Saturday, June 20, 2009

Overclocking the Q9650

I'm the first to admit that I am a complete newb to overclocking so this is a kind of project and learning experience for me.

Main necessary parts:

One fully assembled computer
ASUS P5Q motherboard
3GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9650

One Computing Bookazine called the Ultimate Overclocking Handbook price $25

Finding books or instruction material on overclocking is quite tricky business and almost like a mysterious arcane art passed down on from person to person but seldom documented in such a way as to make things easy.

FSB on the Q9650 CPU starts off at 333 with a multiplier of 9 but the Intel Speed Step tech and C1E moves the multiplier from 6,7 to 9 to keep electricity usage down. Faster clock means hotter operation and more electricity.

First round I pushed the FSB to 413 and turned off C1E and Intel Speed Step technology but I found that pushing the CPU to 100% for any longer than a minute caused the CPU temp to rise over 75 degrees Celsius which can be bad news for the processor. ASUS Suite provides an easy to use temp monitoring utility.

So out of this first pass I learned my first lesson is that if you want to overclock you need to be able to keep the temperature down. Pushing the processor to 100% and having the FSB set over 333 produces temperatures that quickly go over CPU temp tolerances.

Off to the store for a new cooling fan since any FSB setting over 333 with the stock Intel fan and the CPU running at 100% pushes the temperature right up there. I looked over the reviews at Toms Hardware and finally settled on a Zalman CPU cooler (also because they had it in stock at at ENU locally.) Added one Zalman CNPS9900 LED

This increased the noise output but the ASUS Suite tool provides easy to manage fan profiles which allows better calibration and hence reduced noise levels. The big bonus here is that even right now my CPU is running around 24 degrees Celsius and the fan is only humming at 958 RPM (max over 2000 RPM.)

FSB pushed to about 483 before the BIOS post failed.. I backed it off by 10 and tried a boot but that failed so I backed it off another 10 and then it booted up fine. After about an hour of operation I got a blue screen so I backed it off by 10 more before finally settling in at FSB 453 and I have been running tests for about four hours now and no problems. My games run fine and I'm getting 4GHz off the processor which is great.

Through this during some early testing I had turned off Intel Speed Step and C1E. Later on I decided to turn them back on as those technologies really help keep the core temperature down and will lengthen the life of the CPU so I don't see any reason to leave them off.

Overall with the fan installed I think the only thing preventing me from pushing things even higher is the DDR2 Ram that's installed. I plan to update to some DDR2 1066MHz memory which should allow me some more room for overclocking.

This looks like a good price and level of quality for my needs.

$56 each (I will need two pairs)
OCZ Dual Channel Platinum 4096MB PC8500 DDR2 1066MHz Memory (2 x 2048MB)

The BIOS supports the ability to select the RAM speed and should allow me another boost on speed and memory/FSB overclocking.

I'll post again in a paycheck or two when I can afford the new memory for testing.

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