Laptop Llano (Sabine) Overclocking Guide – A4-3300M, A6-3400M, A8-3500M, MX


I’ve been seeing a lot of stuff floating around on the internet on how to overclock these new AMD Laptop APU’s. This content consists of mostly a few youtube videos, and a handful of helpful forum posts. So I am taking it upon myself to compile all this information to be helpful to those of you looking to get more performance out of these chips.

Disclaimer and Dangers: Normally laptops are not meant to be overclocked whatsoever. Doing so may also void your warranty on your laptop. Therefore the following information is provided at your OWN risk.

Many problems arise from laptops simply not being able to deliver the power being pulled by the chip if it is overclocked to very high speeds. This may cause problems with the laptop itself, or kill power adapters. Be careful.

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Introduction

AMD introduced their A series laptop APU’s midway through 2011. These chips contain a quad-core CPU with a dedicated class integrated GPU on an all new 32nm process.This makes them a powerful option for the casual gamer, at a cheap, affordable price.

What is unsaid by all the elegant marketing is the overclockability of these APU’s. The CPU portion, being based on the same architecture used in Phenom & Athlon II CPU’s it comes as no surprise that these chips can overclock.

If you are here reading this then you are probably saying, “Okay, well how do I overclock it then?” Well here you are:

Important Essentials:

Here are some things you need to know before we begin.

1) These chips are based on the stars K10.5 architecture, and therefore share many similarities to Phenom II & Athlon II. This means that all overclocking properties of those chips, apply to these APU’s. That means a few things:

-These chips scale with cooler temperatures, they hate heat
-These chips do not always scale with more voltage (which is also a big no-no in laptop overclocking anyways)
-They perform more or less on par with Phenom II/Athlon II at equal clockspeed

For more of these properties, check out my guide for Phenom II OCing. Click here.

2) This is a mobile platform, therefore they differ slightly from desktop versions of this APU.

-These chips can take more heat, and run hotter by default than desktop processors. This is attributed to the weaker cooling system implemented in a laptop.
-Don’t expect
a desktop level overclock out of these machines. I have myself hit a wall for full load use of 2.6GHz.
-On my laptop, I have yet to find a way to overclock the GPU, RAM, or NB. This is expected from an OEM laptop, where things are not meant to be overclocked in the first place.
-Do not use overclock settings while using the battery, unless it is an extreme undervolt. You will just wear your battery faster.
-With the APU’s, the GPU is also on the same die and cooled by the same heatsink. Therefore it is very important to watch the temperatures, and not load the chip too hard.

Programs You Will Need:

K10stat – This is the program that will do the magic. This allows you to change multipliers, dividers, and core voltage for the CPU.

CPU-Z – Optional, but great for monitoring clock speeds of cpu, and checking other specs of your computer.

Core Temp – This program will monitor your APU temps. Sometimes the cpu speeds are displayed inaccurately.

Prime95 and or equivalent – This will stress test your APU to see if it is stable.

Part 1: The Overclocking

It is advantageous to note that these APU’s come with a very high stock voltage. What does this mean for us? It means we can overclock and undervolt the chip at the same time. This allows us to keep heat down, but also overclock to get more performance.

If you open k10stat and go to the “P-state” tab, then you will see numerous items. You will see FID which is your multiplier, DID which is your divider, and CPU voltage for your core voltage. You will also see a list of P-states (B0,P0,P1 …etc). The B0 p-state stands for your turbo boost setting. P0 is your standard stock clockspeed when under load for all the cores. The APU will jump from P0 to B0 for only one core at a time under load. The rest of these P-states are utilized depending on the load of the chip or if it is at idle etc.

Therefore if you want an overclock where the CPU speed will not change at all, you have to adjust all P-states to the desired overclock. If you don’t, the APU will still jump between p-states depending on the processor load. This can also be used at an advantage, so that you only adjust the top P states and not all of them, so at idle you still stay cool and use less power, but under load get the performance of an overclock. Example (DO NOT USE THESE SETTINGS AS THEY MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU):

B0 2450MHz 1.125V
P0 1800MHz 1.0625V
P1 1300MHz 1.0000V 
P2 1200MHz 0.9750V 
P3 1100MHz 0.9500V 
P4 1000MHz 0.9250V 
P5 900MHz 0.9000V
P6 800MHz 0.8000V   

The best way to create the best set of P-states with your chip is to experiment with different profiles and stress testing them along the way. Setting a low voltage Pstate 5 and 6 can save a lot of battery power!

Continuing on…

A good starting point for an overclock is at around 2.3Ghz and 1.1-1.2Vcore. Every chip is different, but these are good starter settings. From there you can tweak in desired increments (I recommend 67MHz multiplier increments, done by using a DID of 1) and adjusting voltage using the drop down menus. Remember to press apply after each change. The max FID is 31, so adjust your DID accordingly. Only increase the voltage if your cooling can take it. The max recommended temperature at full load is 85-90C. If you go over this, your system may shut down your GPU to prevent overheating. You may have to restart your computer.

For my A6-3400M I managed to obtain an overclock of 2.350GHz @ 1.1125Vcore stable. The stock voltage of my chip was 1.3250Vcore for 2.3GHz (Turbo Boost). Usually the chip only runs at 1.4GHz 1.0625Vcore with turbo boost kicking in on one core at a time. Therefore I increased the voltage ~5% for a clockspeed gain of  ~59%. Now do you see why these APU’s are winners?

To get this overclock, I used k10stat to manipulate some settings. I proceeded this by setting a DID of 2 (Divider which breaks down each multiplier step in 50MHz increments), and a FID (multipler) of 31. This has to be done for every P-state to ensure your clockspeed won’t jump around (unless of course you only feel like changing your turbo boost p-state). I changed my voltage to 1.1125Vcore. I monitored my CPU speed in CPU-Z to confirm my changes.

UPDATE: If the settings/clocks you are trying to apply are not changing anything according to CPU-Z, then try enabling “Clock Control Function”. This can be done by right clicking on the K10Stat tray icon and clicking on this option. Here is a picture of that:

Update 2

Be aware that in some cases there is a multiplier bug when going beyond the max stock multiplier. This causes cpuz as well as k10stat to keep showing the clock speed increasing when in reality it is not doing anything. Make sure your OC is working by checking for performance boosts.

Part 2: Stability Testing

This part of the guide is very wide open. As we are not changing ram, HT ref clock, or NB speeds, there are many different stress tests that can be used. I am a folder therefore I stress tested my overclock by running an instance of VMware SMP folding.

For average users out there, I recommend running Prime 95 for at least 3 hours. Watch carefully for temperatures during this run. It would be acceptable to run up to 100C during a Prime 95 test, just not for longer than a few hours.

If you stress test with games, remember that the APU also has a GPU on board, which will add heat if you are doing 3D game rendering. So once again, watch the temperatures.

As I mentioned above, I utilized folding as my stress test. Folding is a very accurate real-world test for me, as it is the only application that will load my processor to 100% and heat it up quite a bit. Here is a screenshot of me folding stable at 2.350Ghz w/ 1.1125Vcore for 9 hours.

And that does it folks. If you are not happy with your achieved overclock after this process, you can repeat the process again, being more aggressive with voltages and clock speed.

I will once again stress, please watch the temperatures. It is easy to overlook such an important factor on a mobile platform.

I hope you enjoyed the guide and get some great performance from your Llano APU!

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Maintaining Your Computer During The School Year – PC Tuneup


School is starting to mount on the pressure for first year university students like me. With this pressure comes a lot of studying and late nights spend working. Midterms are in full swing.

Work is starting to clutter up your desktop, physically and virtually. In this environment, you can’t be bound by a slow machine. Your productivity should not be limited by a PC’s ill-maintained state.

For this reason, I decided to write a quick tuneup guide for anyone that is interested. Let’s get started.

Part 1

Eliminate all unwanted startup programs and services from your computer. It is best to stick with the basics. Don’t let all your torrent programs, game managers, IM chat programs, and more slow you down on a fresh startup. Any programs needed later can be opened at any time.

This can be done by accessing msconfig from the search/run bar in windows as so:

Upon accessing this program, you will find many tabs. First start by clicking the “services” tab.

At the bottom, there will be a box that says “Hide all microsoft services”. Check this box. You will then be brought up with a list of services that have been installed by you in the past. Uncheck anything you don’t need to be running in the background all the time. If you aren’t sure what something does, google it, or just leave it enabled.

Next move on to the “Startup” tab. This tab displays all programs that are launched upon starting/logging in to your machine. Eliminate unwanted start programs. Once you are done with this step, press apply to save the settings.


Upon pressing ok, the computer will prompt you to restart the computer, or exit without restart. Hit restart and reboot your machine.

Part 2

Now that all the unwanted services and startup programs are eliminated, it is time to optimize windows. There are a few excellent programs that do a lot of this for you automatically, but I have a few personal favourites.

First download a program called smart defrag. This little disk defragmenting program is miles ahead of the built in windows disk defragmenter.

Once you run the program, On the “Defrag” dropdown menu at the bottom, select the dropdown, and choose “Defrag and Fully Optimize”. This process may take awhile depending on how fragmented your hard disk is, but it is extremely worth it.


Another program I strongly recommend is Advanced System Care. This program deletes junk, invalid registry files and much more. Download and install this program, and on the main menu, choose the “Deep Care” setting. This one may also take awhile. So sit back and relax.

Be fully aware that these programs will set themselves as startup programs/services and also set up scheduled scans automatically. If you do not want this, disable this in the options of each program, or repeat part 1 of this guide.

Part 3

Not only is keeping your operating system in check important, but is important to check hardware components every so often. It is important to ensure the cpu is getting proper cooling that it needs to maintain its life and performance.

This can be checked with yet another program that I recommend. This program is called coretemp. This application allows you to monitor the workload and temperature of your cpu. It also displays the current voltage of the cpu.

If you are on a laptop, it is normal to see temperatures up into the 80-90C range while under full load. However this is not normal if you are not under load. You may have to use compressed air to blow out excess dust from the heatsink and vents on the side of your computer.

On desktops, processor have a lower temperature tolerance, but usually have way better cooling. The general limit for desktop processors is 60-70C under full load.

In this screenshot, I had my A6-3400 Quad Core Processor in my new laptop running under full load during stress testing:

Hard drives can also be monitored for health. Search for programs on the internet that user S.M.A.R.T. hard drive monitoring.

Part 4

If you are seeking a larger performance boost, and are looking into more advanced options, consider overclocking your components. I do not recommend this for laptops, only desktops.

I will not write a guide for this, as this is a very vast topic and has many variables to take into account. I will however direct you to one of the largest overclocking information pools. A website where I gained most of my knowledge: www.overclock.net

Extending Battery Life In Llano Laptops – P-States With K10Stat


After owning this laptop for nearly a month, I can say it is an excellent unit. However this did not come without tweaking. Long days spent at school studying and working require a laptop with a long battery life.

At stock settings, the HP G6 does not do a very good job. At best with all power saving settings enabled, the laptop will last 2-3 hours on battery. Not to mention the processor temperatures run hot.

At 50% screen brightness, while web browsing at stock settings, this is what I get for battery life estimate:

Because I only run light applications on battery such as word processing, eclipse, or firefox and do not do heavy multitasking, I am willing to take a performance hit to extend the battery life. To do this I forced all P-states of my processor in K10stat, to 400MHz core speed with 0.6125Vcore.

That is a huge drop in voltage and speed, but the benefits are easily seen (same power saving settings as last run, except for the p-state changes):

To be honest, the performance hit is not that noticeable unless you decide to do heavy multitasking or HD video. My battery life is then extended 1-3 hours longer depending on activity. You can also setup a profile for P-states based on the load of the cpu. This will either bump up the cpu speeds or decrease the cpu speeds under specific load. Just remember to right click the tray icon of k10stat and click “Enable Clock Control”.

Hope some of you guys out there with llano laptops.

 

Cheers!

HD Radeon 5XXX Issues Addressed


If you are reading this now you have probably been searching for an answer. Why does my graphics card driver always crash? Why do I get consistent blue screens? Maybe some of you have narrowed it down to your graphics card and are ready to take the next step to fixing any problem you may have. Some of you have not, but if you have landed on this blog, it may provide some useful answers.

AMD makes terrific graphics cards. However, for a long time the drivers provided for these cards has not always been the best. Plagued with powerplay issues, artifacts on the desktop, constant crashes and choppiness in games goes to show that not everyone has had the best experiences. Before you jump ship to nVidia, I have a few solutions for you.

Issue 1: Experiencing constant crashes due to watching YouTube or other flash based video? Either resulting in a driver reset or blue screen? Finding that you never see these crashes in games or other apps, yet only in flash video?

Answer 1: If you are running the adobe flash player 10.1 on your computer you need to either right click on your flash movie and adjust your settings to disable “Hardware Acceleration” (uncheck the box). As an alternative method, you can downgrade your flash player to version 10.0 using this uninstall program and then re-installing flash player using this version here.

Issue 2: Are you experiencing green dots or artifacts on the desktop, yet your card performs perfectly normal in games?

Answer 2: This issue is extremely common for the HD 5K series, caused by unstable power play settings which are default in the video card BIOS. The card is using too low of voltage and too low of clocks for 2D settings. This can be fixed by flashing to a custom video BIOS (advanced users will know how to do this) with increased 2D clocks and voltage settings. The method I recommend to everyone else would be to create a custom Catalyst Control Center profile. In Windows 7, you can find the profile folder in the path C:\Users\(YourUserNameHere)\AppData\Local\ATI\ACE\Profiles . If there is nothing in the folder, first go into CCC and create a blank profile. Then go back to the profiles folder, and open the profile you just created with notepad, and then edit the values so they look like this:

<Profile>
<Caste name=”Graphics”>
<Groups>
<Group name=”Overdrive5″>
<Feature name=”TimeUnlocked” />
<Feature name=”OverclockEnabled”>
<Property name=”OverclockEnabledProperty” value=”True” />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”AutoTuneSupport” />
<Feature name=”CoreClockTarget_0″>
<Property name=”Want_0″ value=”40000″ />
<Property name=”Want_1″ value=”60000″ />
<Property name=”Want_2″ value=”85000″ />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”PowerControl_0″>
<Property name=”Want” value=”0″ />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”MemoryClockTarget_0″>
<Property name=”Want_0″ value=”50000″ />
<Property name=”Want_1″ value=”90000″ />
<Property name=”Want_2″ value=”120000″ />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”CoreVoltageTarget_0″>
<Property name=”Want_0″ value=”1200″ />
<Property name=”Want_1″ value=”1200″ />
<Property name=”Want_2″ value=”1200″ />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”MemoryVoltageTarget_0″>
<Property name=”Want_0″ value=”0″ />
<Property name=”Want_1″ value=”0″ />
<Property name=”Want_2″ value=”0″ />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”FanSpeedProtocol_0″>
<Property name=”FanSpeedProtocolProperty” value=”Percent” />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”FanSpeedAlgorithm_0″>
<Property name=”FanSpeedAlgorithm” value=”Automatic” />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”FanSpeedRPMTarget_0″>
<Property name=”Want” value=”0″ />
</Feature>
<Feature name=”FanSpeedPercentTarget_0″>
<Property name=”Want” value=”50″ />
</Feature>
</Group>
</Groups>
<Adapter name=”PCI_VEN_1002&amp;DEV_6898&amp;SUBSYS_E140174B&amp;REV_00_4&amp;34A7DA13&amp;0&amp;0010A”>
<Aspect name=”Overdrive5″ />
</Adapter>
</Caste>
</Profile>

You can see where the clocks and voltages are adjusted. The above settings will adjust the card to idle at 400core/500mem 1.2 volts. You can adjust these to whatever you like as long as your voltage doesn’t drop to the minimum setting (1.050 for 5870) and your core speed as well as long as it doesn’t drop below 200. Make sure to activate the profile once done editing or it will do nothing. You may need to keep reactivating this profile on start up.

Issue 3: My card is performing really badly, with slow frame rates in games and considerable slowdowns in other 3D apps.

Answer 3: This could be caused by a few different possibilities. Download GPU-Z and check the sensor tab to ensure your GPU is not overheating. Ensure all of your previous video card drivers are uninstalled and cleaned completely out of the computer using Driver Sweeper. Do a clean fresh installation of the newest and most recent drivers from AMD.

Phenom II BE Core Balance + Batch Thread


Blog readers! Sign up and submit if you are not already members of overclock.net.

The Thread

Instructions

-Use the stock AMD cooler provided with your X6/X4/X2 processor
-Use Any Black Edition CPU (955,965,1090T,1100T,555, etc)
-If using a dual, it must be unlocked
-Boot with 1.475Vcore in the BIOS
-HT Ref set to 250
-Everything else stock so that nothing interferes
-Boot into OS (Good to use a stripped OS with less interference)
-Use AMD Overdrive 3.2.1DO NOT UPDATE TO 3.2.3
-Start with core #0 and see how many multi jumps it can make before it crashes. IE: made it to 4500MHz but crashed trying to go to 4625MHz, it is then considered 4500MHz.
-Work your way up until all the cores have been done
-Post your results for all cores + Batch + Chip VID + OS
-Screenshots not required, but helpful. No sense in lying in this thread anyways

This may be a lot to ask of you guys. However, this will be very interesting to see how many chips have combinations of good cores and bad cores and which batches are the most balanced and overclocked the best.

CPU Batch is on the IHS of the CPU, no other way to check. VID can be checked by looking at the stock voltage set in the BIOS on auto, but make sure C1E, CnQ and all that is disabled.

I’ll start with mine for an example:

Slappa – 1090T 1.3250VID – Batch 1018EPAW – Windows XP 32 Bit

Core #0 – 4500MHz
Core #1 – 4625MHz
Core #2 – 4500MHz
Core #3 – 4375MHz
Core #4 – 4500MHz
Core #5 – 4375MHz

So as you can see my core #1 is the best. This will show me what core to use when benching for superpi or other single threaded apps. This also tells me that I should use this core to suicide. Remember that when doing a 6 core overclock, the bad cores will hold your chip back. So cores #3 and #5 hold me back on my chip.

Phenom II IMC & Ram Overclocking Guide


Introduction

Over the recent months I have watched and observed as the Phenom II CPU found its niche within various enthusiast communities and online forums. Users have been provided with an excellent, all around, 45nm AMD quadcore.

However, there is one factor that people still find confusing and unclear. Overclocking the Phenom II. Why are people so confused?  One reason may be because they add a lot of new variables and overclock differently than the competitors chip. Some may choose to see Phenom II overclocking as a headache, or a fresh challenge in their hands. I choose to see it as a fun challenge.

Now, one area that people have mass amounts of problems is Ram/Memory stability and overclocking, as well as what role the IMC (NB) plays in affecting ram and performance.

The IMC

The IMC links the CPU to the memory in a system. In the case of the Phenom II AM3 series, DDR2 or DDR3 memory is supported. One important performance factor that people neglect when applying daily overclocks to their Phenom II systems is that the faster the IMC speed is, the better your memory will perform. Additionally, you have to take into account that overclocking the IMC may require voltage increases on the CPU/NB. This may add unwanted heat which happens to be the Phenom II’s arch-enemy. While overclocking though, always keep in mind that the IMC is a very touchy factor in an overclock. If it’s not working out for you, you perhaps need to try different combinations/ratios. When stress-testing the IMC, the most preferable method is Prime 95 blend test for at least 2-3 hours.

The Ram

The memory within an AM2+ or AM3 configuration acts and requires different tuning than your average Intel setup. The RAM ties strongly in with the IMC. If the ram is unstable it can cause instabilities in the IMC and vice versa. Ram on this platform tends to like lower memory frequencies and timings. When tuning ram, take into account every setting you can find in your BIOS. I mean it. Experiment. It may seem like a lot to take in, but hey, grab a coffee, a pad of paper, and sit down for 2 hours and do some testing. The second important portion of RAM clocking is that you must know what type of IC’s your RAM uses. This already will put you in a great position to fine tune the ram. Plenty of online resources can help you identify your IC’s if you do not already know. Once again, after clocking your ram, 100% stability can be found using Prime 95 linked above. Stability testing for benchmarking overclocks can be done in SuperPi 32M.

The CPU Cores

Since the focus of this article is geared towards Ram and IMC clocking, I will be quick on my CPU Cores description.

Phenom II CPUs are usually very intolerant to high voltages when using air setups. Be aware that more voltage may decrease stability going past 1.5V on quad core versions of Phenom II. Also remember that these cores love cold temperatures and scale brilliantly with it. This can be seen in my Canadian Winter blog series, as I will soon start to compare the scaling from normal air temperatures to very cold air temperatures. Even without winter air, every degree that you can lower your temperatures in an air setup is worth it towards overclocking.

Pulling It Together

This creates a 3 component chain wherein lies the secret to stability and performance. You have to realize that if any component in this chain (CPU, NB, Ram) happens to be unstable, the chain will not be complete and you will never see stability. In order to maintain stability, you have to find a sweet spot for each variable according to your setup. There are a plethora of ways you can approach this. However, I discovered that some specific methods are more efficient than others.

The Overclocking – Guide

Starting With The RAM

It is unarguable that even out of the box, with bare bone stock settings in a BIOS, memory will cause the most headaches for the AM3 setup. For example, prior to Phenom II X6 chips which include a brand new IMC revision, you could not take a standard 1800MHz 9-9-9-24 set of DDR3 and get it to run at it’s rated speeds without doing some tweaking to settings in the BIOS . Even sticks that can in fact run at rated speeds out of the box on an AM3 platform can be a pita for stability. This is in contrast to the CPU and IMC where on stock settings, they are supposed to operate flawlessly without any rifts.

1) To begin your overclock start with a default ram clock and timings. For example: 1333MHz 6-8-6-24. This can also depend on the stock specs of your ram to begin with. That is always a good starting point (excluding stock 1800MHz and 2000MHz sticks, as it is unlikely you will get them to run properly at first starting at such a high frequency).

2) You can start speeding up your ram in a variety of ways. By increasing clock speed (Through dividers and HT Ref Clock), tightening timings (adjusting latency timings, and sub-timings in the BIOS), or combining both for the ultimate overclock. Start in small increments on the frequency and timings. Remember that the 4 major ram timings (CAS, tRCD,tRP, tRAS) are very dependent on what IC’s your ram has, and changing these more then one value at a time can cause instant instabilities requiring a CMOS reset. Also remember that it is contradictory to loosen all timings significantly to increase frequency and vice versa. What increase in speed will there be if you are just trading off one thing for the other? However fiddling around with some sub-timings and loosening can help stabilize higher frequency overclocks, while minimally affecting performance. Generally, the most important part of ram clocking is getting familiar with your ram, and what settings greatly affect performance and stability. This is a lengthy process and there is a lot of rebooting involved. General ranges to shoot for would be: 1333MHz (CL 5 or 6), 1600MHz (CL 6 or 7), 1800MHz (CL 6-8), and 2000MHz (CL 7+). What range you want to fall into also depends on your ram, the quality of the IC’s and your ability to tune the timings. Remember to always experiment as much as you can and play around with everything available!

Here are a few sources that list different DDR3 IC’s:

http://www.jmax-hardware.com/bdds/ddr3.html

http://ramlist.i4memory.com/

http://www.hardwareluxx.de/community/f13/hardwareluxx-ram-datenbank-ddr3-404293.html#post7147707

3) With each small change you make it is important to know if you are stable or not. In windows you can use Super Pi 32m as a preliminary stability test. This will not gauge 100% stability, but it will help you figure out what range you will be able to overclock within. Passing 32m also means that you are stable for most benchmarks. If you cannot pass 32m, then your ram is not remotely stable, and you can then adjust your settings accordingly. For full stability testing for 24/7 overclocks, utilize Prime 95 for at least 3 hours. During any stability test, it is important to eliminate the risk of cpu cores and IMC (NB Frequency) causing any stability problems. This is to ensure that if there are instabilities, they are occurring within your ram, not within your processor cores or memory controller. So make sure that the NB and CPU are as close as possible to stock settings prior to testing. Another thing to note: the more ram slots you have occupied with modules, the more stress it places on the IMC. This can make it harder to overclock/stabilize.

4) If you do find instabilities in your overclock there are a few things you can do to help stabilize them. First things first. Do not go crazy with the ram voltage. In moderation though, it can help. Recent DDR3 modules cannot take too much voltage on standard cooling. It is common for a lot of ram to come stock at 1.65v. Usually this ram should not exceed 1.75v for risk of degradation or damage to the ram. However some IC’s are known to like voltage more then others. Micron D9′s come stock at 1.8v usually and love voltage. Now that that’s out of the way, here are a few tips for stabilization. Increasing the CPU-NB voltage slightly is always helpful, regardless of whether the NB Frequency is at stock. NB Voltage is a setting in the BIOS that refers to the physical northbridge on the motherboard. Do not confuse this with the IMC. In some cases, increasing this voltage in moderation can help stabilize high ram overclocks. Another tip is to ensure that both of your ram sticks are in slots 3&4. On some Gigabyte 890FX boards these slots offer higher headroom for ram speeds. Keep the ram cool, pointing an extra fan toward it can always help. The final tip is to adjust drive strengths, which I will talk about in depth in the next step.

5) In the BIOS, there is an advanced set of ram settings. These are called drive strengths. Essentially you can use these to stabilize the ram further. It is very hard to understand which changes in drive strength values are useful unless you utilize memtest. You need to boot from this program off a CD or USB before going into windows. When changing the value of a drive strength always remember to do it for both sticks of ram (sometimes labeled DCT0&DCT1, or A&B). Only changing one value at a time, run a round of tests in memtest. You want to change drive strengths until memtest gives you as little errors as possible on the test suite. Once done so, you have essentially helped stabilize the ram or have created more headroom for overclocking. Remember that you cannot do this if you are getting preliminary tests of hundreds or thousands of errors in memtest. You need to begin with a handful of errors, and this is what you must use as your baseline value that you will start tuning from.

Adding In The Northbridge Overclock (IMC)

Once you have a proven ram overclock that is stable, it is time to work on the IMC. The IMC can vastly increase performance of the memory subsystem in all aspects. It allows a memory overclock to work to its full potential. Overclocking the memory controller is very similar to overclocking the CPU cores. It is much easier to overclock and understand then ram overclocking, as there are less variables in play.

1) When overclocking the IMC you need to know what will affect it’s  headroom. On the Phenom II X4, X3 and X2 chips, the NB Frequency has a max stable range of 2600-3000MHz depending on your chip. For 24/7 overclocks this frequency usually falls around ~2700MHz. This will require voltage increases in the CPU-NB option in the BIOS.  However, Phenom II X6 chips are slightly different. Their max 24/7 range is around 2800MHz-3000MHz. They also require less voltage then previous chips.

2) Start by increasing the NB multiplier till you hit around 2300MHz-2500MHz. Try stability testing this in Prime 95 combined with your ram overclock. Do not adjust the voltage to the IMC just yet. If this passes, then move up a notch. Go until the IMC causes Prime 95 to crash, and then start increasing voltage in moderate increments on the CPU-NB option. When overclocking take into account that the HT Ref Clock (which also controls your ram and cpu frequency) will become the base that is multiplied by the NB multiplier to get your NB frequency. This means that each multi increase will have a bigger increment as opposed to if the HT Ref Clock was left at 200.

3) For CPU-NB voltages, do not exceed 1.5v. After that the IMC won’t really scale well. Also note that each time you add voltage to the CPU-NB, you are adding to the overall heat output of the chip. So this is something to watch under air cooling, as it could hinder your CPU core overclock that you will later add in. The rule of keeping the chip cool also applies to the NB. A cooler chip could equal a higher overclock headroom.

4) When stability testing your final NB overclock, run Prime 95 for at least 3 hours on the blend setting. This is to ensure that the ram and NB are both stressed to the maximum during the 512K FFT iterations. You may wish to run this longer then 3 hours if you like, but that is more stress then any real-world application can offer. After this is stable, then you have yourself a final overclock of the IMC and Ram.

The Final Step

For the final step, you would add in your CPU core overclock. A great guide to check out for overclocking the CPU is my previous guide here. All this information should help in completing your final stable, 24/7 overclock. Here’s an example (it was only 2 hours because of time constraints):

I hope you guys enjoyed my second guide, stay tuned for more in the future.

Modding A Power Supply To Become GPU Dedicated


Hey guys, this is the first guide I ever wrote back in 2008 when I was just starting out in the community. I originally published this guide on overclock.net, but decided to put it back on here as well.

So. I have an 8800GTS 320MB sitting around. I want to use it, but how do I place it into a Rig that has only a 300W power supply without blowing the thing up? How do I do this without spending money?

The answer is mod yourself a GPU dedicated PSU.

Heres what I did.

I have an old dell that sits around and collects dust. So I decided to part it out for fun. I realized that I had a perfectly good 250W power supply. Now, I know power supplies have been modded before to work without mobos, but this one wasn’t any normal ATX PSU. So I started to research the pinout on the particular power supply. I stumbled across this:

[url]http://pinouts.ru/Power/dell_dimension_psu_pinout.shtml[/url]

This is the exact pinout for my power supply. I discovered the Grey wire is the switch for the PSU. I need to connect this to ground, in order to get the PSU running without a motherboard. Then I could connect it to a molex to 6-pin PCI-E connector in order to supply enough power to the 8800GTS.

So I started by removing the PSU from the old dell machine:

I compared the pins on the motherboard connector the the pinout shown on the website. They matched. The next part took me awhile. I needed to find a viable solution to connecting the PSON (gray) wire to ground (black). I did not have any copper wire, so i used a very thin piece of solder wire.

I bent the solder into a U shape, and fit it into the 2 pin connectors. It fit perfectly. (sorry for the blurry pic)

Now to test it. I plugged the power supply into a wall socket, and tadaa. The fan was spinning, and that indicated to me that the power supply was active.

I decided to finally connect it to the 8800GTS 320. I used a Molex to 6-PIN PCIE adapter cable to do this. This is shown here.

I started up the computer with the 8800 inserted, and the PSU mod in place feeding power to the card.

It worked perfectly with no issues or warnings. YES!

Heres one last final pic of the entire mod put together. (I warn you, it’s very messy, Ill organize it later):

So after I found out it worked, I installed 177.40 drivers and got folding. I now have 2 dedicated GPU folding rigs.

There has been no problems whatsoever when the 8800 takes on load in the modded computer. Success!

I hope this will help some people who aren’t willing to shell out for a new power supply. And this mod was fun to do!

WARNING: If you perform this mod I nor overclock.net take any responsibility for any PSU failures, hardware failures or other problems!

***Also, If you perform this mod the life of the modded PSU may be severely shortened if you don’t load the other rails of the PSU. This can be done by also connecting it to optical drives or other non-critical hardware. Thanks to those who gave me the heads up on this!

**** And remember, if you perform this mod and turn off the computer it is used in, remember to remove the plug from the back of the modded PSU, or it will stay on without a load. Doing so may result in the life of the psu being severely reduced!

Phenom II AM3 Overclocking Essentials Guide


Phenom II AM3 Overclocking Essentials
-A guide I wrote on essentials when OCing those Phenom II’s

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Introduction

phenom2_955_box

Ever wondered why you can’t get past 3.6GHz on that new Phenom II? Some may claim it is a bad chip, but I for one, can guarantee you that is almost always not the case.

I have been overclocking this chip for weeks and studying how it acts while doing so. I may not be an AMD engineer, or an electrical engineer, but here is what I have found:

1) Voltage

volt

People always repeat the same/similar phrases about these chips “Up the voltage, AMD chips are tanks and can take it!” In fact, I have found with the new AM3 Phenom II’s that it is not always practical to up the voltage past 1.5Vcore if you are just looking for a 24/7 overclock. Before upping Vcore, take into account what else may be causing stability. It could be an unstable NB (IMC) or Ram. I suggest finding the max stable ram and NB clock before OCing the CPU cores.

Also, you may run into your system not booting with more than ~1.475vcore. This is because these new Phenom II’s actually dislike and do not tolerate high voltages a lot of the time. You are lucky to gain a chip with high leakage, so that you can sustain stability with 1.55V+

A common misconception is that these 45nm Phenom II’s are using dangerous amounts of voltage for anything past 1.4Vcore. Comon people, these aren’t 45nm Core 2′s or Core i7 CPUs. AMD’s 45nm process is completely different, and can maintain higher voltages without any traces of degradation. However, I do not suggest going over 1.55Vcore for a 24/7 air OC.

Last but not least, remember that voltage adds heat to these chips, of which they do not like under high clockspeeds.

2) Heat

temp

The max heat these chips can tolerate without risking damage is 62C. However, instability and crashes can be caused all the way back into the 50-55C range.

Through experience, I, and many others have noticed that these chips LOVE cold. In fact, they scale way better with cold temperatures than adding more voltage to the mix. A great example of this can be seen with some Dry Ice results on these chips:

Heres another example of the scaling with cold. This was done with only -8C temperatures and chilled water (Corsair H50):

Take a good hard look at those overclocks. 4.6GHz with only 1.408vcore, and 5GHz+ on chilled water?. Simply amazing. Now do you see why temperatures play such an important role? (Note the second result did use a higher voltage, but it had the temperature to compensate. On air cooling, temperature is still more important than voltages).

If you plan on air cooling, pick up some nice high CFM fans (as long as you can stand the sound) and a nice heatsink cooler such as the Xigmatek S1283 or a Thermalright Ultra Extreme 120. Other recommendations: Thermalright Venomous X-RT w/ pushpull config, corsair H60,80. If your chip is a six core (1090T or 1100T) the latter is a better recommendation.

IMPORTANT: When using programs such as Core Temp with a Phenom II X6 (Thuban) CPU, the temperatures are reported 10-13C below what they are in actuality. Make sure to set a delta if this is the case! Other programs report correctly, but this is my experience with Core Temp.

3) Multiplier Overclocking

clockmulti

If you are like me, and have a Black Edition cpu, you have probably figured out that overclocking is a piece of cake by just flicking up the multiplier and being done with it. This is not always the case.

I personally recommend against just using the multiplier. Many people have found that using a lower multiplier and a higher HT Ref. Clock can help increase your max overclock+stability slightly.

Not only that, but only using the multiplier will not always net you the best performance. Sure you can hit 4GHz with a 20X multiplier, and a bit more voltage. However, through benchmarking or game performance, you may find it is performing worse than someone else’s comparable 4GHz using a higher HT Ref Clock. This is because when you up the HT Ref Clock, it also increases ram speed, HT link speed, and NB (IMC) speed. Just remember to watch the stability on each of these.

4) Troubleshooting/Stability:

f4i-response

Here is a direct quote from our very own Chew*:

“Im sure some of you may have experienced a crash with cinebench………sometime you will blue screen, somtimes you will just black screen and sometimes the bench will just crash ( dissapear, etc just shut down ) and windows will still be up………..the blue screen is NB vid/IMC memory related, the black screen is core clocks/cpu voltage related and the just crash/dissapear from desktop is temp related………….”

Next time you experience a crash, take a good hard look at that for reference. Chew* has more experience than I with these chips, and honestly, he is right about the crashes. I checked myself.

The best method of finding stability on your overclocks is to use Prime 95. Now it is usually debatable for how long you should run a program like this. For the Phenom II’s however, you need to wait all the way until you can be sure the IMC (NB) is stable. The NB is stressed the most during 512K FFTs. This happens about 2-3 hours into Blend, so I suggest running for at least 3 hours.

Here are a few fixes to common problems:

4GHz stable is not easy with these chips (mostly the quadcore Phenom II’s). In order to achieve 4GHz 100% stable, you need 32-bit windows and you will have to back off memory and NB clocks (maybe even going below stock). However, it would net you greater performance with a 3.8GHz and 2600-2800MHz NB.

Post C3 Update: The above paragraph only applies to C2 / old revisions of Phenom II. Most Phenom II’s can hit 4GHz+ with good air/water cooling on 64-bit versions of windows as well. Also the IMC has changed in newer revisions so 3000MHz NB is attainable with around 1.3250 CPU_NB voltage. Keep this in mind if you purchased your Phenom II C3 after the release of the 1090T (April 2010). As well, it is easier to clock up ram on easier IMC’s (2000MHz is attainable on thuban’s IMC). Here is a list of changes I compiled when C3 released: http://slappablog.wordpress.com/2009/11/06/phenom-ii-c3-revision-changes/

If experiencing memory instability, try upping the NB voltage (not CPU-NB VID).

If experiencing overall instability, first check to make sure ram is in check at stock speeds. If that is not the case, try giving the CPU-NB VID +.100 or +.200v.

Remember instability does not always come from the cpu cores! It can be the NB or ram causing crashes!

As a last resort, make sure you have the newest BIOS!

5) Core Balance

Some people think that because one (or a select few) of their chip’s cores are holding them back, they can be downclocked while the others are overclocked. Please keep in mind that doing so will cause a load imbalance on multi-threaded programs and will actually slow down your performance as opposed to speeding it up. The only time when this is acceptable is suicide overclocking or running single threaded apps on the overclocked core in particular.

6) Motherboards & Power Phases

The release of the Phenom II X6 CPU’s (thuban) has added more variables into play when overclocking. Keep in mind that is strongly recommended that you have a motherboard with 8+2 Power Phases, with the VRM’s covered by a heatsink. This allows for better stability, and cleaner power delivery. You can still overclock the X6 on motherboards with 4+1 Phases, but I strongly recommend to avoid pushing these platforms too hard (mostly the mATX boards 880G, 870, 780, 890GX) boards. There have been a lot of dead boards/ chips from doing so.

Read more about it here.

7) Tweak!

bios-2s

Honestly, I mean it. Mess around with as many settings (even if you think they won’t change anything) as you can. Every setup is different so experimenting won’t hurt. There is still more to be discovered about these chips!

And this concludes my basic Phenom II AM3 Overclocking Essentials Guide. Hope this will prove a useful reference in the future!

For Phenom II Ram and Northbridge Overclocking, please check out my second guide here: http://slappablog.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/phenom-ii-imc-ram-overclocking-guide/