As I stated on the Homepage, a lot of questions are repeated on the Intel Motherboard News Group (NG) and I have set up this page to try and simplify (or unravel) some of the mysteries that seem to be more prevalent. It will obviously grow as I see a need to add to it.
The sections cover thus far are:
Upgrading your motherboard
A lot of the latest motherboards are manufactured to the ATX format which has replaced the older Baby AT format. If you are upgrading your motherboard and you have the older formfactor and you want to go to ATX then you will not only need to change the motherboard but the case as well as it is a different layout. Modifying your case is difficult and, as you will also require an ATX power supply, is not really cost effective.
To identify what layout you have, see the figure below of a basic ATX system.
The points that differ from the AT case are usually:
On an ATX system:
A very large problem is caused because, quite often, users do not have a configuration manual with jumper settings required to upgrade the processor. ( When you buy a new motherboard [or computer] make sure you get a manual or at least jumper settings for future upgrades.) If you are in this situation and the motherboard is non-Intel manufactured (Intel manuals can be downloaded by going to the Manuals page), it is always a good idea to first have a look at the motherboard itself - a number of manufacturers screen the jumpers (switch) settings onto the motherboard so a manual may not be needed after all. If they aren't, see if you can ID the motherboard manufacturer from the BIOS and then get the manual and/or settings from this manufacturer (a fairly extensive list is available on the Motherboards page).
What speed CPU can I use?
When upgrading your CPU you must first ascertain what speed processor your system can handle. (I am sticking to Intel Pentium® processors and higher here as, to all intents and purposes, there aren't many upgrades to the 486 and below these days!) Pentium® processors will fit both a Socket 5 and Socket 7 ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) socket the difference between the two being the power rating. The socket which holds the processor on the motherboard is usually off-white (cream) in color and has raised lettering with the word 'SOCKET' followed by the number '5' or '7'.
- Socket 5 can handle Intel processors up to 133MHz (or Intel Overdrives up to 180MHz MMX™).
Intel, however, has stated that Socket 5 can, under certain conditions, work up to 200MHz. It should be noted that you must have ALL of the conditions for 200MHz to work with Socket 5. The conditions are as follows (quoted from Intel's Site):
" If your system contains Socket 5, you can upgrade with the 200-MHz OverDrive processor with MMX technology if your system has:
|50Mhz||75||Not Used||1252||Not Used||Not Used|
2Note:The 125MHz is available as an Intel MMX™ Overdrive only
Do I use STD(VR) or VRE voltage?
One of the most common questions is "Do I use STD (VR) or VRE settings when I replace my CPU (processor)?". On the Intel NG they can only give a written response so I have redrawn the diagram from Intel's installation notes to simplify the description.
The CPU underside is shown below.
If the first letter after the '/' is an 'S' the voltage is
Standard (STD.or VR).
(STD = 3.135v - 3.6v)
If the first letter after the '/' is a 'V' the voltage is Voltage Regulator Enhanced (VRE). (VRE = 3.4v-3.6v)
For those who are interested the next letter (in this case the 'M') indicates the timing (M for min valid MD timings and S for min valid standard timings) and the last letter (the 'U' above) indicates whether the processor can be used with multiprocessing motherboards (i.e. more than one processor). If the letter is a 'U' then it has been tested for single processing only - if it is a 'S' then it has been tested for, single, dual and multi-processing.
Processor stepping is becoming increasingly important with the use of multi-processing systems and the matching of processors an integral part of a users' knowledge. Intel have fairly extensive coverage on the subject at their Developer siteand I am not going to repeat it here. Two useful direct links, though, are the Quick Reference guides for the Pentium and Pentium Pro processors.
It is also useful information if you are trying to ascertain if your processor is a 'remark'. Each different processor (i.e. 166MHz, 200MHz etc.) has stepping information unique to it's frequency. If the stepping information given at Intel's site does not match the frequency and details given on your processor then you can begin to suspect that your processor has been remarked with a higher frequency.
Information that you will require off your processor to get it's particular stepping is found on the upper side of the processor. (circled in blue on the picture below)
If you would like to get the information of your own Intel processor, then download the CPUID program from Intel. This little utility will give you information about your processor, such as whether it is a genuine Intel processor, which model you have as well as stepping info. For a full breakdown of the utility have a look at Intels' support site regarding this utility. For those interested the utilty can identify and give information for an Intel 486 through to a Pentium II. (including Pentium Pro).
Busmaster - Explanation and Drivers
Originally data was transferred via a method called Programmed Input/Output (PIO) which required the CPU to move the data between the controller card and the computers memory. Typical speeds reached were around 2.5Mb/sec. and was quite adequate for the early AT's up to the 486's. This requires a large CPU overhead and with the progress in todays applications this overhead is not desirable. Busmastering was introduced to overcome this and instead of the CPU, special controllers have been developed to handle the data to and from the computers memory. Transfer rates with Ultra DMA (see below) are now in the region of 33Mb/sec. Special drivers are required to access these controllers and they are available from Intels site. It should be noted that MS Windows 95 OSR2 has drivers included with the operating system.
Note: The above is a very basic description of Busmastering but if you want to delve even deeper you will find a lot of good info at the Intel driver site below.
Intel Busmastering drivers
(Tip: If you run into problems with the drivers, Intel have a De-install program that can be downloaded)
Ultra DMA - What is it and what do you need?
Above in the Busmastering information it was stated that transfer rates of 33Mb/s were possible with Ultra DMA. Ultra DMA is a protocol that effectively 'doubles' the route to the hard drive by transferring twice as much data per clock cycle. The previous standard (which is still current) was Enhanced IDE (EIDE) which could handle transfer rates of up to 16.6Mb/s. The Intel PCI chipsets required to handle EIDE were suffixed with FX, VX and HX and most of the drive manufacturers (if not all) produced EIDE devices.
Ultra DMA is now supported on motherboards which have Intel's TX or LX (or later) PCIset on board. However to reap the benefits of Ultra DMA there are certain factors that must be in place. Theses are (Quoted from Intel):
If you are considering buying a new drive I would recommend buying an Ultra DMA drive even if you don't have the Ultra DMA PCIset at present - it will work (albeit at EIDE speeds) with the older PCIsets just as the EIDE drives will work (at 16.6Mb/s max) on the Ultra DMA PCIsets.
If you are running Windows 95 and meet all the criteria above you can download a setup utility from Intels' download site (550Kb).
For more information on Ultra DMA try having a look at Intel's Ultra DMA FAQ pages.