- Contrary to what most consumers have
been lead to believe, Intel will ship Pentium III computer processor chips
with their serial number ID programmed in the "ON" position by
- News sources have reported that, as a
result of wide-spread opposition from privacy advocates, Pentium III chips
will have their IDs "turned off" by default. This claim is misleading
- According to an Intel technical report
published on their web site the new processors are manufactured with the
chip ID set to the "ON" condition. Computer manufacturers who
install Pentium III chips will also have to install a special software
patch - called the "processor serial number control utility"
- provided by Intel in order to disable the chip's hardware-generated serial
number. The disabling software will provide the capability to turn the
serial number off after boot-up. Pentium III chips will reset their IDs
to the ON position each time the system is started.
- Intel is recommending that PC manufacturers
use the processor serial number control utility to configure systems so
that the ID is OFF once the system boots. Intel will ship the software
patch so that it initially turns the ID off. Thus, the statement that the
chip IDs will be "TURNED OFF." As a result, most news outlets
subsequently reported that Intel had decided to "disable" the
- Do-it-yourselfers who build systems or
"upgrade" an existing system using Pentium III chips must either
download the patch or order it directly from Intel.
- The reality is that all Pentium III systems
that do not have the software patch installed will boot up with the chip
ID permanently set to the "ON" position.
- The serial numbers serve as an identifier
for the processor, and, by association, its system. Computer chip IDs will
eventually be used to associate computer users with online purchases and
to provide a method for web page administrators to gather information about
visitor buying and web-browsing habits.
- Intel's web page states: "Some of
the most popular Internet communities on the Web will use the Pentium III
processor as a virtual access card, giving [users] more control over how
[they] experience age-appropriate content on their sites."
- The CPU IDs are also expected to be added
to Intel's Celeron line of chips. According to Intel the serial number
is the first of several new "security building blocks" to be
added over the coming years.
- Intel admits, the processor serial number
- when used in conjunction with user name and password - can be utilized
by web sites "to identify users when conducting e-commerce, or setting
up members-only chat rooms." The chip ID used in combination with
other individual identifying data - such as an electronic fingerscan or
PIN - can also be used to build databases of user habits, trace email,
and to monitor usage of copyrighted material among other things.
- Intel contends that the processor serial
number will not be automatically "broadcast" over the Internet,
therefore users need not worry. When a web site wishes to access the encoded
number, according to Intel, it must first send an applet program to the
user's system, read the CPU ID, and then report it back to the web site.
Most web browsers provide a method for users to be notified when such applets
are attempting to run on their system. However, inexperienced users may
find that the warning message has been turned off by whomever set up their
machine, in which case they may never know their CPU ID is being read and
- But more importantly, if Intel is allowed
to establish this as a standard, web page administrators will undoubtedly
begin requiring that the processor IDs be turned "ON"
in order for users to access their pages. And, as electronic, online purchases
steadily increase, States are going to demand some method to identify purchasers
within their boarders so that sales tax can be levied against e-transactions.
At such time in the near future, laws will be passed requiring CPU IDs
to be "voluntarily" transmitted before a sale can be conducted.
Anyone who doesn't "volunteer" will not be allowed to conduct
electronic business over the Internet, and some - if not all - web pages
will become "off limits" to users that will not provide their
- Scott McDonald
- Pentium III Processors Processor serial
number technical notes
- (Summarized from Intel's web pages)
- There will be only two ways for users
to control the state of the processor serial number. The first is by using
Intel's Windows-based processor serial number control software patch. The
second way is through the system BIOS.
- The processor serial number control utility
will enable users to: determine whether the processor serial number is
enabled or disabled; enable or disable the processor serial number; and,
read the value of the processor serial number. CPU status will be indicated
by the addition of another icon in the Windows system tray which will indicated
whether the processor serial number is enabled or disabled.
- Although the chip serial number could
be disabled by the BIOS, Intel is recommending to computer and BIOS manufacturers
that they not promote this method. Users of operating systems other than
Windows, like Linux or Unix - as well for users who desire additional assurance
that their processor serial number is completely disabled - will have to
use a BIOS setting to deactivate the ID. This may not be an option on some
- Here is the process of setting the initial
default state of the processor serial number when using the control utility
as the primary control mechanism:
- * ON when the processor first resets
(hardware requirement) * ON when the BIOS executes (BIOS switch default
is "enabled") * OFF when the control utility executes (control
utility default turns processor serial number feature "OFF")