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Processor Upgrades

Since the 486, processor upgrades have been relatively easy for most systems. With the 486 and later processors, Intel designed in the capability to upgrade by designing standard sockets that would take a variety of processors. Thus, if you have a motherboard with Socket 3, you can put virtually any 486 processor in it; if you have a Socket 7 motherboard, it should be capable of accepting virtually any Pentium processor.

To maximize your motherboard, you can almost always upgrade to the fastest processor your particular board will support. Normally, that can be determined by the type of socket on the motherboard. Table 3.43 lists the fastest processor upgrade solution for a given processor socket.

Table 3.43 Maximum Processor Speeds by Socket

Socket Type

Fastest Processor Supported

Socket 1

5x86–133MHz with 3.3v adapter

Socket 2

5x86–133MHz with 3.3v adapter

Socket 3

5x86–133MHz

Socket 4

Pentium OverDrive 133MHz

Socket 5

Pentium MMX 233MHz or AMD-K6 with 2.8v adapter

Socket 7

AMD-K6-2, K6-3, up to 550MHz

Socket 8

Pentium Pro OverDrive (333MHz Pentium II performance)

Socket 370

Celeron 600MHz (66MHz bus)

Socket 370

Pentium III 850MHz (100MHz bus)

Socket 370

Pentium III 1000MHz (133MHz bus)

Slot 1

Celeron 600MHz (66MHz bus)

Slot 1

Pentium III 850MHz (100MHz bus)

Slot 1

Pentium III 1000MHz (133MHz bus)

Slot 2

Pentium III Xeon 550MHz (100MHz bus)


For example, if your motherboard has a Pentium Socket 5, you can install a Pentium MMX 233MHz processor with a 2.8v voltage regulator adapter, or optionally an AMD-K6, also with a voltage regulator adapter. If you have Socket 7, your motherboard should be capable of supporting the lower voltage Pentium MMX or AMD-K6 series directly without any adapters. The K6-2 and K6-3 are the fastest and best processors for Socket 7 motherboards.

Rather than purchasing processors and adapters separately, I normally recommend you purchase them together in a module from companies such as Kingston or Evergreen (see the Vendor List on the CD).

Upgrading the processor can, in some cases, double the performance of a system, such as if you were going from a Pentium 100 to an MMX 233. However, if you already have a Pentium 233, you already have the fastest processor that goes in that socket. In that case, you really should look into a complete motherboard change, which would let you upgrade to a Pentium II processor at the same time. If your chassis design is not proprietary and your system uses an industry standard Baby-AT or ATX motherboard design, I normally recommend changing the motherboard and processor rather than trying to find an upgrade processor that will work with your existing board.

OverDrive Processors

Intel at one time offered special OverDrive processors for upgrading systems. Often these were repackaged versions of the standard processors, sometimes including necessary voltage regulators and fans. Unfortunately they were normally overpriced, even when compared against purchasing a complete new motherboard and processor. They have all been withdrawn, and Intel has not announced any new versions. I normally don't recommend the OverDrive processors unless the deal is too good to pass up.

Processor Benchmarks

People love to know how fast (or slow) their computers are. We have always been interested in speed; it is human nature. To help us with this quest, various benchmark test programs can be used to measure different aspects of processor and system performance. Although no single numerical measurement can completely describe the performance of a complex device like a processor or a complete PC, benchmarks can be useful tools for comparing different components and systems.

However, the only truly accurate way to measure your system's performance is to test the system using the actual software applications you use. Though you think you might be testing one component of a system, often other parts of the system can have an effect. It is inaccurate to compare systems with different processors, for example, if they also have different amounts or types of memory, different hard disks, video cards, and so on. All these things and more will skew the test results.

Benchmarks can normally be divided into two kinds: component or system tests. Component benchmarks measure the performance of specific parts of a computer system, such as a processor, hard disk, video card, or CD-ROM drive, while system benchmarks typically measure the performance of the entire computer system running a given application or test suite.

Benchmarks are, at most, only one kind of information that you can use during the upgrading or purchasing process. You are best served by testing the system using your own set of software operating systems and applications and in the configuration you will be running.

There are several companies that specialize in benchmark tests and software. The following table lists the company and the benchmarks they are known for. You can contact these companies via the information in the Vendor List on the CD.

Company

Benchmarks Published

Benchmark Type

Intel

iCOMP index 3.0

Processor

Intel

iCOMP index 3.0

System Intel Media Benchmark

Business Applications

SYSmark/NT

System

Performance Corporation

(BAPCo)

 

Business Applications

SYSmark/NT, SYSmark95

System

Performance Corporation for Windows

(BAPCo)

 

Standard Performance

SPECint95

Processor

Evaluation Corporation

(SPEC)

 

Standard Performance

SPECint95,

Processor

Evaluation Corporation

SPECfp95

(SPEC)

Ziff-Davis Benchmark

CPUmark32

Processor Operation

Ziff-Davis Benchmark

Winstone 98

System Operation

Ziff-Davis Benchmark

WinBench 98

System Operation

Ziff-Davis Benchmark

CPUmark32, Winstone 98, WinBench 98, 3D WinBench 98

System Operation

Symantec Corporation

Norton SI32

Processor

Symantec Corporation

Norton SI32,

System

Norton Multimedia

Benchmark

 

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