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61

UPGRADING A MICROPROCESSOR

CONTENTS AT A GLANCE Considering the Upgrade


The pros and cons of CPU upgrades Moving from 286/386 to 486 Enhancing 486 systems Moving from 486 to Pentium Enhancing Pentium systems Moving from Pentium to Pentium MMX Remove the original CPU Install the new CPU Set the jumpers Finish up

Troubleshooting the Upgrade Further Study

Performing the Upgrade


Static precautions Prepare the system

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We have grown accustomed to the rapid advance of personal computers. The office system that seemed lightning-fast just a few years ago is now at least a generation out of dateits considered virtually obsolete and probably still under warranty. Systems that are more than five or six years old are barely capable of running the applications we count on today. As you can imagine, few PC users really need (or can afford) state-of-the-art systems. However, given the choice between shelling out thousands of dollars for a new system and spending a few hundred dollars to upgrade a current systems performance,
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FIGURE 61-1

Intel Pentium processor with MMX technology.

Intel Corporation

most prudent PC users would make the upgrade investment if it meant a tangible improvement. PCs can be upgraded in many different ways. This section of the book is dedicated to many such upgrade options, but this chapter deals with the implications and techniques of microprocessor upgrades (Fig. 61-1). This chapter shows you the majority of upgrade options available for PCs, illustrates the precautions and procedures for performing the upgrade, and explains some of the problems that you might face in the upgrade process.

Considering the Upgrade


CPU upgrades are not difficultmost can be performed in a matter of 15 to 30 minutes. Before you order that new CPU, though, you should take a bit of time and do your homework. Remember, the success of any upgrade depends on proper planning. Calling around can get you the best prices and delivery terms, but be sure that you can bring the upgrade CPU back if it does not work:
s Check the original CPU If the CPU is hard-soldered into place, a CPU upgrade will be

impossible. Only socket-mounted CPUs can be upgraded. For hard-soldered CPUs, you will have to consider a motherboard upgrade. Today, virtually all late-model i486 and all Pentium motherboards use socket-mounted CPUs. Pentium II motherboards use slot-mounted CPUs. s Check motherboard compatibility Not every motherboard is compatible with every CPU upgrade product. Before actually placing an order, it is always worthwhile to determine the motherboards manufacturer and check that the new CPU is indeed compatible. If the upgrade manufacturer cant tell you for certain, be sure that they have a solid return policy; otherwise, call elsewhere. For example, suppose that you have a Pentium 120MHz CPU in the system right now. If the motherboard wont support any-

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thing faster than a Pentium 133MHz CPU, you cant pop in a Pentium 166MHz CPU. Another issue is MMX. A Pentium motherboard cannot necessarily support Pentium MMX processors directly. Check the BIOS The motherboard BIOS must identify the CPU on startup. CPUs released after a BIOS might not be identified properlyespecially non-Intel CPUs, such as AMD or Cyrix processors. You might need a BIOS upgrade to use a new CPU. Check the size Be extremely careful with dimensions. Some new CPUs, along with their heatsink/fan assemblies, can interfere with full-slot expansion boards. Be sure that you wont interfere with anything on the motherboard after replacing a CPU. Consider the heat Newer CPUs (especially fast Pentium and Pentium Pro CPUs) run faster and much hotter than older CPUs. When planning an upgrade, determine if a CPU heatsink will be needed. If so, see that space is available for the heatsink. Most boxed CPU upgrade packages will include an appropriate heatsink/fan assembly with the CPU. Consider an interposer Some CPU versions to not function well on certain motherboard designs because of timing variations or limitations of a particular chipset. You might need an interposer socket between the CPU and CPU socket to correct timing issues and regulate the CPU voltage, if necessary. Consider the voltage As 486 CPUs and 486 OverDrive CPUs evolved, the PC industry switched from +5 Vdc to +3.3 Vdc. Also, early Pentium CPUs (60 and 66MHz versions) used +5 Vdc before switching over to +3.3 Vdc in subsequent versions. Be sure that your motherboard can provide the proper voltage for your upgrade CPU. If not, you might need an interposer (sometimes referred to as a voltage-regulator module, VRM) to regulate +5 Vdc at the motherboard to +3.3 Vdc at the CPU. If youre installing a true Pentium MMX processor, be sure that the motherboard can supply a split voltage of +2.8 Vdc and +3.3 Vdc. If not, youll need a Pentium MMX OverDrive CPU. Consult with your customer Finally, you should be candid with your customer. Find out what they expect the upgrade to accomplish for them. The customer that thinks a new CPU will bring their old i286 system on-par with an i486DX/66 is in for a rude awakening. Even a top-of-the-line CPU upgrade will be hindered in a system with slow RAM and old BIOS. In most cases, a CPU upgrade will provide a measure of improvement in overall performance and allow broader software compatibility, but it will not work miracles. Weigh the cost Although CPUs have been falling in price and are considered rather economical in terms of an overall upgrade, the mid-to-high range upgrades can still approach $500. Given the age of the system being upgraded, the intentions and expectations of the customer, and the plummeting cost of new systems, it might be in your customers best interest to avoid the upgrade and invest their money elsewhere. Base your opinions on a case-by-case basis.

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THE PROS AND CONS OF CPU UPGRADES


For the most part, CPU upgrades do provide a measurable improvement in system performance and can extend the working life of older PCs, but the return is not always worth the investment. On the positive side, CPU upgrades are simplea plug-in replacement CPU

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(or CPU module) can be installed in a matter of minutes. Other than ease of installation, CPU upgrades are a mixed bag. Performance improvements range anywhere from 30% to 300%, depending on the upgrade. It is important to realize that this improvement is for the microprocessor, not for the entire system. Thus, a new CPU will not turbocharge slow RAM, speed up a lackluster hard drive, or provide advanced bus architectures (i.e., PCI or AGP). Next, CPU upgrades are not cheap: the cost can range from $150 to $500 (or more), depending on the particular product. For that amount of money, it might be almost as much for a whole new motherboard, so weigh your options carefully.

MOVING FROM 286/386 TO 486


Upgrading an i286 or i386 CPU to an i486 CPU is accomplished through the use of an upgrade module (a small PC board holding the new CPU and any supporting circuitry). A typical i286-to-i486 module is illustrated in Fig. 61-2. Upgrading an i386 to an i486 generally requires only a single, specially designed IC (such as the Cyrix Cx486DLC or Cyrix Cx486SRx2), which is pin-compatible with the i386, but offers the functions of the i486. Today, there is little practical reason to attempt such an upgrade because entry-level Pentium motherboards and CPUs can be purchased for about the same price, but you should at least understand the potential for such upgrades.

ENHANCING 486 SYSTEMS


There is a broad base of 486 hardware now in service, and chances are that youll find yourself working on a 486 upgrade. The classic means of upgrading 486 systems is with the use of clock-multiplying CPUs, which are dubbed OverDrive CPUs. Traditionally, the CPUs internal speed is identical to the motherboards bus speed. For example, a 486DX/25 runs internally at 25MHz and the motherboard bus speed also runs at 25MHz. However, designers realized that additional CPU performance could be realized by multiplying the CPUs internal clock, based on the motherboards bus speed. For example, if a motherboard runs at 33MHz, a CPU could multiply this speed for faster processing. The first generation of these clock multipliers were clock doublersdubbed DX2. A 486DX2/66 CPU is a clock doubler running at 33MHz on the motherboard, but 66MHz internally, a 486DX2/50 runs at 25MHz on the motherboard and 50MHz internally, etc. Table 61-1 lists a typical series of 486 and Pentium OverDrive processors. The second

FIGURE 61-2

A Cyrix 386-to-486 CPU upgrade. Cyrix


Corporation

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TABLE 61-1 COMPARISON OF OVERDRIVE PROCESSORS CPU 486DX2/50 486DX2/66 486DX4/75 486DX4/100 486DX4/120 P23/P24 BUS SPEED 25MHz 33MHz 25MHz 33MHz 40MHz 25MHz 33MHz 40MHz 50MHz 33MHz CPU SPEED 50MHz 66MHz 75MHz 100MHz 120MHz 63MHz 83MHz 120MHz 133MHz 133MHz

AMD 586

generation of these clock multipliers were clock triplersdubbed DX4 (why Intel chose DX4 instead of DX3 remains a mystery). A 486DX4/100 CPU is a clock tripler, running at 33MHz on the motherboard, but 100MHz internally. The issue when installing 486 OverDrive processors is to set the bus speed correctly for any given OverDrive CPU. For example, if you install a 486DX4/100 onto a motherboard set to run at 40MHz, youll find that the CPU will not function (and might even be damaged by overheating). Always be sure to set the bus speed appropriately for any given CPU.

MOVING FROM 486 TO PENTIUM


The problem with ordinary 486 OverDrive processors today is that Intel is no longer manufacturing many (if not all) of their 486 OverDrive seriesthe CPUs just arent on the shelves anymore. In many cases, upgrading a 486 PC will mean jumping into a Pentium OverDrive CPU for 486 systems. A number of options are available here: Intel offers the P23N, P23T, P24N, and P24T. AMD also offers the AMD 5x86 clock-quadrupling CPU. Many of the Pentium OverDrive CPUs for 486 systems are not even clock multipliers, such as 2 or 3. The actual multiplier is more in the range of 2.5. Once again, the most important (and frequently omitted) part of a CPU upgrade is to see that the motherboards bus speed is set properly for the OverDrive CPU.
It is important to remember that a Pentium OverDrive CPU is not a true Pentium, so although it will offer added features and compatibility with software written for Pentium processors, it will not provide the performance enhancements of a true Pentium.

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ENHANCING PENTIUM SYSTEMS


For Pentium PCs, a myriad of options are available for upgrading. For early Pentium systems that use +5-Vdc Pentium CPUs, there are Pentium OverDrive CPUs for Pentium

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systems, which offer clock multiplication and voltage regulation needed to replace the old 60MHz and 66MHz Pentiums. For most Pentium systems, however, you can simply replace an existing Pentium CPU with a faster one. For example, Intels AN430TX motherboard supports Pentium processors operating at 90, 100, 120, 133, 150, 166, and 200MHz, as well as Pentium MMX processors operating at 166 and 200MHz. To upgrade an existing 150MHz CPU on the motherboard, youd simply remove the existing CPU, reconfigure the bus speed and multiplier to accommodate the new CPU speed (up to 200MHz), then install the new CPU. The limitation here is that you cannot install CPUs that are faster or slowerthan the motherboard will support. Ideally, you can use non-Intel processors in a CPU upgrade. Both the Cyrix 6x86 and AMDs K5 processors are generally regarded as good, low-cost replacements for Intels Pentium line. However, remember that many motherboards are released with BIOS that was written before non-Intel processors were released, so motherboards frequently require a BIOS upgrade in order to fully support non-Intel CPUs (especially the more-recent faster CPU models).

MOVING FROM PENTIUM TO PENTIUM MMX


The latest iteration of the Pentium processor embraces MMX technology, which is a group of advancements made to the CPU to accommodate the calculation-intensive functions that are typically encountered with 3D graphics, MPEG video, and other multimediaoriented applications. Technically, Pentium MMX processors are fully supported by existing Pentium chipsets, but youll need a motherboard that can provide split voltage (+2.8 Vdc and +3.3 Vdc) to power the Pentium MMX. If your motherboard cannot supply split voltage, youll need to use a Pentium MMX OverDrive CPU for Pentium systems, which contains the voltage-regulating circuitry needed to handle split voltage from a single +3.3-Vdc source. If your motherboard can supply split voltages (such as Intels AN430TX motherboard), you should be able to just remove the existing Pentium CPU, set the motherboards CPU voltage jumpers for split voltage operation, and install the Pentium MMX CPU.
In some recent motherboard designs, the motherboard will automatically detect the presence of a Pentium or Pentium MMX CPU and set the CPU voltage accordingly so that you do not need to move jumpers manually.

Performing the Upgrade


Mechanically speaking, the actual exchange of components in a CPU upgrade is very straightforward. This part of the chapter covers the essential steps and precautions that you will need to remember along the way. Before starting any kind of CPU upgrade, run a benchmarking program, such as PC Tools System Info, and note the system performance benchmark before upgradingthis gives you something to measure the system against once the upgrade is complete.

PERFORMING THE UPGRADE

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STATIC PRECAUTIONS
Todays CPUs contain more than 8 million individual transistors. To achieve such a dense concentration of components, CPUs are fabricated with semiconductor technologies that make them extremely sensitive to damage from electrostatic discharge (ESD). Before you even open the PC or the new CPU, make it a point to take the following precautions. First, be sure to use an anti-static wrist strap connected to a proper earth ground. Second, have some anti-static foam on-hand to hold the original CPU. Never leave it on a synthetic or static-prone surface. Third, never handle the CPUs by their metal pins. Instead, handle them by their ceramic housings.

PREPARE THE SYSTEM


As with all computer service procedures, safety is the primary concern. Start by turning off the PC, then unplug it from the ac outlet. Remove the screws from the outer housing and remove the housing to expose the motherboard. Keep all of the housing screws together. Next, locate the original CPU. It is usually the largest socket-mounted IC on the motherboard. It will be marked with numbers, such as 80386DX, 80286, etc. In many cases, the CPU is located beneath the heatsink/fan assembly. Look for obstructions. Notice if the CPU is tucked underneath a drive, or if it is blocked by an expansion board. If the obstruction is an expansion board, try relocating the board to another slot. If the CPU is blocked by a drive or chassis, you will have to disassemble the PC to free the obstruction. Keep in mind that the new CPU will probably sit a bit higher than the original CPU and need a heatsink/fan as well. If not enough space is available to accommodate the extra bulk, do not proceed with the upgrade unless you can safely reposition any obstructions.

REMOVE THE ORIGINAL CPU


Now that the CPU is exposed, it must be removed. However, this is not always a simple task, depending on the CPUs package style. Start by locating pin 1, which is often at the beveled edge of the IC socket. Notice pin 1 carefully because you will need to install the upgraded CPU in the proper orientation. Incorrectly installing the new CPU can easily damage it. PLCC packages are often the most difficult to remove because the IC literally fits into a four-sided receptaclethere is no place to fit a screwdriver under the IC. You will need a PLCC-removal tool, which inserts into the slots in opposing corners of the PLCC socket and allows you to gently rock the IC out. A disposable PLCC-removal tool might already be included in the upgrade package. PGA packages are usually a bit easier to remove. As with the PLCC IC, mark the location of pin 1 carefully. You can remove the PGA IC with a specialized PGA-removal tool, or with a regular-blade screwdriver. If you use a screwdriver, gently ease the blade between the IC and socket, then pry the IC up evenly on all four sides instead of prying it up from only one side (which can damage the pins). It pays to be patient here. LCC packages are perhaps the easiest of all to remove. Mark the location of pin 1 on the motherboard. You can then gently pry out the spring-loaded metal clip that holds the IC in place. Once the retaining clip is removed, you should simply be able to lift the IC out. Be careful not to bend or break the retainer clip because you will need it when reinstalling

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the CPU upgrade. If the CPU is clipped into a Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) socket, you simply need to open the sockets handle to relieve tension on the CPU pins, then gently lift the CPU out of the socket. When you have finally removed the original CPU, immediately place it into an anti-static bag or insert it into a layer of anti-static foam for safe handling. Under no circumstances should you handle the ICs metal pins or leave it in a synthetic surface, where static charges can build up and damage the CPU.

INSTALL THE NEW CPU


While paying close attention to the proper orientation of pin 1, insert the CPU upgrade into its interposer socket (if necessary), then insert the upgrade into the motherboard IC socket. Carefully insert the upgrade evenly and completely. If the upgrade is mounted on an LCC adapter, secure the adapter into place with the metal retaining clip. For ZIF sockets, secure the sockets lever to tighten the CPU pins into place. Deal with the heatsink next. Most CPUs and upgrades now rely on a heatsink/fan to keep the CPU at an acceptable temperatureespecially fast Pentium and Pentium Pro CPUs, which tend to run fast and generate a great deal of heat. Chances are good that a heatsink/fan has been included with the upgrade package. Be sure to use the recommended heatsinkit has been fabricated specifically to match the dimensions and heatdissipation characteristics of the CPU. Be sure to attach the fan connector to a suitable drive power cable from the power supply. If an original heatsink was in place, put it aside with the original CPU. If no heatsink was included with the upgrade, youll need to add an appropriate model to the CPU before firing up the system.

SET THE JUMPERS


Now youll need to configure the motherboard for the new CPU. This typically involves adjusting the bus speed, clock multiplier, and CPU voltage jumpers. The instructions that accompany the new CPU will show the recommended settings. Refer to the documentation for your motherboard and configure the jumpers accordingly.

FINISH UP
Once the new CPU is properly installed, the upgrade should be complete. Before you restore power, though, be sure to re-assemble any chassis or expansion devices that might have been removed prior to CPU removal. Once the PC is properly re-assembled, you can re-connect ac and turn the PC on. The system should boot and initialize as usual (probably faster). To get an idea of the relative performance improvement with your CPU upgrade, run a benchmarking program, such as PC Tools System Info, and compare the new performance benchmark to the original one.
An additional step before returning the PC to service is the installation of an i486 caching driver utility. This is needed for i286 and i386 systems to activate the i486 cache. The driver is typically added to the AUTOEXEC.BAT file, but it does not remain resident after the system boots, so there is no memory penalty.

TROUBLESHOOTING THE UPGRADE

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Troubleshooting the Upgrade


Unfortunately, not every microprocessor upgrade goes as smoothly as the instructions say it should. Although the upgrade process is not difficult, some problems that can crop up unexpectedly. This part of the chapter outlines some of the most common upgrade problems and solutions. Refer to Chapter 12 for detailed CPU information and troubleshooting.
Symptom 61-1. The computer powers up, but nothing happens You might have a compatibility problem. Power down the system, take a deep breath, and doublecheck the compatibility of the upgrade CPU against the motherboard. If the two are incompatible with one another, you will have to return the upgrade CPU and obtain one that is compatible. If the two are indeed compatible after all, the problem might be with the installation. Also check the jumper settings that configure the motherboard for the CPU. See that the bus speed, clock multiplier, and CPU voltage jumpers are all set properly for your particular CPU. Check that the new CPU is oriented properly with pin 1. If not, the CPU might be in backward. When this happens, the CPU might be damaged. Try re-installing the CPU in the proper orientation and test the system again. If problems persist, the CPU is probably defectivetry another CPU. If the CPU is already in the proper orientation, be sure that the CPU is seated evenly and completely. Bent or broken pins will ruin the CPUtry another CPU. If you notice any pins that are corroded, try cleaning them with a good-quality electrical contact cleaner (allow plenty of time for the cleaner to dry before re-applying power to the system). Symptom 61-2. The upgrade is complete, but the performance you are seeing is less than expected First, it is impossible to predict the exact amount of

performance improvement for a CPU upgrade in every possible motherboard configuration. Before you suspect a problem, ask yourself if the improvement was reasonable for the particular system. If the performance is off by 5% or 10%, it might simply be the way in which the new CPU is operating in the system. If you want to double-check your expectations, contact the upgrade manufacturer and see what kind of performance they have been getting with similar PCs. Verify that the bus speed and clock-multiplier settings are configured properly for your particular CPU. For older upgrades, check the caching driver that is usually included with the i486 upgrade. Although upgrades to native i486 systems will not need them, i286 and i386 systems will need to activate the upgrade i486 internal cache using a small driver called during system initialization. See that the caching driver is installed properly and loading at boot-time. Even if it loads properly, other memory managers (such as EMM386.EXE) might affect its performance. Be sure that any memory managers load before the caching driver is executed.
Symptom 61-3. The system works for a while, but then it mysteriously locks up and requires a cold re-boot This issue could be one of clock frequency

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or heat. Check the bus speed and clock-multiplier settings of the motherboard against the frequency needed by the CPU. If the motherboards frequency is higher than the CPUs required frequency, the CPU will be overclockedin which case it might work, but freeze

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at random. For instance, suppose you are installing an i486DX2/50 into a 33MHz motherboard. The clock-doubling circuitry on the CPU will double the 33MHz to 66MHz. This is faster than the 50MHz i486DX2 was designed to operate. It might run for a while in the overclocked state, but it will dissipate excessive heat and eventually lock up. Install a CPU of the proper speed, or reconfigure the bus speed and clock multiplier as required. If the CPU is matched properly for speed, it should be checked for heat. CPUs that run too hot can lock up. Be sure that any heatsink/fan provided with the upgrade is installed properly (including the use of thermal compound). Try re-securing the heatsink/fan assembly. If no heatsink/fan was provided with the upgrade, try adding an appropriate heatsink/fan.
Cyrix CPUs are generally regarded as hot CPUs and often require an oversized heatsink/fan to ensure proper cooling. When using a Cyrix CPU, verify that you have the proper cooling unit.

Further Study
That wraps up Chapter 61. Be sure to review the glossary and chapter questions on the accompanying CD. If you have access to the Internet, take some time to review these BIOS upgrade resources: AMD: http://www.amd.com Compaq: http://www.compaq.com Cyrix: http://www.cyrix.com Intel: http://www.intel.com Kingston: http://www.kingston.com