Wednesday, December 27, 2006

BIOS Clean-up

I'm using dual monitors with Nighthawk and I was wondering whether this has any impact on the 3DMark06 benchmark testing. I disabled the 2nd monitor and ran 3DMark06. There was an improvement of 101 3DMarks (8638 for single monitor versus 8537 for dual monitor).

I haven't shared a lot of details about the assembly of Nighthawk. There's plenty of information on the Web already about this particular topic, e.g., "How to Build a PC" from Tom's Hardware (one of my favorite Web destinations for over 10 years.)

Here's another good article from Tom's Hardware: "Overclocking Guide" - Part I of a series still in the middle of publication. Don't forget to check out the Tom's Hardware forums on overclocking - a great source of information.

Today, my next step in overclocking Nighthawk was to "clean up" the BIOS.

I wanted to disable anything I am not planning on using.

More importantly, I wanted to "lock down" the PCI Express Frequency and the PCI Clock Synchronization in BIOS. The many components in a computer work together in synchronicity with each other. If you ask one component to work faster, it will cause other components it depends on do it its work and/or other components which depend on it to do their work to also work faster! Two components you definitely do not want running faster or slower are the PCI Express and PCI buses. Most of your peripheral devices (e.g., your disk drives) are connected to either of these buses. The most common cause of instability problems when overclocking is when either or both of these clocks are set to the wrong values, inadvertently or intentionally.

Any performance gain to be realized from overclocking the PCI Express and PCI buses is negated by the certainty of system instability. It is simply not worth the certain agony and grief to follow.

Here are the BIOS changes I made to Nighthawk:

JumpFree Configuration

AI Tuning: Manual
PCI Express Frequency: 100
PCI Clock Synchronization: 33.33MHz
Spread Spectrum: Disabled

Note: I left all other new parameters from setting "AI Tuning" to manual at their default values for now.

CPU Configuration

C1E Support: Disabled
Vanderpool Technology: Disabled
Intel(R) SpeedStep(tm) tech.: Disabled

Vanderpool Technology (Intel's Virtualization Technology) can only be enabled or disabled after a cold start of the system. I may enable this at a later point in time when I start experimenting with Microsoft's Virtual PC. It is still unclear to me whether Vista and/or Virtual PC take advantage of this technology.

I saved the BIOS changes and restarted Nighthawk. I ran 3DMark06 to confirm that the BIOS changes had no adverse effects on performance. The score of 8536 3DMarks was off by only one point from the previous 8537 3DMarks (with dual monitors).

The only significant change I observed was that CPU temperature at idle is now at 43C/109F compared to 36C/97F prior to the BIOS changes. I may change the case fan settings from low to medium speed tomorrow.

That's all for today. I'm going flying - with Flight Simulator X on Nighthawk to do more testing!

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