Sandy Bridge Design Flaw Discovered—Here's Who's Affected

By Wesley Fenlon

Intel's Series 6 chipset for quad core Sandy Bridge processors has a flaw in its SATA controller. If you've built a Sandy Bridge rig, you'll want to order a replacement.

Just when we were getting good and excited about 2011’s line of processors, Intel had to go and throw us this curveball--Businessweek has reported that a flaw found in a Sandy Bridge chipset will cost Intel $700 million as it begins manufacturing corrected chips and replacing flawed units. Intel’s profits aren’t the key concern here--your computer hardware is.

But if you’ve purchased a Sandy Bridge motherboard with a P67 or H67 chipset, it is affected. In all likelihood, it proudly display an “Intel Chipset P67 inside” emblem somewhere on the packaging. Laptops--which use a different chipset, Huron River—are in the clear.

If you grabbed a new pre-built machine with Sandy Bridge from a manufacturer like Dell, it is likewise stricken with the faulty SATA controller. Any quad core desktop processor--the i5-2400, i5-2500, i5-2500k, i7-2600, i7-2600k--will be running on the chipset in question. Unless you’re running on a dual-core i3 chip, you’ll want to take action.

Intel is already producing new chipsets and will be shipping fixed units by the end of the month, with production scheduled to hit full capacity in April. The company suggests “For further information consumers should contact Intel at on the support page or contact their OEM manufacturer.”

Because the problem is brand new—and because the replacement chipsets aren’t yet available--there’s little you can do but sit tight right now. Your computer isn’t going to implode, and the SATA controller should be just fine for now. A poster at the NeoGAF message board received this clarification from an Intel rep: 

 "This is an issue with the 6 series chipset (Cougar Point) impacting SATA ports 2-5. If you are using ports 0 and 1 there are no issues. The issue was root caused and a new stepping (B2) is coming end of March. If you have purchased 6 series platforms, call your supplier to return them (if you are intending to use SATA ports 2-5) All the ODM’s and OEM’s are notified and are being notified and they can give you more detail (or you can use me if you have more questions)"

Keep your eyes peeled for now and contact the support at ASUS, Gigabyte, or whoever made your motherboard to find out what the next step is. Same goes for a pre-built machine—contact the manufacturer.

And if you’re thinking about upgrading to Sandy Bridge...better wait a month or two.