Upgrade Guide

SAN FRANCISCO (03/03/2000) - Do you have processor envy? A CPU upgrade can satisfy your power lust, boosting your Pentium, Pentium MMX, or K6 CPU to between 333 and 400 MHz.

Most upgrade kits use the AMD K6-2 processor and cost between $150 and $200.

And an older (up to 333-MHz) Pentium II system can be upgraded to 400 or 500 MHz with one of Evergreen Technologies Inc.'s Performa upgrades, which use Celeron chips and sell for $130 to $230). Finally, if your Pentium II is fairly new (about 18 months or less) and your motherboard is compatible, you could upgrade to a new Pentium III, such as a PIII-500 (about $250) or a PIII-600 ($500).

As PC prices fall, consider whether upgrading the CPU is worth it. Usually, you can expect only about a 25 percent overall improvement when you upgrade an old PC. Getting more requires upgrading other components, like the hard drive.

If you can't double a system's speed, a CPU upgrade probably isn't worthwhile.

Further, if the cost exceeds 75 percent of the price of a new system, buy a new PC.

If you decide to upgrade, do two things first: Back up your hard drive and check that your PC's BIOS is up to date (see the upgrade maker's Web site).

Stan Miastkowski is a contributing editor for PC World.


Benefits: Faster performance, multimedia commands speed up latest graphics softwareCost: Pentium or K6-2 processor upgrade, $150 to $200; Pentium II processor upgrade, $130 to $230; Pentium III processor upgrade, $250 to $500Time required: 30 to 60 minutesEquipment required: Phillips screwdriver, needle-nose pliers, antistatic wrist strapExpertise level: IntermediateVendors: Evergreen Technologies (www.evergreennow.com), Intel (www.intel.com), Kingston Technology (www.kingston.com), PowerLeap (www.powerleap.com)UPGRADING A PENTIUM- OR K6-BASED PC1. Remove the old CPU. Turn off your PC, but leave it plugged in--a safeguard against static damage. To reach the CPU, you may first have to move cables or add-in cards. Disconnect the power cable to the CPU fan, if any. The fan or heat sink may have to come off separately.

Note which corner of the CPU has a small diagonal cut and (usually) a dot. That is pin 1. Put a masking tape mark near pin 1 on the motherboard to ensure easy insertion of your new CPU.

Touch a metal part of the case (to ground yourself) and with your other hand gently lift the CPU-release lever. Carefully pull the processor straight out of its socket.

2. Insert the new CPU. Remove the upgrade processor from its protective packaging and carefully insert it into the socket. Make sure you have pin 1 of the CPU well aligned with pin 1 of the socket. If it's aligned improperly, turning on the system's power may ruin your new CPU.

Press the CPU down firmly into the socket with your finger and push down the locking lever. Connect the CPU's fan to its power connector.

3. Set the motherboard jumpers. To get maximum performance from your processor upgrade, you must set your motherboard's bus speed to 66 MHz. In addition, you must set the motherboard's clock multiplier to its maximum value, usually 3.5X.

Although some motherboards clearly mark the setting, you'll probably need to check your board's manual. And some newer motherboards don't have jumpers, in which case the new CPU upgrade should set things up on its own.

Don't put the cover back on your PC until you're sure things are working correctly. If everything seems okay, run your applications to make sure. But if nothing happens when you turn it on, power down and check to see that the CPU is inserted properly. If you still have problems, don't hesitate to call tech support.


1. Remove the old CPU. Since Pentium II-based PCs keep power flowing through the motherboard even when they're turned off, unplug the PC after you turn it off and use an antistatic wrist strap.

Remove the PC's cover. If your PII has a fan, unplug its power connector. If it has a heat sink instead, remove that. You won't reinstall it, since upgrade CPUs have a built-in fan.

Small levers hold the PII cartridge in a frame. Press them both until they pop into an open position. Grasp the cartridge firmly, and carefully rock it from side to side until it starts to loosen; then gently pull it out of the frame.

2. Insert the new processor cartridge. Remove the new processor from its packaging. Check the processor's manual to determine the proper orientation for its cartridge in the motherboard slot. Then gently slide the cartridge into the frame until it is above the slot. At that point, press down firmly until the levers on the frame click into place. Finally, connect the fan power connector to the motherboard.

3. Set the speed jumper. Your computer's motherboard may have a jumper for setting the processor speed. If it does, set the jumper to match the new processor speed. (If the upgrade processor you've installed runs at a speed faster than the maximum jumper setting, just set the jumpers to the fastest speed that is available.)If your motherboard doesn't have jumpers, the CPU's speed is usually set from the built-in setup utility. (Procedures in this case vary.)And some motherboards sense which processor is installed and set themselves up.

If your system won't start, switch it off and make sure the cartridge is firmly inserted in the slot. If your cartridge is in the slot correctly but your system still won't start, don't hesitate to call the upgrade company's tech support.

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENTEvergreen Technologies offers a different type of CPU upgrade designed to get the maximum possible performance from older systems. The AcceleraPCI is a PCI add-in card with an onboard Celeron CPU coupled with dedicated high-speed PC-100 SDRAM.

After you plug it into a PCI slot, the AcceleraPCI takes over from your motherboard's CPU and memory (which you leave installed). Unfortunately, it is not compatible with all systems. To test for compatibility of the AcceleraPCI with your system, Evergreen provides "Pre-Qual" software that you can download from its Web site (www.evergreennow.com).

It's an expensive upgrade, too, with prices starting at $349 for a card supporting a 400-MHz Celeron and 64MB of PC-100 SDRAM.

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