Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Overclocking For Noobs

Noob: (pronounced like “tube”) = A “newbie”. A novice, or newcomer.

Overclocking can give your PC a speed boost–but you have to be careful.

A while back now I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI “gaming rig” (the *latest* hardware technologies) and wrote about my experience and conclusions in a rather popular series of articles.

The title of the series was “The Best CPU? “, which in retrospect was not a good choice, as I did not write solely about the *new* i-series Intel CPU’s, nor did I go into much detail about the over-clocking I did to my i7 920. (But it is a good series. Click the links to read it.)

Fortunately for me, Loyd Case recently wrote a wonderful article for PC World magazine that anyone considering ‘overclocking’ should read first (IMHO).
See, Overclocking for Newbies.
Overclocking your processor can give your PC a significant speed boost–but you have to be careful. Here’s how to overclock your system’s processor without frying it.”


Video On Phones – A Usage Survey

Folks, I want to ask a favor from those readers who own a smart phone. I hope you will answer this one-question survey. Thank you.

Today’s (other) recommended reading:
* FREE Software To Open That Zip or Rar File
Have you ever received an email attachment where the attachment is a zip file or a rar file and you are wondering how to open them? OR wondering what in the world is a zip file or a rar file?

* It’s Time We Called Cyber Criminals What They Really Are – Terrorists
While it may be true that cyber crime doesn’t fit neatly into the restrictive classical definition of terrorism, (motivation is a definitive factor), nevertheless, cyber crime’s effect on Internet users’ is  arguably similar  – intimidation, coercion (think Rogue software), and instilling fear.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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July 5, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Best CPU? Hardware Upgrade, cont.

Continued:
Welcome back to my series on my new recommendations for those who are interested in maximum computer performance. This series is about a specific, high-end, upgrade path. For more general and generic advice & How To on hardware upgrades, please see Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU.

Recap:
I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI ‘rig’ and its performance is impressive. I am quite taken with the combo. In the previous articles I have so far covered:

* Intel i7-920: Hyper-threading, new chip architecture, and easy (stable) over-clocking give this CPU “chip” performance numbers that make it arguably the best CPU available to us “consumers” today. And it has been around long enough now that the price has dropped to “reasonable”.

* I went with the newer X58 chipset because the X58 motherboards have the ICH10R chip, which allows dual x16 (or quad x8) PCI Express 2.0 graphics card support, and supports Solid State Drives.

As I mentioned earlier, if upgrading to an “i-Series” CPU, you will need a new motherboard, and I reco’ a X58. It is fair to warn you that X58 “mobo’s” are rather pricey. I overcame certain reservations and – due to a “clearance sale” – picked up a MSI X58M (the “M” indicates “microATX”). A detailed review of which is here.

MSI-X58M[note: I also purchased a 5-year “replace with no questions asked” extended warranty, which covered the RAM, mobo, and CPU for a very reasonable fee. Ask your retailer what their policies are. (The RAM already had Lifetime..)]

Please understand that while I am recommending an X58 chipset motherboard, I am not necessarily recommending this particular MSI board. I am happy with it, yes, but it was a unique special discount price that was my decision factor. I would not go with a “mini” (or “micro”) ATX board by choice, primarily because the number of expansion slots are fewer.
To help you decide on a board, here are some comparisons/reviews (by date published):
* X58 Motherboard Roundup Review
* ExtremeTech’s X58 Motherboard Roundup
* X58 Roundup: Seven $200-300 Core i7 Boards
* 7 Intel Core i7 X58 Motherboards Tested and Compared
* Intel X58 Motherboard Roundup – What does $300 Get You?

These boards vary greatly in number of slots (including graphics slots), features, performance, and price — so do a bit of pre-planning. Do you need four graphics slots, or will one do (if so, a P55 board may work for you…)

Biggest boost?
In my writing so far, the CPU, motherboard, and dual graphics cards have taken center stage. And one could argue “as well they might!”, but RAM is where you really put the “turbo” in a PC’s performance — upgrading your RAM is the first thing (in terms of hardware upgrades) you look at.

patriot_3pak

Patriot 6GB PC3-12800 kit

Fact is — the primary motivation for me to act, and do this upgrade was I wanted “tri-channel” DDR3 .. and I wanted 1600MHz. If you have read this series this far.. maybe you do too.

The primary benefit of DDR3 is the ability to transfer at twice the data rate of DDR2, enabling higher bus rates and higher peak rates than earlier memory technologies. For best performance, DDR3 should be installed in identical sets of 3, and I definitely advise purchasing a “3-pak” to ensure all three modules are the same.

I happened to find an unbeatable price on a Patriot Gamer Series PC3-12800 6GB DDR3 Kit (review here), but I have no idea what the best deal is today. I’m a “most bang for your buck” shopper. For those of you who are a bit more discriminating:
* Mainstream-Ready? DDR3-1600 Shootout
* The Great DDR3 1600MHz Memory Showdown
* Xtreem.com | Focus on DDR3
* Benchmarkreviews: DDR3 Review Series

Winding down for today…
Since we are talking about cutting-edge hardware here, and “enthusiast”-level performance gear (aka “high-end”) means that these items will not be in the “student” or “budget” price ranges – some “sticker shock” is to be expected. That said, prices have come down on these items enough that you are no longer paying the premium. Still, you can buy a whole new PC for less than an i-Series upgrade…

I was able to use my existing power supply and graphics cards. And at least for now, I am not going to go nuts over-clocking the CPU, so I can stay with the stock CPU cooler and I had a well-ventilated gaming case. This reduced my upgrade cost but your situation might be different — an i7 upgrade path probably will require a more powerful PSU and more efficient cooling, and you should budget accordingly.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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March 1, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Part 2 | The Best CPU?

It has been my intention, all week, to tell you about my most recent hardware upgrade, and why I have a new recommendation for those who are interested in maximum computer performance — I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI ‘rig’ (the latest technologies) and its performance is impressive. I am quite taken with the i7/X58 combo.

I feel I should try to explain the significant architectural changes that occured with the “i” series CPU‘s (and why they needs a ’50 series’ chipset) but, I am well aware that most readers are not Geek-y enough to enjoy hearing about bus speeds, or the fact that the “i-series” does away with the southbridge. Um, wait.. does away with the northbridge.. or.. something, and replaces it with on-chip “QPI” (which is faster).

So.. I will quit there, and try my best to avoid jargon from here on out. I remind you that I wrote a 4-part series on the ‘How To’s’ of upgrading your CPU, and suggest it as a starting point.. (please refer to part 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU).

Starting with the CPU: The Intel i7-920 is the “consumer grade” CPU which quickly captured the attention of PC enthusiasts, Geeks and Gamers — not only due to outstanding base benchmarks, but because of its ease-of-overclocking, and stability when over-clocked (used to attain levels of performance beyond the specified values). It currently can be found for $199.

The first thing I did to mine was simply change the bclock (baseclock) from the stock 133 MHz to 166 (one BIOS  setting adjustment). Without having to add a heavy-duty CPU cooler, or do any other drastic ‘mods’, my CPU went from the ‘stock’ (out-of-the-box) 2.67 GHz – which was plenty fast – to just shy of 3.5 GHz.
Which is a hair faster.

(Articles I have read on various enthusiast/over-clockers Websites all seem to agree that the 920 can be over-clocked to over 4 GHz, but I would not consider trying that w/o also upgrading my power supply and cooling. For those of you a bit curious as to what “over-clocking” might entail, this PDF is a How To Overclock The i7 tutorial written for a specific motherboard, but gives you the gist.
Also: PC World article, Overclocking for Newbies)

cpuZ1

Another other factor that has me truly liking my i7-920 is that its “i-series” technology gives me true hyper-threading. This means that the “quad-core” CPU is seen as eight CPU’s by the operating system.. as seen in this Task Manager screenshot.

i7_load1

If you are at all Geek-y, you will have noticed that the average load at the time this was captured is a mere 1%.

If you are at all Geek-y, let me clue you a bit more:
* this is Vista 32-bit (i.e., not particularly multi-core savvy).
* this is while Avast! 5.0 antivirus is running a deep scan.
* while not particularly relevant.. also Open were Outlook 14, Live Messenger, Speedfan, CPU-Z, SIW, and Spider Solitaire. When I launch Call of Duty 6, the load goes up a bit… but, I have not yet attained a “wait-until-100%-unsticks” .. which hits my Core 2 Duo/4 GB Vista laptop all too frequently (and I don’t “game” on it).
* If you are not particularly Geek-y, this translates to: the i7 has the performance horsepower to handle “multi-tasking” with aplomb, and the times when the “wheel just spins” (or.. hourglass) are much fewer (and don’t take nearly as long), and your windows open faster.

Well.. that’s enough for today. In Part 3 I will discuss why I went with the X58 instead of the more affordable X55 motherboard.. and talk a bit about tri-channel RAM.

Continue toPart 3 | The Best CPU?

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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February 24, 2010 Posted by | computers, hardware, how to, performance | , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Perfect CPU?

This 6 days-a-week series I write is, for the most part, exactly as I describe in the sub-title — Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice (as well as “Questions Answered”). My writings tend to be Microsoft Windows-oriented because that is what I, and approximately 95% of you, use. I write about the Internet a lot also… because I understand a few of you are using it too.

I also try to keep my readers informed of emerging technologies, developments, and trends (“tech news”, if you will). I do this because personal computers, and “tech”, is out of diapers now, has learned to walk, hopefully is out of the “terrible twos”.. but!, is anything but a “mature product”.. like, say, sailing vessels [ships] are “mature”.

And.. there’s a little thing called “Moore’s Law“, which tells us that tech is ‘growing’ at an exponential rate (evolving is a better word).

My point here is, simply, that I try to provide information here that is useful to you. Tech – for Everyone is not a place where I discuss my hopes and dreams, favorite music, next week’s schedule, or who I think should win American Idol (one exception.. my football predictions).
Like Dragnet’s Sergeant Joe Friday, I try to deal with “just the facts”.

Even in discussing tech, I try to leave myself out of it. I don’t think you care what brand graphics card I prefer, or that I find PowerPoint boring.

But sometimes, my own personal experiences with tech make for the more well-received articles. For instance, my writings on my experiences with the new Windows 7 (click here to see all articles tagged “Windows 7”) and switching to a 64-bit operating system have been very popular.

And I did get a bit personal when I wrote a series on hardware upgrading for my readers after I decided to swap out a dual-core CPU for a quad-core, and load up my motherboard with RAM modules (see part 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU)

Where is he going? Well, I have ran a bit long, but it was my intention to tell you about my most recent hardware upgrade, and why I have a new recommendation for those who are interested in max. computer performance — I rebuilt a machine into an i7, X58, DDR 3, SLI rig.. and it is pretty sweet. I am very impressed with the i7/X58 combo.

But I will need more space — maybe another series — to do the topic justice, so I hope you will return here and read it. It should appear Monday. Have a super weekend folks, and please exercise “paranoid common sense” while online.

Update:
Part 2 | The Best CPU?

Part 3 | The Best CPU?

The Best CPU? Hardware Upgrade, cont.
(part 4)

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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February 20, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Upgrading Your CPU – Conclusion(s)

Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU

When my Windows 7 upgrade disc arrived in the mail last week, it triggered in me an urge to do a more extravagant hardware upgrade to the machine I intended to install Win 7 on. 180px-High_Performance_RAMThis urge resulted in me pulling out the OEM RAM and the E2200 dual core CPU and installing 8 GB’s of matched pairs of high performance DDR2 RAM and a Q9550 Core 2 Quad.

A fairly significant “performance upgrade”.
* See Windows 7 64-bit Adventures and Pt 1, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU

In parts 2 and 3 (Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2 and Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor) I described the process for determining which processors will ‘fit’ and function on your machine, and then how to look at benchmark scores for the different CPU models.
That brings us up to date.

Now that you know what CPU’s to look at (and which won’t fit) you can look at and compare prices and benchmarks to find the right CPU deal for you. In my real life example, I happened to find the Q9550 for well under $200, and I was satisfied with its rankings on CPU performance charts.. The deal you find, and CPU you prefer, may very well vary (there are better CPU’s than the Q9550).

CPU “Factors”

| # of cores | Speed | Wattage | Performance |

Three of these processor “factors” — # of cores, clock speed, and “performance” — will be reflected in the benchmark scores, so you don’t need to study and become an expert on each of those. The general rule of “more is better” (typically) applies here.

But when considering a CPU replacement/upgrade, you also want to look at the processor’s Watts.. and one other factor I’ll get to in a moment.

1) Look up the Watts on your old processor.
In my RL example, an E2200, which is rated at 65W.
2) Look at the Watts on the processor type you’re considering.
In my RL example, a Q9550, which is rated at 95W. (Also, try to find “recommended power supplies for”, and make a note of the most mentioned Wattage.)
3) Look at the Watts on your PSU (power supply unit).
Now it’s time for a little math — I know, yippee.

Continuing on with my RL example, we can see that my new processor draws 30W more power than the old one: further research shows that the most frequently mention recommended PSU Wattage is 500W: and when I plug my system’s components into the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator (and allow 20% for capacitor aging) I get a result of minimum = 315W (which seems low).

My power supply happened to be rated at 500W, and so I felt I could do the upgrade without also upgrading my power supply. But you may need to, and that is an additional expense that you should factor into your thinking and your budget. (See question #2 here, for the how to)

Another “factor” for consideration is heat (and therefore, cooling). My processor will produce more heat (higher Wattage, more cores..) than its predecessor did, and so I downloaded and installed SpeedFan to better help me keep an eye on the temperatures inside my case. Heat is the enemy of electronics, and letting your chips get too hot will kill them.
So you may need to protect your investment by upgrading the cooling in your computer case as well.. and that is an additional expense that you should factor into your thinking and your budget.

In conclusion:
So there you have it. It only took me 4 articles to describe all the most relevant considerations for a hardware upgrade, and if you do all those things, you should have a pretty good idea of your own personal “upgrade path”.

I was lucky: I did not have to upgrade my power supply, and it appears I won’t have to upgrade my cooling. My upgrade – 8 GB’s of matching RAM and a quad-core CPU – cost me right around $300. It could have easily been more.

So my upgrade to 64-bit Windows 7 and high performance components turned my machine into a real speed demon, right? Well…
Several of my “Windows Experience” scores went from 5.2 to 7.5; and yes, my computer is a bit quicker and more responsive. I like how it behaves.

But, I liked it with the E2200 and the 3 GB’s nearly as well.

Currently, very few programs and games are written to take advantage of 64-bit, multiple processors, and multi-“threading”. Also, I have yet to put any load on it that could use the extra RAM. So, simply put, there is really very little noticeable “speed” improvement in my day-to-day usage… though there is some. (Games perform with less hesitation, but to really bump my fps, a graphics card upgrade would have been the proper “upgrade path”.)

Short version: I do not regret my upgrade, but I would not do this again; as my original equipment’s 5.2 scores (under Win7) were quite satisfactory. The E2200 is a much better CPU than its “low end” reputation had me thinking, and 3GB’s of RAM is enough in most cases.
To improve the performance of my aging gamer computer, I have decided against a hardware upgrade: I will pool my money and replace it with a new machine with the new “i7” architecture.. and donate the old one to charity.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 7, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual-core processors, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor

In the preceding articles in this series I described how receiving my copy of Windows 7 triggered in me the very geeky impulse to upgrade my machine’s hardware capabilities — to go along with my first (good) 64-bit OS. If you are new to this series of How To’s, please click the provided links and read the first two before reading further here.
1) Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU
2) Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2

In those articles, we established the three things we need to know before shopping for a processor (so that the CPU will fit and function), namely — Manufacturer/socket type/motherboard’s chipset. (The instructions for how to do that are in pt2.)

* In my RL case, that was: Intel/Socket 775/G33.
* In my hypothetical Pentium 4’s case, that was: Intel/Socket 775/915G

By consulting the chipset/CPU compatibility tables on the Intel website, we discover that the:
* G33 chipset can accommodate: pretty much any socket 775 processor.
* 915G chipset can accommodate: Pentium 4 (up to #672) and Celeron D (#351)
So that latter is a no go. I would reco forgetting an upgrade. Leave it as is and/or new machine is the way to go. So let’s keep going, but assume that we have a chipset more like the 33G — and we can choose from any of the Intel Socket 775 CPUs including the “Core” series duals and quads. OK?

Since I’m thinking quad-core, I see that there are more than a dozen “Core 2 Quads” to choose from (the Core 2 Extreme editions are too pricey for me) … and if I mix in “extreme” dual cores.. it’s a lot to pick from!

(AMD users will follow essentially the same steps but on the AMD website. AMD has a “wizard” to help you narrow down your search too, based on some answers you provide. Click here to see that. AMD has at least as many to choose from — Phenom vs Phenom II and X3 and X4 as well as different model #s.)

CPU “Factors”

| # of cores | Speed | Wattage | Performance |

There are a lot of CPU’s to choose from and it’s easy to get confused by all the specs. There are many websites that are dedicated to nothing but hardcore Geeks trying to squeeze the maximum performance from each and every component, and they have published many CPU comparisons (and tricks). Sometimes these Geeks call themselves “gamers”.. and they like the word “extreme” (a couple of clues for you, there).
There are also many reviews posted (sometimes.. conflicting).

sample_chrtI am going to save you some trouble. I am simply going to point you to two of my favorite sites which have CPU comparison charts which will look like the sample shown and tell you that the longer bars are better.

These are “standard” benchmark scores. (If you are thinking of overclocking, you can find benchmarks and scores for those too, but I don’t discuss OC-ing here. UltimateExtremeGamer.com is more the place for that.)

The two places I look for these scores are:
* Tom’s Hardware (in particular, the 3DMark Vantage 1.0.2 CPU)
* Passmark
I put Tom’s first because you really can “drill down” into CPU performance scores, as several different benchmarking tests are run, and videographers might decide on a different CPU than a gamer will (for example). Also, you can get a feel for pricing, and read reviews and recommendations there. Anyone considering an upgrade (of any kind) should make a stop at Tom’s.

Okay. That’s it for today. Go have fun looking at some charts. In Part 4 I will explain the “factors”, and how they will help you have a smooth installation of the CPU you decide to go with.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 6, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2

cpu Welcome to the second part of my tutorial on how to “upgrade” or replace your computer’s processor. If you have not read Part 1, please click here and read it before proceeding.

(I am going to repeat that I cannot think of a way to write this article without using those durnded Geek Acronyms; so, I will make them ‘click-able’ to the relevant Wikipedia page.)

Yesterday we accomplished two important steps in determining which type of CPU we should be shopping for, because you cannot just stick any old processor in your machine, any more than you can stick a Honda engine in your Dodge Ram.

* AMD or Intel?
* CPU socket type

asus_a8n_mobo It is also a very good idea to determine your computer’s motherboard make/model; and consult the computer manufacturer’s documentation online. In some cases (such as HP) it will tell you what types of CPU you can install.
(The best way to do this is open your computer cases and look for printing on the board itself. If the idea of opening your computer’s case – and/or looking up technical specs – bothers you (or intimidates), please stop reading. A D-I-Y processor swap is really not for the novice.)

Yesterday, in our hypothetical example, we established that we would be upgrading an Intel Socket 775 (our two primary factors), but you may be working with an AMD Socket AM2 or AMD Socket 939 for example. (AMD will be covered in Pt 3.)

3) The next step is to determine our motherboard’s chipset.
Since I have looked at my mobo (“motherboard”) and know the model number, (In my real life case, the mobo inside my HP a6317n desktop is an IPIBL-LB), a search engine search will be very useful. In my case, a search for “IPIBL-LB” produced this page — which told me everything I need to know for selecting a new processor.
Alternatively, you can download and run a system information tool like BelArc Advisor or Sandra Lite

Here is why the chipset is important:
We determined (using one of the the methods above) that our hypothetical sample Pentium 4 Socket 775 computer has a 915G chipset motherboard (let’s say). The Socket 775 can accept many types of CPU (from the P4 to the Core quad), now we need to narrow things down by determining what type the 915G chipset will work with.

4) To do that, we go to Intel.com’s product information page here.
* Click on the “Chipset” tab.
* Find your chipset on the list and click it.
* Scroll down to the bottom to the Valid Processor Combinations table.

This shows us what CPU’s we can install.

P4 Looking at the table we see that here we have again (hypothetically) stubbed our toe a bit. The 915G motherboards will only accept Celeron D and Pentium 4 processors. On the bright side, we could upgrade to a much faster Pentium 4… if we can find one. A quick search showed that I can still find 3.8 GHz Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor 670 with prices ranging from $89 to $629 (that latter made me LMAO).

So in review.. by determining Manufacturer/Socket/Chipset, we know what CPU’s will work in our machine. In my hypothetical example, our “upgrade path” was not all that great, and we learned that if we want a dual core or quad-core CPU, we would have to also upgrade our motherboard.
This is fun! Right?

(The lesson here is, don’t wait too long when considering upgrades. After a certain age, machine replacement is more cost effective.)

Tomorrow I will look at AMD, and CPU comparisons.

update:Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor
update:Upgrading Your CPU – Conclusion(s)

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 4, 2009 Posted by | add device, computers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , | 2 Comments