Intel Corp. Tuesday surrendered to customer outrage over its flawed Pentium computer chip, apologizing for the way it handled the problem and promising free replacements with no questions asked.

Owners of computers using the Pentium chip can ask for a replacement at any time if they feel uneasy about using the chip, which can botch some obscure division calculations, the world's leading maker of chips announced.The replacement policy will cost an unspecified amount of money for Intel, the company said. But Intel's stock surged early Tuesday on the news as investors hoped the Pentium problem was now solved. On the Nasdaq stock market trading, Intel jumped nearly $3 a share to the $60.50 level in heavy trading.

Since the uproar over the defects in its showcase product first surfaced a month ago, the company had required that owners show why they needed a replacement.

This infuriated many customers, made Intel the butt of jokes and raised basic questions about Intel's sensitivity to the market.

"To some people, this seemed arrogant and uncaring. We apologize for that," Andrew Grove, Intel's president and chief executive officer, said in a conference call with industry analysts.

"What we view as an extremely minor technical problem has taken on a life of its own," Grove said.

Intel has placed the chance of hitting the flaw as one in 27,000 years.

"We were motivated by a belief that replacement is simply unnecessary for most people. We still feel that way, but we are changing our policy because we want there to be no doubt that we stand behind this product," Grove said.

Intel will either send the corrected chip to owners, or owners can bring their computer to a dealer to be fixed. The corrected chip will be widely available within the next few months.