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How to Upgrade a CPU, part 1 - page 2

AMD vs. Intel, New RAM, New PC!

  • January 11, 2010
  • By Carla Schroder
If you're already using DDR2 RAM, don't lose any sleep over upgrading to the fastest and newest because there isn't much difference. Buying new RAM these days is an exercise in buyer beware anyway, because some motherboards are very fussy about which RAM they will condescend to work with. It's unlikely that your motherboard manufacturer will post updated compatibility information, so stick with the good brands like Kingston and Crucial, and use their compatibility tables. Both guarantee that their RAM will work if they say it is supposed to, and will help you if you have any problems.

AMD Socket Compatibility, Yeah Whatever

There are several gotchas when it comes to matching CPU to motherboard. AMD continues its vexing game of change-the-socket. AM3 processors can supposedly run in AM2+ and AM2 sockets, but AM2/2+ processors won't work in AM3 sockets. The benefits of AM3 and AM+ are rather vague. AM3 processors support DDR3 RAM, AM2/2+ don't. Which is a dubious benefit, given the high cost and nebulous performance gains of DDR3 memory.

AM2+ has at least a couple of differences from AM2. It supports HyperTransport 3.0, 2.6GHz, where AM2 has HyperTransport 2.0 (1 GHz). AM2+ supposedly has better power management, giving each core and the integrated memory controller individual power controls. AM2+ CPUs work in AM2 sockets, but they will run like AM2 CPUs. AM2 CPUs will work in AM2+ sockets if the motherboard supports it. Not all of them do. Moral: don't assume, verify.

Sheesh, Just Buy a New PC

After all that you might be thinking "To heck with it, I'm just buying a new PC from a good Linux-friendly vendor." I spent a lot of time sorting this out, so it can be a nasty time-sink. Hopefully this will help AMD users decide what to do. Come back Wednesday for some nice Intel information, and a step-by-step CPU replacement howto, with photos. The Internet of full of horribly wrong howtos, which is truly amazing given how easy it is to get correct information. Hint: get the manufacturer's instructions, and come back to read part 2.

Carla Schroder is the author of the Linux Cookbook and the Linux Networking Cookbook (O'Reilly Media), the upcoming "Building a Digital Sound Studio with Audacity" (NoStarch Press), a lifelong book lover, and the managing editor of LinuxPlanet and Linux Today.
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