I call the Intel motherboard support guys, and they were very good – probably some of the most knowledgeable front-line phone crews I’ve ever run into (and I’m not saying that just because I work there). I’ve only had to call them about 3 times, but every time they are right on the money and know exactly what obscure feature of the SATA raid controller I was trying to use, strange chipset interaction, etc and have some clever way to do what I was trying to do by pointing me to an article/whitepaper.
First they tell me to try a Microsoft patch: KB929777 (for those who want to know/try it). This is a manual patch, so I go and download it (did you know you must download the patch from the machine you’re trying to patch? The Windows Genuine verifier tool actually re-directs the website to the matching OS download (and not show you the other versions) based on the WGA response code. I did it from my XP laptop and got the 32-bit version which wouldn’t install on my Vista box. So I download it from my Vista box and you get the 64-bit version. I personally think this is colossally stupid because what if you need a patch for a machine that can’t use the internet/boot properly/etc – sigh) but no luck.
Another call to Intel’s support and we back and forth the info, and he nails it right off. He asks what bios version I’m using (ver. 1687) and says, Ahh, well, the 965 chipsets have a known problem we just discovered with these last two bios revisions. Turns out there is a bug in the bios (as I predicted) that shows itself if you have 4 gigs/4 sticks of ram in at the same time. You must go back to bios ver 1669 before they introduced the problem. Well, upgrading a bios is easy as pie, but rolling back a bios requires a multistage process of setting a recovery jumper, burning a cd, etc (go to support.intel.com and look up article 023360 for the process) then go download an old version of the bios 1669 by going to your board’s update page, scrolling down to the bottom and select “This product has Previously Released software” then download version 1669. Flash your machine, and voila! Super-fast machine. But not only that, I did a test. It took ~1:45 sec to boot with 3 gigs using bios 1687; but with bios 1669, the same 3 gig setup takes ~0:45 sec. That sounds like more than one problem, but anyway…
So, there’s your answer. Go to bios 1669 and wait for a bios update after 1687 that specifically mentions a fix for this 4-stick/gig problem.