I know this is a long post, hence the bold lettering for those who like to skim before delving in.
In order to salvage the last breath from my K9a2 Platinum I purchased a Phenom II 1100t and 4 more gigs of G.SKILL 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 1066 SDRAM (PC2 8500) Dual Channel memory, same memory as currently installed, in addition to WIN7 x64. In the spirit of salvaging the board I thought now would be a good time to learn about optimal bios settings in order wring out as much (stable) performance as possible. After I installed and tweaked Win7 x64 with the old CPU I successfully upgraded the bios for Phenom II support, installed the 1100t, extra memory, and two Megaflow 200 fans after cutting out the appropriate holes in the case's side panel with a Dremel tool.
The whole reason for this upgrade is to be able to utilize 8gb of RAM when using Cubase 6/64 plus Kontakt 4 and Reaktor which are both memory hogs.
I was disappointed when I set the memory speed in bios to 1066 and it caused multiple BSODs at the worst time; just when I thought things were stable enough to begin a project in earnest. I finally learned about and ran the MS memory utility and it detected a problem. I set the memory back to 800 and the utility did not detect any problems.
I have subsequently learned that the MoBo can't utilize 1066 RAM unless, as I understand, it's 2x4 single sided sticks installed in only two particular slots. There is no such RAM available on the market anymore so I'm stuck with what I have.
However, I spent about 30 hours over the past few days doing some research and this is what I've come up with.
By slightly overclocking the CPU to x14/2800, and making the following adjustments: setting FSB/Memory Ratio to 1:2 and increasing the FSB to 250, I was able to get the memory's speed up to 1000 (close enough). I also disabled Turbo Core and set voltages for memory and NB to 2.1 and 1.225 respectively. I left the CPU voltage set to "auto" after trying to bump it up a bit but getting temps between 54c to 57c while running Prime95 and monitoring via CPUID's hardware monitor. The memory timing, Ht voltage, Ht ratio, and Advanced DRAMM Configuration are also set to "auto". Spread Spectrum is disabled. I ran the memory utility again and it didn't detect any problems and CPUID indicates a core temp hovering around 50 while running Prime95 for three hours.
It would seem that I have unintentionally learned a bit about how to overclock while trying to get my RAM up to proper advertised speed. Even though I can't get the RAM all the way up to 1066 it would appear that in getting really close to it I have inadvertently gained a modest increased in my CPU speed; from 3.3 to 3.5. Nothing earthshaking considering I've read about "overclockers" getting 4.0 out of the 1100t but it seems to me I have solved the memory problem as best I can without risking instability and my interest was never in overclocking, just memory speed.
Or have I? The only drawback to all this I see right now is that the CPU fan runs at 100% all the time and it's loud even on the other side of a luan room partition. Can any of you more experienced builders see any problems with any of this" Is there potential for further insuring stability while maintaining the memory's current performance through additional bios tweaks?
Quick system view:
K9a2 Platinum V1 with latest bios
AMD Phenom II x6 3.3 1100t
G.SKILL 8GB (4 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR2 1066 SDRAM (PC2 8500) Dual Channel
ATI FIRE GL V3350 x2
EMU 1212m PCI Audio/MIDI Interface
Seagate SATA2 HD 500 x3 (audio/sampler/stills)
Seagate SATA2 HD 750 (video)
Dockable WD SATA2 HD 350 (OS/programs)*
Asus & Sony optical drives (ram/rom)
Quick bios view
CPU clock - x14/2800
CPU voltage - auto
FSB - 250
FSB/Memory Ratio - 1:2
Memory voltage - 2.1
Advanced DRAMM Configuration - auto
NB voltage - 1.225
Ht voltage - auto
Ht ratio - auto
Turbo Core - disabled
Spread Spectrum - disabled
C&Q - disabled
Prime95 Temperature Ranges
Small FFT - 53 - 55c
Large FFT - 49 to 51c
Blend - 47 to 49c
Thanks in advance,
*The audio OS drive is optimized for Cubase and installed in a docking bay in order to be switched out with another drive containing an OS optimized for video and still image editing. This dockable drive configuration eliminates the need for partitioning and has run stable for three years.
Wow, that's a pretty impressive workaround. Unfortunately, RAM speed doesn't tell the whole tale. your RAM timings/Cas latency are also important.
What are your RAM timings?
I think you should consider some sort of benchmarking to determine whether or not your workaround actually yields a faster system than, say, running everything at stock. If I've read this correctly, you are running your ram at 1000 as opposed to 800. That probably does not yield a perceivable benefit, especially if you've had to loosen your RAM timings to do so.
While faster RAM speed is nice, it doesn't amount to much at all in system performance. If your PC will run stable with 1000 Mhz. RAM speed, great. If not just set it to 800 Mhz. and be happy it doesn't crash.
@ eightdrunkengods: The timing is set to "auto". What would the overclocked timing be? Same as stock? Also, what freeware benchmarking tool can you suggest?
@ beenthere: I wondered about that but I felt kind of cheated and it passed all the tests at 1000MHz. Just for shizzles and gizzles I increased the FSB to increase the mem freq past 1000MHz and it failed; had to reset the mobo and start all over.
Since everything passed Prime95 I decided to bump the CPU to 3.63GHz. I increased the CPU and NB voltage accordingly and, while I was at it, I increased the HT ratio and it's voltage as well. Timings, as I said above, are still on auto. After running Prime95 again with these settings it's still solid, albeit, a bit hotter but still under 60c (57 - 58c) which can easily be lowered by replacing the stock CPU cooler. I'm on my laptop now so I don't have the exact voltage changes I made handy but I'll go ahead and post them when I'm back at the workstation.
I also took a moment to setup the fan properly in bios so it doesn't sound like a crop duster anymore. It now ramps up or down accordingly as it's supposed to.
I'm going to leave it here for now, unless anyone can suggest better timings for the OCed memory, and see how Cubase 6 runs. It certainly runs cooler (47c while running a loop with several plugins including Kontakt 4) than Prime95 so I don't know If I even need to replace the stock cooler.
I imagine this is how it is with OCing; once you get it solid at a conservative OC you want to go a bit higher but I think I'll stick with 3.63MHz if it stays stable.
I tried 5-5-5-15 2T and 4-4-4-12 1T; both required a reset. It seems that 5-5-5-15 2T, which is the stock setting for 1066MHz, works fine. I assume there are other setting I could try but I'm getting a little burned out after a full week of this.
I think a trip to the cinema is in order and after some death, destruction, popcorn, and soda pop I'll be ready for more. Hopefully I'll come back to more suggestions here.
I use CPUZ to determine memory timings. It works as well as anything and is generally useful.
I don't remember the DDR2 timings. The wikipedia page is good enough. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDR2_SDRAM. For each type of DDR2 (ex. DDR2-800) there are a few different standard timings. With latency, smaller is better, so the 4-4-4-12 timings are the fastest for DDR2-800 Notice that the "slower" types RAM can usually use tighter timings. If you end up running RAM slower than it's rated (i.e. your 1066 RAM running at 800), you can almost always set the timings to match standard DDR2-800 timings. (So, even though your RAM is 1066, you can almost definitely run it at 800 with one of the tighter DDR2-800 timings.)
This ends up reducing performance differences between "fast" (like 1066) and "slow" (like 800) RAM. So, in a super-simple scenario, running RAM at 800 (data rate) should be 20% slower than running it at 1000. However, if you run tighter timings at 800, it will not be that much slower - the difference may not actually be measurable outside of the most careful benchmark.
Time will tell if I'm totally stable but I think I may be indeed be good to go. I did bump up the CPU to 3.75 along with some voltages and the RAM is running 1000MHz at the stock 1066 timing of 5-5-5-15. Prime95's "small FFTs" test runs the temp up to 59-60c when ambient temps are in the 80's so I may need an aftermarket cooler for those really hot days here in SoCal; I say "may" because Cubase 6 doesn't push the CPU anywhere near where Prime95 does (doesn't even hit 50c). I've been looking at the Noctua NHD-14 but can't tell if it will even fit in my case; looks big.