Performance settings and "Tweaking"- A novice's guide
Well how to start? I wasn't going to write this but I have received many e-mails asking for information about this topic. This is an informal guide nothing more. So first let me state, and I want everyone to be clear on this- Neither I nor any one associated with this project take ANY- NO, Absolutely None, Nada, Nein, responsibility for any problem you may encounter, you are on your OWN from here on. If YOU CHOOSE to "tweak" your PC it is YOUR decision to do so, Nor will I suggest you do so, it can void warranties and cost you big bucks if something goes wrong. Besides most folks seem to think I am an OK guy, I'd like to keep it that way, so don't blame me if "it" goes wrong- your "tweaking"- there are no guarantees, remember this. This section is NOT for the 1st time builder, if your comfortable with this section, then OK- remember slow and steady.
This position I will name GO. (bear with me you'll understand soon enough)
O.K so you want to push your set up for a bit more performance, yet still have stability. Well to do this a few things are required-
CMOS- if you do not know what this is, and how to use it- respectfully- please leave Seriously, If you do not know this you shouldn't do any thing listed here.
Cooling- must be very, very good. SK-7, SK-800, Volcano 7+ copper- need I say more? excellent case cooling and system fans as well (water, very advanced and not covered)
PSU- must be able to keep up and then some. 370watt minimum. (main concern is available ampreage to the 12, 5 and 3 volt rails)
CPU- must be capable. Palomino users- sorry you may not want to be here. XP users no guarantees.
Memory- must be capable. If at any point before 180Mhz you lock up- you need better memory or lower expectations of your memory.
Bios- If I have to explain you do not belong here.
O/S- must be set up correctly. same as a above
Please remember I am not trying to offend anyone, it's that "tweaking" can cause many problems, and you are on your own.
Some might say hog wash to what I write here but this is the way I go about it, I am very adamant about stability and safety, after all what good is speed if you have random re-boots, lock ups, burnt and or fried components- get the idea? Safe first, speed later- as you go. A few MHz are not worth a dead system. Were not racing were testing, no more - no less.
No "tweaking" should ever be done on any new system period. New means no less than 30 hours of burn in time, and a system that is known stable. With your system at stock run a few bench marks, over night if necessary to find the "heat curve" of your PC. Heat is your enemy, it is the destroyer of CPU's and the bane of the O/C'er every where. Keep it cool and it will live and treat you well, to do other wise means certain death.
A few programs I'd like to suggest that you download- Wcpuid, memtest, 3D Mark 03, prime, and Sandra. If your here you know what they are and how to get them. see here
memtest, great program- use it for 4 hrs to test your memory before you go any further, don't run programs while you do- so go mow the grass or get some ice cream- beer- what ever, just let it run un-hindered.
Ok were back, 4-hour test go ok? if not- stop and find out why. If all is well do a back up of your system registry, and a back up of your system. I burn mine to disc, your method of choice is up to your preference. If you save to Windows and can't get into Windows, what then? Get the point? Now record your temps- write them down.
To begin- the system Bios has many selections that are not used, any thing you do not use from with in the Bios shut it off or disable it. If you don't know, don't disable or shut off any thing until you do.The same applies to Windows. We want as stable a platform as we can get, and nothing using memory or system resources that are not required. This alone will boost performance. Raid users, if your running an array that is a back up use one hard drive- no more. Why a Raid user would want "tweaking" is beyond me. Start with 1 stick of system memory, yes 1 stick placed in slot 1. As we go you'll understand later.
Bios- the heart of it all, the control center so to speak. First- disable Spread Spectrum, then set your AGP settings to 66MHz, ATI users may want to disable fast writes. AGP aperture set to 64. Memory 100%, CPU- raise three positions over your stock voltage settings right off, memory voltage raise this to two settings higher than stock. Leave the rest alone- for now. Basically you want to set the CPU and Memory voltages in the middle point between the max and the min. Now re-boot. Does the system post? if so good. If not- stop your not worthy go back to GO and start over something is wrong. Those that pass this test and are now in Windows, run 3D mark a few times-or run prime for a while- push it hard for 1/2 hour or so. Now record the temps- write them down. Now using the previous temps what are the differences between the two? If you are over the 55c mark- stop and go back to GO your not worthy and need better cooling. If you passed, cool- you can continue on. However, remember I asked you the difference between the two? What are they? if more than 10 to15c higher than your previous recordings your not worthy- go back to GO and get better cooling. Now for those that passed the test, lets do some REAL tweaking. A reminder, what was mentioned above really applies now, your on your own. Re-boot back to the Bios, cya ya there.
OK were back home (you'll be living here a while-so settle in) We will start with the memory first, set your Bios to user defined for all that apply, aggressive for all others. For those with systems already at a 190-200MHz FSB, skip this part and follow the asterisk * located below. For Example: Now raise the FSB by xx MHz we will be repeating this step, (and referring to this as "steps"from here on) between which, you'll need to boot to Windows each time- remember Safe then speed. If you fail to follow this you may lock up your system and do possible damage to a component- go at your own risk- your own your own.
First test, with an extra 10MHz added to the FSB. Now re-boot- post ok? Your in Windows? Run another few tests- just like the first time. After which record your temps, over 55c? Go back to Go your not worthy, and need better cooling. Here we go again- for those that passed- cool and congrats, now we change up a bit, instead of 10MHz, we will now use 5MHz increments or "steps", now try an additional 5 MHz, continue with the same testing method or "steps" we used previously until you hit over 55c, lock up, or hit 190MHz on the FSB, those that hit 55c or over that's is your max limit until you get better cooling- cyas go back to GO, as for the few persons remaining lets do some more.
Now at this point I will assume (I hate that word) your catching on to the process of it all- slow and steady "steps", test then record temps, and so on- remember to compare your thermal results as this will help you to identify what's wrong- when it goes wrong. A system that wont post and temps remain relatively below the 50-55c mark usually require better memory, higher memory timings (numerically) and/or more memory Voltage. Systems that climb the "heat curve" rapidly and fail to post need better cooling, remember heat cant not be avoided, but good cooling will help to control the heat. If you find that you can not get the PC to boot, before you re-set the CMOS let the system cool down for a few minutes- turn the power OFF give 5 minutes or so and try to re-post. Make sure when you re-boot to hold the delete key down so your taken to the Bios screen right away. Then reverse what you set to that caused the PC to lock up. Don't freak out, it's not a big deal as the board will protect you from yourself- to a point that is. I would suggest for newbies that you write down your settings vs heat as you go so that you have a track record to reflect upon. This will help you better understand and remember what went wrong and why.
Ok 190MHz and all is well, great- good job. Now it gets dicey! Remember that missing stick of memory? Reinstall it- IN THE DUAL CHANNEL MODE PLACEMENT- don't forget to shut down before hand and power off. Memory's reinstalled? Good, now boot up, any problems? If so you know why don't you? Now you have a choice, if , while attempting to run in dual channel mode you fail to post or boot to Windows you can run your memory in single channel mode or lower your memory settings and run in dual channel mode. Or you can purchase better memory, it's up to you. Now do you understand why we only used 1 memory module? Nifty way to test your memory, aye?
* OK here we are 3/4 the way up the mountain and wonder now what? Well from here, a few things can happen, cooling problems, voltage problems, memory problems, or CPU problems.
Cooling problems- sorry - go back to GO your not worthy.
Voltage problems can be remedied- to a point, add more voltage- but in steps. Additional voltage adds stability, but more heat.
Memory problems can also be resolved- to a point, set the memory timings a bit less aggressive (higher numbers), add more voltage or raise the CPU multiplier, it depends where the problem is. Your temps will tell you where the problems lie- use them like a Bible. Use 55c as your breaking point, trust me on this. You may also want to try lowering the FSB a bit and raising the CPU multiplier- in "steps". Good high quality memory is the key factor to any thing up to and beyond 200MHz FSB. (all being equal)
CPU is a hit an miss, FSB raises the CPU Bus and there-by it's speed, and consequently the CPU temps. You can add more CPU voltage, but again expect more heat. You can try the memory to CPU percentage settings but generally you'll want to keep the CPU to memory percentages even. Why? Stability and Performance. Usually, if your CPU is limiting you one of two things are your problem- you have either hit the max for your particular CPU or your over heating. Rememeber not all CPU's will clock the same, don't be to disapointed if you only "get" what you paid for.
Finally for those that find it is their memory limiting them, the only route you can take are more memory voltages or raise the CPU multiplier or both, just remember slow steps. If you find the CPU/Memory FSB combination is your limiting factor, raise the FSB at 1 to 3MHz intervals (small steps) and possibly lower the CPU multiplier or add more voltage if necessary- use extreme caution, as your problem is obviously heat related.
With the above example what I am trying to express is first safety, and then speed. The reason we start with the Voltage settings as they are is to allow you to attain a reasonable amount of "tweaking" right off so you become familiar with the process and to verify that heat is reasonably controlled from the beginning. As well by raising the FSB first, this lets us test your Memory first, and CPU as a secondary factor. The reason for the testing in between each increase or "step" is to test stability. By testing the Memory first we see what your max is with your Memory. Then when that point is reached we turn to the CPU for more performance, and reach it's max. Once both the Memory and CPU maximum settings have been reached we adjust Voltages accordingly as we have some head room remaining to do this. Then it's a matter of testing for the right combination between Memory, CPU and Voltage- all this vs cooling and stability. Understand? Great ! Have fun, that's what it's all about.
At this point you pretty much have it. There isn't much more to it, at this level of "tweaking" any way. As you can see it's a hit and miss equation and not an exact science. It all depends on your components and the amount of care and time your willing to spend "tweaking". That's the reason they call it an "art form" and, an expensive one at that.
All being equal, do not expect much more than what your components are rated to- if you get more, Great!. Even so I have yet to see any AMD XP Processor that wouldn't go at least an extra 200MHz with decent cooling and good memory. Just remember, slow steps and test, then record your temps and compare. Don't get greedy, remember safe then speed. As for those that want high scores for 3D Mark- this test really likes lots of FSB, as well Video memory speed, but remember- caution- slow steps, record and re-test. Remember, testing and comparing will get you much further than flat-out going for it. A few MHz vs instability won't fragg any better, speed up your net connection or walk your dog for you. Safe then speed.
My personal findings for the best "tweaking " AMD XP processors are-
The Model 8- 1700XP, the Model 8-2100XP are the preferred models with "DUT3C-JIUHB" stepping. I have had both CPU's to over 2250MHz safely, and of course the Model 10- 2500 Barton with "KV4D- AQXDA" stepping. The best bang for the buck- the 1700, with the Barton the better performer of the three. All three of these CPU's will perform well beyond the AMD Athlon XP 3200 Barton levels, at least for me they have /did, esp. the Barton 2500.
I now leave you to your own devices, and remember "cool running"-
Ah so decided to look down futher? The below is what my settings were when I hit 18,952 3D marks! (6-06-2003)
This is what ANYONE can do with this motherboard and the right combination of hardware.
(ASUS A7N8X Deluxe Rev. 2, AMD athlon XP Barton 2500, Geil Golden Dragon GD-3500)
notice how the Futuremark app incorrectly reads your real speed and CPU type.