Processors
Intel® Pentium® III Processor
Processor serial number questions & answers

What is the Intel® processor serial number?

The Intel® processor serial number feature is embedded into the chip during the manufacturing process of the Pentium® III processor. The Intel® processor serial number serves as an identifier for the processor, and, by association, its system. Like the serial numbers on many other electronic devices or products, except the Intel® processor serial number is implemented electronically, rather than being placed on the exterior of the product.

Why is Intel developing security features for the platform?

The increased use of the Internet for communications and electronic commerce is raising PC users' concerns about the confidentiality and integrity of transaction-oriented data. Since computers are the primary connections to the Internet, they are a logical place for companies to add security features. Over the next several years, Intel is adding security building blocks in order to move the industry forward in developing secure solutions for our customers.

What are the benefits of the processor serial number?

In business, Corporate I.T. departments can use it to track assets and manage systems in a more efficient manner to help reduce total cost ownership. For consumers, the potential of the Internet promises new ways to shop online, manage their lives, and access and share information. Used in combination with other identifiers such as passwords and user names, hardware features such as processor serial number can provide added levels of confidence.

Does the Pentium III processor broadcast its serial number when it is enabled and a user is connected to the Internet?

No. The processor serial number is passive. Thus, it does not transmit or broadcast itself. If a person chooses to enable the feature, then, when visiting a Web site that can utilize processor serial numbers, the Web site needs to send software to the PC to read the processor serial number.

Is there a flaw in the Pentium® III processor regarding processor serial number?

No, the processor serial number feature works fine in the Pentium III processor. Some reports have erroneously stated that there was a flaw in the Pentium III processor.

How do I know whether the processor serial number feature is "ON" or "OFF"?

The processor serial number control utility offer users a visual indication of the state of the processor serial number feature via an icon in the Windows* system tray. Since the processor serial number utility is a standard Windows* application, users can also maximize their confidence in the reported state by following normal precautions against viruses or other malicious software.

Some press reports say that once you turn the processor serial number feature OFF, it will automatically default back to ON. Is this true?

No. The control utility remembers the user's preference, and it is reinstated it each time the PC boots-up. When first installed, the control utility's default is OFF, and the utility will turn the processor serial number OFF every time the PC is booted. For a user to enable the processor serial number feature, they will need to change the software setting in the control utility to ON, which will update the setting in the Windows* registry. They will then need to reboot their PC.

Can the processor serial number control utility be hacked?

All software can be attacked and compromised with enough time and effort. The malicious software must be downloaded or enabled for download in the browser by the user for this to happen. Note that once malicious software gets on the PC, there are a number of undesirable things that could happen -- reading personal data, financial information, downloaded emails, etc. That's why we strongly advise that users be careful when downloading software or executing code from unfamiliar or untrusted Web sites.

Can someone else turn on the processor serial number feature remotely in my machine?

Once the control utility or the BIOS switch has disabled the processor serial number feature, it cannot be turned back on without resetting the processor, which normally means rebooting the machine. The control utility is designed to default to the last user selected preference each time the system is turned on. Note that the control utility, or any software, can theoretically be affected by a virus that is allowed onto the user's system.

Is it true that through a visit to the Internet, a hacker can re-enable my disabled processor serial number and read it without my knowledge or authorization? And if so, what precautions have you developed to prevent this?

While it is true that all software can be attacked and compromised with enough time and effort, several events must occur to make this possible. Precautions have been implemented to help prevent those events from occurring. First, the user must download a software application onto the user's PC that will run a string of code to re-enable the disable utility switch. In most cases, your web browser will detect this software and require your permission to allow the download. However the user may not recognize this and allow the download to occur. That's why we strongly advise that users be careful when downloading software or executing code from unfamiliar or untrusted Web sites.

Once disabled, the processor serial number cannot be read until the hardware processor reset has occurred. For the processor serial number to be re-enabled, there must be a hardware reset of the processor. The hardware reset can occur in several ways, as indicated in the technical information on the Technical Support area of Intel's Web site. These include: turning off and on the machine, pressing the "reset" button, or -- in the case of some PCs -- when coming out of suspend mode. Depending on the make and manufacturer, some PCs use the hardware reset during the sleep mode power-down and resume, which would enable the processor serial number without a complete system reboot.

In addition, the Intel processor serial number control utility has been designed to check the state of the processor serial number and compare it to the user's designated preference. If the control utility finds that the processor serial number is "ON", yet the user setting for processor serial number is "OFF", it will turn off the processor serial number. The processor serial number will not be read. The purpose of this feature is to confirm that the icon in the system tray reflects the current state of the processor.

Will Intel track each processor to know who gets which serial number?

No. While this is theoretically possible to do, as part of our manufacturing process Intel will not track or correlate which processor serial numbers go to which consumers, nor will Intel entertain any offers to develop such a list.

Does Intel share any of my personal information with other companies?

No, Intel will not share any of your personal information without your permission, as stated in the Intel Privacy Policy.

What types of applications and services will use processor serial number?

Processor serial number will be used in applications that benefit from stronger forms of system and user identification, such as:

  • Applications using security capabilities
  • Manageability
  • Information Management

This applies to:

Intel® Pentium® III Processor



Solution ID: CS-007579
Last Modified: 16-Nov-2009
Date Created: 10-Dec-2003
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