Overclocking Dell Vostro 220

Update (06-09-10): at least one report in the comments confirm stability of the hack when applied on the E7500 processor as well. Its almost one year down the road from the original hack and my E7400 is still running smoothly at 3500 MHz. I recently took the Dell apart again to fit a new Intel X25-M SSD 80 GB in it and was quite surprised at how absolutely clogged up the machine was with dust; biyearly hovering of PSU and CPU fans is definitely called for.

This particular hardware hack was performed using a modified edition of the so-called BSEL hack on the Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 processor that I got with the machine from Dell. Unfortunately only older guides for BSEL hacks seem to be floating about and most of them require use of conductive ink. Not so easy.

Basically after finding image on ocforums.com showing a 1066 MHz to 1333 MHz FSB hack performed by using tape I rejoiced; the worst thing that could possibly happen was a total Dell meltdown.

So I took the Vostro apart (they are by the way incredibly nicely build (and silent) machines) and put, I’m sorry but yes, ordinary-99-penny-postoffice-brown-tape over one of the pins on the bottom of the CPU. This tape was cut out to fit on a scientific scale by using a pair of kitchen scissors. See image.

Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 BSEL Overclock

Intel Core 2 Duo E7400 BSEL Overclock

Prime95 2hrs stress testing

Prime95 & Core Temp after 2hrs of stress testing

This worked when I put in back in the computer and actually allowed me to boot into Windows with a 3491.3 MHz (332.5 * 10.5) clock speed, so I decided to run a few benchmarks. First of all I did 2 hours of Prime95 stress testing (I know probably too little but the temp stabilized already after an hour so I’m not concerned) which worked flawlessly and only took the temp up to a max of 50c (measured with Core Temp) on one of the cores.

CPU-Z stats

CPU-Z stats

Then, seeing as the temperature was stable and so forth I found it prudent to put some actual evidence up to suggest that this is not total bullcr*p, tada, enter CPU-Z verified overclock, or seeing as you may find me trustworthy anywho simply have a closer look at the image on the left.

As a final little prod to make it clear that this is absolutely all in all brilliant I took an extended screenshot from PerformanceTest (nice benchmark software from PassMark; they have free 30 day trial out and that should do fine if all you want to do is ascertain the awesomeness of your overclocking adventure). In order to view the image full resolution you’ll have to click it a few times to get the fullscreen version and then make sure your browser isn’t scaling it to see the neato details. One more thing: “This Computer” represents the 3.50 GHz overclock and the other two are simply in there for you to see that not only is the CPU at this speed about 15-20% faster than stock speed but it also about 15% faster than the much more expensive Core 2 Duo E8400 (!)

CPU PerformanceTest 7.0 Benchmark

CPU PerformanceTest 7.0 Benchmark

What the above does not touch upon is the fact that the increased FSB (1066MHz to 1333MHz) has allowed everything from the (admittedly shitty) integrated graphics card to the RAM to run 10 to 15% faster. And it shows. Now.. about that solid state drive..

Clean Laptop Guide

Ok, so my laptop fan is running 24/7 and even seems to be getting slower – chances are that it is being auto-throttled because of dust accumulated in the CPU vent (and maybe, as you’ll see, because the copper heatsink is basically not properly attached!)

So there’s a huge amount of guides out there that are all very professional and neat. And long. And f*cking tedious. And also.. most of the time the exact manual that -you- (read: me!) need is simply not there to be found.

Fret not – help is here to be had!!

Because you see, I have a 100% un-authorized (seriously I take no responsibility what-so-ever if your precious machine craps out because of this guide) way of cleaning up your laptop and making it dust free (true).. and sparkling new (patently a lie). Also, if you follow the most crazy part of this guide the heatsink will end up being more tightly attached to the CPU, meaning better heat-transfer which again translates to a colder & quieter running laptop!

A) find a large unobstructed space (say your bed) and take the laptop completely apart by slowly and methodically taking out first the battery and then the harddrive and then ALL the screws you can find in it.

B) Check a couple of the guides above and then realize that you’ll need to gentle take off the keyboard. And then a lot more. Be sure to NOT be violent and GENTLY loosen the connectors from the keyboard/mousepad/powerbutton..etc. before you lift off the final bits leaving the motherboard exposed. The machine is naked now and you should seriously start thinking about having grabbed a water tap to make sure you grounded yourself before you started taking the machine apart.

C) Yes, it will look somewhat like this:

Notice that all the screws are laid out in a super organized pattern around the crime scene

Notice that all the screws are laid out in a super organized pattern around the crime scene

D) Notice that all of this dust crap is stuck in the copper CPU air vent, I got a hover and cleaned it out (be sure to see the fullres pic for the dusty un-goodness):

This crap needs to go - try and hover up a bare minimum of screws, chances are you'll need them

This crap needs to go - try and hover up a bare minimum of screws, chances are you'll need them

E) Yet the fun was just beginning since I then noticed that the copper heatsink seemed oddly loose on the CPU. Basic reason was that the heatsink was attached too loosely to begin with allowing it to wobble slightly from side to side over time causing all of the thermal paste to disappear from the actual CPU core. Crap. Look and see:

There should be thermal paste -in- that square, not around it.

There should be thermal paste -in- that square, not around it. This was alleviated by scoping some of the stuff back on an applying thinly with a knife's edge - do NOT use fingers, thermal paste is probably more or less unwell from a health perspective

D) Then things got really.. special. Basically I hated the fact that the heatsink was applied with the same force that some very vague specimens shake your hand: un-freaking-forcefully. So (..) I thought: “what will make the heatsink stick closer to the CPU”? And gladly answered myself: “A tea candle”. More specifically the aluminum from a tea candle that is (I know – not smart if the aluminum breaks off and short-circuitsĀ  your motherboard or a nano-mouse runs into your computer and builds a railgun with it). See following 3 pictures for instantaneous understanding of the situation and followingly prolific happiness.

These things will combine gracefully. They will.

These things will combine gracefully. They will.

This looks dodgy but in effect it is very close to high precision engineering done by Intel. All the time.

This looks dodgy but in effect it is very close to high precision engineering done by Intel. All the time.

The heatsink actually DOES fit a lot tighter. And by tighter, I mean better

The heatsink actually DOES fit a lot tighter. And by tighter, I mean better

So. The end of the story is that I then used my elephant memory to re-assemble the whole laptop and then wrote this “guide” with it. The happy side of the story is that it runs A LOT cooler now – I can once again do basic web work without having the fan run continually. Please do remember that laptops are somewhat valuable (largely depending on whether they are from this side of the closest historical millennium or not) before attempting taken one apart.

Whether it was mainly the removing of dust or the better contact between the heatsink and the CPU that did most of the job is hard to tell. My guesstimate is 60/40.