Posts Tagged ‘overclocking’

Brain transplant for my flagship computer.

January 4, 2009

I’ve been agonizing over what to do about my dying computer.  Normally, I would put it out to pasture as a backup and build a new machine from scratch.  I did some Core i7 pricing tonight.  While the processors themselves are quite comparable to the Penryn chips, the motherboard and memory prices are out of sight.

So I got to thinking.  Is this the right time to go crazy on hardware?  I decided that it’s not. So I just bought a new motherboard, chip and RAM with a Zalman cooler.  I’m going to replace these parts only in my main machine and keep the video card and raptor hard drives and everything else.

I did splurge on the Q9550.  I think with the Zalman, I should at least get 3.6 GHz.  It will easily be the fastest computer I’ve ever worked with.  It will be faster than my kids’ computers and the upgrade cost me less than $600.  It would have been over $2000 building a new Core i7 system.  I think, for now, this was the smart way to go.

Computer Trouble.

January 3, 2009

Last night I tried to boot my flagship computer and had some weird trouble.  First, I got an overclock fail and then it just wouldn’t go completely into XP.  It also seemed very, very slow.  I tried resetting the factory defaults in CMOS, but that had the very undesirable result of knocking out the RAID zero boot disk.

So even though it’s back to factory defaults, I had to convince it to pick the RAID back up without trashing the windows partition.  This thing is old enough where you have to make a floppy to put the drivers on the system.  Around midnight, I remembered that there was a setting in the BIOS necessary for the RAID.  I flipped that back on and got it to boot (but very, very slowly).  Because the slowness starts with the post screen, I do not think this is a software problem.  I might try to flash the bios.  I also see that Norton has a program called Ghost.  I’ve never messed with imaging programs because I’ve always kept my data on a separate disk.  I’ve always felt that since I had program disks, I didn’t need to worry about programs.  Of course, now I’ve accumulated so much crap, I don’t even know what I have.  Plus, I’ve got a lot of codecs on this machine.  So, I want to try to do an image.

Something similar happened to two AMD boards that I had years ago before they died.  I fear this computer’s time grows short.  I detailed its creation on this blog.  You can see that it’s lasted a scant 2 1/2 years.  This is not typical for a computer that I build.  I usually get 3 to 5 years without any problems.  I think most would agree that it’s probably the overclocking.

Of course now, I know a lot more about overclocking and I know how far you can push components.  The price of my knowledge has been this computer’s potentially premature death.  I’ve been joking that this is just an excuse for me to build the I7 rig that I’ve been thinking about (and maybe I will in the next few weeks) but for now, I’m mourning the decline of something I created.

Building computers for my kids.

December 7, 2008

This weekend I spent every waking hour building computers.  For me, this is as close as heaven on earth as it gets.  The time passed so quickly, that I am astonished that it is Sunday night already.  My hands are sore and cut up from the cases, but the computers are finished.  I wish I could do that every weekend.  Here’s a picture of the parts at the beginning of the build:

I used Asus P5Q motherboards because 1) I love Asus and 2) they were on sale.  I chose the ATI 1 GB Sapphire cards because they were also on sale and more importantly without rebates.  I hate rebates.  I’d rather not buy something with a rebate if I can help it.  I’ve never used G-skill memory before but it worked fine.  Both builds got 4 GB.  I saved money by using old hard drives I had lying around as well as reusing the XP licenses from the girls’ old machines.  I had one extra case and so I only had to buy one new one (and my daughter wanted pink anyway).

I had a little trouble with the first build.  It posted but then I had a grounding error on the USB ports.  I fixed that and it worked fine.  I bought Zalman fans because I wanted to overclock a little.  It turns out that the e8400 (which was also on sale) is an overclocking dream.  Here’s the 5 year old’s screen:

As you can see, her computer can do 4.05 GHz on air easily.  Crazy.  I remember the trouble I had 2 ½ years ago on my build and I used water.  It’s funny.  I’m still using that machine as my main rig, but my daughters’ new computers crush it.  I might spend some more money on a build for myself at year end.  We’ll see.

Another fun thing we did was to shoot a lot of video while the girls and I worked on the computers.  I’m sure I’ll put it up on YouTube after I get a chance to edit it.

Expensive PC chrome.

September 1, 2008

I like reading both CPU and Maximum PC because I’m very much into computer hardware.  Some people like messing with cars; I like messing with computers.  Some people will pay more for chrome, I’ll pay more for GHz!

In its September 2008 issue, CPU featured some tricked out computers that sell for around $15,000.  That’s the price of a car.  If I were rich, would I buy such a thing?  Because I like building PCs, I probably would never buy a PC like this because I’d rather have the fun putting it together.

Let’s look at one of these.  The Biohazard Rapture impresses me because it uses “multiple evaporator phase-change cooling systems.”  This system allows Biohazard to overclock two QX9775 systems to 4.6GHz on a Skulltrail motherboard.  Whoa.  I mean, daaaaaaamn.  The cooling system brings the processors down to – 20 degrees F.  It’s very difficult for a hobbyist to do something like that.  So here, you’re getting something for your $15k that you can’t really do yourself.

Of course by studying these supercomputers, a hobbyist can see how the big boys do their tricks.  I picked up how to set up Raptor drives in RAID zero from reading about these machines.  I  also got into water cooling this way.  If I bought a Skulltrail mobo and some high end cooling equipment, I could probably create something faster than anything a person could buy at Microcenter.  But there’s no question I could not equal what Biohazard has done.

Could it be done more cheaply?  Relatively speaking, yes.  In this neighborhood of performance the mobo and the chips alone come close to $4,000.  Thus, even if you do it yourself, you’re talking about spending 5 grand.  Now that’s a third of the price of a Rapture, but the performance would be closer than that.  I’m confident that I could get it up to 4 GHz.  I’ve done that with lesser chips.  So while I’ll stipulate that I can’t match the Rapture for $5,000, I can get to 87% for 1/3rd the price.  Moreover, considering the level of diminishing returns right now on using an 8 core box, what difference would it really make day to day?

Sadly, that cuts both ways to me as a computer enthusiast.  You could say to me, “but Thaed, I can buy a Dell for $1000.00 that gives me comparable performance for 1/5 of your $5000.00 price that will be great for Office, Firefox and maybe a little Photoshop.”  And what do I have to say to that?  Well, yeah, but look at the chrome!