Since Intel have released their latest Dual Core range AMD have slashed many of their prices. So I thought this was a good time to replace my year old (!) AMD 64-3200 with a shiney new AMD 64 X2 4600+.
The processor arrives a neat little box with a fairly hefty heatsink, fins, copper pipe and pre-applied TIM (Thermal Interface Material). Reading the instructions it all looked pretty simple so I set about uninstalling the existing processor.
Sweat #1. The retaining bracket of the existing heatsink is set into place with large plastic arm, unlocking this arm proved to be the first stage of making me sweat. Pulling the arm up is supposed to free the bracket, however the arm started to bend rather than turn. So after inspecting the bracket I managed to free the bottom end of the bracket which allowed the arm to easily swing free.
Sweat #2. The existing heatsink came away but become stuck on the second bracket location point. Not sure why, my view of this point was hindered by the PSU but with a bit of fiddling it eventually came free
Sweat #3. The last processor I’ve removed by hand was a 486Sx so this was all pretty much new to me, however it seemed simple enough. Pulling up the processor retaining arm was easy enough. I tried to pull the processor out but it wouldn’t budge. I wasn’t convinced the retaining arm was up properly so pulled it a bit harder. Suddenly the processor bay moved down a couple of mm <gulp>. Ok looks like it should do that since the processor was now easy to lift out. Hurray, stage 1 complete…uninstall successful
Sweat #4. After carefully removing the new processor from its packaging, whilst hanging off the grounded radiator, I carefully position the CPU over the slot. "Hmm, how am I going to line this up correctly with the…plop". The CPU went straight into the slot with zero fuss. Retaining arm down, job done.
Sweat of sweats #5. So far so good, now came the biggest battle…fitting the new heatsink. I carefully positioned the heatsink of the processor consious of getting the square of TIM to line up with the processor. If fitting in nice an easy. Now for retaining clip #1, "click". Retaining clip #2, "come on you s**", "come on…", motherboard creaking, "come on!". No joy. I took the heatsink back off and tried again at least another three times, each time looking dispearingly at the smudged TIM. For some reason I just couldn’t get both clips on. Eventually I resorted to brute force (and a fair dollop of ignorance) and finally "click"…hurray!
I’ve been reading a few stories about people having to re-install XP after fitting a dual core so with some trepidation I switched the machine back on. The BIOS startup showed the correct processor and continued to load XP (still holding breath). XP started fine, a ‘new hardware’ dialog popped up installed a new driver and everything was fine…or was it?
First things first, I took at look at the CPU temp’ probe. "32C", ok. "35", Huh. "40", hmm. "47", gulp. "50", eek. "47, 45, 47". Ok stabilised at high 40s, even for a dual core that seems a tad hot for doing very little. So I ran a performance benchmark and it seemed to be about 12% quicker – ho hum. The really odd thing was that Cool n’ Quiet utility was showing the processor to be constantly max’ed out. So after a little forum searching I found that I was running the Microsoft rather than AMD drivers.
Sweat #6. Tried to install latest drivers, "you must uninstall previous version". Ok, uninstalled previous version. Installed new version, "Fault, could not find necessary file". Oh no, so I’ve uninstalled some driver I didn’t install in the first place and the new ones won’t install. Rebooted and everything seemed fine. Tried to install the new drivers and it worked. Rebooted and Cool n’ quiet (CnQ) started working, also the usuall 4/5 second startup pause in Windows was gone. So it now seems like XP understands the dual core better and core temp was now stable at 32C (although under server load 47C) – better. However, re-running the performance test with CnQ the machine was now slower than it was with the 3200! So I’m little puzzled by that, perhaps the performance tests don’t enjoy having CnQ on.
[Edit remember to switch the Power Option scheme to minimal to get CnQ to work)
So overall upgrading from a 3200 to a 4600 was ok, the CPU temp has risen under load but but the rest of the temp’s have remained about the same. The performance doesn’t seem to be good when using the benchmarking tool ‘PerformanceTest’, but it does feel quicker to load the initial drivers and the like. Plus there isn’t the usual start menu lag when another application is opening. So it does feel much more like a true multitasking environment rather than time-sliced. One of main reasons for going dual core was to use Microsoft Virtual Server. It does seem to work better with dual core, still not as good has having the proper server but it doesn’t seem to "drop out" quite as much as it did before. For purely scientific reasons I now need to load up a few FPS games, just to see if there is any performance difference you understand.