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Intel Sandy Bridge flaw: details and workaround

Seth Barton
1 Feb 2011
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More details emerge of chipset issue and we discuss best options for Sandy Bridge owners.

After speaking with Intel, tech website Anandtech has spoken in more detail about the flaw in the Sandy Bridge chipsets. Intel confirmed that the fault affects both P67 and H67 chipsets, and so will affect any PC fitted with one of Intel's new Sandy Bridge, second-generation chips, such as the Core i5-2500K and Core i7-2600K.

THE PROBLEM

Intel's initial press release stated that the problem was related to degradation of performance from the SATA ports. Intel's Steve Smith (VP and Director of Intel Client PC Operations and Enabling) provided more detail though, pin-pointing the problem to a transistor that's connected to the 300Mbit/s SATA2 ports.

There are four such ports on the Intel chipset, and overtime performance from these ports could degrade and eventually fail. However, the chipset does also include two 600Mbit/s SATA3 ports, and these will be unaffected by the problem.

Additionally, board manufacturers may often add extra SATA control chips and ports in their designs; as you can see here on the Asus P8P67 with its additional SATA3 controller providing two additional ports.

Asus P8P67

A FIX, FOR NOW

If you've built a P67/H67 desktop PC then the best bet for now is to take your storage devices and plug them all into the SATA3 ports, if you haven't done so already. Those with a basic PC setup with a single hard disk and optical drive will have no problem doing this on any motherboard.

If you have additional devices (more than two), and can make use of additional SATA3 ports provided on your motherboard, then do so. If you have more devices then SATA3 ports, then we'd recommend plugging your hard disks into the SATA3 ports and use the SATA2 ports for optical drives - unless you do a lot disc burning, in which case you may want to prioritise an optical drive.

Either way, don't panic, the degredation of the SATA2 ports could take years, and so you're unlikely to suffer any great ill effects in the short term.

INTEL'S RESPONSE

As of yet, we've heard nothing from Intel concerning how it plans to rectify the problem. As we reported yesterday, the company has set aside $1 billion dollars to deal with the issue, though how that money will be spent and how Intel will work with board manufacturers and system builders is still unknown.

We have contacted a number of major motherboard and system builders, but so far we've had no official comment from any of them.

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