Hard Lesson Learned

As long as I’ve been in IT, I’ve also been a gaming enthusiast/hobbyist.  Actually probably longer than I’ve been in IT, officially.  This leads to building your own rigs, and learning WAY more than I ever cared to know about consumer hardware architecture, and as the world has converged onto x86 architectures, it has actually come in handy more often than not.

So I’d like to share a hard lesson I learned over the weekend.   We’ll call this:   How NOT to fry your Core i7 processor!

One of the new things that were introduced with the Core i7 line, and I think this might even go as far back as the Core 2 Duo/Quad series of procs, is the advent of putting the system memory controller ON the dye.  For example, the proc I was running was the i7-920.  A 1st generation Core i7.

Secondly, one of the other newer things that have come out in recent years (and I believe this is also an Intel innovation) is the advent of “memory profiles.”   This allows the memory manufacturers (Kingston, Patriot, OCZ, Crucial, etc) to place metadata onto their memory chips that can be read by the BIOS and placed into a “profile” in the BIOS for the user to mass-select all of the optimal settings for that memory.   Things such as voltage, CAS Latency, and other timings.

What did I learn over the weekend?   These profiles do not take limitations of the memory controller on the processor into account.

My i7-920’s memory controller wants 1.5v.  The optimal settings in the profile of my Patriot memory was 1.65v.   When was the last time you heard good things about throwing excessive voltage into electronics?  :)

Flipped a switched annnnd…. Toast.

If you’re a DIY system builder, make sure you’re paying attention to the limitations of the processor and memory controller now, and not just grabbing the biggest baddest fastest 1600/2000 MHz, 1.65v DDR3 available.  I know it’s dirt-cheap right now, so it’s easy to overkill.  Keep in mind, this system has been running for almost 2 years now, but the memory was running in its Default configuration.  It was when I applied the memory profile is when things went bad.

Intel is working with me and RMA’ing the mobo/proc, and I’ve got to go find the right kind of memory.  I’ll keep you posted if I run into anything else interesting.

If you have any more detailed questions or comments, drop them in below.  Would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve experienced something similar.



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