the four companies.
The lawsuits contend the defect is in the chips that control the way data are transferred to floppy disks. The glitch allegedly occurs when the computer makes the data transfer while also running other programs.
Compaq, which also denies the allegations, nonetheless wanted to ``err on the side of the consumer'' and started offering a similar software patch six months ago, spokesman Arch Kurrid said. The company has found that the glitch would appear only in ``very rare conditions,'' Kurrid said.
Pattie Adams, a spokeswoman for eMachines, said the company also intends to fight the lawsuits. A call to Packard Bell NEC requesting comment was not returned.
HP launched a newspaper ad campaign Wednesday announcing the free software patch. McGrath would not say whether the lawsuit was responsible for alerting HP to the potential problem. She also could not narrow down the types or number of HP computers possibly affected.
On the Net:
Site to download the patch: http://www.hp.com/go/fdcpatch
Information on Compaq's upgrade: http://www6.compaq.com/support/files/desktops/us/help.html
-- (SuperSSD@aol.com), August 24, 2000
I downloaded the patch.
-- Sally Strackbein (sally@SallysKitchen.com), August 24, 2000.