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AMD Blocks Unlock; Gigabyte Fights Back

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 46 comments

While meeting with Gigabyte at Computex, we were let in on a little bit of information regarding AMD's unlock-block for new Phenom II CPUs.

As many already know, it's possible to unlock the disabled cores on recent Phenom II processors, allowing you to get up to 4 cores working. Many who have tried this say that they gain some considerable speed, but there's a risk. The cores are disabled for a reason: they don't work properly. Because of this, AMD will, for example, sell a 4-core processor at 2-cores, for a much cheaper price.

AMD announced that it would release new microcode for motherboard BIOS updates that will disable the core-unlocking feature, preventing people from going to 4-cores if they purchased say a dual-core Phenom II.

The solution is not to upgrade your motherboard's BIOS if you have a board that can unlock cores.

But what if your motherboard maker releases BIOS updates that add or fix features? You would have to choose. Do you want fixes and improvements or do you want to stick with the ability to unlock CPU cores?

Gigabyte says you don't have to on its motherboards with Dual-BIOS technology.

Essentially, Gigabyte said that it will store the old microcode in the secondary BIOS chip, and allow you to do normal BIOS updates on the primary chip. Does this mean that you can't have a backup firmware of your latest BIOS should the first chip corrupt? Gigabyte told us no. The company has upgraded its BIOS chips to be able to store extra information.

The secondary BIOS chip will still backup your BIOS as usual, but have room for the old AMD microcode. When you update your BIOS, your system will boot using the new BIOS code but it will be injected with the old AMD microcode, allowing you to continue to unlock your CPU cores.

Kudos to Gigabyte for this feature.

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  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2009 12:23 AM
    Shades of win and fail at the same time...
  • 26 Hide
    NuclearShadow , June 7, 2009 12:28 AM
    Gotta love Gigabyte.
  • 24 Hide
    mindless728 , June 7, 2009 12:34 AM
    +1 Gigabyte
  • 20 Hide
    Gin Fushicho , June 7, 2009 12:54 AM
    Gigabyte is a bad boy. :p 
  • 17 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2009 1:00 AM
    I think you guys are missing the big picture on this one. There is a real reason the core is locked, it doesn't work correctly. It comes down to some people who will unlock the core, have bad experiences and blast AMD chips. They will have a freeze in the final deathmatch of the uber core unlocker tournament...

    Second reason is that people will unlock the cores, and later sell or give the computers to others whom may not have knowledge that a defective core is in use. Hopefully a hospital doesn't buy the computer and use it to run your life support system?
  • -2 Hide
    Gin Fushicho , June 7, 2009 1:06 AM
    ^+1 lol
  • 0 Hide
    gabeherb345 , June 7, 2009 1:09 AM
    haha Gigabyte lol +1
  • 7 Hide
    wonderingwhatis , June 7, 2009 1:32 AM
    ieatfishburritosI think you guys are missing the big picture on this one. There is a real reason the core is locked, it doesn't work correctly. It comes down to some people who will unlock the core, have bad experiences and blast AMD chips. They will have a freeze in the final deathmatch of the uber core unlocker tournament...Second reason is that people will unlock the cores, and later sell or give the computers to others whom may not have knowledge that a defective core is in use. Hopefully a hospital doesn't buy the computer and use it to run your life support system?


    While that is true. Your example of a hospital is not going to happen how they purchase through legitimate suppliers.

    Also it is not a certainty that you will in fact have problems related to the unlocked core/s.
  • 4 Hide
    leafblower29 , June 7, 2009 2:00 AM
    I now know what brand to buy for my next build.
  • 5 Hide
    icepick314 , June 7, 2009 2:23 AM
    i don't know why AMD would want to block such feature...

    if people wants to take risk in getting extra performance out of their CPU, then AMD should let them...

    it's not hurting AMD as people who unlocks disabled cores knows the risks to such hacks...
  • 1 Hide
    tayb , June 7, 2009 2:30 AM
    Gotta say... this is a bad idea for people to be doing this and especially bad for Gigabyte to be endorsing it and providing the means to do it. It is called respecting another company. The cores aren't locked because AMD wants you to buy a quad core instead of a dual core, they are locked because they don't function properly. What happens when someone unlocks the core and fry's their chip? Does that person return the chip to Best Buy and say it is defective? RTM? Bad business for AMD.
  • 0 Hide
    hyssar , June 7, 2009 2:34 AM
    To icepick314, the reason is that people may corrupt their own Windows installation and lose data, etc..

    While I agree they should keep that feature, I guess that 90% of the people unlocking their 4th core don't realize what it means losing a very important file that is due for tomorrow...
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2009 2:49 AM
    I wonder if this will play havoc on software activations...
  • 3 Hide
    kingnoobe , June 7, 2009 3:09 AM
    You people make it sound like unlocking a core WILL result in complete failure.. And while that might happen, just because amd disabled it doesn't mean it's gonna be completely bad.. There could be numerous reasons it got disabled.. 100% full load it crashes.. I don't know about amd, but my core i7 920 only got up to 100% once, and that's only because I prime tested it. It could've simply not have passed their QA, but still be alright for normal day use.

    Ya it's a risk, but I doubt anyways I doubt it's gonna take your whole computer with you if it does go. Max I'd say is it takes the motherboard out to.
  • 4 Hide
    laptopfreak , June 7, 2009 3:21 AM
    Not all CPUs with locked cores are faulty. Do you think that AMD would have enough faulty CPUs to keep up with the demands for X2 and X3 Phenom II's? If you get some stable cores then good for you, if not then too bad. No one said that it is 100% guaranteed success and unlockers know it. To avoid errors simply do hours of testing before you decide on using the CPU at the particular setting.
  • 3 Hide
    laptopfreak , June 7, 2009 3:29 AM
    Unlocking a Phenom II X2 550 $109.99 to a Phenom II X4 955 $245.00 sounds like a pretty good risk to take. I doubt that it will damage anything if the unlocking fails. You wouldn't try something risky on a computer with important files without assurance of stability first right?
  • 2 Hide
    Tindytim , June 7, 2009 3:29 AM
    LaptopFreakNot all CPUs with locked cores are faulty. Do you think that AMD would have enough faulty CPUs to keep up with the demands for X2 and X3 Phenom II's? If you get some stable cores then good for you, if not then too bad. No one said that it is 100% guaranteed success and unlockers know it. To avoid errors simply do hours of testing before you decide on using the CPU at the particular setting.

    Exactly, When AMD cannot meet the demand with faulty processors they will simply cripple ones that work. So by allowing people to do this, they are giving them a unit they didn't pay for, and they would have sold for more.
  • 1 Hide
    deltatux , June 7, 2009 3:54 AM
    I'm even more surprised that AMD is disabling the cores via software (or microcode) than doing a physical processor cutting to eliminate electrical flow to the "faulty" cores. I kinda think that AMD wants people to do this as a marketing stunt? I'm quite happy with my AMD Phenom II 810, but that's food for thought?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , June 7, 2009 4:15 AM
    In a batch of cpus if one is defective they all get discarded or bumped down to a lower chip. . . . I think.
  • -2 Hide
    redgarl , June 7, 2009 4:31 AM
    My 965P-DS3 died 3 times in less than a year... for that matter, I will never buy another Gigabyte product even if the moon was included with it.
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