Motherboards are the backbone of all PC computer systems. The choice of a motherboard determines things such as what type of processor you can user, how much memory it can have, what peripherals can be attached and what features it can support. Because of all this, it is important to know what you need when selecting the right motherboard.
Processor (CPU) Support
A motherboard typically has on it a specific processor socket type. This socket will determine the physical packaging of the AMD or Intel processor that can be installed on it. In addition to this, the motherboards chipset will determine what specific model processors can be used with the motherboard. It is important therefore to determine the processor that you wish to use at the same time you are selecting the motherboard. After all, two boards with the same socket may not support the same processor speeds.
As mentioned above, the chipset plays a direct role in selecting what processor can be used with a motherboard. The chipset also determines what type and speed of memory that can be installed. With the new memory formats coming out and the various price and performance questions they bring up, it is important to select a chipset considering all of these factors.
Expansions Slots and Connectors
The number and type of expansion slots and connectors is important for what will be placed in the computer. If you have peripherals that require a specific connector or slot type, such as USB 2.0, FireWire or PCI-Express, you want to make sure that you get a motherboard that supports that type of connection. It is always possible to get an expansion card to add some connectors, but not all.
Features are extras added to the motherboard that are not required for operation but are useful to have. They can include things such as an on-board Ethernet, audio, RAID controller or even graphics. If the board has more features than you need it is not a problem since many can be turned off in the motherboards BIOS. These features can save money by not requiring additional expansion cards.
If you plan on overclocking your processor, you want to make sure the board will support it. Look for a motherboard that has a wide range of adjustments to CPU settings. Settings to look at are cpu voltage and bus speeds. Smaller steps when adjusting the bus speeds are better. Also look for boards that have clock adjustments for the separate components such as processor, memory, graphics in order to improve stability. Extra cooling elements on the chipset and solid capacities can also improve stability.
Many people probably don't know what overclocking is but have possibly heard the term used before. To put it in its simplest terms, overclocking is taking a computer component such as a processor and running at a specification higher than rated by the manufacturer. Every part produced by companies such as Intel and AMD are rated for a specific speeds. They have tested the capabilities of the part and certified it for that given speed. Of course, most parts are underrated for increased reliability. Overclocking a part simply takes advantage of the remaining potential out of a computer part that the manufacturer is unwilling to certify the part for but it is capable of.
Why Overclock a Computer?
The primary benefit of overclocking is additional computer performance without the increased cost. Most individuals who overclock their system either want to try and produce the fastest desktop system possible or to extend their computer power on a limited budget. In some cases, individuals are able to boost their system performance 25% or more! For example, a person may buy something like an AMD 2500+ and through careful overclocking end up with a processor that runs at the equivalent processing power as a AMD 3000+, but at a greatly reduced cost.
There are drawbacks to overclocking a computer system. The biggest drawback to overclocking a computer part is that you are voiding any warranty provided by the manufacturer because it is not running within its rated specification. Overclocked parts that are pushed to their limits also tend to have a reduced functional lifespan or even worse, if improperly done, can be destroyed completely. For that reason, all overclocking guides on the net will have a disclaimer warning individuals of these facts before telling you the steps to overclocking.
Bus Speeds and Multipliers
To first understand overclocking a CPU in a computer, it is important to know how the speed of the processor it computed. All processor speeds are based upon two distinct factors, bus speed and multiplier.
The bus speed is the core clock cycle rate that the processor communicates with items such as the memory and the chipset. It is commonly rated in the MHz rating scale referring to the number of cycles per second that it runs at. The problem is the bus term is used frequently for different aspects of the computer and will likely be lower than the user expects. For example, an AMD XP 3200+ processor uses a 400 MHz DDR memory, but the processor is in fact using a 200MHz frontside bus that is clock doubled to use 400 MHz DDR memory. Similarly, the new Pentium 4 C processors have an 800 MHz frontside bus, but it is really a quad pumped 200 MHz bus.
The multiplier is the multiple that the processor will run at compared to the bus speed. This is the actual number of processing cycles it will run at in a single clock cycle of the bus speed. So, a Pentium 4 2.4GHz "B" processor is based on the following:
133 MHz x 18 multiplier = 2394MHz or 2.4 GHz
When overclocking a processor, these are the two factors that can be used to influence the performance. Increasing the bus speed will have the greatest impact as it increases factors such as memory speed (if the memory runs synchronously) as well as the processor speed. The multiplier has a lower impact than the bus speed, but can be more difficult to adjust.
Let's look at an example of three AMD processors:
CPU Model Multiplier Bus Speed CPU Clock Speed
Athlon XP 2500+ 11x 166 MHz 1.83 GHz
Athlon XP 2800+ 12.5x 166 MHz 2.08 GHz
Athlon XP 3000+ 13x 166 MHz 2.17 GHz
Athlon XP 3200+ 11x 200 MHz 2.20 GHz
Let's then look at two examples of overclocking the XP2500+ processor to see what the rated clock speed would be by changing either the bus speed or the muliplier:
CPU Model Overclock Factor Multiplier Bus Speed CPU Clock
Athlon XP 2500+ Bus Increase 11x (166 + 34) MHz 2.20 GHz
Athlon XP 2500 + Multiplier Increase (11+2)x 166 MHz 2.17 GHz
In the above example, we have done two changes each with a result that places it at either the speed of the 3200+ or a 3000+ processor. Of course, these speeds are not necessarily possible on every Athlon XP 2500+. In addition, there may be a large number of other factors to take into consideration to reach such speeds.
Because overclocking was becoming a problem from some unscrupulous dealers who were overclocking lower rated processors and selling them as higher priced processors, the manufacturers started to implement hardware locks to make overclocking more difficult. The most common method is through clock locking. The manufacturers modify traces on the chips to run only at a specific multiplier. This can still be defeated through modification of the processor, but it is much more difficult.
Every computer part is regulated to specific voltages for their operation. During the process of overclocking the parts, its possible that the electrical signal will be degraded as it traverses the circuitry. If the degradation is enough, it can cause the system to become unstable. When overclocking the bus or multiplier speeds, the signals are more likely to get interference. To combat this, one can increase the voltages to the CPU core, memory or AGP bus.
There are limits to the amount of additional voltage that can be applied to the processor. If too much voltage is applied, the circuits inside the parts can be destroyed. Typically this is not a problem because most motherboards restrict the possible voltage settings. The more common problem is overheating. The more voltage supplied, the higher the thermal output of the processor.
The biggest obstacle to overclocking the computer system is heat. Today's high-speed computer systems already produce a large amount of heat. Overclocking a computer system just compounds these problems. As a result, anyone planning to overclock their computer system should be very aware of the needs for high performance cooling solutions.
The most common form of cooling a computer system is through standard air cooling. This comes in the form of CPU heatsinks and fans, heat spreaders on memory, fans on video cards and case fans. Proper airflow and good conducting metals are key to the performance of air cooling. Large copper heatsinks tend to perform better and the greater number of case fans to pull in air into the system also helps to improve cooling.
Beyond air cooling there is liquid cooling and phase change cooling. These systems are far more complex and expensive than standard PC cooling solutions, but they offer a higher performance at heat dissipation and generally lower noise. Well-built systems can allow the overclocker to really push the performance of their hardware to its limits, but the cost can end up being more expensive than processor to begin with. The other drawback is liquids running through the system that can risk electrical shorts damaging or destroying the equipment.
Throughout this article we have discussed what it means to overclock a system, but there are a lot of factors that will affect whether a computer system can even be overclocked. The first and foremost is a motherboard and chipset that has a BIOS that allows the user to modify the settings. Without this capability, it is not possible to modify the bus speeds or multipliers to push the performance. Most commercially available computer systems from the major manufacturers do not have this capability. This is why most people interested in overclocking tend to buy specific parts and build their own systems or from integrators who sell the parts that make it possible to overclock.
Beyond the motherboards ability to adjust the actual settings for the CPU, other components must also be able to handle the increased speeds. Cooling has already been mentioned, but if one plans on overclocking the bus speed and keeping the memory synchronous to offer the best memory performance, it is important to buy memory that is rating or tested for higher speeds. For example, overclocking an Athlon XP 2500+ frontside bus from 166 MHz to 200 MHz requires that the system have memory that is PC3200 or DDR400 rated. This is why companies such as Corsair and OCZ are very popular with overclockers.
The frontside bus speed also regulates the other interfaces in the computer system. The chipset uses a ratio to reduce the frontside bus speed to run at the speeds of the interfaces. The three major desktop interfaces are AGP (66 MHz), PCI (33 MHz) and ISA (16 MHz). When the frontside bus is adjusted, these buses will also be running outside of specification unless the chipset BIOS allows for the ratio to be adjusted down. So it is important to know how adjusting the bus speed can impact stability through the other components. Of course, increasing these bus systems can also improve performance of them, but only if the components can handle the speeds. Most expansion cards are very limited in their tolerances though.
Slow and Steady
Now those who are looking to actually do some overclocking should be warned not to push things too far right away. Overclocking is a very tricky process of trial and error. Sure a CPU may be able to be greatly overclocked in the first try, but it is generally better to start out slow and gradually work the speeds up. It is best to test the system fully in a taxing application for an extended period of time to ensure the system is stable at that speed. This process is repeated until the system does not test fully stable. At that point, step things back a bit to give some headroom to allow for a stable system that has less chance of damage to the components.
Overclocking is a method for increasing performance of standard computer components to their potential speeds beyond the rated specifications of the manufacturer. The performance gains that can be obtained through overclocking are substantial, but a lot of consideration must be done before taking the steps to overclocking a system. It is important to know the risks involved, the steps that must be done to obtain the results and a clear understanding that results will very greatly. Those who are willing to take the risks can get some great performance from systems and components that can end up being far less expensive than a top of the line system.
For those who want to do overclocking, it is highly recommended to do searches on the Internet for information. Researching your components and the steps involved are very important to being successful.
The BIOS or Basic Input/Output System is the basic controller that allows all of the components that make up a computer system to talk to one another. But in order for this to happen, there are a number of things that the BIOS needs to know how to do. This is why the settings within the BIOS are so critical to the operation of the computer system. For about 95% of the computer users out there, they will never need to adjust the BIOS settings of their computer. However, those who have chosen to build their own computer system will need to know how to modify the settings.
Some of the critical things one will need to know are the clock settings, memory timing, boot order and drive settings. Thankfully the computer BIOS has come a long way in the past ten years where many of these settings are automatic and very little needs to be adjusted.
How to Access the BIOS
The method for accessing the BIOS is going to be dependent upon the manufacturer of the motherboard and the BIOS vender they have selected. The actual process to get to the BIOS is identical, just the key that is needed to be pressed will vary. It is important to have the user manual for the motherboard handy whenever changes will be made to the BIOS.
The first step is to look up what key needs to be pressed to enter the BIOS. Some of the common keys used to access the BIOS are F1, F2 and the Del key. Generally the motherboard will post this information when the computer first turns on, but it is best to look it up before hand. Next, power on the computer system and press the key to enter the BIOS after the beep for a clean POST is signaled. I will often press the key a couple times to make sure it registered. If the procedure has been done correctly, the BIOS screen should be displayed rather than the typical boot screen.
The very first setting that needs to be made in the BIOS is to adjust the motherboard to utilizing the proper clock settings for the CPU installed in the computer. Most modern BIOS vendors can detect the type of CPU and automatically set the proper timings. Refer to the documentation from the CPU and motherboard vendor for the proper settings.
The CPU speed is comprised of two numbers, a bus speed and a multiplier. The bus speed is the tricky part because vendors may have this setting done either at the natural clock rate or at the enhanced clock rate. The natural front side bus is the more common of the two. The multiplier is then used to determine the final clock speed based on the bus speed of the processor. Set this to the appropriate multiple for the final clock speed of the processor.
For an example, if you have an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ processor that has a CPU speed of 1.82GHz clock, the proper settings for the BIOS would be a bus speed of 166MHz and a multiplier of 11. (166MHz x 11 = 1.826 GHz)
The next aspect of the BIOS that needs adjusting is the memory timings. Typically it is not necessary for this to be done if the BIOS can detect the settings from the SPD on the memory modules. In fact, if the BIOS has a SPD setting for the memory, this should be used for the highest stability with the computer. Other than this, the memory bus is the setting you will likely need to set. Verifying that the memory bus is set to the appropriate speed for the memory. This may be listed as the actual MHZ speed rating or it may be a percentage of the bus speed. Check with your motherboard manual about the proper methods for setting the timings for memory.
This is the most important setting for when you first build your computer. The boot order determines which devices the motherboard will look at for an operating system or installer. The options typically include Hard Drive, Optical Drive, Floppy Drive, Network and Other. The standard order at first startup is Floppy, Hard Drive, Optical Drive and Other. This will generally cause the system to find the hard drive first which will not have a functional operating system on the computer.
The proper sequence for the installation of a new operating system should be Floppy, Optical Drive, Hard Drive and Other. This allows the computer to but from the OS installation CD that has a bootable installer program on it. Once the hard drive has been formatted and the OS installed, it is important to then restore the boot order of the computer to the original of Floppy, Hard Drive, Optical Drive and Other.
The settings for the hard and optical drives that run off the ATA controllers is another area that users may need to alter. In most modern drives, the PIO and ATA modes are automatically detected and used. There are some cases that it may be necessary to set the controllers to a specific setting to properly function. This is usually only the case with older components.
To properly set the PIO and ATA modes for the drives, refer to the documentation from the manufacture of the hard or optical drive being installed. Once the settings are known from the manufacturer, the proper settings can be placed in the BIOS. Once again, this should only be done if there are problems with the computer when the AUTO settings are used.
Problems and Resetting the CMOS
On some rare occasions, the computer system may not properly POST or boot. When this occurs, typically a series of beeps will be generated by the motherboard to indicate a diagnostic code. Pay close attention to the number and types of beeps and then refer to the motherboard manuals for what the codes mean. Generally when this occurs, it will be necessary to reset the BIOS by clearing the CMOS that stores the BIOS settings.
The actual procedure for clearing the CMOS is fairly straightforward, but check with the manual for the steps to double check. The first thing to do is power off the computer and unplug it. Let to computer rest for about 30 seconds. At this point, you need to find the reset jumper on the motherboard. This jumper is moved from the non-reset to reset position for a brief moment and returned back to its original position. Plug the power cord back in and reboot the computer. At this point, it should boot with the BIOS defaults allowing the settings to be redone.
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Pls read this n comment with the word support if u agree with me. My reaction-I'd prefer been regarded as a viewer, not necessarily a fan of my movies n such is Kyle XY. Surfing some days ago, i read about the cancellation of the season movie Kyle XY n i must say...i was so disappointed. ABC family-that's the group i guess, that created the season movie Kyle XY. I must say that the movie to me was great n i still see no reason at all why it should stop in such inconclusive way. Maybe i should state a view reasons why it should stay...the sci-fi, the romance without emphasis on sex to gain rating, the family concept, the funny side, the typical Jessi, the cynical Lori, the gentle Amanda, Declan, cassidy..all of them great characters that fit the show. It has a gr8 blend of Teenage n Adult viewing,... the story line as a whole plus such good endings i hoped for which kept me glued like, i was really looking forward to see kyle n Jessi end up together, Amanda find another bloke, maybe reconcile with charlie(lol), though i know that depends on the producers. Y'no, when i watch the typical Jessi, the funny Josh, the cynical Lori, Declan, they all keep me glued like i said earlier. Pls, u guys shouldn't just stop. I need more show, more sci-fi, sci-fi n more sci-fi. Typical season movies have tickled my fancy a lot but it always boil down to the same thing, no ending! C'mon, this movie deserves more than this.