Semi-newbie questions on processor/motherboard upgrade

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I have a home-built computer with an MS-6380 Motherboard, the K7T266
Pro, from several years back.  The bus speed is 133 MHz, and my
current processor is a 4-year old AMD Athlon running at 1200 MHz,
family/model/step 7.4.4.  (The processor has a 64 kb L1 data cache, 64
kb L1 instruction cache, a single 256 kbyte L2 cache.)  I plan to
upgrade now (new MB, processor, and memory, keeping everything else),
mainly because I am seeking more power for speech-to-text translation
(using Dragon Naturally Speaking).  However, a lot of technology has
changed since I last did this, so I have some semi-newbie questions.  

1.  I am looking at both AMD and Intel processors.  It's quite
confusing, because of the profusion of processors out there.  Let's
assume I do not get a low-end processor (that is, I do not get an
Intel Celeron or an AMD Sempron).  So, I would get an AMD Athlon
processor running somewhere around 2200 MHz, or an Intel Pentium 4 or
Pentium D running somewhere around 3200 MHz, maybe a bit faster.  

Either way -- between the extra speed, and improvements in the
internal architecture (plus the newer, faster memory), can I safely
assume I'll see least a doubling of performance, if not more?  I'd
really like to see the thing running at least three times faster.
Recommendations for a minimum processor, for both AMD and Intel, would
be appreciated.  

2.  For AMD, the slot 39 will give me an upgrade path for a faster,
dual-core processor if I want it later, as well as the AMD Athlon FX
-- yes?  The Athlon FX is mainly meant for gaming and other
high-powered video applications.  If I'm not doing that, I don't need
the FX -- true?

3.  I've read that the default heat sink and fan that comes with the
Athlon are not the best, and the fan is too noisy.  Someone
recommended the Thermalright XP-120 w/ a 120mm Fan.  Someone else
recommend the Thermaltake Venus 12 heatsink and fan.  Any other
suggestions?  Key goal is both good cooling, and a *quiet* fan -- and
I'm willing to pay for it.

4.  If I go with Intel, the processor speeds seem to be much faster,
but again, I've read the processor speeds are not exactly comparable.
If I get, say, an Intel processor running at somewhere around 3 to 3.5
MHz, will that give me the performance boost I am seeking?  Do I need
this hyperthreading stuff?  Also, if I understand correctly, I should
get the socket 775 for upgrade capability -- yes?

5.  I am running Windows 2000, and I expect to continue to use that.
With Win2000, is there any benefit to getting a dual-core processor?
Are these processors (AMD or Intel) smart enough to run the operating
system on one core, and applications on another, even without explicit
dual-core support in the OS?

6.  Do I understand this correctly:  The processors already come with
the heat gel on them, which automatically gets glued to the heat sink
after the processor heats up the first time?

7.  Also:  The heat sinks can be a pain to attach to the motherboards,
yes?  So if, during attachment, I find myself really having to put
pressure on, that is normal?

8.  Anything else I should be asking?  Again, the goal is to keep the
rest of the computer, and just get a new MB, processor, and memory,
with at least a doubling of performance, but preferably 3-fold or

Thanks in advance for all replies.

Steve O.

"Spying On The College Of Your Choice" -- How to pick the college that is the
Best Match for a high school student's needs.

Re: Semi-newbie questions on processor/motherboard upgrade

Here are the parts where I can give some useful information:
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They come with a thermal pad, which melts and seals gaps.

What I have done is to remove the thermal pad with a wooden or plastic
tool and rubbing alcohol, wet-sand the heat sink with automotive
sandpaper on a dead-flat surface, and apply a thin smear of Arctic
Silver.  It lowers the temperature of the CPU under a heavy load
versus the stock thermal pad.

I have seen crazy contraptions, peltier effect and what-not, and I
think a larger, slower-spinning fan is better.

Here is what I did:

Presumably you will want something more aesthetically palatable, which
is available in the form of a case with a side vent and fan.

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Use bright lighting and go at it slow.  They aren't that bad.  You
might have to use a bit of pressure to squeeze a metal clip onto a
plastic catch.


Re: Semi-newbie questions on processor/motherboard upgrade


I would go for an AMD Athlon 3700+ (San Diego) Socket 939 (1MB L2 cache) on
a  ASUS or Abit 3rd Eye motherboards.  I have build couple of these for
myself and friends using the supplied heatsink and fan, the fan is
relatively quieter and the Processor itself generally operates much cooler
than the Intel Pentium 4 chips.
I upgraded from an Athlon XP 2600 and the performance boost was more than
three times.

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Re: Semi-newbie questions on processor/motherboard upgrade

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1) Yes. A doubling would be a fair estimate. You will get extra memory
   bandwidth, from the use of dual channel (two matched sticks) of
   memory, and the memory side of things will be more improved than the

   I tried researching the characteristics of Dragon Naturally Speaking
   before and I was shocked at the non-technical nature of the available
   info. It is pretty hard to tell exactly what that program needs the most.
   If the program actually tries to construct meaningful phrases, using
   grammar rules, then perhaps no matter how fast the processor is, there
   will always be a <one phrase> delay between spoken word and response.

   I did not see any evidence that Dragon benefits from dual core. Your
   applications could run on one core, and Dragon on the other, so that
   is a possible improvement by going dual core.

2) The socket is changing to AM2, and new AM2 processors have just been
   introduced. The AM2 version uses DDR2 memory. For longest motherboard
   life, you would probably want to go AM2. There is no performance
   incentive, except that future developments will be for the AM2
   socket. AM2 and 939 processors are frequently price matched, so as
   to not distort the market.

   The Athlon64 family is distinguished by the amount of L2 cache
   provided. The most expensive processors have 1MB. The run of the
   mill, 512KB. The $65 Sempron for AM2, has only 128KB of cache.
   I would not say AthlonFX is "restricted to gaming", but it is
   far enough up the price curve, to make it an enthusiast (cost
   be damned) product. Whether you buy a $1000 processor from AMD
   or a $1000 processor from Intel, they are "rich guy" processors.
   You get most of the benefit, by spending $200-$300.

3) Depending on exactly which processor you end up buying, I would
   use the heatsink/fan that ships with the product, while you are
   doing your initial testing. You need to gauge for yourself, exactly
   how much of a pig the current cooler is, and how expensive an
   after market cooler to get. If the processor sits at 70C when no
   applications are running, then you need a serious cooler. If it
   idles at 40C, you've got nothing to worry about.

   There is no particular rush to getting the after market cooler.
   You should spend the time, researching what coolers are good,
   for the socket you've selected, before buying a cooler. At
   least 50% of the coolers on the market, are no better than
   the retail cooler, so it is easy to make a mistake, especially
   if you "think you're getting a deal". And for AM2 socket right
   now, there might not be that many good choices out there.

4) Performance = clock_rate * IPC

   Everyone stares at the clock rate, but they forget that the
   instructions per clock are also part of the equation. That is
   how a 2GHz processor from one company, can match a 3GHz processor
   from another company.

   If you have a single core, and Hyperthreading is being offered
   for free, you take it. Generally, there will be a BIOS setting,
   where you can enable or disable it, and you can then benchmark
   your typical work pattern and see whether it helps or not.
   Sometimes there is thrashing, and Hyperthreading gives less
   performance. Sometimes, your system is able to do 10% more
   work, when Hyperthreading is enabled. It varies.

   For Intel, the LGA775 socket has been used for a while. But
   when new processors are introduced, sometimes there are
   electrical differences that spell the need for a new motherboard.
   So, yes, you could shop for a Conroe ready LGA775 motherboard,
   and that would give you the best longevity we can predict at
   the current time. But that won't stop Intel coming up with another
   curve ball in a year's time.

5) (I cannot find a good web page with an answer for this one.)

6) Yes. The retail heatsink comes with a phase change thermal material
   on it. Generally good for one application. Some of the materials
   scratch easily. You can always clean it off later, and apply your
   favorite brand of paste to take its place.

7) Intel has a slide set that addresses why the flexure of the
   socket area is not supposed to be a problem. My solution, is
   to find an aftermarket solution that screws into place, and
   then I can use my own judgement as to how much pressure to
   apply. Thermal paste doesn't need quite as much pressure as
   other kinds of thermal interface materials, so I don't have to
   do up the screws as tight, when using the paste. Part of the
   reason for the excessive pressure, is it is intended to withstand
   a certain amount of shock (like if you accidently kick your PC).

   One of my biggest concerns with some of Intel's solutions, is
   they are fine when the dimensions of the various piece parts
   are correct. But there have been cases, where people have
   tightened up the levers on the retail Intel solution, and
   obviously something is not right, and way too much pressure
   was applied to the board and socket area. Some people have
   a hard time figuring out why these solutions don't fit

   While I haven't used one, I don't like the look of the latest
   Intel push-pin solution. It doesn't look substantial enough
   for the job.

8) "Again, the goal is to keep the rest of the computer, and just
    get a new MB, processor, and memory"

   I agree with that philosophy, up to a point. If we are talking
   about reusing an AGP video card you bought 4 years ago, I'd
   say the choice is poorly thought out. PCI Express graphics
   is the future, and at some point, you and the old video
   card have to part ways.

   You can get microATX sized motherboards (9.6"x9.6", with maybe
   three PCI slots), and these can have built-in graphics in
   the Northbridge. But for better future proofing, a full
   sized board, with a good BIOS in it, lots of expansion slots,
   is the way to go. If the microATX motherboards were better
   designed, I might lean more in that direction. Usually, they
   are designed for the cheapest price point, and are intended for
   mass installation in businesses.

   If you just bought a high end AGP video card yesterday, and
   want to reuse it, then I can understand that.
   For example, there are boards like P5P800 SE that take
   AGP graphics, DDR memory, and can handle everything except a Conroe
   via the LGA775 socket. So, that is an option. There can be
   other reasons for leaning towards an older chipset, like if you
   had a Canopus hardware assisted video editing system, or multiple
   audio recording cards to install in the computer. Some of the newest
   systems may not be tuned well, when it comes to specialized PCI
   hardware products.

   Once you've decided on the processor you are going to use,
   then ask the question again, providing a list of what hardware
   is to be reused etc. You will need to ask the question again
   anyway, when it comes time to select a power supply - the power
   supply choice is influenced by the processor selected, and by
   the video card, as some of the high end video cards now are
   drawing 120 watts max. Your old power supply may not be up to
   the task, depending on which (hot running) new processor you get.


Re: Semi-newbie questions on processor/motherboard upgrade

Steven O. wrote:
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I bought a Sempron 3200+ And it is really nice for me, even for games.
The text to speech is something i gave up on years ago, 'cause for me,
the accuracy actually degraded with practice. :(  Pretty much anything
new you buy will have adequite processor power for voice recognition.

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I've seen a lot of this, people want to plan for upgrades of
processors, but they rarely actually do, before they can't find a
compatible processor anymore, and the socket designs have moved on.

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The one that came with my sempron (only weeks old) is quiet. May be a
case of Your Milage May Vary, But i'm pretty happy with it so far.

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That's true. It's called the Megahertz Myth. The top clock speeds have
been flatlining at 3.something GHZ for years. But the performance of
the newer chips is still improving.

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  Do I need
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No. If you go with on-chip multiprocessing, go with a dual core. HT
isn't that great of a performance boost.

  Also, if I understand correctly, I should
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See above, upgrade proofing rarely works out.

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Yes. Should be just fine.

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It doesn't work quite that way. But the work is still divided up
reasonably well, for multitasking OSes.

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HMM. Some is OK, but if you have to reef on it, You may be doing
something wrong. The newer heatsink mounts are better, a lot easier to
put in.

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Yes. Your decision to keep your hard drive, and video card now limits
your choices. Both technologies have moved on. You will need to find a
board that still supports AGP, and preferably one that still has two
IDE channels.

Increasing the ram will help more than processor speed for the speech

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