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Overclocking vs. RAM Increase

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May 16, 2011 5:42:57 AM

Hi people. I'm hoping to get a little insight into this issue. I'm running a q9550 on an Asus DDR2 board that allows for overclocking. I purchased a Gigabyte combo board that allows for DDR2 and DDR3 hoping to extend the life of my 775 setup by gradually adding DDR3. The problem is that the Gigabyte will run the faster RAM but sucks at overclocking - can't overclock worth a damn. The Asus board, on the other hand will handle up to 8gbs of DDR2 (I've currently got 2x2gbs) but the DDR2 RAM is considerably more expensive. And of course the Asus board can overclock. I don't do any gaming at all but have a need for speed when it comes to video encoding projects. I've got three PC's set up here at home and will eventually update to new mobos, RAM, etc. but for the time being, how do I best utilize the Q9550? On a board that can't overclock but take faster RAM or on a board that can't take the faster RAM?
May 16, 2011 6:04:36 AM

This might sound like a foolish question, but I like asking the basics as a lot of folks overlook them....

1) do you actually need more memory?

2) how much memory are you currently using?

If you don't know, then my first bit of advice would be to configure performance monitor in windows to run, logging to a file, with a relatively low rate interval, like updates once per 5 - 15 minutes. Then use the most demanding software you can find in terms of memory use, test it for a decent period of time (the longer the better really, assuming the testing's realistic). Check the log file afterwards and verify what the peak figure for Commited Bytes is in memory (total memory requirement for the OS, including device drivers and currently running software - useful for a good gauge of memory use without getting into things in too much depth).

If the peak commited bytes value is greater than your currently installed memory, then yes, more memory would be useful, if not, then you might need to re-think things a little.


That's the key question.

Overclocking is very useful - I am a fan and have 15 years in that field going back to Pentium Pro's, but overclocking isn't worth much at all if your system is starved of memory.

If you system has sufficient memory for your needs then the next question is what sort of overclocking are we talking here - eg: in terms of percentages or absolute clock speeds.

How much can you get out of your Q9550 ?

I think if you answer those couple of questions things will become clearer and you'll probably be able to answer your own question.

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May 16, 2011 12:51:31 PM

Thanks for replying. Here's the scenario. I capture VHS tapes to DVD and begin by using a capture device via Cyberlink PowerDirector software. The older version of PowerDirector that I started off with a couple of years ago runs fine on XP but doesn't run well on Vista or 7. The new 64-bit version of PowerDirector that I have runs well on 7 but specifically states in the system requirements that a minimum of 6 Gbs of RAM is required (if you're using DDR2). My LGA775 systems on the ASUS boards that I spoke of are running with 4Gbs of DDR2. I found out that Cyberlink wasn't kidding about this when I tried to capture video via the new 64-bit version of PowerDirector via W7 on these systems with 4Gbs of RAM. Audio to video didn't match up and the final capture played back like an old Godzilla film that was poorly dubbed - a telltale sign of RAM strain. I also use the captured mpg file and bring it over to my Hackintosh drive and work on it with Adobe Encore for transcoding and burning to DVD; Adobe CS5, as a 64-bit software that should benefit from a RAM increase. While in Windows XP 32-bit, however, if I run the task manager system monitor during a capture, I'm not peaking in my RAM usage but I'd like to improve my capture quality if possible.

As for the overclocking aspect of this, it's a bit new to me. My ASUS P5QPL-AM board allows for 5, 10, 15 & 20% "overclocking" right in the BIOS settings. I presume the board makes the necessary adjustments to the RAM and anything else (timing, voltages) automatically. The 15% setting puts my 2.83Ghz stock Q9550 quad core at 3.26Ghz which is cool; I'm happy with that and leave it at that setting (it takes my E8400 dual core from 3.00Ghz to 3.47Ghz at 15%). Right now, I'm testing the Gigabyte GA-G41M Combo board with an E2160 Pentium Dual Core. I changed the multiplier from 9 to 8 and the clock speed from 200 to 266. This takes the E2160 from stock 1.80Ghz to 2.13Ghz; although it boots up OK this way, when I come back the next morning and turn it on, I'll have to start all over again as it reverts to stock and default settings and loses all info, date, time, everything. Gigabyte's EasyTune6 utility is supposed to resolve this but won't work at all - in fact, it won't even load.

So ultimately, I'd like to use more RAM if only to get the best PowerDirector 64-bit capture. The issue here is I don't want to spend 35-50% more for outdated DDR2 as opposed to DDR3 and I also want the benefit of some kind of stable overclock. Will follow your suggestion about the log file check; but am still curious - is more RAM useful anyway? RAM deficiency is a total drag but how much is enough? I suspect your application test will in fact give me a better idea. Will try and reply; thanks.
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May 16, 2011 10:43:43 PM

Hmmm, well that makes sense in terms of your memory requirements.
You’re kind of stuck in a “catch 22” with your motherboards I think. Ideally it would be nice to have the best of both worlds, but you might need to compromise.

I think in your scenario based on what you’ve said your priority should be the memory and ensuring you have sufficient memory for your application to perform properly. On that basis you either need to do one of the following:

1) Find some old DDR2 that's suitable for a decent price – say 8 GB of it or whatever DIMM combination you need to bump your memory up to at least 6 GB, but I would give yourself some extra overhead and go for a minimum of 8 GB (6 GB for the application, let’s say half to a gigabyte for the OS requirements, leaving a bit up your sleeve free – hopefully). Maybe consider the second hand market (e-bay etc), or trying to source some cheaply from friends. Do you have an companies that sell refurbished computers in your town or region? If so, they can be a source of old memory. Or ring around shops and see if anyone has some old DDR2 that they will sell for cheap.
2) Cut over to the new Gigabyte board, get some DDR3 and put up with stock clock speeds. Not the best, but better than the current scenario – where your application is not able to perform properly.
3) Cut your losses and move on to another platform completely – selling the old one to recover some of your costs – might be an option, depends on your budget. I’ve been in similar situations to yours before (not with video applications though) and some times you need to bite the bullet and realise that the best solution is to do things properly and bear the costs of an upgrade.
4) Another idea, but I would only go down this path if you are “super cheap”, would be to leave things as is, rely on virtual memory usage for the application and see what you can do about seriously improving the speed of your virtual memory. RAID0 on SSDs would be a pretty good home solution and might bring your virtual memory performance up to the point where your application performs “ok” and produces decent results. I am mainly suggesting this idea if you have an SSD or two floating around or some really, really fast hard drives etc. But the previous ideas are much better solutions and this idea might still not give you the result you want, but if you had the drives lying around, it's pretty cheap to try out.


See what your performance monitor log file tells you in terms of your current memory use. But I think it will confirm that your system needs more memory. You might want to include some of the pagefile counters in your performance monitor.

Eg: here’s some of the basics - high level to begin with:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2267427


If you want more detailed info, I can easily provide you with a lot more good documentation from microsoft on this subject, as I've done a fair bit of work in the memory / performance space in my day job.


This counter is probably useful to you to confirm that your page file is being used and roughly how much.
Paging File, %pagefile in use
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May 17, 2011 12:51:35 AM

Thanks for replying. I agree that no solution here is a clear cut winner and that's what prompted my writing in in the first place - I wanted to be sure that I'm not missing any crucial information. As I mentioned, I'm running an Intel E8400 dual core and a Q9550 quad core on the two Asus boards; my third system is an Intel E2160 Pentium dual core on the Gigabyte board. Two monitors and a functional 4-port KVM switch allow me to use these three systems harmoniously while working on projects. What I didn't mention is that I've also got an AMD Athlon IIx4 640 3.0Ghz sitting on a dead board in the basement. My approach to upgrading is to first pick up two 4gb sticks of DDR3 1333 and make sure they work by testing them on the Gigabyte board. Then I plan to get an AM3+ board as a next step (and probably a couple more sticks of 4Gb DDR3); this will allow me to run the Athlon II now and upgrade to a Bulldozer after the benches are in, the smoke clears and the prices settle. At that point, I'll be selling off the excess 775 equipment but will keep one running one LGA775 (the Q9550) and keep one of the boards as a backup.

I like SSD's too but am not sure they're ready for prime time. If their primary benefit is that they boot/shut down Windows and open/close applications with blazing speed then for me, the cost per gig is still not worth it at this time. The limited life span and failure rate that I read about in the reviews also concerns me. What intrigues me, however, is the write speeds that they can achieve. This can considerably cut down on video/disk creation time and for me, this makes them attractive.

Moving over to a new platform? Obviously that's the best idea. After I get the AMD system on its way, I'll begin saving for an i7 2600k with a good board and the fastest RAM it'll take. I suppose the one thing that I am committed to is a functional three machine solution that I need only update in stages. Each of my systems have Antec EA650 power supplies and LG Blu-ray burner drives with 3 HDD's in each setup (XP & 7 dual booted, Linux Ubuntu & Hackintosh). In addition to getting more familiar with the basics of overclocking I've also got more to learn about the benefits of RAID and if/how I can utilize it. Will also need to read up on virtual memory and how that works as you suggested.

Have checked eBay re: used DDR2 in 4Gb stick quantities. Surprisingly, the pickings are few. In fact, the only one that I found was at 667. NewEgg's got them starting at $65 per stick and am considering that.

I read here at Tom's about page file setting adjustments that allow XP to better utilize memory. So thanks for the link. Now it's homework time.

Thanks again for your replies and suggestions.
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a b K Overclocking
May 17, 2011 4:22:43 AM

few thing to consider:
1. Bulldozer is not guarenteed to work on an AM3+ mobo
2. when i upgraded my laptop to a 7200 rpm drive my rendering and simulation performance rose by i believe 20%. though i kinda created a world where that would happen because each frame sim and rendering where 100mb or bigger so a faster hd would help a lot. You probably would benefit.
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May 17, 2011 5:12:43 AM

Really? I thought all that was settled. I mean, the only real debate (as I understood the issue) was whether or not Bulldozer would run on an AM3 board with a BIOS update. The majority opinion seems to be that it won't, citing AMD's own declaration (even though ASUS and MSI announced that they could in fact deliver a workable BIOS update). I might agree, however, that AM3+ Bulldozer boards introduced before the actual launch may have problems but even if they do, the manufacturers would have a hard time justifying not resolving those problems.

As for SSD's, which I presume you're referring to by the faster hard drive, why are the SSD forums loaded with stories of guys jumping through hoops to get them working or keep them working or restoring them to working order? Can you imagine if people had these kinds of problems with regular platter HDDs over the same amount of time? What if you still want to run XP? or Linux? Can you still count on the speed increase to justify the cost per gig? Every SSD overview I read in Newegg boasts of the SSD's ability to shine in W7 only. Yeah, it's all improving but I'd like to see it improve still more. Basically, however, you're right: my HDDs score somewhere in the 5 range in WEI and are unquestionably the slowest part of my system.
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a b K Overclocking
May 17, 2011 1:47:22 PM

ssd are new and there are growing pains. thats all that can really be said. so are reliable but slower some are faster but not as reliable.

the AM3+ thing, unless something has recently came out i thought there was still questions as to if they would be compatible. AMD hasnt confirmed it yet i had thought but i havent followed it to much lately.
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May 24, 2011 7:17:23 AM

I've read right here on Tom's forums that although a Bulldozer (FX Zambesi) might physically fit onto an AM3 socket the new AM3+ socket is required for it to run. I've heard AMD confirm that the NEW socket (presumably meaning AM3+) would be required. The new socket is supposed to be downward compatible with AM3 chips and this is why they are being introduced now - Bulldozer being only a couple of weeks shy of launch. There're about 6 of them (AM3+ boards) available now on NewEgg. If you know of ANOTHER socket being introduced to accommodate Bulldozer please advise as to what the name of it is.
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a b K Overclocking
May 24, 2011 6:30:03 PM

oh i had it confused i believe it was that people thought that am3 boards would work with a bios update but that wasnt a guarantee.
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May 24, 2011 10:53:58 PM

The "Bulldozer Rumors" thread is very informative on this; most of the guys who chime in over there have many interesting points to make while we're all waiting. In fact, "JF" a contributor to these hallowed forums is one of AMD's point people on this new release and has a video out on YouTube. The video's most poignant point is that no bench data or performance ratings will be available before launch, so stay tuned.

As for my original query regarding RAM, I've arrived at a couple of conclusions:

1. I'm not investing in any more DDR2 (or any other outdated equipment for that matter). I'll bite the bullet and get a new board first and then load up on lower cost, faster DDR3 RAM so that I'll never meet an application I can't run smoothly and efficiently while doing video work.

2. I'll sell off my Core2Duos but keep my Core2Quad for another year and a half or so. I'm not really considering any further upgrading around them.

3. I'm a bit more inclined at this point to settle for more RAM rather than higher overclock. Once I feel CPU performance bogging down, I'll plan another upgrade.
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a c 197 K Overclocking
May 25, 2011 1:47:43 PM

It's too late now, but I would have recommended buying more DDR2 memory than buying a G41-Combo. The G41 is a great board for an office PC, but the relatively low FSB freq makes a poor overclocker with any CPU with a 333 MHz FSB freq.

My other comment:
Core2 CPU's really cannot take advantage of the higher throughput of DDR3 RAM.

You should be able to get the E2160 up to at least 2.5 - 2.8 GHz in the G41 board.

I have an E6500 (2.93 GHz) running at 3.87 GHz in a G41-ES2L. Something like an E5200 series chip should run past 3.5 GHz.
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May 25, 2011 2:08:26 PM

Interesting point. So even with the q9550 and DDR3, you're saying that my performance increase on the G41-Combo will be minimal/marginal. Right now I've got the e2160 on it at 2.21Ghz and the only reason I picked up that board in the first place was to take advantage of DDR3, believing that it would improve my applications. But you think I'll be better served by adding DDR2 to the older Asus boards? The one thing I'm truly committed to is the AMD upgrade which means I'll be dropping the C2De8400 into the G-41 combo next. How do you think the G-41, e8400 and 2x4gb sticks of Patriot DDR3 will perform? Not worth it? Better left where it is with a DDR2 RAM upgrade?

Once I pick up the AMD board, one of these 775 boards goes: either the G-41 or the P5QPL. Don't want to get rid of the wrong one...

ASRock's got a 775 board that can take 16gbs of DDR3 for $80. I guess you wouldn't recommend that move either...?
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