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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

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 upgrade to the machine I intended to install Win 7 on. (See, the Law of Unintended Consequences.) An urge that I had previously been able to suppress– even though I am a capital “G” geek.
(We here at T4E Headquarters use “geek” as a compliment.)

Intel dual core CPU on mobo I had long ago decided that I was going to install Windows 7 in the 64-bit version (my machine is not too old, and so it has the required 64-bit hardware) as my trials with the beta versions of 7 had been so stellar. 64-bit computing is officially here for us Average Folk, and it has many advantages. One of the nicest is the ability to “access” more RAM memory.
(I cannot think of a way to write this article w/o using some of those durnded Geek Acronyms; so, I will make them ‘click-able’ to the relevant Wikipedia page.)

So.. in celebration of Win7, I decided I would pack in as much RAM as my board would hold. (I wrote about that here, Windows 7 64-bit Adventures.) That gave me 8 Gigabytes and a certain amount of bragging rights.
(When I started computing, way back in the day, I honestly never dreamed I would one day have this much.. 64 Megabytes was ginormous! See, A trip back to the land of Mega.)

That went well, so.. I decided I would pull out my low end Intel dual core E2200 CPU and replace it with a quad core CPU of the higher end variety.
And I found a good price on an Intel Q9550. So..

CPU Replacement – First Things First

The first step in the process is to determine what kind of processor your machine has now.
Why? When you’re intending to replace it?
Because this will tell us the manufacturer (AMD, or Intel), and by inference it will tell us the the type of socket our computer’s motherboard has. Knowing those two things are vital for shopping for a replacement that will fit and work properly. There are scores of CPU’s to choose from, but only certain ones (or “families”) will work in certain sockets.

1) Right-click on “My Computer” (just “Computer” in Vista/Win7) and click on “Properties”.
my-computer-properties

A window will open which tells you your system’s basic information.

Sys_props2

In this sample, we have just determined that the computer in question has an Intel processor (not AMD), and that it is a 2.4 GHz, of the type “Pentium 4“, which was a very common chip, and the last of the Intel single-processor (aka “core”) chips.
(As an experienced Tech, it also tells me that we [probably] have just stubbed our toe.. but, let’s play it through.)

2) Now that we know the make and model of our processor, we need to learn which type of socket it uses. You can use a search engine, or simply click on the “socket” hyperlink three paragraphs up, and consult the table on the Wikipedia page. (Let’s say we did that) Look for the CPU name and find the matching socket.

Most CPU’s only use one type of socket, and so our Step 1 task is now done, and we know what type of CPU to be shopping for.

But, here, we have a “problem”. On the table we can find “Pentium 4” in the table next to Socket 423, and Socket 478/Socket N, and LGA 775/Socket T.
Hmmm… eenie, meenie, miney, moe? In this instance, I would open the computer’s side panel, and look at the motherboard for large lettering that told me the make/model of the motherboard. Or I would look in the computer manufacture’s documentation (usually found online) for the motherboard type. Looking up the motherboard specifications will also tell you the socket.
(Sometimes, the speed [GHz] will provide a clue. Wikipedia’s tables on the P4 indicate that the 2.4’s used Socket 478)

Knowing the socket determines our CPU “upgrade path”.

In wrapping up for today, we are going to pretend that we have determined that our hypothetical machine has a Socket 775 version of Pentium 4.. because then it might be feasible and/or practical to upgrade the CPU, and we can proceed to Step 2.

Because if it were Socket 423 or 478? I would not even think of doing an “upgrade”! I would be looking at a whole new machine. The overall cost saving and performance gain of a new system – in this example – is hands down the winner over “upgrade”-ing. Right now, stupendous deals can be found on the remaining inventories of dual-core, and first-gen quad-core, machines in the stores as they need to make room for the new “i” series and Windows 7 machines. (I humbly suggest you grab one while you can, if you are on a P4…)

So I will continue this tomorrow as if we had a “good” socket  …

update: See, Replacing or Upgrading Your CPU – Pt 2
update:Upgrading the CPU pt3 – Selecting A Processor
update:
Upgrading Your CPU – Conclusion(s)

Related links: If you are considering upgrading your current machine, you may want to look at ZDNet’s Hardware 2.0 ‘Very Best Kit List’ for Nov/Dec 09 for some recommendations and ideas.

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

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November 3, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, dual-core processors, hardware, how to, PC, performance, tech, upgrading | , , , , , | 1 Comment