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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, I finally got all of the parts to put my computer together.

I'm using an Apex MI-008 miniITX case, Core i3 530, Zotac H55-ITX motherboard, 2GB Kingston RAM, and 750GB WD Green HDD. I'm currently using the stock cooler and IGP only (no discrete GPU), though I'm considering other options for these.

This is my first computer build. Putting things together in the case wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. The only thing that is a tight fit is the power supply over the CPU heatsink. The power supply rests on top of the stock Intel cooler. I'd like to have a shorter cooler, but there really seem to be very few options.

I am running Vista, installed via external optical drive.

The OS install went smoothly. The BIOS settings were all set for easy startup -- recognized wireless USB mouse and external USB optical drive immediately.

I haven't tried overclocking at all yet, but have been monitoring temperatures in anticipation of doing that.

Before doing a BIOS update, Real Temp reported idle temps or around 48-53°C.

After doing the BIOS update, Real Temp reports my normal idle temps around 40-45°C. Under full load (Orthos), temps creep up to 90-93°C after about 10 minutes. (FYI, the BIOS update was easy and fast -- all within Windows.)

I decided I would flip the power supply. The normal configuration draws air from inside the case (just above the CPU) and exhausts out the back. This seems to conflict with the CPU heatsink fan, which is blowing down in roughly the same place. I read on NewEgg a couple of people had turned the PSU so it draws air from the top side (drilling holes in the case) instead of from within the case.

I'm also working on installing a 100mm fan on the side of the case. There isn't much room as the top half of the case has to slide back a little and then slide up for removal. I'll also need to drill a bunch of holes for the fan to blow through. I have a few more fans at my disposal, so I might also put one in the floor or maybe on the ceiling of the case.

It seems clear that the small case is contributing to high temperatures. Surely this will limit overclockability, though I'd like to improve the ventilation a bit and give it a go. Any advice on BIOS settings and safe voltages would be much appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Preliminary Overclocking:

I just started OCing the Zotac / i3. I'm very new to this, so if anyone spots an error in my ways, I'd appreciate your assistance.

I mostly followed the info in an Anandtech article from a few weeks ago link.

They achieved a speed of 3300MHz (over stock 2.93GHz).

How to:
*Raise Bclock to 150 (default is 133)
*Lower Vcore to 1.175V (default is 1.200V)
*Adjust Vdimm to 1.65V (default is ??)
*Manually set memory timing to 9-9-9-24-72 (default is 9-9-9-24-74)
*DRAM Frequency set to 1500MHz (default is Auto)

I had two problems with these details -- first, I'm not sure what the default memory voltage is, but I couldn't figure out whether it is more or less than 1.65V. There is an adjustment in the BIOS for memory voltage, but I'm not sure whether to keep it at default, increase, or decrease.

Second, I couldn't find a way to set the memory frequency to 1500. The options I found are Auto, 800, 1067, 1333, or 1600. Unsure of myself, I set it to 1333.

Following their instructions as closely as I could, I was able to achieve the same 3306MHz clock speed. I ran Orthos for 10 minutes without issue. Temperatures were a bit hotter than normal -- after 10 minutes at full load the cores reached 90C/93C. (At stock speed, after 10 minutes they reached about 84C/88C.)

Again, I don't know much about overclocking. My next guess was to increase the Bclock further, to 160.

This yielded a speed increase up to 3526MHz. Again, no apparent stability issues. I ran Orthos again for 10 minutes and, again, saw a rise in temperatures -- this time, after 10 minutes, the cores had heated to 96C/98C. I suspect this is a bit above recommended max temperatures (keep in mind I'm using a mini-ITX case and don't have an abundance of ventilation at the moment).

What else should I do next (aside from increase the Bclock) that would lead to a well-rounded, stable overclock?

I'm thinking it's really about time to add another fan, maybe a 120...
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
There's a good chance I didn't seat the cooler well. I'm going to be taking everything apart another time or two, so I think I'll have an opportunity for a do-over.

The RAM I have is supposed to be good for 1067 or 1333. I don't understand the ratings very well, as it seems you can use speeds higher than that (even though the motherboard and RAM are both supposedly rated up to 1333). If 1500 is good, then it makes sense that 1600 would be better -- I was just trying to follow Anandtech's infinitely greater wisdom/experience.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I picked up an Antec 3-speed 120mm fan and mounted it in the floor of my case for intake (not as easy as it sounds...the tray below the motherboard is just long enough that the 120mm fan wouldn't fit on the floor of the case until I cut a notch in it). I also added some feet about an inch tall to help with airflow.

This has helped significantly with reducing temperatures. I did remove and reattach the cooler, but I'm still using the stock cooler and didn't replace the thermal compound.

I did some load testing at 3.3GHz and also at 3.5GHz to see what kind of temperatures I would get (Orthos for 10 minutes, 120mm fan at high speed).

3.3GHz (Bclock at 150)
65/68C with case off
57/60C with case on*

3.5GHz (Bclock at 160)
61/63C with case on


(*It seemed a bit strange temperatures would be cooler with the case on than off, but I guess not surprising considering the direction of the fans.)

I tried upping the Bclock to 165, but Windows would not start properly. Does this indicate I need to increase the core voltage? I still have the core voltage set to 1.175, so I'm still plenty comfortable increasing it -- just not sure if that's the issue or if there might be something else to check.

 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well, unfortunately I made a mistake -- I installed Vista from an upgrade disc, forgetting that I wouldn't be able to activate it without first having installed XP/Vista/etc.

I found a trick online, though -- once you have Vista installed, you can run the installer again from within Vista and reinstall the OS. Then you are able to activate, even without having a pre-installed, pre-activated OS. The downside is that I had to do all of the Vista Windows Updates again, which takes about half a day.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Well, Vista is back in place and I'm back to overclock.

I've done a few tests and here's what I found (keep in mind, 2.93GHz is stock, I had previously reached 3.3GHz and 3.52GHz):

3746MHz -- Increased Bclock to 170, Core voltage to 1.30V
Climbed up to 81C in Orthos after 10 minutes (idle temps around 33-37C)
Super Pi 1M in 11.623 seconds

3834MHz -- Increased Bclock to 174, Core voltage at 1.30V, Memory frequency set to 'Default'
Orthos temps rose to 82/83C after 10 mins (idle temps around 34-38C)
Super Pi 1M in 11.282 seconds

3922MHz -- Increased Bclock to 178, Core voltage at 1.30V
Up to 84/85C after 10 mins in Orthos (idle temps around 35-39C)

I have tried increasing Bclock to 180 (3966MHz) a couple of times and can get into Windows, but the system seems to freeze up a short while later. I've tried this with the same voltage as above, and also by increasing memory voltage by .04V (which I think brings it to 1.54V).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ok. I've made a few updates since my last post.

First, I got a deal on a Windows 7 Ultimate upgrade ($50) so I made the switch from Vista 32-bit to Win7 32-bit.

Second, I'm testing using a graphics card -- my friend's 9400GT. It's by no means a great GPU, but my score in 3dMark 06 jumps quite a bit from the stock IGP. It's a bit noisy and I haven't found a way to adjust the GPU fan, so I don't think it's a long-term solution.

Last [but not least], I'm proud to announce I have smashed into the 4GHz range -- currently running at 4010MHz.
I was trying for a while to make sense of the DRAM frequency and timings and so on. I eventually came to the conclusion that perhaps the apparent instability I had encountered around 3.9GHz was due to the fact that the RAM was running around 1900MHz. I got cheap Kingston ValueRAM, which is only rated for 1067-1333.

Changing the DRAM Frequency setting in the BIOS allowed me to switch down to 1067 speed, bringing the overall memory frequency into a much more manageable range (currently at 1458MHz). There is also a BIOS option for 800 speed. I was not able to get the computer to boot up at 800 speed, though perhaps it would with a higher core speed.

Bclock is set to 182, Vcore is 1.35V, I think I have RAM at the stock voltage, memory timings are automatic, and DRAM frequency is 1067.

I intend to push it faster, but I was able to run Orthos for a full hour without issue at 4GHz. Temperatures reached 90+ degrees...probably not helped by the addition of a graphics card.

The attached screenshot shows my new best in Super Pi -- 10.888 seconds.
 

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For a first time overclocker reaching 4ghz is pretty awesome. I take it you have done quite a bit of research before attempting this project. Great work, I love mini-builds like these
Throw a 5670 into that rig and you will be playing any games around...
 

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Quote:


Originally Posted by The Wasp
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Yep, that's the one...nice to see it's on sale again.

I've been happy with it, though I expect ECS' H55H-I to have better overclock support and to cost less. (Also Zotac's board is known to have a couple of quirks -- such as TurboBoost perhaps not working as expected, so keep that in mind.)

Thanks.

It looks like the Zotac board overclocks decently, and I can't find the ECS board for sale anywhere.

I have been wanting to put the Zotac+i3+8800GS into an Xbox 360 case, but I won't know if I can until ~April 19th.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Follow-up:
It seems stable running at 4GHz, though I haven't done much for lengthy stability testing.

I did have an issue coming out of Sleep mode though. The computer didn't want to start-up and the BIOS reset the Bclock back to 133 (all other settings remained as I had set them).

I had this issue before at lower speeds a couple of times. Perhaps I need to avoid using Sleep and shutdown instead.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I have had a couple of BSOD crashes running at 4010MHz.

Today I decided to up the ante. I increased Bclock from 182 to 184 and then 188 (4141MHz). I was able to get into Windows at 190, but not at 192. I ran at 188 Bclock for probably 15 minutes before crashing (VCore at 1.35V).

I have since backed it down to 182 again. I left VCore at 1.35V in the hope that it may help to fix whatever caused the two crashes. (Idle operating voltage, as read in CPU-Z, is around 1.11-1.20 volts.)
 
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