just as a troubleshooting step, have you had a chance to try with an intermediate BIOS 3435?
No I didn't. I thought about trying that, but I'm nervous about getting into an unrecoverable state. (I've seen others post that they weren't able to recover after an upgrade.) So, I wanted to see if there were any known problems and if so, which BIOS version the problems began.. I also thought about trying again using F7 at POST to upgrade to 3504 as I saw others saying you should never upgrade the BIOS from Windows (even thoughit gave every indication that it worked while it was flashing).
Ok, I decided to get over my paranoia about lack of BIOS recovery (that others have reported). I first proved that I could do BIOS recovery by removing the jumper and flashing 2127.
Then, I tried upgrading to 2786 using express (as recommended) and it worked (i.e., Windows booted and functioned normally). Next, I tried 3044 and it also worked. Next, I tried 3301 and it failed. I'm thinking 3435 would also fail for me given 3504 failed.
Oddly enough, the symptom I saw with 3301 and also with a subsequent test of 3504 was a hang at the RAID BIOS screen (right after the Intel splash screen during POST). Pressing F2 during the splash screen did nothing because it doesn't enter setup until after the RAID screen.
In the release notes, it talked about loading setup defaults with 3301. So, I powered off and put the BIOS jumper in maintenance mode with 3301. This allowed me to get into setup (it started setup immediately). I did a "Load Defaults", then saved/exited. When I powered off, put the jumper back in the normal position and powered on, it still hung on the RAID screen. I don't even have any RAID arrays defined as I only have 1 drive installed.
At this point, I guess I'll live with 3044 and hope that I never need to update the BIOS to correct a problem (or that they fix whatever isn't working with my system).
If anyone has any other ideas, I'd be happy to hear them. If anyone from Intel is reading this and you want more information so you can try to recreate the problem, let me know that too.
I spoke to "Adolfo" via online chat and he indicated they aren't aware of this issue. One would think this would cause them to gather more information and try to recreate it. I don't think E-mail is an option according to their Web site. I was hoping that someone from Intel monitored this forum and would respond (apparently, this doesn't occur too frequently). Perhaps I'll try chat again.