October 8th, 2013 ~ by admin

When a Pentium 166 isn’t a Pentium 166

Pentium 166 Faked from Mobile 120

Pentium 166 SY016 Faked from Mobile 120 SY027

Here is an interesting example of what led Intel (and other manufacturers) to start locking down multipliers on their processors as well as adding anti-counterfeiting measures.  This processor appears to be a 166MHz Pentium Processor, which in 1997 sold for around $200.   A 120MHz Mobile Pentium sold for less than $100.  Thus processors of lower speeds were often remarked by unscrupulous dealers and sold as higher speed parts.   The forgeries had to be made quick, as processor prices dropped very quickly, the 166MHz Pentium debuted at nearly $1000.  Most Pentium fakes were made by painting over the original markings and painting/engraving news ones.  Some of the better fakes ground down the old markings first.  Nearly all are easy to spot by the trained eye, wrong fonts, date mismatches, etc.

This particular example, from somewhere in 1997, was faked from a Pentium 120MHz mobile to a 166MHz desktop Pentium.  As far as fakes go this was a fairly conservative one.  Often 166s were faked from 100s or even 75s.  The 120 was a 2x60MHz processor running at 3.1V, while the 166 is 2.5×66 (you see why locking the multiplier discouraged faking?) running at 3.3V.  This resulted in a 28% overclock at about a 6% voltage increase.  In this case the processor likely ran fairly well, if perhaps a bit warm.  Some of the more extreme fakes resulted in very unstable systems due to overheating and pushing a processor well beyond what it was designed for.

Before removing paint

Before removing paint

Today counterfeit chips are still a major problem, though it was shifted from the consumer market, where prices are generally low, to the military and industrial market, where prices are high, and there is still demand for older devices.

January 14th, 2010 ~ by admin

Counterfeit IC’s: A growing problem

EETimes has another article about a person being charged/convicted of selling counterfeit chips to the US navy. This has been a growing problem in the electronics industry for the last decade, but has its roots much earlier then that.

It was common in the 90’s for counterfeiters (aka remarkers) to take a processor, wipe the markings, and mark it with a higher speed. This was rather common with the Pentium era and newer, but occurred with 486’s as well. To a computer user this typically meant that their computer ran much warmer, and often times less stable.

To a collector this means you must be VERY careful when looking at processors in your museum to ensure that rare sample you have, is not in fact a clever forgery, or that Pentium 133 is not in fact a remarked 75.

Having your computer crash or having a few fake CPUs in your collection is a mere annoyance, but what about actual use? For example a part listed as mil-spec, with a wide temperature operating band, that controls a ships defensive systems? If this is in fact a fake (remarked from a commercial spec IC, which has been happening). The system could and likely WILL fail at the worst time. The result? People lose their lives.