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[HowTo] Building an overclocked Core2Duo box for OSx86.


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#1
bofors

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:( Take 3: I finally ordered my parts, and now have built and overclocked my Conroe box, what follows below is a discussion of issues that I considered in making my selection. What I actually ordered and the results I achieved are here: http://forum.insanel...o...508&st=126#

Take 2: I had originally tried to start this thread a few weeks ago, perhaps a little prematurely, here: http://forum.insanel...showtopic=23246 But that turned into a more general discussion of Conroe boards, chipsets and OSx86. Now that I am considering the finer details of my Conroe build, I decided spin off my own thread for it again

This thread is meant to continue the [HowTo] Building my first OSx86 box thread ( http://forum.insanel...?showtopic=7393 ) but update the topic from a PentiumD based system to Core2Duo (aka C2D or Conroe). As it is still premature to actually begin ordering parts for Core2Duo box, this thread will start with a discussion of the emerging issues with respect to OSx86.

To begin with something should be said about a Conoe machine versus a dual-Woodcrest (Xeon). Why not build a quad-core Woodcrest machine like the forthcoming Mac Pro's?

(1) I believe that buying any more computer performance than you need is a mistake and I do not need four cores (yet);

(2) apparently there are no overclocking motherboards for Woodcrest (yet);

(3) while Woodcrest chips themselves are comparatively priced to Conroe, the FB-DIMMs and motherboards are much more expensive;

(4) OSx86 has and likely will continue to work best by establishing "standard" platforms, based on this poll it seems very like that Conroe will become the next standard: http://forum.insanel...showtopic=22625



So, I want to buy the cheapest Core2Duo, the E6300, for about $200 and a quality motherboard to overclock it to near 3GHz. These are the big issues in my mind right now:

(1) I run dual displays, what is the plan to deal with limited OSx86 graphics drivers: Intel forthcoming GMA X3000 ( http://en.wikipedia....l_GMA#GMA_X3000 ), Asus EAX ATI x1600 card, or some new Mac Pro card with EFI firmware;

(2) which chipset: 965 versus 975;

(3) which motherboard has the best combination of features and cost;

(4) what kind of RAM do I need for overclocking, what is the best deal.

I plan to continue this thread in a blog-like manner with information relevant to these issues and others which I am less concerned about.

#2
bofors

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Ok, before getting back into technical details of memory overclocking and such, I want to describe my perspective on this and summarize my intialize build price lists.

I am basically in the workstation market. So my priorities include system stability (I am only considering overclocks that can be run 24/7), bulk memory cost and bandwidth. I also want to run RAID arrays. I like to work on with lots of screen area, so the ability to support dual displays in extended is also an issue for me (because two smaller screens are a much better value that one larger one), but I certainly do not otherwise need some high performance graphics card.

In short, this means that if FB-DIMMs were not twice as expensive as regular DDR2, that the Mac Pro would be stiff competition to a Conroe hackintosh and is what I will ultimately be comparing to:

$2499 Mac Pro 2.6GHz:

$1512 FB-DIMM 667, 8 X 1GB: http://dealnews.com/...4047/1GBx8.html
_____
$4000 Approximate total with tax.


While I should be clocking much higher than 2.6GHz on a hackintosh, my memory bandwidth may still be less, 1066 MHz FSB versus 1333 MHz, if I go with the Intel D975XBX aka "Bad Axe" board. There are two reasons why I am considering the Bad Axe board. First of all, I am going for stable overclocking not maximum. Next and perhaps more importantly, the Intel boards support EFI and while this is not huge issue yet, there has been a lot of progress made by the MacEFIx86 project team lately. It is increasing looking like EFI will indeed be supported on Intel EFI boards like the Bad Axe, while EFI emulation for BIOS boads might come later. With EFI support, I should be able to run dual displays on a non-GMA board and also use the EFI bootloader on a RAID array.

Otherwise, I am stuck with having to buy a larger, more expensive panel and an extra hard drive for RAID. While it is certainly possible to run dual displays off a Conroe board with an onboard GMA (either the 950 or likely the X3000 which Apple is bound to support), via an ADD2 card, the 945G chipsets supports only a 800 MHz FSB and the G965 is supposed to really suck. Furthermore, both of these "G" chipsets limit the amount RAM available (e.g. with 4 GB of RAM, the OS will only have access to about 3 GB).

If I were buying dual panels today, I would go with the new Samsung 205BW (20" Widescreen, 1680 x 1050) for about $300: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16824001081 Alternatively for a single large screen, the Dell 2407FPW (24" Widescreen, 1920 x 1200) for about $699: http://www.abesofmai...;l=Streetprices


For motherboard and CPU, I am considering two scenerios for overclocking to about 3.3GHz. The first is going with the Bad Axe board, but since it may not overclock the E6300 as well as the other boards, I am looking at the E6600 which should support the goal of high stability. I may be programming 64-bit applications now that Leopard fully supports it (which effectively cuts the size of the cache in half because the memory pointers are twice are large). So, I might want the 4MB cache with the E6600 over the E6300's 2MB, which otherwise can provide up to a 10% speed increase: http://www.anandtech...d...?i=2795&p=4

$248 Intel D975XBXLKR: https://www.mwave.co...riteria=BA22246
$345 Intel Core 2 Duo E6600: http://www.xpcgear.com/e6600.html
____
$593 Approximate total without shipping.



For comparison, I am considering the Gigabyte GB-P965-DS3 with E6300. While I still expect to Apple to release a Mac based on the 965 chipset, there is no guarantee that will happen and even if does, that Apple's 965 chipset drivers will solve the IDE problem with this particular board. But on the other hand, it is $250 or almost half the price of the Bad Axe/E6600 combo:

$150 Gigabyte GA-965-DS3: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16813128012
$191 Intel Core 2 Duo E6300: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16819115005
____
$341 Approximate total without shipping.



I still have some real questions about RAM. In particular, I am wondering about running 1 : 1 with the 1066MHz FSB at 533MHz on the Bad Axe because I think its FSB is fixed, unlike the other overclocking boards (please correct me if I am wrong). If this is the case, I probably want to go with this A-Data RAM that AnandTech says runs at 3-2-2-8, 1.9V: http://www.anandtech...spx?i=2797&p=17

Although I am shoping for 4 x 1GB total, thus making me more senstive to the differences in these prices, I am listing the cost of 2 x 1GB kits here:

$150 (sold out) A-Data Vitesta ELJKD1A16K, DDR2-533, CAS 4: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16820211011

However, when overclocking the FSB with the GA-965-DS3 (again I am not sure yet and please correct if I am wrong), it may be better to go with a DDR2-800 and thus significantly offsetting it's $250 price advantage:

$230 GeIL GX22GB6400UDC, DDR2 800, CAS 4 http://www.newegg.co...N82E16820144028

Of course, there are plenty of CAS 4 DDR2-667 and CAS 5 DDR2-800 choices in this price range too:

$185 (after rebate) Consair XMS2 TWIN2X2048-5400c4, DDR2-665 CAS 4: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16820145015

$194 G. Skill F2-6400PHU2-2GBNR DDR2 800 CAS 5: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16820231084


#3
Kiko

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Ok the best Ram for overclocking is the GEIL modules, they are orange in colour and offer best performance for dollar (at least i think) DDR-2 800

Dont get a 965, get a 975, i recommend a Bad Axe board

#4
bofors

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Kiko, I think the question here is:

What settings should I expect to be running RAM on the Bad Axe board with reasonably overclocked E6600 at?

Frequency?

Timings?

Voltage?

#5
Kiko

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Ok you asked for it, now here it is.

http://www.xtremesys...ad.php?t=106321

This is where i get all my info for OC'ing Conroe's. It s a very good site and it shows us the timings and volategs they used to OC there E6600's to 4.0ghz, many people haev OC'ed it this far so it isnt impossible.

Have a good read on it. Very useful information for all thigns including RAM, Mobo's etc etc

#6
bofors

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I bought DDR2-667, it's patriot ram was 180 @ new egg (with 20$ rebate). This stuff I've heard plenty of reports of hitting 900+mhz FSB's. On the E6300 with a 7x multi that'll get me to 3.1ghz with a 1:1 ratio, by telling the system it's 533 ram then everclocking from there, the bios for some reason is weird in how they label the FSB:dram ratio.


So the memory is limiting the overclock in this case?

Is memory bandwidth sacrificed by underclocking the RAM to 1 : 1, 533MHz?

I dropped my DDR2-667 CAS 4 Consair ValueRam to DDR2-400, which should have gone to 1 : 1 on my Pentium D 920 and my Xbench memory score dropped from like 115 to 90, 20%.

I do not think I want to sacrifise memory bandwidth to clock higher.

Quality DDR-800 or better will overclock higher, it's all in what you want to do. The highest I know of with my ram is DDR920 or 460 FSBx7 for a total of 3.22ghz with my ram.


What does "quality" mean? CAS 4? CAS 5?

Again, I think I want to maintain memory bandwidth, if not increase it.


Here's the ram I bought:
http://www.newegg.co...N82E16820220095
as mentioned before I've heard of plenty of guys hitting DDR900 speeds with it. It seems to be killer memory for the money, if I was able/willing to spend more, I probably would have gone for some quality DDR-800. I just couldn't justify the added 50+ to do it for a marginal gain.

I tried to hit a 400mhz FSB, but couldn't do it, not sure if it's bios or cooling, but I know the hardware should do it.


It seems like overclocking on the Bad Axe works a little different. The FSB may be fixed at 1066 MHz or perhaps 1333. If possible I suppose I would want to run at 1333. So I guess this means I might want to run 1 : 1 at 667MHz, but I am still wondering about the loss of bandwidth from DDR-800.


EDIT: Although RAM prices seem a little high right now, this Patriot RAM that Thedugy bought looks like one of the best deals on the market. At $180 per 2GB kit, it is the type of "value" CAS 4 DDR2-667 that it looks like I want, but also includes heat "spreaders". As Thedugy reports it is highly overclockable and has excellent reviews at NewEgg: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16820220095

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#7
aberracus

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Bofors 965 is still a pain in the a... so i will go with Gigabyte GA-945p-s3 have seen trmendous overcloking with air cooling in those budget mobos, so i will give a try using high quality memory and e6400 planning to overclock to 2.8 ghz ..

i already buy the parts, next week end i will have answers.

#8
bofors

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Gigabyte GA-945p-s3 have seen trmendous overcloking with air cooling in those budget mobos,

The Gigabyte GA-945p-s3 is only about $90, so if it overclocks well, it is a real bargain: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16813128015

Can you post a link to these "tremendous" results?

so i will give a try using high quality memory and e6400 planning to overclock to 2.8 ghz ..

Exactly which memory did you order?

#9
bofors

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Ok you asked for it, now here it is.

http://www.xtremesys...ad.php?t=106321

This is where i get all my info for OC'ing Conroe's. It s a very good site and it shows us the timings and volategs they used to OC there E6600's to 4.0ghz, many people haev OC'ed it this far so it isnt impossible.

Have a good read on it. Very useful information for all thigns including RAM, Mobo's etc etc


I have looked through most, but not all of that thread and will summarize my conclusions here. However, there are a few other Bad Axe specific threads at XtremeSystems that I need to pick through too.

First, here are some of their Bad Axe / E6600 results:

njkid32 - 3926 MHz Pi 1M (1.5v) | Air Cooling | Intel Bad Axe Rev. 304
eva2000 - 3750 Mhz Prime stable (1.44v) ; 3860 MHz bench stable (~1.5v) | Water | Intel Bad Axe Rev. 304
Supertim0r - 3600 MHz Prime stable (1.3875v) ; 4050 MHz Pi 1M Stable (1.5v) ; 3958 MHz single Pi 32M stable (1.4v) | Big Typhoon | Bad Axe Rev. 304.
gocchin - 3787 MHz Prime stable (stock vCore) ; 3810 MHz Pi 1M Stable (stock vCore) | Zalman 9500 | Bad Axe Rev. 304
CompGeek - 3850 Mhz Prime stable (1.52v) | Water | Bad Axe Rev. 304
kiwi - 3336 MHz 3DM01 stable (1.55v) | Water | Bad Axe Rev. 304 (0908 BIOS)


Based these results, I am thinking to set my goal to run at 3.6GHz, 24/7 on water cooling. Part of my reasoning for this is that this is not going to be some $200 hackintosh, but rather $1500 and to really justify this price, it needs to significantly outclock the Mac Pro.

Eva2000 actually has two Bad Axe / E6600 and at some point I plan to chat with him about recommend value overclocking memory. But based on the fact that the FSB multiplier of the E6600 is 9x while the E6300 is only 7x, it again seems that part of the much higher cost of the E6600 can indeed be offset by the ability to use cheaper memory, which is a huge issue my case since I want a 4GB system.

Hence, it is starting to look like "quality" CAS 4, DDR2-667 RAM may be what I want at about $175 per 2 x 1GB kit. Since I already have 4 x 1GB of such Consair "ValueRAM" on my D945GNTLKR of which only 3GB is usable do to the chipset's limitation, I might actually just start by working with 2GB of that to see if it is "good enough" (and order more RAM later).

Finally, several people seem to be suggesting the "retail" Intel CPU's are higher quality than the OEM versions. Considering that price difference is negliable, I guess I will be ordering "retail" instead, but I have yet to see anything confirming that Intel sorts parts this way.

#10
bofors

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I think I am now being to understand the critical issues overclocking RAM on the Bad Axe. First of all, one needs to consider the "strap", which is base FSB. It can be set to 1066 Mhz or 1333 on the 975X chipset, but apparently higher performance is achieved at 1066: http://www.xtremesys...ad.php?t=105703 The issue seems to be that the memory controller (aka NorthBridge, MCH) raises its "internal" latency with 1333 "strap", so access it slower.

Note that because we are dealing with DDR2 here, the "strap" FSB is four times the actual FSB frequency which something like 266MHz. Now, given that my goal is 3.6 GHz and that the E6600's CPU clock multiplier is 9x, I am aiming for a 400 MHz FSB. Running dual-channel RAM in a 1:1 ratio with the FSB using the 1066 strap means setting it to 533 MHz before overclocking. Then when the FSB frequency is raised from 266 Mhz to 400, the RAM frequcy should be raised from 533 MHz to 800.

If this is correct, I merely need RAM that will run at DDR2-800. By AnandTech's results several "value" DDR2-667 brands, including the Consair RAM I already have, will do that at CAS 4 by raising the voltage: http://www.anandtech...spx?i=2797&p=17

#11
bofors

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On a note related to memory value, EverCool sells pure copper heat "speaders" (which should be better than GeIL's painted aluminum) for about $3 a piece:
http://www.newegg.co...N82E16835119017
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#12
thedguy

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The DS3 is kidna wierd in how it does ram ratios. The FSB is infact locked but if your getting anything but the Xtreme, it won't matter, your going to be overclocking the FSB anyway.

I seem to be hitting a wall at 385mhz FSB, if I could hit 400 I'd be running DDR-800. I know this ram will do it because I've had the ram ratio up high enough to run the ram above 800.

My OC is stuck, all stock voltages and it won't go any higher. I've heard of atleast 1 other case with this board and cpu doing it. My temps aren't even all that high with my Thermaltake Typhoon HSF.

OH the onboard audio on the DS3 doesn't work :(

#13
xerxes1358

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Hi

Is there a possibility of overclocking with a 945/946 based MINI!atx/btx board ? Please specifiy a brand. I can get a lot of Asus and Intel mATX or mBTX boards both from 945 and 946. How are there performance of these boards ? I want to buy a E6300 and overclock to 2.4ghz maybe. Is this possible ?

Can someone please post the main benifit of Intel 965 over Intel 945/6 boards? (obviously I am talking about the 945/6 conroe ready boards here :-) )

xerxes

#14
thedguy

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My experience with the 945's show they can't push the current for overclocking. But that was with a high wattage 805 Pentium D, not a much lower wattage Core 2/conre.

#15
sheepdog43

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Forget the 945 if you plan to O/C. It is not built for the voltage needed.
945 on Conroe will severely limit you. It is basically a minimal board for using it. If you just want to run a Conroe, fine, but do not expect much more.

I would recomend a 975 setup if you plan on overclocking and using OSX. 965 may be better but the IDE system is flakey (since it is not built in, but rather added) and a lot of unknowns for OSX (883 sound, IDE...). Networking and SATA seem to work fine on the 965 with OSX.

Try not to skimp on boards when you overclock, they often are what will hold you back, and on OSX, you really can't anyhow since only certain thinsg will run.

#16
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Bofors, just thought I'd give some quick info for you.

I have a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 board, with an Allendale E6300, and Corsair XMS2 DDR2-675 RAM. I have managed to get the FSB to a max of 510 Mhz on this motherboard. The only thing causing instablility was the RAM. I highly recommend this board, it is overclocking amazingly!

Enjoy your building :)

#17
bofors

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I seem to be hitting a wall at 385mhz FSB, if I could hit 400 I'd be running DDR-800. I know this ram will do it because I've had the ram ratio up high enough to run the ram above 800.

My OC is stuck, all stock voltages and it won't go any higher.


I think you need to raise your RAM voltage. I mean, I wouldn't expect this to work at stock voltage, which is 1.8 volts, try 1.9.

I would recomend a 975 setup if you plan on overclocking and using OSX.


I have basically decided to go with a Bad Axe board. This decision is largely being influenced by my EFI considerations and desire to run dual displays. In short, I think it is likely that the MacEFIx86 team will get EFI running on Intel boards, and that will enable Radeon.efi to be loaded to properly initialize x1600 cards.

Try not to skimp on boards when you overclock, they often are what will hold you back, and on OSX, you really can't anyhow since only certain thinsg will run.


Really, the only I worried about now is skimping on RAM.

Corsair XMS2 DDR2-675 RAM.


That is good RAM, Eva2000 reports that it can read a 420 FSB with the 1033 strap on the Bad Axe. While it is only $185 at NewEgg for a 2GB kit, that is after a limited rebate.

#18
bofors

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Here are some thoughts on CPU cooling. First, I think it is undisputed that the stock Intel heatsink/fan unit is grossly inadequate for overclocking. That means the zoo of after market solutions need to be considered. However, I am going to refuse to consider anything that costs much over $100, this means ruling out most crazy high end stuff.

Furthermore and in terms of water cooling, I really do not want to mess with coolants, tubes, pumps, tanks and radiators. Although I am still looking at the Thermaltake CL-W0065 and Cooler Master Aquagate Mini R120 as possible pre-built water cooling solutions, I have some concerns that they are less reliable then air cooling and that there is no warning in case of pump failure. Moreover, it not clear that either of these two water cooling systems perform significantly better than the top end air coolers which can cost much less. While there is little information on the Thermaltake CL-W0065, there are many reviews of Cooler Master Aquagate Mini R120 which are generally positive. These give it somewhat favorable performance over air cooling:

http://www.3dxtreme....cmaquagater1204
http://www.viperlair...ini120/p2.shtml
http://www.overclock...p?id=405648&P=2
http://www.viperlair...ini120/p2.shtml

The reviews at NewEgg are generally positive (four "egg" average), but I am concerned about the quality and performance issues being raised versus air cooling, moreover nobody at XtremeSystems seems to be using the Aquagate Mini:

http://www.newegg.co...N82E16835103165

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What is left is primarily high quality air coolers, namely those from Zalman. While some lower cost aluminum coolers like ThermalTake's Blue Orb II could be considered, I think that spending the $10 or so extra to get a pure copper cooler makes a lot of sense. So starting from the low end:

$39.99 Zalman CNPS7700-CU: http://www.newegg.co...N82E16835118115

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$44.99 Zalman CNPS9500: http://www.zipzoomfl...st=pricegrabber


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#19
passport

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For cooling on the cheap the ARCTIC COOLING Freezer 7 Pro for $25 is working very well on an 805 @ 3.6 (42 C at load).

#20
bofors

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Here is a May 2006 review of air coolers at MadShrimps, which I think usually has higher qualtiy reviews: http://www.madshrimp...php?articID=419 Because they we working on AMD, some of the models are a little different (I assume the AC Freezer 64 Pro is the AMD version of the AC Freezer 7 Pro that Passport mentioned), but it seems that the Tuniq Tower 120 (with internal fan) is now the air cooler of choice:

With high/medium speed fans the Tuniq Tower 120 is the best air cooled heatsink out there right now, there is no doubt about that.
~ MadShrimps


http://www.madshrimp...amp;articID=419

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http://www.xbitlabs....tower120_8.html

$46.99 Sunbeam / Tuniq T-120 CPU Cooler http://www.xoxide.co...-t-120-hsf.html

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