Most people around here know me by my Starcraft 2 strategy input (see profile for the best ZvX guides out there), but don't realize my start is tech.
Anyways, I'm going to be writing a 2nd overclock blog! It's been almost 2 years since I built my original build:
+ Show Spoiler +
Athlon II X3 450 Rana OC to email@example.com
2x2GB RAM Kingston HyperX 1333mhz 9-9-
GTX 460 768mb OC to firstname.lastname@example.org
Biostar A770E3 6.3 Red&Black Motherboard 770/710
Antec Earthwatts 430w
NZXT Gamma case
Refurbished Caviar Blue 160GB
$300 at the time, closer to $250 now, $200 if you find good deals or used parts easily)
NZXT Sentry 2 Fan Controller and Temp Sensors, CM Hyper212+, 6 Yate Loon Mediums for cooling (~$50)
You may also recall some 'quirks' that I did, such as the following:
Jerryrigging heatsinks to my 3+1 mosfets
+ Show Spoiler +
My motherboard only has a 3+1 VRM design, and the VRM design and mosfets themselves aren't particularly the best either. Now Biostar doesn't have a bad track record with blowouts (unlike MSi, never buy an MSi motherboard, dont take it from me, just search on vrm msi nuclear catastrophe), but a 3+1 phase is NOT going to support a x4 overclocked processor!
So, I posted on overclock.net and stated I was going to mix elmer's glue and TIM together 50/50, and stick on a sawed off heatsink to my VRMs. Not the best idea in the world... but a fun one, and it's better than nothing. A budget build gives you freedom to do these kinds of things, to push the limit.
A nice man at OCN mailed me, free, some thermal tape, and I secretly went into my roommate's room and took his am2 hsf off his computer and swapped it with my am3 (ooh im evil). An am3 stock heatsink doesnt exactly saw in a 1cm wide piece smoothly.
Applying thermal tape to my 3 mosfet arrays.
It took about 30 minutes to an hour to saw this 1cm wide chunk off the square, stock am2 hsf, with a finetooth saw.
Stuck onto my VRM!
And my motherboard has yet to blow out, and my temperature diodes at my VRM heatsink never show temps above 40*C, so running very cool despite so much load!
Bear in mind, that even though Biostar's website says this motherboard is rated for 125TDP, a 3+1 array is something you see in like.. micro-atx boards of shitty quality, low price, that aren't meant for overclocking or quadcores at all. So the fact I'm running over 140TDP on a board that shouldn't go over 95w, for almost 2 years now, safely, should tell you something. That I'm just so awesome!
Jerryrigging a fan onto my northbridge heatsink
+ Show Spoiler +
The number one cause of motherboard blow-outs, is when people switch from stock, radial cooling (which blows down onto the board, and what motherboards are spec'd to use, and who's TDP is rated against), and tower cooling (awesome for CPU cooling, but totally neglects your precious VRM, mosfets, RAM, CPU-NB, and RAM VRM).
When you switch into tower cooling, your cpu temps may go down 20*C, and that's great. But other components will rise in temperature, possibly critically so, even if you have good airflow. And so, I found myself with a 60*C motherboard northbridge suddenly when i switched to tower cooling in the cm hyper 212+ from stock am3 hsf.
So I took my stock, 80mm hsf, and used copper wire to attach it to my cpu-nb (with electrical tape on certain areas to make sure no contact with the motherboard). Now, my cpu-nb is very cool, and it provides exhaust for the top of my gpu, and extra cpu cooling and airflow!
This has been a great system, and I've been able to stream my 1360x768 Ultra Graphics starcraft 2 on 720p@45fps on a regular basis (twitch.tv/belial88 for proof, although ive been testing more recently so if you really need a high quality video, twitch.tv/belialtester88).
So what is going on? Why have I assembled you all here?
I found a Phenom ii x4 955 BE for $31 on Ebay
You don't believe me?
Still don't believe me?
It looks a lot better than it was, otherwise I probably wouldn't have ordered it lol. It's missing 3 pins, and 2 of the pins are bent so far out, that they were impossible to straighten without breaking. As in, they weren't just bent, which is an easy fix, they were crushed and folded. I didn't appear to see any of that in this picture, it just looked like some naturally bent pins, a challenge.
In the end though, it worked out. I unbent all but those broken 5, in which case I took an ethernet cable, cut it, then harvested the thin, copper wire, then took a small piece, folded it in half, and stuck it in, about the same size as a pin, then very carefully, stuck them into the corresponding motherboard socket holes (by 'sticking' the wire to my finger and very very very carefully sticking it into the right hole), closed down the lever to 'lock' the cpu stocket, then jam jam jam the wire tip poking out with a + screwdriver to avoid it contacting other pins and ensure good contact with the correct pin.
And it worked, first try! I mean it took hours to do all of this, but the phenom ii 955 works just fine, so far. I've been running p95 for a bit.
Now, the reason I'm posting this blog is because, overclocking has a lot of fine tuning involved. You can read as many guides as you want, but I'm pretty sure about 90% of the overclocks out there, are limited by something inane, goofy, and irrelevant like "Enable Floppy Controller" being on Disable instead of Enable, or 260 FSB being limited being a chipset/motherboard issue that could be solved with more volts rather than the limit of the cpu, or that so on and so forth. So I'm posting this blog here, to show exactly what settings I'm tweaking, for my overclock.
I've done quite a bit of overclocking and tweaking on my AMD sysytem (sorry intel, i can't help you guys out, although you might learn something here, tbh ive learned more from intel overclock guides than amd ones), so maybe those mystery settings in bios, you'll understand more, or understand how to push your overclock more. It may also be a way for people to talk about what they got on their phenom ii's, if they'd like to, or help me if i get into a rut.
You can check out my previous overclock blog, to see how this one will go.
So, onto the content. Now my Athlon ii x4 3.41ghz/2.5ghz cpu-nb had a 'passmark' bench of 4,141. That's equal exactly to the core i3-3240. That's about 100 points above a stock phenom ii 955. It is most closest to a phenom ii b60 (basically a phenom x4 deneb, which is any x2 or x4, overclocked to 3.3ghz). The reason I find this processor desirable, however, is i have 7 case fans, a hyper 212+ hsf with push/pull Yate loons, and 5 temp diodes. Temperatures is not an issue, and my athlon ii, unfortunately, would never go past 40*C but was very stability limited (.2v would not yield another 20mhz, literally).
Hopefully, I can take advantage of my system cooling, with the phenom, and overclock the crap out of it. Secondly, I can't afford a motherboard upgrade, and $30 for a small CPU upgrade from athlon ii x4 3.4 ghz to a, i dont know, a phenom ii x4 3.6ghz at the very least (a mild estimate of an overclock on a c2 stepping), is definitely worth... the $30. Third, it was a spur of the moment purchase, $30 for a phenom ii, yes sir. I'm hoping this will turn out to be a really big upgrade as I overclock this thing to it's limits, though.
So onto what's up.
The first problem I had, was then when I enabled "Custom P-states" in Bios->Performance (basically the overclock section of the bios) -> CPU FID/VID Control, which allows you to tinker or not with cpu vid, nbvid, and fid aka multipliers, my system wouldn't post, or get to the boot-up screen. just black on powerup. I must have CMOS reset my computer at least a dozen times, as I was also trying to make sure it wasn't one of the various motherboard settings in BIOS I always do (things like disable legacy usb support, ide detect time to 0, numlock on start up, etc)...
It took a long time to figure out custom p-states was the issue, and it was quite depressing at first. I got a phenom ii that I can't overclock at all, for whatever reason. I wasn't even increasing the clock or anything, i was simply just enabling the menu for overclocking. If I can't access this menu, it means no raising or lowering the multiplier, and no raising or lowering of core vid.
I'd be limited to overclocking via the fsb, which is fine, I actually prefer overclocking through the fsb than through multipliers, because amazing power-saving and chip preserving features like C1E (lowers volts and clocks based on usage state) and PowerNow! (aka coolnquiet, lowers volts and clocks based on load) are not able to be used if you overclock via multiplier (so all you black edition people, yea, black edition is stupid). Of course, when tweaking your system, turn these features off, and overclocking via increasing the multipier is an easy way to quickly narrow down your overclock, but to really fine tune your overclock, a combination of FSB and lowering your multipliers is the best way to do it. Multiplier only overclocking means you can only finetune by 100-200mhz, which is a huge margin. I like to have my overclocks tight within 5, especially on the cpu.
Then, I decided screw it, up the voltages on all the things! Chipset voltage (motherboard northbridge) to 1.18, cpu-nb voltage to +.1v, memory to 1.65, and +.2v cpu over voltage (different from vid, its where the motherboard supplies extra voltage).
And it booted! One by one i reduced voltages back to stock, and found out that for some odd reason, I need to add cpu voltage through the motherboard. As in, enabling p states and increasing core vid would not work, but enabling p-state and then adding motherboard overvoltage to cpu does.
So right now I have the system with +.1v cpu over voltage, and just a very conservative x17 (from x16) multiplier so my cpu is overclocked to 3.4ghz. I'm basically making sure that this chip is stable at stock value (id be very shocked if it failed an 8 hour prime95 blend).
Will make sure the missing pins isn't an issue, basically, and update this as i go.
edit: on a side note, Advanced Clock Calibration (ACC) causes and caused my my cpu temps to be displayed as total whack and wayy under ambient. This was an issue with my athlon ii was well, i didnt realize acc was to blame for it. Odd thing, in bios my cpu temps were listed perfectly accurately, just any monitoring program would show core voltage as 0-10*C. I just realized it was ACC's fault because when i first booted up without changing any bios settings, my cpu temps seemed normal and ambient+, but when i tweaked it all, it was 0*C idle and i realized it must have been one of the bios settings and was able to narrow it down (odd, because at default, bios was acc auto with my athlon ii... must be because of some bios update i did since i overclocked my athlon ii). Will have to email biostar about that one, i had a looong back and forth with their tech department trying to figure that out and we never did lol.
On a quick p95 test, my VRM temps didnt go above 40*C by the way. The temp diode is underneath the heatsink on the vrms. CPU temperatures maxed at 44*C and idle around 30*C. I understand that I dont want to go above 55*C on load (my system is set to shutdown at 60*C).