1) Can you provide the exact model of your motherboard? Setting IDE mode in the PC BIOS may not be enough; each motherboard seems to offer different capabilities for IDE emulation depending on which southbridge is used and what BIOS is used. For example, my Supermicro boards have completely different BIOS options than my Asus boards, my Gigabyte boards, and the Dell boards I've seen -- and all boards are using Intel ICHxx southbridges. I've had to become familiar with what all the options actually mean.
2) Can you state exactly how long "an eternity" is? I've seen the firmware update drive probe take up to 5 full minutes on certain systems.
3) Can you explain how the Intel RST drivers have anything to do with a firmware update? The firmware updater is an ISO image that you boot, which runs native DOS (FreeDOS if I remember right); Intel RST drivers are Windows-specific. You aren't doing something like trying to run the firmware updater directly in Windows are you?
Please try these, and in this specific order -- and before doing any of this, make sure your Intel SSD is on one of the SATA ports wired to the Intel ICH10R controller (the gray ports), not the Marvell (the red ports) or (eSATA-only) JMicron controller. Make sure to write down what the settings were originally as well.
- 1) System BIOS: Main -> Storage Configuration -> SATA Configuration -> set to Compatible
- 2) System BIOS: Advanced -> Onboard Device Configuration -> Onboard SATA6G Controller -> set to Disabled --- this will disable the Marvell
- 3) System BIOS: Advanced -> Onboard SATA Controller -> set to Disabled --- this should disable the JMicron, though Asus's docs are utter crap and don't state that; I have to assume "SATA_E1" means "External"
- 4) Boot firmware update CD and see if things work.
If it doesn't work, continue with this (do not revert previous BIOS settings from above):
- 5) System BIOS: Advanced -> CPU Configuration -> A20M -> set to Enabled --- this enables classic A20 addressing line support, which is commonly needed in legacy OSes like DOS
- 6) Boot firmware update CD and see if things work.
If successful, revert the settings to what they were and go on your merry way. :-)
If none of this solves the problem, go ahead and revert all the above BIOS settings to what they were previously. At this point you'll need to talk to Asus Technical Support to find out what the problem is. There is absolutely nothing "special" about the Intel firmware updater that would make it fail, but it is known to behave strangely when multiple controllers exist on a single system (and your board has 3 separate SATA controllers).
I should note, just for posterity, that item (1) above should work even if set to "Enhanced" and item "Configure SATA as" is set to IDE (not AHCI). However, I chose "Compatible" which causes all SATA devices on the ICH10R to show up as PATA-emulated devices (e.g. SATA port 0 = Primary Master, SATA port 1 = Primary Slave, SATA port 2 = Secondary Master, etc...). So please don't divert from my instructions; this is just an educational point.