Intel reveals new “upgradeable” processors: pay to unlock power


It has been revealed that Intel is testing a new “service” in select markets that will allow customers to upgrade their processors – at least that’s what the company is calling it.

The reality of the program is that Intel has used software to downgrade the capability of certain processors and is now charging consumers a $50 fee to get full use of the hardware they’ve purchased.


Intel reveals new "upgradeable" processors: pay to unlock power

This new Intel Upgrade Service appears as though it could be a new partner program with Best Buy, and possibly other retailers. Customers who purchase a Gateway SX2841-09e computer have the option of purchasing the $50 upgrade card to “increase the performance” of their new computer.

The card instructs the customer to download a 4MB installer program and enter in a security key to unlock the processor. After a reboot of the computer, extra L3 cache and hyperthreading capability are enabled.


While the program has quickly been ridiculed on several websites across the internet, it’s still likely that many people will fall for this new money-making scheme. There are all too many Best Buy customers who have no idea what the processor in their system does, let alone what it should be capable of. They will think they’re getting some kind of great, new deal where it’s now so cheap and easy for them to “upgrade” their new computer.

I can just hear a smarmy, uneducated sales person trying to sell one of these upgrade cards. They’ll point out that an upgrade is affordable and you don’t even have to open the case of the PC to do it. They might even try to compare it to overclocking when faced with someone who knows a little bit of computer terminology.

But this is definitely not overclocking at all. Overclocking is pushing a processor to limits that it has not been designed to handle. Intel’s Upgrade Service deliberately constrains the performance of the hardware to get the customer to pay more for what they should have been getting in the first place.

Personally, I hope this program fails miserably, because I think that it takes advantage of consumers who aren’t tech-savvy. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that it will do quite well in the marketplace.