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Shopping For DDR1 And Older Motherboards

Your DIY 4 GHz Dual Core Gaming Rig For $720
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Numerous letters and emails from our readers can't be wrong: You can even build a Pentium D 805 system using an older motherboard such as the Asus P5P800 with its Intel 865PE chipset. Our thoughts on this approach are that the three-phase regulator on the board surely can't cope with providing current to both processor cores safely and securely. That's why we recommend buying a socket 775 motherboard for under $100, as we indicate in our shopping list for this story. The Tom's Hardware Guide lab engineers remember only too well when we turned a voltage regulator into a puddle of melted solder during some overclocking experiments a couple of years ago. Current levels in excess of 100 amperes make this scenario a real risk.

Upgrading To Socket 775 With PCI-Express And SATA RAID

Since the middle of 2004, Intel's new platform has supported DDR2 RAM, PCI Express and socket 775 in retail products. Nevertheless the majority of users still work with platforms built around socket 478. That's what makes this a particularly good time to switch to this newer platform. You'll also notice a profound increase in functionality from the new chipsets included with the motherboard, compared to previous generations. You can find budget motherboards for as little as $85 or so, such as the Asrock motherboard that we recommend (while not yet available in North America, it's supposed to ship in the United States and Canada by July). This motherboard even includes integrated sound, network and RAID controllers.

Of course, switching to socket 775 also has other implications. That means in addition to a new processor and cooler, you'll also need to acquire new DDR2 memory modules and a PCI-Express graphics card. To take advantage of new Southbridge features, you'll also benefit from a hard disk that supportsnative command queuing (NCQ)...or perhaps even two of them, so you can take advantage of Intel's Matrix RAID drivers. We include such products in our shopping lists to help you take advantage of these newer, more powerful technologies.

DDR2-533 Or DDR2-667

Memory modules, of course, must meet compatibility requirements for the motherboard in which they reside. And the motherboard itself must also support dual-core processors at the same time. DDR2 memory modules have been available for nearly two years now, but only work with the latest Intel 945/955/975X chipsets. All other platforms work with DDR modules (typically DDR400), instead. Memory module specifications are determined by the motherboard chipset.

The motherboard's manual typically specifies memory requirements. DIMM modules feature a specific number of pins (240 for DDR2 and 184 for DDR) and must match up with memory slot into which they're inserted. This prevents inserting the wrong kind of module into an incompatible memory slot.

Be careful when inserting a DIMM into a memory slot. Too much pressure can damage leads built inside the motherboard itself. That's why you should proceed gently and with caution. A gentle rocking motion, which involves pushing down first on one corner of the module then the other, will let you easily move it into position. Retaining clips will snap into place as soon as the module is completely locked in. You can always check your work by removing the module and re-inserting it: When you release the retaining clips, it will pop up about a quarter of an inch after which you can safely pull it out of the memory socket before starting over.

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