Custom Search
Click to find updates on our Facebook page

Processor Problems: Fixing AMD and Intel Processor (CPU) Problems in desktop and laptop PCs


This section of this website answers questions about processors (made by AMD or Intel) or provides solutions to a wide range of problems caused by or related to the computer processor.

Click here! to skip the following preamble and useful diagnostic information and go directly to the first list of solved problems on this page.

The coverage includes upgrade questions and answers, how to optimise multiple-core processors, problems caused by overheating, slow running or constant 100% CPU usage, the processor not recognised by the BIOS, not running at the default speed, overclocking, etc. The problems and solutions are linked to under the following blue-coloured table that provides information on some very useful utilities that can test a processor or provide information about it, such as the temperature it is running at, or that allow the setting of alarms at particular temperatures that can help prevent overheating. Each problem's or question's link has been purposefully made to describe it or include as many of the problem's symptoms as possible to make finding the information you are looking for as quick and easy as possible.

The processor problem in the form of question-and-answers (Q&As) are listed under the useful diagnostic-program information provided in the table below.

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website

Computer-component temperature testers/diagnostic testing tools/utilities

How to use Intel Processor Diagnostic Tool -

There is currently no equivalent diagnostic program for AMD processors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpPOqh_Bq78&feature=relmfu

The Open Hardware Monitor - "is a free open source software that monitors temperature sensors, fan speeds, voltages, load and clock speeds of a computer." - http://openhardwaremonitor.org/

Hot CPU Tester can test your PC's processor and motherboard. It is inexpensive and a trial copy can be downloaded. If you suspect your PC has a processor or motherboard fault, try using the trial copy to diagnose the problem.

"Hot CPU Tester is a burn-in diagnostic tool which tests the CPU, as well as virtually all parts of the motherboard for errors, bugs and defective parts. It is a burn-in test program designed with the state-of-the-art DefectTrack engine. DefectTrack is a technology developed by 7Byte Computers to assess a system's stability and general health. Hot CPU Tester is currently being used in a variety of labs and governmental organizations around the world, as a reliable diagnostic and trouble shooting program." - http://www.7byte.com

HWMonitor - "HWMonitor is a hardware monitoring program that reads PC systems main health sensors : voltages, temperatures, fans speed. The program handles the most common sensor chips, like ITE IT87 series, most Winbond ICs, and others. In addition, it can read modern CPUs on-die core thermal sensors, as well has hard drives temperature via S.M.A.R.T, and video card GPU temperature." - http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/hwmonitor.html

BatteryCare - A free utility that can prolong the life of a laptop PC's battery. It also provides the current temperature of the processor (CPU) and the hard disk drive (HDD). The CPU temperature is very useful. When installed, to find out what it is, just put the mouse pointer over the utility's icon in the Notification Area (bottom left corner). The temperature should not exceed 80 degrees Centigrade. If it gets that high you should close programs, especially a running video. I tried installing the utility on a desktop PC, which, of course, doesn't have a battery, but, sadly, the temperature reporting didn't work. The utility produced the message "No battery", and wouldn't work. - http://batterycare.net/en/index.html

Speedfan - "If you need a tool that can change your computer's fan speeds, read the temperatures of your motherboard and your hard disk, read voltages and fan speeds and check the status of your hard disk using S.M.A.R.T. or SCSI attributes, then you came to the right place." - http://www.almico.com/sfdownload.php

GPUID - "GPU-Z is a lightweight utility designed to give you all information about your video card and GPU." - http://www.techpowerup.com/gpuz/

CoreTemp - "CoreTemp is a compact, no fuss, small footprint program to monitor CPU [processor] temperature." - http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/

PROCESSOR (CPU) PROBLEMS

Click the relevant link below to go to that Q&A article. Use your browser's Back button to backtrack

1. - Articles on processor problems in the Microsoft Knowledge Base

2. - My PC was overclocked when I bought it. Did a forced clean reinstallation of Windows 7 undo the overclocking of my PC's processor?

3. - When overclocking an AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition CPU is it safe to exceed AMD's spec of a maximum processor temperature of 61C by a little way?

4. - How to understand or interpret the numbering/naming schemes that AMD and Intel use for their processors

5. - I am confused about the Intel Sandy Bay second-generation Core i3, i5 and i7 laptop processors

6. - How can I find out how many cores my computer's AMD or Intel processor has?

7. - Which Intel dual-core processors and RAM memory can I use to upgrade my Dell Inspiron 530 PC and how will I know if a BIOS update is required in order to upgrade?

8. - I upgraded my desktop PC's processor/CPU from an Athlon II X2 dual-core to a Phenom II X6 six-core/hexacore model, but only two cores are showing in the Windows 7 Task manager

9. - Optimize/Optimizing multicore processors in Windows Vista and Windows 7: Questions on multitasking in Windows Vista and Windows 7 with muliticore (dual-core and quad-core) processors

10. - Unlocking a CPU/processor's locked cores: How do you turn a AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition dual-core CPU/processor into a quad-core processor?

11. - Is it necessary for your PC/computer to have one of the latest fast multi-core Intel or AMD processors in order to be able to play the latest PC games?

12. - Why is my PC's Intel Core 2 Duo dual-core processor running so hot during a video conversion?

13. - Windows XP/Vista won't recognise my Intel Core2 Duo E4600 2.4GHz dual-core processor's second core, but Windows Vista does

14. - Should I buy a 32-bit or 64-bit processor and should I go with Windows Vista 32-bit or 64-bit version?

15. - Windows Vista does not recognise (US:recognize) my computer's processor

16. - How do I set the speed of my computer's processor to its correct speed after a BIOS/CMOS battery failure

17. - Will Product Activation in Windows Vista allow me to change my PC's processor/motherboard without having to reactivate?

18. - I bought a PC with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 6.5GHz processor and a 1GB ATI/AMD Radeon X1050 Core graphics card, but the Belarc Advisor says otherwise

19. - Can I upgrade the Intel Pentium D dual-core processor of my Dell Dimension E510 with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor?

20. - Can I upgrade my Socket 478 Pentium 4 processor?

21. - My Pentium 4 processor runs very slowly?

22. - Why is my CPU Usage always 100% in the Windows Task Manager and the system so slow?

23. - The type of power supply that supports AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium 4 processors

24. - I upgraded the processor, but the computer won't boot

25. - My AMD Athlon XP processor won't work with a power supply unit (PSU) designed for an Intel Pentium 4

26. - How carefully is it necessary to consider the power demand made on the motherboard by the fan used to cool the processor?

27. - Why can't my AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor run more than one module of double-sided DDR400 RAM at its full speed?

28. - The overheating alarm on my computer's motherboard goes off and, if left running, the computer crashes

29. - Why does the processor in my notebook (laptop) computer run at half speed?

30. - Why is 100% processor use showing under the Performance tab of Windows Task Manager when I have nothing running?

31. - Which is the best cooling solution between the processor and its heatsink and fan, thermal paste or thermal pads?

32. - Faulty RAM memory/motherboard/power supply/overheating processor: My PC constantly reboots 10 to 20 minutes after being switched on

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website


My PC was overclocked when I bought it. Did a forced clean reinstallation of Windows 7 undo the overclocking of my PC's processor?

Problem

When I bought a PC, according to its specifications, it was overclocked by the manufacturer. It has a Gigabyte Z77-DH3 motherboard and an Intel Core i53750L processor. According to the manufacturer, the processor has been overclocked from 3.4GHz to 4.5GHz. Unfortunately, the PC crashed while loading a program and entered Windows Restore, which didn't restore anything. I couldn't get it running again, so I formatted the hard drive and reinstalled Windows 7 from its installation disc. I got to thinking that doing this might have caused the processor's clock speed, overclocked to 4.5GHz, to return to its default speed of 3.5GHz, which is a whole GHz slower. How can I find out if the processor is still overclocked?

Answer

No version of Windows has a recovery program called Windows Restore that engages automatically after a system failure, but there is a virus infection called Windows Restore that makes it look as if a PC has failed irretrievably and asks the user to buy software that will restore it. There is nothing wrong with the PC other than the virus infection. Your PC may have been infected with it. Every version of Windows since XP provides a recovery system called System Restore, but that has to be run manually by the user in normal mode or from Safe Mode; it never kicks in automatically.

Remove Windows Restore (Uninstall Guide) -

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/virus-removal/remove-windows-restore

If that was not the case and the failure was real, the processor's overclocking is set by the PC's BIOS and it is unheard of that a software failure or a reinstallation of Windows could change settings in the BIOS. Even if Windows 7 could change the BIOS settings, it would ask for permission to do so by bringing up a User Account Control (UAC) dialog box.

If the BIOS itself detected that the PC has become unstable, it could have adjusted itself to set a more stable processor clock speed so that the PC could boot.

The processor's speed is often displayed on the startup screen. You would have to press the Pause key to stop the boot process in order to be able to read that information, which is only presented for a few seconds. Pressing the Enter key usually makes the PC resume the boot process. If the computer manufacturer's splash screen is displayed instead of the memory account, BIOS version and processor speed, the BIOS itself probably has a setting that disables the splash screen, allowing that information to be seen instead.

The 3D EFI BIOS of the Gigabyte Z77-DH3 motherboard shows a graphical display of the board's components, so at startup press the Del key that enters the BIOS and move the mouse over the CPU (processor). (The mouse works in an EFI BIOS; keys have to be used to navigate an earlier standard BIOS.) The processor's current speed should be provided.

If the speed isn't 4.5GHz, contact the PC's manufacturer and ask it's support which BIOS settings have to be set to restore the overclocking. The processor is overclocked quite a bit at 4.5GHz, so, if the PC becomes unstable again, it could be that the processor's cooling is inadequate. When you overclock the CPU by that much, you usually have to use a more powerful cooler or maybe even use water cooling if no heatsink and fan unit is up to the job.

Alternatively, you can research overclocking yourself and apply the settings in the motherboard's 3D EFI BIOS.

Here is a video that shows how to use the the 2D and 3D EFI BIOS of a Gigabyte motherboard and overclock the Intel i5 3570K processor:

Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H Ivy Bridge i5 3570K Overclocking Tutorial + UEFI Demo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxCPyF-1tTc


When overclocking an AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition CPU is it safe to exceed AMD's spec of a maximum processor temperature of 61C by a little way?

Problem

I have read that processors [CPUs] can run safely at up to 80C but that when overclocked or otherwise the temperature should be kept below 60C. My desktop PC has an AMD Phenom II X4 965 Black Edition processor, which has a high level of overclocking potential, and a Scythe Katana 3 air cooler. The AMD Overdrive utility has allowed me to overclock it from its stock speed of 3.4GHz up to 4.0GHz. The CoreTemp utility [link provided in the table at the top of this page] reports temperatures in the high fifties, occasionally peaking at 63C. Although, when at that temperature the PC works perfectly, I am worried because AMD's spec for the CPU's maximum temperature is 61C. CoreTemp also reports that the "Tj Max" for the processor is 90C. Should I return the processor to its stock speed of 3.4GHz?

Answer

The 80C figure is a common generalisation. There shouldn't be any damage to the CPU at that temperature. Laptop (mobile) processors don't usually have a maximum temperature under 100C. That said, not all desktop processors would run faultlessly at 80C. The 90C Tj Max is the temperature that no part of the processor should exceed. The rule of thumb is that the temperature shouldn't get to within 20C of it, which would be 70C.

It would probably be safe to run the CPU at 70C, but it is not advisable to exceed AMD's stated 61C maximum for long periods, so removing the overclocking would be a sensible unless you need the extra performance for, say, gaming. Running a CPU at a 100% load is a worst-case scenario, since very few computing activities make the maximum demand. Your CPU just goes a few degrees above the recommended maximum, so I would implement a modest overclock and have CoreTemp running while using the PC under usual conditions, viewing what the maximum recorded core temperature is from time to time. If it remains below 61C, increase the overclocking, which could also entail increasing the system bus speed, upping theclock-multiplier setting and increasing CPU's operating voltage in the system BIOS. However, if the recommended maximum of 61C is approached in normal use, improve the system's cooling. Get a better heatsink and fan cooling unit and add case fans, remembering that you have to get the air flowing through the case, usually with the fan(s) in the front pulling air into the case and the fan(s) at the back extracting it.

There should be at least one fan drawing air into the case and at least one fan expelling air. Using a powerful graphics card, usually makes it necessary to add case fans. Make sure that the cabling inside the case is as neat and as far out of the airflow as possible and don't put the PC in a confined space or near sources of heat.

Using a water cooler would allow the maximum overclocking if air cooling fails to make the PC run under 61C. Antec's Kohler H20 620, currently available for L47 in July 2012 from amazon.co.uk, is a good choice. At the time of writing, the following video was available showing how it is installed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbNKNkLxCpk


How to understand or interpret the numbering/naming schemes that AMD and Intel use for their processors

Problem

Neither Intel nor AMD seems to have a clear or sensible naming/numbering scheme for their current ranges of processors. For example, among AMD's A-Series APU processors with integrated graphics chips that use Socket FM1, there are two Athlon processors, an old range that stretches across several socket types, which are not APUs with integrated graphics. The Athlon processors usually use Socket AM3. With the Phenom ranges, there are processors that increase in model number (960T, 970, 975, 980.etc.), but benchmark test scores show their results increasing, decreasing and then then increasing. Some of the Socket FM1 A-Series APUs have a K in the model number, which must mean something. Some of the Intel processors have the same clock speed and benchmark results, but in the second-generation Core processors' case, which use Socket LGA1155, the model number has an increase of 5 (i3-2100 and i3-2105) and in the first-generation Core processors' case, which use Socket LGA1156, there is an increase of one (i5-660, i5-661, etc). The processors with the higher number are considerably more expensive than the ones with the lower number. This kind of inexplicable numbering makes choosing the processor with the best performance-to-cost ratio far more complicated than it should be.

Answer

AMD use to have a good, sensible naming scheme that anyone could make sense of quite easily, but now it is as bad as Intel and, in some cases, worse. It was inevitable given that the name of the processor has so much more information to impart than used to be the case when just clock speed was used.

If you have tried to use the web to interpret a letter or extra number in a model name, you know that this information is very hard if not impossible to find, inexplicably especially on AMD's and Intel's websites.

For example, current AMD processors that have a K in the model name, such as the A-Series APU model A8-3870K, have unlocked multipliers, which means that the speed of the processor can be increased by overclocking it without affecting any of the system's other components. Previous models with an unlocked clock multiplier have "Black Edition" in the model's name. The clock multiplier increases the number of times that the system bus speed can be increased to increase the processor's speed. If the system bus speed is 250MHz, increasing the clock multiplier by 1 from say 23 to 24 in the system BIOS increases the processor's speed by 250MHz, etc.

AMD does its best to show the clock speed difference of its processors with increasing model numbers, but also tries to incorporate other information, which confuses matters. Due to design improvements and a smaller fabrication build process that makes the processors run cooler using less power, new models with slower clock speeds can be faster than older processors with faster clock speeds. For example, the quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 970 (clock speed 3.5GHz), is faster in benchmark tests than the AMD Phenom II X4 975 Black Edition (clock speed 3.6GHz), because it uses the newer Zosma build.

AMD has sometimes changed a particular model's build after its release, without changing the model's name and the Phenom model name is used across several processor sockets, all of which creates confusion.

With regard to Intel's current naming schemes, the minor differences in the model number indicates the grade of the graphics chip that is incorporated into the processor. The processor cores remain the same but the models with higher number have slightly faster graphics chips. Intel's integrated graphics are not powerful enough to play the latest demanding games, such as Dirt 3, so the cheapest model is the best value.

Any current dual-core or quad-core processor suffices for use on an office workstation connected to the web. But if performance is important for, say, gaming, video-editing, etc., the best advice to employ when choosing the processor model (AMD or Intel) is to use a comparison page on a website such as this one, which is updated on a monthly basis:

Best Gaming CPUs For The Money: OCTOBER 2014 -

http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/gaming-cpu-review-overclock,review-32901.html


Which Intel dual-core processors and RAM memory can I use to upgrade my Dell Inspiron 530 PC and how will I know if a BIOS update is required in order to upgrade?

Problem

I have a Dell Inspiron 530 desktop PC with 2GB of RAM memory and a 2GHz Intel E4400 Core 2 Duo dual-core processor. I want to install two more gigabytes (2GB) of memory and, if possible, upgrade to an Intel E7500 Core 2 Duo dual-core processor. My PC's motherboard - model number ORY007 made by Intel for Dell - supports Intel Core 2 Duo processors, but not Intel's quad-core processors. I haven't seen any mention of the frontside bus (FSB) speed required from the motherboard to run that processor. Mine runs at 200MHz, which doesn't seem fast enough to accommodate any of the Intel E7XXX series dual-core processors, all of which have an FSB of 1,066MHz. Can I install an E7400 or E7500 processor in my motherboard? If I buy a boxed Intel processor, will it come with a heatsink and fan cooler and thermal paste to spread between the processor and cooler? Do I also need to upgrade the BIOS before installing the new processor? Information on the web says that I need BIOS version 1.0.18 rather than the 1.0.3 that is installed.

Answer

The following are the considerations that should be borne in mind whenever you intend to upgrade a PC's processor and RAM memory.

Dell used as many as five different motherboard models for the Inspiron 530. Your PC's Intel ORY007 motherboard appears to support the Intel E7400 but not the E7500, both of which are Core 2 Duo dual-core processors. By using your computer's Dell service tag, which will be on a label stuck to the case, to log on to Dell's support site you can find out which processors are supported If your motherboard is listed as supporting E7400 processor, it will also support the necessary clock speed, which is actually 266MHz, not 1,066MHz, which is 266MHz multiplied by 4 to obtain the effective speed of double-data-rate (DDR) memory. The E7400 processor uses a system bus/clock multiplier of (10.5 multiplied by 266MHz) to achieve its 2.8GHz frequency (processor speed). The 1,066MHz figure arises because there are four transactions per clock cycle executed by the DDR2 RAM memory. Strictly speaking, the memory speed should be given as megatransfers per second (MT/s) rather than megahertz (MHz). The memory bus should also be run at 266MHz for the E7400, but, again, as it uses DDR2 memory with four data transfers per clock cycle, this becomes 1066MT/s.

Unfortunately, even if your PC's motherboard supports the E7400 processor, the 266MHz FSB speed will present a different sort of problem. Dell probably shipped your PC with DDR2-800 memory, which supports a maximum clock speed of 200MHz, not 266MHz. As such, you'll probably find that your computer either won't boot or will need to run at a reduced FSB speed of 200MHz due to the limitations imposed by your old memory. If your original memory modules are labelled 800MHz (or PC2-6400), you will have to replace them with 1,066MHz (PC2-8500) modules, which means buying four 1GB modules or two 2GB modules if you want 4GB of memory. Before you buy two or four modules, check the maximum supported RAM for your PC's motherboard, and also the supported configuration (the module sizes and memory speeds that each DIMM memory slot supports alone or in combination with the other slots).

If you know the make/model of a PC's motherboard, which can be identified by the free CPU-Z utility from cpuid.com, you can download the motherboard's user manual, usually in the PDF format, which provides information on the RAM memory that can be installed and a section devoted to BIOS settings. The US and UK Crucial.com Memory Advisors can be used to find out which memory configurations to install on a brand-name PC or particular make/model of motherboard.

You'll probably need to upgrade the BIOS before you attempt your upgrades. Motherboard manufacturers usually add support for newer processors as part of BIOS updates, and the BIOS numbers you provided suggest that you have an early BIOS version. That is why you should always check to find out if a new motherboard supports the make/model of processor that you want to install without having to install a BIOS update, because you will have to use a processor that the mother supports in order to install the BIOS update that supports later processors. If the BIOS doesn't support a processor, it can't be used to install the BIOS update that adds support for it. If you buy a boxed, retail Intel processor, it should arrive with a suitable heatsink and fan cooler. Depending on the type of cooler, there will either be thermal paste applicator supplied or a small thermal patch will be stuck on to the base of the heatsink. You will have to remove the protective sticker covering a thermal patch that will cover the area of the processor where the processor's cores are when the cooler is fitted. Full installation instructions for both the processor and the cooling unit are provided with boxed Intel and AMD processors. If the cooling unit's fan makes too much noise, you can buy coolers designed to be as silent as possible.


I upgraded my desktop PC's processor/CPU from an Athlon II X2 dual-core to a Phenom II X6 six-core/hexacore model, but only two cores are showing in the Windows 7 Task Manager

Problem

Because it has a AMD-based Socket AM2+ motherboard, which runs the later Phenom II models, I've been able to upgrade my PC's Athlon II X2 250 processor to a six-core Phenom II X6 1090T model without having to upgrade to a later Socket AM3 motherboard. However, although it is working, only two graphs instead of six that represent the available cores are showing in Windows 7 Task Manager under its Performance tab, which I access by pressing the Ctrl + Alt + Del key combination. Does this mean that only two cores out of six are working and that I'm getting only one-third of the available performance, or is Windows just showing the graphs incorrectly?

Answer

Windows 7 probably hasn't detected the upgrade as it should have.

If you open the Device Manager by entering that term in the Start => Search programs and files box, you will be provided with a clickable link to it and you'll be able to see how many processors are listed under the Processors heading and if the descriptions of the cores say Athlon II or Phenom II. If the description used is the former instead of the latter term, right-click on each processor core and click Uninstall. Choose to restart later when asked.

Next, type msconfig in Start => Search programs and files box and click on the msconfig.exe link that presents itself to bring up the System Configuration Utility. You'll probably discover that Selective startup is enabled in the General tab, because you or someone else has disabled some startup programs or services under the Startup tab. Enable Normal startup and reboot. This forces Windows to load all the device drivers. Hopefully the new processor will be detected correctly, in which case you'll see all six graphs showing in the Task Manager.


How can I find out how many cores my computer's AMD or Intel processor has?

Problem

My Dell Studio XPS 8000 desktop PC is supposed to have an Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, which I know means that it has four identical processing cores in a single unit making it the equivalent of having four identical single-core processors installed. A friend of mine said that since the processor supports Hyper-Threading technology, which doubles the number of actual cores by creating virtual cores, the processor is really a dual-core model. To find out if this was correct, I ran msconfig by entering the name in the Start => Search box in Windows 7 and clicked on the misconfig.exe link that the search produced. Under the Boot tab, Advanced options... (not available in Windows XP), there is an option to enter the number of processors. How many should I enter?

Answer

The Intel Core i7 is a quad-core processor that supports Hyper-Threading technology that doubles the number of cores, which means that it also runs four virtual cores, four real and four virtual, making a total of eight cores. The Performance tab of the Windows Task Manager provides a graphical presentation of the performance of all of the cores under the CPU Usage/CPU Usage History, which in your case is eight. Each core has its own graphical presentation box. The Task Manager is brought up by pressing the Ctrl + Alt + Del keys and then choosing it from the menu that presents itself in Windows Vista and Windows 7 (in Windows XP the Task Manager comes up immediately).

The number of actual and virtual cores is also provided un the Processors heading in the Device Manager. Note that AMD processors do not run virtual cores, only actual cores. In other words, AMD does not use technology equivalent to Hyper-Threading, so only the actual number of cores are shown in Task Manager and Device Manager.

If there are half the number of processors as there should be with an Intel processor that supports Hyper-Threading, it's probably because Hyper-Threading is disabled in the computer's BIOS setup program. Enabling it should fix the problem. For your information, Intel Core i3 processors are dual-core with Hyper-Threading (HT), the Core i5 processors are quad-core with HT and the Core i7 processors are quad-core and six-core with HT. A six-core iCore 7 CPU should show 12 graphical-presentation-of-performance boxes.

The setting in System Configuration (msconfig.exe) under the Boot tab, Advanced options... is only used to limit the number of processor cores for troubleshooting purposes. None of the settings in that section should be enabled or left enabled after using them for troubleshooting and debugging. In any case, you cannot enter the number of cores. The number of processor cores is set by choosing the number of cores from the options provided in the drop-down box, which would show up to only the four real cores in your case.


Unlocking a CPU/processor locked cores: How do you turn a AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition dual-core CPU/processor into a quad-core processor?

Perhaps many of you reading this have also read that the AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition dual-core CPU/processors have two locked cores. Mine has and I unlocked them to make it a quad-core AMD Phenom II x4 processor. Luck is involved and I will explain why. When AMD manufactures its Phenom CPUs/processors, they are all made quad-core (not including the new hexa-core (six-cores) models. These four cores are tested to make sure they work as they should. If that is the case, they are sold as quad-core processors. If one or more of the cores fail or don't work as they should (too slow for example) then the dodgy core(s) is locked and they are sold as triple-core or dual-core CPUs. This is basic business practice and cuts down on wasting loads of working materials away. The other situation is when there is a huge demand/order for dual-core CPUs , AMD uses quad-cores and locks two of the cores and sells them as dual-cores. So, if you are lucky and none of the cores is defective, buying this processor is the same as buying a quad-core, but you need the correct BIOS setup program on the computer's motherboard to unlock the cores.

Here is a guide and a video that explain how to unlock the cores and update the BIOS:

AMD K10.5* Core & Cache Unlocking Guide (K10.5 includes Athlon II, Phenom II, & Sempron II CPU's) -

http://www.overclock.net/amd-cpus/535501-official-amd-k10-5-core-cache.html

Phenom II x2 550 B.E. unlocking cores to make Quad Core - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huKVYW4duiU

Note that the same situation applies to Intel quad-core processors. Just enter unlock before the make/model of the processor as the search query in a search engine to be presented with the available links. I used the search query unlock amd phenom II x2 550 to find the links provided above.

Now the question is are they defective cores, dodgy cores or good cores? The first sign you'll get if you have defective/dodgy cores is your computer will produce a blue screen as soon as you start it up. If it does you have one or more defective cores. Change back to dual-core next time you restart by entering the BIOS. If your computer boots and you're in Windows, the state of affairs is looking better, but you might still have one or more dodgy cores. The only way to find out for sure is to use your computer as you normally do and and hope it doesn't produce a blue screen. If after a couple of weeks running the unlocked cores with no problems then congratulations, you've got one of those quad-cores that had two cores intentionally locked. Note that unlocking the cores throws out any temperature readings. That is, the PC's motherboard will not or will incorrectly report processor and system temperatures. I know of one person whose processor temperature was reported as 276C, which no processor could survive.

If you've unlocked the cores and then overclock them, be prepared, not always but it has happened, to experience a burning smell. Yes, you've fried the processor.

I've been an AMD-user for 10 years. I never used Intel processors, motherboards or graphics cards because they are overpriced and no better than products made by AMD. This particular model - AMD Phenom II X2 550 Black Edition - has a superb specification. The 3.1GHz speed is faster than almost all of the quad-core processors available today and the 7MB cache ensures stability.

A note for people who are under the impression that more cores always means better performance. If you are a keen gamer, then forget about using 3 cores or 4 cores. Games (100% of current off-the-shelf games and 95% of older games) do not and cannot use parallel processing (more than a single core). Check anywhere on the Internet for confirmation of this. Games do not work well using parallel processing and not many game developers/programmers are willing to try using it because it is technically very difficult and unproductive. Games process software consecutively (one after the other) they don't pass code from core to core for processing. Without getting too technical, if you bought a quad-core (4-core) processor running at 2.4GHz and played a game on it you would be running that game at 2.4GHz on a single core; the other 3 cores would remain idle. So, multi-core processors are not beneficial for gaming. However, if you were running a photo-editing application, writing a report, surfing the web and playing MP3s all at the same time (called multitasking), then a multi-core processor is worth having, because each core would assume control of each program.


Why is my PC's Intel Core 2 Duo dual-core processor running so hot during a video conversion?

Problem

I have a PC running an Intel Core 2 Duo E7300 Wolfdale 2.66GHz 3MB L2 Cache LGA 775 dual-core processor that when I run Prime95 gets Core 1 and Core 2 to about 46C and the processor temperature around 50C and I get no errors. Both cores are running at 100% for over 2 hours. However, running Auto Gordian Knot to do a conversion to DIVX, which loads the both cores at 97%, I get core temps of about 46C, but the processor temp shoots up to 118C within seconds of the video-encoding phase starting. I have confirmed the processor temp with both the ASUS ATI utility and PCWizard. I would have thought that the processor would have burned up a that temp. Is it possible that the temp sensors are wrong under some conditions? FYI, this very high processor temp occurs with overclocking or with no overclocking of the processor. I have double checked the fan and am quite certain the "stock fan" is on proper/tight and the thermal paste has been applied correctly. Any ideas on what might be causing this seemingly strange processor temp when doing DIVX conversion and/or why Prime95 would not show this weakness if in fact there really is something wrong?

Answer

The computer would have shut down if it were actually running that hot, so I would say that the temperatures are an illusion.

You can use RMClock, as it has a display that shows the state of "throttling". If the processor's temperature goes over about 70C, the processor reduces its processing rate for short periods to control the temperature, which you would see that in the RMClock graph.

RMClock Utility 2.35 - http://cpu.rightmark.org/download.shtml

A throttling experiment has been done on this page - http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/cpu/display/oc-guide_7.html.

So if you don't see throttling, then you know the real processor temperature is not 118C. What you want in a hardware setup is to not lose any performance. So, if you see the graph dip when AGK runs, then you need more cooling, or to clean, apply paste, and reseat the processor's heatsink and fan cooler.

I have had trouble with a heatsink and had to put it on a few times to convince myself it was seated correctly. I look for a little paste to "wet" the joint between heatsink and processor. I mount the heatsink on to the motherboard outside the PC case, so I can be absolutely sure it is where it is supposed to be. I take the heatsink off the processor at least once to make sure the spreading pattern of the paste is right. My current heatsink is bolt-on unit, which allows me to control the clamping force. It fastens from the backside of the motherboard, which means I have to take my computer all apart to work on it.

The heating could be caused by a defect in the processor, but it's more likely to be some weird software problem. Using RMClock should set your mind at ease.

To verify temperatures with complete certainty, place a fast-response cooking thermometer against part of the heatsink not exposed to the fan air flow. Nothing fancy is required, just a £2/$3 dial thermometer.


Is it necessary for your PC/computer to have one of the latest fast multi-core Intel or AMD processors in order to be able to play the latest PC games?

Problem

I need to know for sure if your PC should have one of the latest very fast multi-core Intel or AMD processors for PC gaming, because, having read through some reviews online with benchmark test results, I saw that the Call of Duty 4 game's benchmark results showed that only a modestly fast processor is required. I don't need a very powerful PC to run office applications, to stream video, for web browsing, DTP and image editing, etc., because my eight-year-old PC does all of that well. However, my current PC needs more power for demanding games such as Call of Duty or Empire: Total War, but the Call of Duty 4 results reviews I've read and seen the benchmark results for seem to show that buying the fastest processors is not a necessity. In fact, the AMD Athlon II X2 240 dual-core processor plays Call of Duty along at a faster rate than all those purportedly more powerful processors that cost many times that price. I can't see that I need an AMD Phenom or an Intel Core processor. Had I spent L150 on one, I would be feeling rather ripped off. The problem is that few PC stores offer the AMD Athlon II or the Intel Pentium E series. It seems to me that the computer industry is constantly trying to drive consumers into spending money they don't really need to spend. We should fight back and refuse to buy unnecessary components just because they have large numbers in the specifications. Doing that will save money a large amount of wasted energy and we'll be more contented all around.

Answer

Modern PC games depend far more on the power of a computer's graphics card than on its processor's speed. Visit the Video & Graphics section of this website for information on how to choose the best graphics card for your computing needs. If you want to play the latest games, there isn't much need to buy the latest and greatest processor (or a PC that has one). Processor tests show that the only specification of the processor that seems to affect the frame rates that games play at is the amount of L2 (Level 2) cache that it has.

I don't know why you can't find a store that sells AMD Athlon II X2 or Intel Pentium E processors, because they are currently (June 2010) available from pcworld.co.uk/ and amazon.co.uk/ and other online stores.

Does Cache Size Really Boost Performance? -

"While cache size only had a limited impact on the synthetic benchmarks such as PCMark05, the performance difference in most real-life benchmarks was significant. This was surprising at first, because experience tells us that performance differences can typically be found in most synthetic benchmarks, while little of it is eventually reflected in real-life benchmarks." -

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/cache-size-matter,1709.html

Gamers: Do You Need More Than An Athlon II X3? -

"AMD's Athlon II X3 440 is such a capable little chip, and and it costs so little. Is there any real point in spending more money on your gaming machine's CPU? We explore this question with a head-to-head challenge against Intel's venerable Core i7-920." - http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/...

For example, with a modest budget Intel Celeron Dual Core E1400 processor, Call of Duty 4 might manage a playable frame-rate of just 44.9fps, but on a modest higher-specification Intel Pentium Dual Core E6300, the frame-rate will be something like 58.6fps. However, future games will no doubt require a faster processor at some time, but for now you can get by with less than the fastest current processors.

Just remember that there are uses that do require the fastest processor, e.g., for demanding work, such as editing photos and video, so you will only be ripped off if a salesperson at a computer store tells you that a gaming PC requires the fastest processor that you can afford. For applications such as video and photo editing, the fastest of processors makes a very telling difference and is well worth having one.


Windows XP won't recognise my Intel Core2 Duo E4600 2.4GHz dual-core processor's second core, but Windows Vista does

Problem

I have rebuilt a PC using an ASRock 4CoreDual-SATA2 R2.0 motherboard and the Intel Core2 Duo E4600 2.4GHz dual-core processor, which, according to its user manual, the motherboard supports. I have installed Windows XP Pro as the boot operating system and Windows Vista Home Premium on a second partition on the same hard drive. The PC booted up with no issues - into both versions of Windows. According to the Device Manager, all of the device drivers installed as they should. The processor is correctly recognised in Windows Vista. However, when I benchmark tested the gaming performance in Windows XP Pro SP3, it was no better than with the previous AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 single-core processor, which was correctly recognised.

The BIOS and SiSoftware Sandra correctly identify the processor, showing that it has two cores. Fresh Diagnose identifies a logical processor count of two and correctly identified the processor. CPU-Z from cpuid.com correctly identifies the processor, but shows only one processor with one core. The General tab of System Properties [right-click My Computer (XP) Computer (Vista) and click Properties] correctly identifies the processor, but the Device Manager does not show a processor description at all under Processors, it only shows Standard PC instead of ACPI Multiprocessor PC under the Computer heading. Task Manager [press Ctrl + Alt + Del keys] shows only one core. When I go to View => CPU History, One graph per CPU is the only choice (One Graph, All CPUs is missing) and even that is greyed out. I have installed Hotfix KB896256 V4, to no avail. I installed Hotfix KB896256 V4 to no avail.

Answer

This problem often occurs after switching from a single-core processor to a dual-core processor without reinstalling Windows XP. You replaced the motherboard and processor, but used the same hard disk drive with Windows XP Pro SP3 installed on it. The Q&A on this site called How can I replace the motherboard in my PC without having to reinstall Windows XP? shows how to do that.

Note that if you have an OEM copy of Windows XP/Vista and you change the motherboard, you have to buy a new OEM copy of XP/Vista or a new licence, because an OEM copy can only be installed on one computer, and changing the motherboard is defined by Microsoft as changing the computer. You are only allowed to change the motherboard if you have to replace the existing motherboard with another motherboard of exactly the same make/model. Product Activation will detect a change of motherboard and refuse to activate and you will only be able to use the computer to activate Windows after 30 days. You can use a retail boxed copy of Windows XP/Vista as many times as you like as long as it is only installed on one computer at a time.

Apparently, Windows XP can detect the change in hardware and install multiprocessor support. However, it only works if you install a second processor on a motherboard that supports more than one processor, not if you change from a single-core to a dual-core processor. Windows XP has been known to detect the dual core and show two processors in the Processors section of Device Manager, but if it does, it won't use the second core.

If you press the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination the Task Manager presents itself. Select the Performance tab, click on the View menu and then select CPU History. (CPU is an acronym for central processing unit, which is the processor). If Windows is using both cores, there will be two options: One Graph Per CPU and One Graph, All CPUs.

There should also be separate graphs of processor performance side-by-side - the default setting. The bottom of the first window in CPU-Z shows the number of cores in use. The problem is in the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) used when Windows XP was first installed. Note that Windows Vista no longer uses HAL, which is probably why the dual-core processor was correctly recognised in Vista.

The Windows setup program normally detects the correct make/model of processor, but this depends on the computer's BIOS settings and can be affected if there are bugs in the BIOS. Device Manager shows which HAL you are using under Computer. The entries for dual-core processors is ACPI Multiprocessor or MPS Multiprocessor; the latter being best if your BIOS does not support ACPI power management properly, which all fairly recent motherboards do support, because the ACPI power standard first came out in 1996.

Other options are Standard PC (which your computer has, suggesting that ACPI was not loaded), Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) PC, MPS Uniprocessor and ACPI Uniprocessor.

Microsoft recommends that the HAL should only be changed by reinstalling Windows XP, because the computer will not boot if anything goes wrong.

A repair installation of Windows XP requires a genuine Windows installation CD/DVD, which many computer manufacturers don't provide. A recovery system that is launched from a disc is usually used instead, which returns the computer to the state it was in when it left the factory (minus anything you have installed or created). In any case, Windows XP may still not detect a dual-core processor during a repair installation, making a complete reformat and clean installation necessary in order to upgrade to dual-core support.

Fortunately, there are ways around this state of affairs, which are not approved by Microsoft, because they can go wrong. Therefore, you should create a complete backup of your system before you begin, or at least make copies of all of your data files, images, emails, IE Favorites, etc.

I would first try using a program called HAL Updater.

That should work, but if it doesn't, you can try using the information on this page - if you can understand the instructions.

How to update the HAL without reinstalling windows - http://www.ngohq.com/processors/...

This is the first instruction: "You require the Devcon utility for this, unpack it to a folder, then navigate to the folder its in using Command prompt (command prompt on context menu PowerToy is handy for this)."

Use Windows Explorer (right-click Start and click Explore) to create a folder called Devcon on the root directory C:\, which would make the path to it C:\Devcon, and unpack the utility into it.

Next, enter the command cmd in the Start => Run box to bring up the Command Prompt. To change to the Devcon folder, just enter cd \devcon and then enter the commands provided on the page above (as is). The command cd stands for change directory. You can use it to navigate to any folder on the hard drive from the Command Prompt.


Should I buy a 32-bit or 64-bit processor and should I go with Windows Vista 32-bit or 64-bit version?

Question

I want to buy a new desktop computer, but it's very difficult to figure out what the best choices are. For example, what's the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit processors. I can only assume the 64-bit processor is faster, or am I wrong? And with regard to Windows Vista, do I go for the 32-bit or 64-bit version? Are there any advantages of going with Vista 64-bit? One more thing, will buying a 64-bit PC be somewhat future proofing my new desktop purchase?

Answer

There is a 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional Edition, but not for Windows XP Home Edition, which is 32-bit only. These are the 64-bit version of Windows Vista: Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit edition • Windows Vista Home Basic 64-bit edition • Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition • Windows Vista Business 64-bit edition • Windows Vista Enterprise 64-bit edition.

Information to help you choose an edition of Windows Vista -

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/choose.mspx

The above link will tell you what features the different versions of Vista provide, but won't tell you much about the advantages of the 64-bit versions.

64-bit Editions of Windows Vista -

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/64bit.mspx

Whether you need 32-bit or a 64-bit Windows Vista depends on your computing needs. If you're an average user whose computing needs don't require a lot of RAM memory , a 32-bit version will be fine, because a 32-bit operating system cannot use more than 3.5GB of memory. Not only is 32-bit compatible with almost all software applications, most of which are still 32-bit, but you also won't have any problems finding compatible 32-bit hardware device drivers for the system.

With regard to a 64-bit version Windows Vista, 64-bit is the way of the future, unless the programs you are running now require a 64-bit Windows or more than 3.5GB of RAM, or you do a lot of 3D-rendering, video editing, etc.

The main drawback of going with 64-bit Windows used to be the lack of hardware device drivers, but that situation has improved greatly. Read this article: Windows Vista x64: One Year Later - http://www.winsupersite.com/showcase/winvista_1yr_x64.asp.

If you buy a PC with 64-bit Vista, it will have all the 64-bit drivers preinstalled and should work perfectly.

In 64-bit Vista, a driver that has not been officially signed digitally won't be able to enter the kernel and will fail to install. Windows XP and previous versions of Windows allow unsigned drivers to be installed. With 64-bit Vista if a driver has not been digitally signed by Microsoft, it won't work, which is good because bad kernel-mode drivers are probably the major cause of Windows XP crashes.

Note that Windows XP allows the use of old 16-bit software, but Windows Vista does not.

While more programs are being written for 64-bit systems than used to be the case, thankfully, for the most part, 64-bit systems also run 32-bit applications very well. A 64-bit system is ideal for the user who can make proper use of it, but the typical computer user is unlikely to notice much, if any, gain in performance. You will be able to use 32-bit Windows Vista and 32-bit software for many years to come.

The 64-bit editions require a system with a 64-bit processor. The 64-bit Windows Vista versions run on the following 64-bit AMD processors: Athlon 64, Athlon 64 X2 (dual-core processors), Phenom ( triple and quad-core processors), Opteron, Turion and Turion X2 (dual-core laptop/notebook processors) and the x86-64 Semprons - and on the following 64-bit Intel (EMT64T) processors: Pentium D, the EMT64T Celerons, Xeon, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo (dual-core processors) and Core 2 Quad (quad-core processors). If an AMD processor has x86-64 in its instruction set, it is a 64-bit processor. If an Intel processor has EMT64T in its instruction set, it is a 64-bit processor.

The following link provides access to comprehensive information of all of the AMD and Intel processors that have ever been issued:

Desktop CPU Comparison Guides - http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=337&pgno=0

Look under the Instruction Set heading to find out if a particular model is 64-bit.

You should buy a PC with a 64-bit processor, which all of the current processor made by AMD and Intel are, but it will be up to you if you want a 64-bit version of Windows Vista. If you choose a 32-bit version, it will last for the full life of the PC, because 32-bit software will be around for at least the next five years and for probably longer than that. (Date of writing: July, 2008)


Windows Vista does not recognise (US: recognize) my computer's processor

I have an Acer Aspire E380 (AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ 2.2GHz processor) desktop PC. I have upgraded the memory on the Socket AM2 motherboard to 2GB, the graphics card to an Asus EAX1950 Pro. I visited acer.co.uk and emailed asking which is the fastest processor that the motherboard supports. I received no advice, but I decided to take a shot in the dark and purchased and installed an AMD Athlon X2 6000+ processor and a large cooling unit. According to Windows Vista, the processor is working and the drivers are up to date. However, the Windows Experience index says that the processor is unknown. The free CPU-Z utility recognised the processor and displays its part number and a clock speed of just over 3GHz. Does that affect the performance of the processor and is there a way of making Windows Vista recognise the processor properly. If a BIOS update is required, how do I install it?

Windows Vista requires that the motherboard's BIOS recognises the make/model of processor. The 'Processor unknown' designation indicates that the BIOS needs to be updated for the processor to be recognised properly. This won't affect the performance of the system, because the processor is running at full speed, as you can see from the listing of the processor on this page:

http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=337&pgno=0.

However, the update could affect the temperature at which the processor runs. Make sure that AMD's Cool'n'Quiet feature in the BIOS, which adjusts the processor's speed according to its workload, is enabled.

You can download the AMD Clock utility from http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/... to view the processor's speed. Windows Vista has built-in support for the feature.

Acer's website at http://support.acer-euro.com/ does not have any BIOS updates for this PC's motherboard. However, there is one on Acer's FTP site:

http://support.acer-euro.com/drivers/ftp/ftp.html

Look under Drivers & Utilities => Directory Desktop. There are two .zip files that contain readme text files that should tell you how to update the BIOS. Note that specific revisions of the motherboard installed in the PC require specific BIOS updates, so make sure that you use the correct update for the correct revision, which will be indicated by the model, which the free CPU-Z utility can supply. The PC's user manual should also provide information on how to update the BIOS. Visit the BIOS section - Page 2 of this website to read the information it provides on flashing a BIOS.


How do I set the speed of my computer's processor to its correct speed after a BIOS/CMOS battery failure

Problem

The BIOS battery on my desktop PC's motherboard died and this resulted in all of the BIOS settings reverting to their default settings. The PC has an AMD Athlon XP 2800+ processor that, I think is supposed to run at 2.8GHz. At that time, the processor speed reported by SiSoftware Sandra software and Windows XP itself was, I think, around 1.4GHz. I discovered that the bus speed was set at 100MHz. I had also recently upgraded the RAM memory, which, I think, runs at a bus speed of 200MHz (400MHz internal). I tried setting the bus speed to 200MHz, but it would not even allow the boot process to start. I looked at some other settings in the BIOS and found an overclocking section. I experimented with a few multipliers, after reading some articles on bus speeds, and each time the PC would not boot. I eventually set the bus speed to 133MHz. It runs reliably at this speed, but Windows XP reports the processor as an AMD Athlon XP 2200+ 1.80GHz processor, so it is being misreported/configured by the BIOS. The RAM memory is reported as running at 400MHz during the boot process, which appears to be correct. I would be grateful for some enlightenment, because I'm confused by the bus speeds, multipliers, etc., and don't know how to set the BIOS correctly.

Answer

The Motherboards section of this website provides information on the FSB and the clock multiplier settings, the BIOS section provides information on the BIOS, and the RAM section provides information on DDR/DDR2/DDR3 memory. Your PC runs DDR memory.

In the days of Intel Pentium, Intel Pentium II and AMD K6 processors, a processor had only a single set of bus lines that communicated with the rest of the system called the frontside bus (FSB). FSB speeds went from 66MHz to 100MHz and then to 133MHz, but, even so, the speed of memory access was a significant bottleneck that restricted performance. Intel invested heavily in the very expensive Rambus memory that was much faster than the current standard SDRAM memory. Intel signed an agreement that prevented AMD from using the Rambus technology. AMD (Intel's only competitor in the PC processor market) developed an alternative called double data rate (DDR) memory, which transfers two bits of data per clock signal instead of just one (hence the double data rate). This matched Rambus memory and was considerably cheaper. Intel has itself now adopted DDR/DDR2/DDR3 memory

AMD integrated the memory controller on the motherboard into the central processor chip, which enables a processor to have a separate memory bus that runs at a much higher speed. Therefore, AMD Athlon processors have separate bus lines running at different speeds for the memory and the motherboard chipset access. The DDR memory bus clock speed (the FSB) is set to half the speed of the memory, For example, with 400MHz-rated DDR memory the FSB would run at 200MHz. The FSB that connects the processor to the motherboard chipset originally ran at 100MHz, then 133MHz, then 166MHz, and finally at 200MHz. In your computer, it should be running at 166MHz, but you have it set at 133MHz. That is why it the processor is configured and reported as an Athlon XP 2200+ processor instead of what it is - a AMD Athlon XP 2800+.

As you can see from the table on this page - http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=337&pgno=2 - two Athlon XP processors were given a 2800+ speed rating. The first, in January 2003, used the Thoroughbred B core with a 256KB L2 cache and ran at a clock speed of 2,250MHz (2.25GHz) - with a 166MHz FSB and a clock multiplier setting of 13.5 (in the BIOS). This was then replaced by the Barton core, which had a 512KB L2 cache and a slightly lower clock speed. The Barton 2800+ processor also ran at 166MHz bus speed, but with a 12.5 clock multiplier, giving it a clock speed of 2,083MHz (2.08GHz). Higher speed-rating processors with the Barton core run at an FSB of 200MHz.

Your computer seems to have the first Thoroughbred chip. You should use the free CPU-Z utility from cpuid.com to find out for sure. Most motherboards detect the correct settings for the processor automatically. This can be completely automatic, as it is with most Dell, HP and other major brands, or there may be a BIOS option that loads default values. The BIOS setup program can offer two sets of default values - failsafe (slow but reliable) and optimal (best). However, the BIOS setup program itself and the motherboard's user manual don't make it clear which is which. The latest processor of a range (Athlon XP 3200+ using an FSB of 200MHz was the last in the line) might be too recent for the original motherboard BIOS to be able to recognise it automatically. However, the computer manufacturer or the motherboard manufacturer usually provide a BIOS update that enables the BIOS to recognise the latest processors in a range. If an update is available from either of the sites of those manufacturers, you should install it (reflash the BIOS with it). The update itself should provide a readme file that provides instructions on how to reflash the BIOS. Instructions may be provided on those two manufacturers' sites. You can also read the information on the BIOS section - Page 2 of this site on how to reflash a BIOS.


Will Product Activation in Windows Vista allow me to change my PC's processor/motherboard without having to reactivate?

Question

I would like to upgrade my ageing system, which has an Intel Pentium D dual-core processor in a home-built PC, with an Intel Pentium Dual Core E2140 processor. I want to buy a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R motherboard with the intention of buying a faster processor for it when prices dropped a bit. Gigabyte's website says that these are the processors that the motherboard board supports: "Supports Intel Core 2 Extreme Quad-Core / Core 2 Duo / Intel Pentium Extreme/ Intel Pentium D processors". I want to install the new motherboard and then install Windows Vista Home Premium at the same time. However, I don't know if the Product Activation will force me to buy a new copy of Windows Vista after I change the processor to the Pentium Dual Core E2140 processor.

Answer

The Product Activation system in Windows Vista is similar to that of Windows XP. If you have a retail version of Vista Home Premium, either the full product or upgrade version, (the latter requires an earlier qualifying version of Windows to be installed), you can make as many changes as you like. If several changes of the hardware are made at the same time, including just replacing the motherboard, the Product Activation process will ask you to call a Microsoft support number to reactivate the software.

You won't be able to install that copy on more than one system, because a second installation will have to be activated online, and the snapshot that was taken of the first system it was installed on is in Microsoft's records for that copy's Product Key. When the second activation is attempted, it will fail because Microsoft has a record of that copy being installed on another PC, the hardware components of which have been recorded.

If you have an OEM version of Windows, where the certificate of authenticity mentions OEM or OEMACT, the licence covers only the system you purchased or installed it in. It cannot be installed on a new system. A new motherboard is interpreted as a new system by the activation process. That means that if you change the motherboard, you will have to buy a new licence for the OEM copy of Windows or buy a new copy.

In the case of an OEM licence, Microsoft defines the system by its motherboard. This means that changing the motherboard of a system is not allowed unless the original motherboard failed and an exact replacement (make/model) was not available. However, the processor does not define the system, so, if the same motherboard is used, changing it won't make reactivation necessary.

You can purchase an OEM copy if you are a self-builder (an "original equipment manufacturer"). Read the licence conditions of this example:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Microsoft-Windows-Vista-Premium-OEM/...

An OEM licence typically costs half or less of the price of the full retail product, which is why its rights are limited compared to the full product.

Enter oem Windows Vista uk (as is) in a search engine to find alternative local UK vendors.

Note that Windows Vista was still being sold by online retailers such as Amazon in August 2011, but won't be for much longer having been superseded by Windows 7 in February 2009, but you should still be able to buy it from auction sites, such as eBay, for many years to come.


I bought a PC with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 6.5GHz processor and a 1GB ATI Radeon X1050 graphics card, but the Belarc Advisor says otherwise

Question

I have purchased a desktop PC from a UK company via eBay. It was advertised as having a 6.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 dual-core processor, a 1GB ASus ATI Radeon X1050 graphics card, and 2GB DDR2 RAM memory. However, I downloaded and ran the free Belarc Advisor, and it said that the computer has that processor, but that it only runs at 2.33GHz, and the graphics card is described as a "HIS x1,050 hypermemory with 128MB DDR (64-bit)". The RAM memory appears to be as advertised. When I emailed the company, it said: "The way that Core 2 Duo works is 2 x 2.33GHz cores and, because they both run together, it is then 40% quicker than the actual speed, hence where the 6.5GHz comes from." Is this true or have I been ripped off?

Answer

Note that the video/graphics card manufacturer, ATI, which was purchased by AMD, is now called AMD.

The E6550 does not imply that the speed of the processor is 6.5GHz, it is just its model number, and it is far from being the fastest model in its range of Intel Core 2 Duo dual-core processors. The processor has a clock speed of 2.33GHz, but the speed of each core cannot just be doubled to derive its actual speed because of bottlenecks in scheduling tasks between the two cores. However, the second core, and other design improvements over previous Pentium 4 processors, adds about 40% to the performance when compared to a single core processor running at the same clock speed of 2.33GHz. There are other factors that affect performance, such as the amount of cache memory, how the processor makes use of RAM memory, and the number of clock cycles that each operation takes. The two cores of Core 2 Duo processors are based on a single Pentium M core, each of which can perform more operations per clock cycle than a Pentium 4 single-core processor.

The comparative speed of different makes/models of processors depends on the kind of operation each of them is performing. For example, one make/model may be better at performing certain operations, such as those required to run a demanding PC game. Your PC's processor, for instance, might outperform an AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+ dual-core processor playing games. Therefore, a vendor, such as the one you bought your PC from, could find a benchmark test in which your PC's processor is twice as fast as a 3.3GHz single-core processor, but that doesn't give that vendor the right to advertise it as a 6.5GHz processor, because such a processor does not yet exist. The fastest official (not overclocked) clock speed to date of a processor is that of the high-end Pentium 4 single-core processors, which run at 3800MHz (3.8GHz). Your PC has a Intel Core 2 Duo E6550 dual-core processor, each core of which runs at 2.33GHz, giving it up to 40% improvement in performance compared to a single core running at 2.33GHz.

The PC's video/graphics card does not have 1GB of its own dedicated graphics memory, as advertised. (Even PC manufacturers, such as Dell, have been guilty of this kind of false advertising.) A graphics card with 256MB of dedicated graphics memory, which is legitimately advertised as having a hypermemory feature, can make use of up to four times that amount of a PC's system RAM memory. If the system RAM is over 1GB (4 x 256MB), then a graphics card with hypermemory can behave in some ways as if it has 1GB of graphics memory. Your PC has 2GB of RAM, so, with such a graphics card, it could reserve 1GB for the use of the graphics card and use the remaining 1GB to run the system. However, the graphics card in your PC only has 128MB of graphics memory, which equates to only 512MB of hypermemory (4 x 128MB). Also note that the graphics card is actually made by HIS, not Asus, as advertised.

Visit the following two pages to view tables containing all of the technical specifications (clock speed, supported instruction sets, cache, etc.) and other information, such as the dates of release, of all of the processors made by AMD and Intel up to the present.

Desktop CPU Comparison Guide - AMD processors - http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=337&pgno=0

Desktop CPU Comparison Guide - Intel processors - http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=337&pgno=4

Visit the following pages of the above guide to view tables of all of the PCI, AGP, and PCI Express video/graphics cards made by ATI/AMD and NVIDIA, the two major manufacturers of graphics chips (that other graphics-card manufacturers use) and their own graphics cards.

Desktop Graphics Card Comparison Guide - nVidia cards - http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&pgno=3

Desktop Graphics Card Comparison Guide - ATI/AMD cards - http://www.techarp.com/showarticle.aspx?artno=88&pgno=1

Whether or not you have been ripped off depends on the price you paid for the PC. Its specification, although not as advertised, is still fairly good. You can make use of a search engine to search for PCs with the real specifications to find out if they are cheaper or dearer than what you paid. If you think that you have been ripped off, you can make use of eBay's complaints' procedure. Moreover, if you paid by PayPal, you might be entitled to a refund.

Always check a seller's feedback carefully before making a purchase through eBay. You should click on the links in the feedback to find out what kind of merchandise the seller is selling, because some thieves and con artists build up good feedback by selling cheap goods that they deliver quickly.


Can I upgrade the Intel Pentium D dual-core processor of my Dell Dimension E510 with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor?

Question

I have a Dell Dimension E510 PC with an Intel Pentium D processor. Dell now uses the superior Core 2 Duo for its Dimension PCs. How easy would it be for me to upgrade the Pentium D for a Core 2 Duo?

Answer

The Pentium D and the Core 2 Duo processors use the same LGA775 socket, but the Dimension E510 motherboard's chipset - the circuitry that governs how the processor interacts with the rest of the PC, and the BIOS chip must be compatible with the Core 2 Duo processor. If the chipset isn't compatible with it, you'll have to upgrade the motherboard to one that has a compatible chipset. If the BIOS isn't compatible, flashing it with the latest update might put the matter right. The PC must also have adequate cooling to handle the new chip. Core 2 Duo processors tend to run cooler than Pentium Ds, especially if the D is an 800-series chip, so, providing adequate cooling shouldn't be a problem in this case.

You'll have to obtain the compatibility information from your motherboard manufacturer, which in this case is Dell's support, because Dell PCs have motherboards that are manufactured to the company's own specifications. Moreover, note that most Core 2 Duo processors have an effective front-side bus (FSB) of 1,066MHz with the system's RAM memory that will have to make do with the slightly slower effective 800MHz FSB that your PC's Pentium D motherboard was probably was designed to produce. Also note that if your PC is under warranty, you'll be rendering the warranty void if replacing the processor causes any irrecoverable damage to the motherboard.

Assuming that the motherboard is compatible and that BIOS can be made compatible with the upgrade, replacing the processor isn't difficult. With an LGA775 motherboard, you must first remove the processor's cooling unit from above the Pentium D processor. The Dimension PC's user manual probably provides illustrated information on how to install a cooling unit. If not, it shouldn't be too difficult to determine how to remove it. Once removed, put the cooling unit fan side down, because thermal-paste residue probably coats its bottom surface. Now disengage the locking lever that can be seen alongside the socket, lift the frame surrounding the processor, and remove the Pentium D processor. Next, place the Core 2 Duo processor on the socket's pin grid, matching the notches on the processor with the orienting arrows on the socket. Installing the new processor is now just a matter of reversing the way in which you removed the old processor. With the new processor installed, you should clean the old thermal paste off the cooling unit with a cloth. A tube of thermal paste should have come with the new processor. Apply a pea-sized dab of the paste to the top of Core 2 Duo processor, spreading it evenly with a card. After you've locked the cooling unit back into place, plug its power connector into the same header on motherboard that it was connected to previous to its removal and you're done.


Can I upgrade my Socket 478 Pentium 4 processor?

Question

My computer has a Socket 478 Asus P4GE-V motherboard that has an Intel 845GE chipset that itself has a 400/533MHz FSB. I have an Intel Pentium 4 2.4GHz processor installed in the motherboard. I want to upgrade it to a 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor that has a 533MHz FSB. However, I can't find one, but I can find a 3.0GHz model that has an 800MHz FSB. Would it work on a board with a 533MHz FSB? If possible, I want to upgrade the processor without upgrading the motherboard.

Answer

When supported FSB (Front Side Bus) speeds of 400/533/800MHz are mentioned that is really the effective speeds at which the DDR RAM memory runs on motherboard FSBs of 100/133/200 respectively. As you can see, the figures in 400/533/800MHz are four times those in 100/133/200.

Using a Pentium 4 (P4) with an effective 800MHz memory bus speed is not going to be of any use to you. A motherboard FSB of only 200MHz produces an effective memory speed of 800MHz. Moreover, every P4 processor, except the Extreme Edition model, has a fixed clock multiplier. A processor's speed is the motherboard's FSB multiplied by the figure that has been set for the clock multiplier. Click here! to go to information on this site that explains the relationship between the FSB, the clock multiplier setting, and the processor speed.

There is no easy way to change the clock multiplier setting in these P4 processors. However, some motherboards made by Abit have a way of changing the setting. In any case, you should know what you are doing before you mess around with these settings. (Note that Abit has now gone out of business.)

If you installed a 3.0GHz P4 that requires an effective memory speed of 800MHz on a motherboard that only supports an effective memory speed of 533MHz (a motherboard FSB of 133 multiplied by 4) it would only run at 2.0GHz. This is because a 3.0GHz processor should run on a motherboard with an FSB of 200MHz. The processor speed is the FSB multiplied by the clock multiplier setting, so, if the FSB is 200MHz, the fixed clock multiplier setting must be 15x (15 x 200 = 3000; 3.0GHz = 3000Mhz). A motherboard with an effective memory speed of 533MHz has an FSB of 133MHz. So, installing that 3.0GHz on it would make it run at 15 x 133 = 1995MHz, which is only 2.0GHz.

Your Asus P4GE-V motherboard allows you to overclock the 133MHz FSB to 200MHz in its BIOS, but the chipset is designed to run the memory at effective speeds of 533MHz and the performance might be unstable if the FSB is set to run at 200MHz.


My Pentium 4 processor runs very slowly?

Problem

I have a Pentium 4, 2.26GHz processor running on an Intel D850MV motherboard, but the reported frequency it runs at is 1.69GHz instead of the maximum of 2.26GHz, and the system bus is running at 396MHz instead of the 533MHz it is supposed to be able to utilise. So, I need to know why the processor's maximum frequency (maximum speed), and the maximum system bus frequency are running much lower than they should be?

Answer

Both frequencies are being correctly reported, because the Intel D850MV motherboard does not support a 533MHz Front Side Bus (FSB) speed.

The so-called 533MHz FSB speed of motherboards that support it is only the base FSB of 133MHz multiplied by 4 to express the effective FSB speed of the RAM, which is not a frequency. It is the effective speed (frequency) of the RAM using DDR RAM and DDR RAM operating in dual-channel mode. The RAM would be running at an effective speed/frequency of 133 X 2 = 266MHz using Double-Data-Rate (DDR) RAM, which functions at double the data rate of the FSB. Ordinary DDR RAM working in dual-channel mode, which must be supported by the motherboard (also the processor with the AMD Athlon 64 FX processors which have onboard memory controllers), effectively doubles the DDR speed, making an effective FSB in this mode of 133 X 4 = 533MHz.

Click here! to go directly to information on the page on this website that discusses the motherboard's FSB and other settings. And go to the RAM page on this site to find out about the single-channel and dual-channel modes of DDR RAM.

However, this particular Intel motherboard only uses a base FSB of 100MHz, and so cannot go any higher than an effective dual-channel DDR "FSB" of 400MHz (4 X 100). Therefore, with the RAM running at an effective speed of 400MHz, with a clock-multiplier setting of 17x, the 2.26GHz Pentium 4 processor runs at only 1.7GHz (17X100), because the maximum frequency is the product of the base FSB multiplied by the clock-multiplier setting.

The 533MHz "FSB" (133 X 4) has a base FSB of 133MHz, so multiply 133 by the 17x multiplier and you get the 2.26GHz of the Pentium 4 processor.

Before you purchase a processor upgrade, you must know exactly what base FSB and clock-multiplier settings the motherboard provides. Note that even if the motherboard provides the required settings to run a particular processor, it might require a BIOS reflash in order to be recognised by the BIOS, because the BIOS programmers might not have given the BIOS the ability to recognise that particular processor as it had not been issued when the BIOS was created.

The processors and motherboards that run RAM memory at an effective speed of 400MHz and 533MHz are of different architectures, so no BIOS update will make it possible to run this P4 processor at its full speed on your Intel D850MV motherboard.

If the motherboard provided the 26x clock-multiplier setting required, you could make a 2.6GHz Pentium 4 that operates at the 100/400MHz FSB speed run at full speed, but not a 133/533MHz model of the Pentium 4. However, the Intel D850MV motherboard doesn't provide a 26x setting, only a maximum setting of 17x, so 1.7GHz is the maximum frequency that the processor can run at on this motherboard.

In this case, being ignorant of the processor's requirements resulted in the purchase of the wrong model Pentium 4. If this was a case of being sold the wrong processor after specifically identifying which board was in use to the seller, then the fault obviously lies with the vendor company, as the salesperson should have been able to find out which Intel processors can run on that particular Intel motherboard.


Why is my CPU Usage always 100% in the Windows Task Manager and the system so slow

Problem

For some reason, my CPU Usage under the Performance tab in the Windows Task Manager (which I access by using the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination) is always at 100%. The whole system is sluggish. A few years ago, my computer had a virus that used up most of the processor's cycles. It had downloaded a few programs that were running constantly. I fixed that by checking the system with I have discovered that running the free online virus scanner provided by Trend Micro, but my system checks out as virus free this time. I have attached an image of the Task Manager with the Processes tab open showing which programs are running.

Answer

Having looked at the processes running on your system, evntsvc.exe looked suspicious, so I looked it up by entering the name in a search engine. It's a file used by the Real Player. I would use Add/Remove Programs to uninstall the Real Player. If the problem disappears, then you know the cause. If you use the program, you can then try reinstalling it. If properly installed, the Real Player shouldn't do that. There must be something wrong with the evntsvc.exe file.

Read Why is 100% processor use showing under the Performance tab of Windows Task Manager when I have nothing running? on this page for more information on tracking down the causes of 100% CPU usage.


The type of power supply that supports AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium 4 processors

Questions

I know that Pentium 4 motherboards need a special ATX power supply (PSU) that has two extra power connectors. But do the Athlon XP motherboards need a special PSU? And is it possible to run both types of processor from a standard ATX PSU?

Answers

The extra 4-pin power connector is not needed on the PSU for AMD Athlon XP motherboards. But it is required for Athlon 64 processors.

Click here! to go to the page on this website for more information and an image of the additional power connector.

It is possible to run both types of processors with a standard ATX power supply with no Pentium 4 power connectors, either by fitting an adapter to the standard ATX power connector, or by using a motherboard that will allow the use of a standard ATX connector instead of the Pentium 4 connector.

Note that the new motherboards with the Intel Granite Bay chipset require a different Pentium 4 connector. Instead of the typical 4-pin Pentium 4 connector, it uses an 8-pin connector.


I upgraded the processor, but the computer won't boot

Problem

I have a Chaintech 7AJA2E motherboard running an 800MHz AMD Duron processor. [Chaintech is no longer in business.] Having looked at Chaintech's website, I have discovered that the motherboard can run AMD Duron or Athlon processors with speeds up to 1.4GHz. I then bought a 1.3GHz Duron processor. I downloaded the latest BIOS file from Chaintech's site, and reflashed the BIOS. However, when I installed the new processor, the computer would not boot past the Power-On-Self-Tests (POST tests) that all computers run at start-up. The processor is identified correctly, as is the amount of RAM installed, but the computer hangs when identifying the hard-disk and CD drives. When the original processor is reinstalled, the computer works normally. Chaintech's support personnel have assured me that the motherboard supports any AMD Athlon processor that runs up to a maximum speed/frequency of 1.4GHz, or a 1.3GHz Duron processor when set to use the 200MHz Front Side Bus (FSB). I have checked the processor settings in the BIOS and found them to be correctly set.

Answer

You should first have a look at what type of cooling unit (heatsink and fan) is being used. If it provides speed feedback to the motherboard, it should be plugged into the processor's fan header on the motherboard (according to the instructions in the motherboard's manual), not into another fan header on the motherboard, or into a plug from the power supply unit (PSU). A high-speed AMD processor will fry itself if used without a heatsink and fan unit installed over it, even if it's only for a few seconds, therefore many motherboards are set to refuse to power the fans and continue the start-up sequence if no fan speed feedback is being received. The fan speed feedback can only be provided if the fan is connected to the processor's fan header. Since all of this happens before the processor, RAM, etc., are powered up, no beep warning is issued if no fan speed feedback is detected.

If the processor's cooling unit is connected to its fan header on the motherboard, and the fan's speed feedback is being shown in the BIOS, then read on.

Motherboards are designed to run with processors that often aren't available when they were made and the user manuals were written. Problems may be discovered when these untested processors become available and are installed that require BIOS updates, or even revisions to such a motherboard's design.

Since Chaintech [no longer in business] hasn't mentioned any known issues, and you have reflashed the BIOS so that it is running the latest BIOS file, you should make sure that the power supply unit (PSU) is adequate by using only a unit that AMD recommends, which should guarantee a 300W power output.

If there is a heating problem, it won't usually build up fast enough to prevent the POST procedure taking place. In any case, this motherboard has built-in circuitry that should make it cut out automatically if the processor overheats. However, the cut-out circuitry could be faulty, so it won't hurt to check the temperature, which should be reported in the BIOS. A temperature much in excess of 50 degrees Celsius (50C) could be causing problems.

I would set the processor's alarm settings in the BIOS to issue a warning at 60C/140F and shutdown at 70C/158F. It is unlikely to happen, but you can always adjust these settings if they cause unnecessary problems.

The motherboard's user manual (downloadable from its site) contains information on BIOS settings, and the processor's website (usually amd.com or intel.com) will provide information on a particular processor's running temperature.

You could also have the case open so that you can remove the processor's cooling unit as soon as it fails to boot in order to feel how hot the processor is. If it's too hot to keep touching it, using better thermal compound between the cooling unit and the processor, or installing a better cooling unit might solve the problem.

Of course, the motherboard itself could be in the process of failing. Cheap PSUs can often cause capacitors on the motherboard to start failing. It's possible that one or several failing capacitors might be able to run the 800MHz Duron, but not be able to function when the new processor's higher power requirements need to be met.

If the problem has nothing to do with the settings for the motherboard and the new processor, the capacity of the PSU, or overheating of the processor, the only option left to you would be to try installing another motherboard.


My AMD Athlon XP processor won't work with a power supply unit (PSU) designed for an Intel Pentium 4 processor

Problem

I built a computer around an Epox EP-8RDA3 motherboard, but, having read the manual and double-checked all of the settings, nothing happened when I switched it on for the first time. The AMD Athlon XP 2600+ processor's fan worked, and the motherboard's onboard diagnostic LED showed the letters FF. There were no beeping noises and the LED lights on the front of the case didn't work. I noticed that the PSU in the case has "Designed for Pentium 4" printed on it. Your processor is an Athlon XP 2600+ model, so I need to know if installing the wrong motherboard and processor is the cause of the failure of the computer to boot.

Answer

Intel asked manufacturer's to add an extra four-pin connector to the PSUs used for its Pentium 4 processors in order to improve the stability when motherboards draw large amounts of power. Pentium-4-compatible PSUs are often known as ATX12V, because the extra connector supplies an additional 12V to the motherboard.

But, in every other respect, these PSUs comply fully with the ATX 2.0 specifications, and can be used with other makes of processor. The extra connector is not used with them, that's all.

You don't mention the make and model of the PSU, which is as important as the makes of the motherboard and RAM, because many cheap PSUs do not give an adequate supply of power on all of the output circuits. For instance, some cheap PSUs labelled as being 400W can provide lower combined outputs than quality 300W PSUs.

By studying the detailed specifications of the PSU (if you can find them), you can often discover that although the +12V and +5V circuits are adequate individually, the combined output of the two circuits often has an upper limit that is inadequate. That is why it's always best to make sure that the PSU is made by a well known manufacturer such as Antec, Enermax, Jeantech, and Sparkle - and that it is recommended for use with a particular processor.

Most inadequate PSUs will at least boot successfully. That is, they will complete the Power-On-Self-Test (POST) procedure, but will tend to cause system crashes when the system is running and stressed.

The motherboard's diagnostic LED is working and therefore indicates that the 5V supply is good, and the processor's fan is run by the 12V supply.

A floppy disk drive's ribbon cable connected the wrong way round can prevent a computer from booting, but RAM installed improperly will usually result in beeps being emitted if the case speaker is connected to the motherboard. The motherboard's diagnostic LED should also provide an indication of what's wrong. The translation of the codes will be provided in the motherboard's manual.

In case it's being shorted by something, you should remove the motherboard from the case. With the LED cables still connected, place it on a non-conductive material, such as the packet it came sealed in, and try powering it up with just the processor, RAM, and heatsink and fan unit installed. [Never power up a computer unless the cooling unit is properly fitted to the processor.] Don't connect the hard disk, CD/DVD, or floppy drives.

If taking the above actions don't show you what's wrong, you could try clearing the BIOS/CMOS memory. There is usually a jumper on the motherboard that you set to clear it. Click here! to go to relevant information about doing so on the BIOS section of this website.

If none of the above solves the problem, a home user can do further testing by installing the components in another computer one by one, or by swapping them with known good ones one by one, starting with the PSU. If you purchased all of the components from one supplier, you could ask for permission to send them all back so that the supplier can find out where the fault lies.

****

Power supplies that support AMD Athlon and Intel Pentium 4 processors

Questions

I know that Pentium 4 motherboards need a special ATX power supply (PSU) that has two extra power connectors. But do the Athlon XP motherboards need a special PSU? And is it possible to run both types of processor from a standard ATX PSU?

Answers

The extra 4-pin power connector is not needed on the PSU for AMD Athlon XP motherboards. But it is required for Athlon 64 processors.

Click here! to go to a page on this website for more information and an image of the additional power connector.

It is possible to run both types of processors with a standard ATX power supply with no Pentium 4 power connectors, either by fitting an adapter to the standard ATX power connector, or by using a motherboard that will allow the use of a standard ATX connector instead of the Pentium 4 connector.

Note that the new motherboards with the Intel Granite Bay chipset require a different Pentium 4 connector. Instead of the typical 4-pin Pentium 4 connector, it uses an 8-pin connector.


The overheating alarm on my computer's motherboard goes off and, if left running, the computer crashes

Problem

My computer has an AMD Athlon XP 3200+ processor and runs Windows XP Home. If it has been switched on continuously for four or five hours, an alarm is triggered. The first time it went off, I wasn't aware of the cause, and the computer crashed after I left it running. The alarm must be triggered when the processor or some other hardware in the system overheats. This first started happening at the height of summer when the room temperature was around 30oC. I checked to make sure that the processor's cooling unit was working and was properly fitted over the processor, so I need some advice on how to prevent this from happening.

Answer

A high room temperature can make the processor's cooler less effective, but a processor can tolerate a much higher temperature and still remain working than, say, a hard disk drive that is far more likely to cause a system failure if the temperature inside the case is hot.

The first action to take is to make sure that the case fan or fans are working properly. If there is more than one fan, make sure that they are working together effectively and not working against one another by expelling hot air at each other.

AMD specifies that an Athlon XP 3200+ processor (which has a Barton core), has a maximum temperature limit of 85oC. With the room temperature at, say, 30oC, the temperature inside the case would be in the region of about 50oC, and the processor would probably be at about 70oC. But the temperature sensor built into a motherboard doesn't measure the temperature at the top surface of the processor where the cooler makes contact with processor, it takes the temperature from the bottom of the processor and adds a bit to make up for an approximate difference in the temperatures between the top and bottom of the processor.

Unfortunately, different makes and models of motherboard - and even different version of the BIOS on the same make and model of motherboard - can estimate the reported temperature differently. The temperature that is set in the BIOS at which the alarm is triggered is usually between 60oC and 70oC, because, with an effective cooler and adequate cooling inside the case, the processor's temperature should be well below 60oC, and should ideally be no higher than 50oC.

Some types of BIOS allow an alarm to be set to be triggered for a range of reported processor temperatures. If so, you should open the BIOS at start-up by pressing the required key (usually the Del or F2 keys), and set the alarm temperature somewhere between the range given above. And it would be difficult to find a modern BIOS that didn't provide the ability to report processor (CPU Temp) and system temperatures, as are shown in the image taken of the hardware monitoring page in a BIOS provided below.

BIOS screenshot showing temperatures, fan speeds, and voltages

The temperatures reported by this particular BIOS are much too high, and would certainly set off the overheating alarm if one is provided by the BIOS.

The alarm temperatures are usually set on the same page of the BIOS on which the temperatures are reported.

Note that some systems also have a power supply unit (PSU) temperature sensor, which will also provide a reading.

If the BIOS can report system temperatures, it should be possible to run software that can provide temperature reports from within Windows. But, because hardware variations can cause such software to provide inaccurate reports, you should always make a note of the temperatures that the BIOS is reporting. The computer should have been running for long enough for it to have reached its maximum running temperatures before you restart the system and enter the BIOS. If the computer's motherboard manufacturer doesn't provide the monitoring software free from its site, there are shareware alternatives such as Hmonitor from hmonitor.com.

Hmonitor provides motherboard and processor temperatures for two processors (for use on a motherboard that can support two processors), the temperatures of three hard disk drives, the processor temperatures for two processors, reports the system voltages, and can report the fan speed, graphics processing unit (GPU) and video RAM temperatures, and the voltages of the system's AGP video card.

If the case fans are keeping the inside of the case cool, but the processor temperature is high, you can try using thermal paste of good quality that is spread thinly (without leaving any gaps) over the processor so that the cooler fits tightly to it. The thermal paste that is regarded as the best is called Arctic Silver, but any thermal paste is better than the thermal pads that come with some cheap processor coolers. A processor such as the Athlon XP 3200+ needs a heavy-duty cooler of quality of the kind that can be obtained from a supplier such as overclockers.co.uk.

Windows XP and Windows 2000 are supposed to be able to detect when the processor is idle and halt any unnecessary operations, but it's well known that using third-party software such as CPUIdle from cpuidle.de improves this kind of temperature control of the processor. It is shareware that can be used for a trial period, and it can be used on any system as long as it supports the motherboard's chipset. There is a list of supported motherboard's on the utility's Home page.

Note well that hard disk drives are mechanical not electronic devices and, as such, have to fail sooner or later due to wear and tear, so, no matter how adequate the cooling is, you should always employ an adequate back-up system if you don't want to lose valuable data.

The following computer-forum thread discusses an overheating problem well:

"I am having problems with a game that keeps crashing so it was suggested I run a heat check on my hardware. Problem is I don't know what any of this means except something seems to be running very hot. If I am reading this correctly I have something about to melt and only one fan working. This test was done with very little going on. I opened up my computer and one fan has a fin missing, but surely that wouldnt make that much difference." - http://community.plus.net/forum/index.php/topic,90728.0.html


Why does the processor in my notebook (laptop) computer run at half speed?

Problem

My HP Compaq NX9105 notebook computer, running Windows XP Home edition, has an Athlon XP M 3000+ processor that is supposed to run at 1,600MHz (1.6GHz). But when I right-click My Computer => Properties (as in Windows 98) and then click the Hardware tab to access the General tab of System Properties the processor is reported as running at only 797MHz. Half of what it should be! HP's support advised me to enter msconfig in the Start => Run box, and then disable the unnecessary start-up programs that Windows loads when it starts up. After I did this, lo and behold, System Properties showed that the processor was running at the full speed of 1,600MHz. Is my impression that the processor in any computer should run at full speed all the time mistaken?

Answer

The M in the processor's name stands for Mobile. It's a mobile version of the Athlon XP 3000+. Notebook computers have to run on batteries, so a mobile processor is designed to save power. If the processor was allowed to run at full speed all the time under battery power, the battery would run down very rapidly.

AMD calls its power-saving technology PowerNow! and Intel calls its technology SpeedStep.

Just after start-up, if you press the Ctrl + Alt + Del key combination to bring up the Task Manager and click on Performance, the processor use should be reported as low, because the computer isn't being used and the power management feature is reducing the speed of the processor to save power and reduce the amount of heat being generated. Desktop computers use powerful heatsink and fan units fitted over the processor, and large case fans, but this isn't possible within the narrow confines of a notebook computer, so heat dissipation is more problematic in notebook computers and has to be overcome by the low-power design of the processor and software controls. A user should therefore never disable the power management feature. Not even when the computer is using mains electricity.

AMD's PowerNow Dashboard software that can be downloaded from amd.com provides information about the speed of the processor and allows the user to tweak settings, but it shouldn't be necessary to use it if the power management feature is enabled.

HP and Compaq computers tend to have plenty of programs that load at start-up, most of which are unnecessary. The full list of these programs can be be accessed by entering msconfig in the Start => Run box. Unfortunately, they tend to have peculiar names that don't usually tell an inexperienced user what their purpose is. For example, SynTPEnh is the Synaptics touch pad tray icon that is required; ISLP2STA is related to a wireless network adapter, and won't be necessary unless you use one; and CCapp belongs to Norton Antivirus, which is necessary if you have that virus scanner running.

If you're unsure about whether or not it's all right to disable any of the start-up programs, a site that should be able to provide information on any start-up program has been given the grand name of PacMan's Windows Startup Online Repository and it can be found at windowsstartup.com.


Why is 100% processor use showing under the Performance tab of Windows Task Manager when I have nothing running?

Problem

If I bring up the Windows Task Manager by pressing the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination and click on its Performance tab, the CPU Usage graphic (and the little green square that appears in the System Tray (Notification Area) when you have the mouse pointer over it ) frequently shows 100% use of the processor for long periods, even when I have nothing running on the computer. I also use SpeedUpMyPC, which shows the same information, but in a slightly different way. How can I determine what it is that is using the CPU cycles, because whatever it is really slows the computer down. If I could discover what is causing the problem, I could keep it shut down, or even find an alternative for it.

Answer

There is an easy way in Windows XP to find out what use is being made of the computer's processor by which processes, measured as a percentage for each process. Just press the Ctrl + Alt + Del keys to bring up the Windows Task Manager, and click on the Performance tab. The CPU Usage graphic shows how many of the processor's available cycles are being used as a percentage by each of the listed processes (all of the listed file names with .exe extensions). The PF Usage refers to how much hard-drive space is being used by the virtual-memory swap file or page file that Windows uses instead of RAM. If the CPU usage is high, especially if it is close to 100% when a demanding program is not running, you should find out why, because spyware might have installed itself and is consuming processor cycles.

If you want to find out which of the listed programs (processes) are using the most processor cycles as a percentage of the total use, click on the Processes tab of the Windows Task Manager, maximise the window, and then click on the CPU heading. You may have to drag the window with your mouse to make it bigger in order to see the CPU heading. The programs that are using the processor are shown and will change as the percentage of the CPU usage of each program changes.

Alternatively, use the free Sysinternals Process Explorer. Sysinternals free TCPView allows the user to identify and locate which applications have open ports on a system. - Sysinternals was an independent organisation but it is now owned by Microsoft.

Visit http://www.microsoft.com/technet/sysinternals/default.mspx for the great free utilities.

If the listed process or processes causing the problem are unfamiliar to you, enter a web search in a search engine for the name of the process in your browser to find out which software program runs the process.

E.g. identify + xp + process is the search query in which you would substitute the word process with the file name of the process.

The example link - http://www.bing.com/search?mkt=en-gb&q=identify%20xp%20process&form=MSNTLB - provides links to sites that provide information on the processes that Windows XP can run.

Note well that it is best to run updated spyware removal tools in Safe Mode, which is accessed at startup by pressing the F8 key repeatedly before Windows starts to load. The reason being that the spyware won't be loaded with Windows, allowing for the successful removal of spyware that has two components the can restore each other if one of them is removed. Such spyware can restore itself in Windows, but not in Safe Mode.

If the computer is too unstable to run it in normal mode, try accessing the Processes/Performance tabs of the Windows Task Manager in Safe Mode, which can be accessed by pressing the F8 key repeatedly at startup before Windows starts to load.

Note well that brand-name software can also be responsible for chewing up processor cycles. Norton security software, developed by Symantec, is a good example of such an offender.

If you can't locate the cause, try restoring a restore point in System Restore that predates the problem. System Restore is under Start => All Programs => Accessories => System Tools. If necessary, you can restore a restore point in Safe Mode.

However, as the above-mentioned forum thread shows, this can happen when you attempt doing that: 'In Safe Mode the CPU is still spiking whenever I open up a program, change windows, etc.. I've tried numerous restore points and keep getting a "restoration incomplete" message.'

Click here! to go to information on System Restore on this website.


Which is the best cooling solution between the processor and its heatsink and fan, thermal paste or thermal pads?

Question

I have just built a PC that uses an AMD Athlon 64 3200+ processor on an MSI Socket 939 motherboard, and runs Windows XP Home Edition. The MSI utility that measures processor's temperature reports that it is running at 48C. The case currently has a temperature of 36C and the room has a temperature of 20C. As I understand it, the difference between the two temperatures should be around 12C, not 16C, so should I replace the Akasa Shin Etsu heat-transfer pad that is between the processor and heatsink and fan with premium thermal paste made by Antec in order to make the processor run cooler?

Answer

All of the temperatures that you report are reasonable, so you don't need to change anything.

However, you should know that AMD recommends that thermal pads should not be used with its Athlon 64 and Opteron processors, because they have a lid that covers the die of the processor, and an adhesive pad could stick fast and pull the lid off when the heatsink unit is removed to be cleaned.

That said, even the high-quality thermal pads, such as the Shin Etsu made by Akasa, are an inferior cooling solution compared to high-quality thermal paste made by manufacturers such as Arctic Silver and Antec. Cheap pads are inferior to cheap thermal paste, but I wouldn't use either of them. Quality thermal paste that is properly applied so that only a thin layer coats the contact area between the processor and the heatsink, is the most effective cooling solution.

The best thermal paste, such as Arctic Silver 5, contains silver. The premium thermal paste made by Antec that you want to use also contains silver. The Artctic Silver website provides instructions on how to apply thermal paste to Intel and AMD desktop and laptop PC processors: http://www.arcticsilver.com/instructions.htm.

The amount of heat transferred away from the processor is proportional to the temperature difference between the processor's temperature and the air temperature inside the case. Your PC's case probably already has a case fan that draws air out of the case, and the power supply also has a fan that does that, so, if you want to reduce the temperature inside the case, you could install another case fan. Just make sure that they don't fight one another. For example, you might be able to install a fan in the front of the case so that it draws air into the case so that the existing fans can expel it. If the temperature inside the case is reduced by 5C, it should reduce the temperature of the processor by about the same amount.


Faulty RAM memory/motherboard/power supply/overheating processor: My PC constantly reboots 10 to 20 minutes after being switched on

Problem

I have a problem with my desktop PC (Windows XP SP3, AMD Athlon 1700+ processor, 256MB of RAM, 80GB hard disk drive, CD/DVD writer) and I hope that you can tell me why it reboots 10 to 20 minutes after it has been switched on. I've changed the RAM memory and reformatted the hard disk drive, but without success. Could this be a hardware issue? Please list all of the possible causes of this problem and all of the possible solutions.

Answer

The following two links provide comprehensive cover of PC rebooting problems of that kind:

Windows XP Shut Down and Automatic Reboot Problems - http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/using/helpandsupport/learnmore/...

System Continually Reboots - http://www.5starsupport.com/xp-faq/1-92.htm

You have changed the RAM memory, but it is important that any new RAM module(s) are fully compatible with both the motherboard and/or any other RAM module(s) already installed in the system (new RAM could also be bad). Your PC is elderly so note that there can be jumpers on older motherboards that need to be set for specific RAM configurations. Consult your motherboard's manual (downloadable in the PDF format from its manufacture's site for your PC's make/model of motherboard), or the manufacturer's website for specific instructions and compatibility requirements.

If you don't know the make and model of the motherboard installed in your computer, here is a good free utility - Belarc Advisor - that creates an analysis of the hardware and software on a personal computer. Look under FREE DOWNLOAD at belarc.com. Another utility that also provides detailed information on the memory itself is CPU-Z from cpuid.com.

It is advisable to use a good memory-test program to check your new and old RAM. Here are two:

http://hcidesign.com/memtest/ and http://www.memtest86.com/

You can use the UK and US Crucial Memory Advisors provided at the top of this page to determine the correct RAM and capacity for your specific make and model computer and/or motherboard.

The PC's motherboard could have developed faults. For instance, malfunctioning capacitors on a motherboard can be responsible for a wide range of issues. It is possible for capacitors to fail due to a bad power source. If you see one or more capacitors (the cylindrical components that are soldered to and stick up from the motherboard) that are leaking substances, you have to replace the motherboard.

Some motherboard manufactures provide fault-testing software, so conduct a search of your PC's motherboard manufacturer's site for free software.

The computer may be overheating. Circuitry in the motherboard could be making the PC reboot if that is the case. You may have moved the computer somewhere where it isn't getting sufficient air to keep cool, or its internal extractor fan(s) might have stopped working, or there could be a build up of dust inside the case or within the power supply unit. You can remove dust in the case and the power supply by making use of a can of compressed air that can be purchased from good computer stores. Note well that you must never open the power supply unit to clean it because it can retain a lethal charge long after the PC has been switched off. The heatsink and fan unit over the processor could be failing and not keeping the processor cool. If the processor's cooling unit fails, then relatively recent PCs will just freeze (the processor will stop working) to protect it, not reboot. A processor's cooling unit has a limited life and should be replaced every so often depending on how long you keep the PC running. If it is left on 24/7 or for many hours a day, you should relace the cooling unit every 18 months, but if you only have the PC on while you work with it for a few hours a day, the cooling unit will probably last as long as the PC itself. You can open the case, which usually involves removing the screws that keep a side panel in place and then turn the PC on. You can then watch the extractor fan(s) and the processor's cooling unit to make sure that it is working consistently. Make sure that it is fitted tightly over the processor. Before you remove the processor, buy some Arctic Silver thermal paste (sold by most online and retail high-street computer shops) so that you can remove any existing paste from the heatsink and processor and apply new paste. Thermal paste improves the thermal contact between the heatsink and the processor.

Look under Instructions on the Arctic Silver website - http://www.arcticsilver.com/ - for instructions on how to apply the paste.

Read this Q&A on this page for more information on overheating: The overheating alarm on my computer's motherboard goes off and, if left running, the computer crashes.

The following computer-forum thread discusses an overheating problem well:

"I am having problems with a game that keeps crashing so it was suggested I run a heat check on my hardware. Problem is I don't know what any of this means except something seems to be running very hot. If I am reading this correctly I have something about to melt and only one fan working. This test was done with very little going on. I opened up my computer and one fan has a fin missing, but surely that wouldn't make that much difference." - http://community.plus.net/forum/index.php/topic,90728.0.html

The PC's power supply unit (PSU) may be failing. If that is the case, it has to be replaced. With an elderly PC such as yours, make sure that you buy the correct type of PSU for the PC's motherboard. Your PC's motherboard probably uses a power suppy that has a 20-pin connector. The latest motherboards use a 24-pin connector. If your PC's motherboard uses the older 20-pin connector, make sure that you buy a power supply that provides both types of connector, because you can no longer buy new power supplies that only have the 20-pin connector.

Find out if your PC is overheating with this free utility (which doesn't work with all motherboards, because the author stopped updating it in 2004, but it will probably work with your PC's motherboard):

Motherboard Monitor - http://www.pcworld.com/downloads/file_description/0,fid,7309,00.asp

If you installed a new application or updated one or more a device drivers just before the reboots started occurring, that may be the cause of the problem. If that is the case, try uninstalling the program or use the Roll Back Driver feature, or use System Restore to roll back your system to a known good configuration. You should also make sure that Windows XP is full updated. The free Belarc Advisor utility tells you if there are missing updates.

System Continually Reboots - http://www.5starsupport.com/xp-faq/1-92.htm - provides information on overheating (cleaning the PC internally) and what to do to find out if the PC's power supply is going bad.


Articles on processor problems in the Microsoft Knowledge Base

Click the MS Knowledge Base reference number to go to that article
Description of the problem
Device Manager does not show updated processor information on a Windows Vista-based computer or on a Windows Server 2008-based computer - After you physically replace the processor (CPU) with a similar model of processor on a Windows Vista-based computer or on a Windows Server 2008-based computer, the old processor information may still appear in Device Manager under Processors. In Windows Vista, the updated processor information does correctly appear in the Welcome Center in System and Maintenance in Control Panel.
The number of physical hyperthreading-enabled processors or the number of physical multicore processors is incorrectly reported in Windows XP - This issue occurs because Windows XP does not have the functionality to detect hyperthreading processors and multicore processors. This functionality was introduced in Windows Vista by using the Win32_ComputerSystem class and the Win32_Processor class in Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).
The processor speed is slower than expected on a notebook computer that is running Windows XP - This behavior occurs because most laptop computers on battery power set the processor speed to a slower speed to conserve battery power and to reduce the temperature of the processor.
HOW TO: Add Support for Multiple Processors in Windows 2000 - Windows 2000 provides support for single or multiple Central Processing Units (CPU); however, if you originally installed Windows 2000 on a computer with a single CPU, the hardware abstraction layer (HAL) on your computer must be updated for your computer to recognize and use multiple CPUs...
Computers that are running Windows XP Service Pack 2 and that are equipped with multiple processors that support processor power management features may experience decreased performance - Computers that are equipped with multiple processors that support processor power management features, such as Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) processor performance states, require Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). Additional updates are available to optimize performance and behavior on computers that are running Windows XP SP2. Without these updates, computers that are equipped with these power management-capable, mobile, dual-core processors may experience decreased performance or unexpected behavior.
Availability of a processor driver to support mobile processor power management features on Intel Mobile "Prescott" processors - Computers that are equipped with Intel Mobile "Prescott" processors and that support mobile processor power management features require correct BIOS support and an updated processor driver to enable these power management features on a computer that is running Microsoft Windows XP. These power management features include Intel SpeedStep technology and ACPI-defined processor idle sleep states (C-states). Without the processor driver update, computers that are equipped with these power management-capable mobile processors may experience reduced battery life, decreased performance, or increased operating temperatures.
Availability of a Processor Driver to Support Mobile Processor Power Management Features on Mobile Intel Pentium 4M Processors with Hyper-Threading Technology - Computers that are equipped with Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processors with Hyper-Threading Technology (HTT) and that support mobile processor power management features require correct BIOS support and an updated processor driver to enable these features on a computer that is running Windows XP. These power management features include Intel SpeedStep technology and ACPI-defined processor idle sleep states (C-states). Without this processor driver update, computers that are equipped with these HTT-capable mobile processors may experience reduced battery life, decreased performance, or increased operating temperatures.
The Processor Performance State Is Not Restored to the Maximum State If the CPU Runs at 100 Percent -This problem may occur if the power policy changes because of an AC/DC transition while the computer is using the "Max Battery" power scheme. When the computer is running at 100 percent CPU usage, the computer never enters the idle loop in which the speed of the CPU is dynamically adjusted based on demand and current policy values. The fix is to set the timer so that Windows changes the speed of the CPU when the timer expires - Applies to : Windows XP Home Edition - Windows XP Professional - Windows XP Home Edition SP1 - Windows XP Professional SP1 - Windows XP Media Center Edition 2002
TV Tuner Stops Responding - When you use a the TV tuner feature of your soundcard, the TV tuner program may stop responding (hang). To resolve this problem, obtain the latest service pack for Microsoft Windows XP. Read 322389 - How to obtain the latest Windows XP service pack
How to set performance options in Windows XP - How to manage processor time - Windows manages system processing. Windows can allocate tasks between processors and manage multiple processes on a single processor. However, you can set Windows to allocate more processor time to the program that you are currently running. The added processor time causes programs to respond more quickly. Or, if you have background programs such as printing or disk backup that you want to run while you work, you can have Windows share processor resources equally between background and foreground programs.
Windows Protection Error in NDIS with a CPU [processor] That Is Faster Than 2.1 GHz - Applies to Windows 95/98/98 SE

Click here! to go to the full list of hardware and software problems dealt with on this website

To the top of the page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pin It