February 16, 2006 12:27 PM PST

Microsoft driver flaw saps battery strength

Microsoft has confirmed the existence of a flaw in its USB 2.0 drivers for Windows XP Service Pack 2 that can cause a notebook to consume power at a faster-than-expected rate when using a peripheral device.

The issue, first uncovered by Tom's Hardware two weeks ago, appears to affect certain Intel-based notebooks running Windows XP Service Pack 2.

When a peripheral device was connected to a USB 2.0 port, the notebook's battery life plunged at a greater rate than would normally be expected from the use of a peripheral such as a mouse or storage key. When details of the flaw were first published, Intel denied that its processors or chipsets were the responsible for the issue. And Microsoft refused to confirm to CNET News.com until yesterday that the software company was responsible for the battery performance problem.

Microsoft published a Knowledge Base article on the subject in July 2005 but made that information available only to PC vendors and partners, a company representative said in a statement. The software maker is not releasing the article to the public, but industry sources confirmed that a posting on Slashdot is a copy of the original article.

In that article, Microsoft outlined a problem with its USB 2.0 drivers that prevents a mobile processor from entering advanced sleep states designed to minimize power consumption. According to Tom's Hardware's testing, the effect was even more pronounced on Intel's new Core Duo processors, which are capable of entering a deeper sleep state than older Pentium M chips.

Other tests by reviewers such as Anandtech found that the problem affected notebooks with a variety of Intel processors. It was not clear whether the issue also affected notebooks with Advanced Micro Devices' Turion or Athlon 64 processors.

In the private Knowledge Base article, Microsoft outlined a fix that involved modifying the registry key for USB 2.0. However, since then, the company has realized that this is an impractical fix for most users and is working on a new fix that could involve a BIOS update patch, a company representative said in a statement.

The severity of the problem depends on how USB 2.0 has been implemented in a notebook--which encompasses a wide variety of factors, such as the operating system, processor, chipset, USB 2.0 device, and the software and drivers attached to all those components, an Intel representative said. Intel is also working on a fix for the problem that would not be dependent on a software download, such as a tweak to future processors, the representative said.

Notebook users who experience the problem should contact the manufacturer of the notebook for further assistance. Some notebook manufacters have modified the registry keys as outlined in the Knowledge Base article, but this solution does not always work as intended outside of lab testing, the Microsoft representative said.

See more CNET content tagged:
Knowledge Base article, USB 2.0, flaw, notebook computer, company representative

22 comments

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WHAT?
A flaw in Microsoft software? Surely you jest!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Funny!
But this type of flaw just causes the batery to drain quicker. As far as flaws for MS goes, this is almost not on the radar.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
WHAT?!
Someone making a lame comment about a flaw in a Microsoft Product? Well I never.. who would have thought that people would be so creative, using the same comment for 10 straight years.. wow.. that's originality.
Posted by mottie (13 comments )
Link Flag
Get a clue
Go anti microsoft people.

Idiots.

Anyway, this is so covered up it would suggest this a much bigger bug that what it is made out to be. There is a registry fix but Microsoft talks of a bios patch. This suggest Intel is at fault.
Posted by (16 comments )
Link Flag
You'd Think They'd Follow Apple's Lead ...
Yeah, Microsoft should follow Apple's fine example and severely limit your options for hardware and software to prevent this kind of thing! Who do they think they are opening up their OS to thousands of vendors to provide a gazillion hardware variations for the end user, anyway?

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
WHAT?
A flaw in Microsoft software? Surely you jest!
Posted by J_Satch (571 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Funny!
But this type of flaw just causes the batery to drain quicker. As far as flaws for MS goes, this is almost not on the radar.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
WHAT?!
Someone making a lame comment about a flaw in a Microsoft Product? Well I never.. who would have thought that people would be so creative, using the same comment for 10 straight years.. wow.. that's originality.
Posted by mottie (13 comments )
Link Flag
Get a clue
Go anti microsoft people.

Idiots.

Anyway, this is so covered up it would suggest this a much bigger bug that what it is made out to be. There is a registry fix but Microsoft talks of a bios patch. This suggest Intel is at fault.
Posted by (16 comments )
Link Flag
You'd Think They'd Follow Apple's Lead ...
Yeah, Microsoft should follow Apple's fine example and severely limit your options for hardware and software to prevent this kind of thing! Who do they think they are opening up their OS to thousands of vendors to provide a gazillion hardware variations for the end user, anyway?

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
They killed my battery. Sue Em
So this is why I keep going through batteries--constant full depletion!

Time to make them PAY for all the faster than expected premature battery deaths that more and more notebooks are having lately.

First they have bugs that expose my data, now they have bugs that ruin my hardware through ZERO fault of a third party (so don't even try to bring that defense up). I smell class action.
Posted by Anon-Y-mous (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They killed my battery. Sue Em
So this is why I keep going through batteries--constant full depletion!

Time to make them PAY for all the faster than expected premature battery deaths that more and more notebooks are having lately.

First they have bugs that expose my data, now they have bugs that ruin my hardware through ZERO fault of a third party (so don't even try to bring that defense up). I smell class action.
Posted by Anon-Y-mous (124 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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