Intel has begun charging US customers $US50 to unlock the full power of their processors.
The company has started selling upgrade cards with PCs running its Pentium processors. Once customers purchase the $US50 cards, they can visit the Intel website and download a small application that extends the features of the processor.
In the case of the Pentium G6951, using the upgrade voucher unlocks 1MB of L3 cache and HyperThreading, according to reports.
Chip manufacturers routinely handicap processors to differentiate between different products. Sometimes imperfections in the manufacturing process are exploited to, say, offer a cheaper processor with only three functional cores instead of the normal four. At other times, processor speeds are artificially capped using BIOS settings, for example.
However, this is the first time a company has charged consumers to unlock the full potential of their processor.
The practice is already common in the software world. Microsoft, for example, allows Windows 7 Starter or Home Premium customers to upgrade to Ultimate edition by purchasing upgrade codes. The Ultimate software is already pre-installed on every new PC, with the upgrade code merely unlocking previously unaccessible features.
It's not clear whether Intel will be bringing the processor upgrade cards to the UK.
This article originally appeared at pcpro.co.uk