Intel unintentionally put OEM system builders in a bad spot when the chip maker disclosed a design flaw in its 6-series chipset for the Sandy Bridge platform. OEMs were left scrambling to make the situation right with customers, whether it meant extending warranties, bypassing the buggy SATA ports by offering to install a free PCI-E SATA add-in card, or delaying builds until Intel is able to ship out a new batch of boards with a corrected chipset. The latter option means waiting until April, so Intel has come up with a different solution.
Following a discussion with computer makers, Intel said it is "resuming shipments of the Intel 6-series chipset for use only in PC system configurations that are not impacted by the design issue. Only computer makers who have committed to shipping the Intel 6-series chipset in PC system configurations that are not impacted by the design issue will be receiving these shipments."
If you recall from our FAQ, the design bug doesn't affect SATA ports 0/1, which happen to be the SATA 6Gb/s ports. The remaining four SATA 3Gb/s ports are affected, though failure or data corruption isn't a foregone conclusion. Moreover, any additional SATA ports -- such as those provided by Marvell or Jmicron -- are unaffected as well.
What we gather from this announcement is that Intel is giving PC makers the green light to order, build, and ship systems that work around the faulty ports. In other words, hard drives and SSDs would need to be installed on SATA ports 0/1, though it's unclear if PC makers would be allowed to install optical drives on the remaining four ports.
Intel previously stated that the bug would only affect a small number of PCs, and even then, the problem might not manifest for a long time. By avoiding those ports altogether, Intel is ensuring that the problem is all but eliminated (the only exception would be if a user chose to add another hard drive on their own) while letting OEMs get Sandy Bridge systems out the door.