Compaq admits possible floppy drive problem

Compaq Computer has discovered a potential floppy disk drive problem with certain models in its Presario desktop PC family that could cause systems to malfunction under certain "extreme circumstances," a company spokesman confirmed on Tuesday.

Compaq maintains that the problem occurs only when the computer is operating under highly unusual conditions that are extremely unlikely to arise in the course of ordinary use. The company also claims that it hasn't received a single complaint from a customer describing the potential problem.

"The Presarios work as they are intended to and meet our customers' needs," said Compaq spokesman Alan Hodel in a phone interview. Compaq has started notifying customers of the potential glitch, and has posted a software patch on its Web site that fixes the problem, he said. Hodel couldn't say immediately which Presario models are affected.

The issue arises at a sensitive time for the computer maker. Late last year, Compaq, along with Hewlett-Packard, eMachines and Packard Bell NEC, was served with a potentially costly class-action lawsuit alleging that the company had sold computers with faulty floppy disk drive controllers.

The lawsuits followed similar litigation brought against Toshiba relating to its laptop computers, which the Japanese firm settled for $US1 billion.

Compaq and the other defendants have denied selling faulty equipment and have vowed to fight the lawsuits. "There is no basis for the lawsuit -- period," Hodel said.

Nevertheless, after the lawsuit was filed, Compaq began running strenuous tests of its PCs as a precautionary measure, Hodel said. In the course of those tests, the company discovered the glitch of which it is now notifying customers.

Like any other company, Compaq posts patches on its Web site as a matter of course for any problems related to its products, no matter how slight they are, Hodel said.

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James Niccolai

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