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back to article Microsoft: Don't overclock Windows 8 unless you like our new BSOD

Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death is the curse of Windows. Not just its appearance, mid way through some serious game play or spreadsheeting, but the messages themselves - digital monologues on the existence of a problem, its possible causes and how you can fix it. Yeah, right. Just shut down and re-start like everybody else. …

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Anonymous Coward

Sooo...

...the bit where it says overclocking make your machine unstable turn out to be true after all. And major OEM who often right their own driver sets, or at least test them 1st before release are more stable than a minor one, who is likely to slap in different bits and bobs as they arrive.

Wow, who'd of thunked it.

However it's still a risk vs reward option. Pay more for less performance, or take the risk of it crashing. Your call.

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Re: Sooo...

You won't be paying much more, if anything at all, unless you are building a monster system, or you want a really nice case. For a middle of the road system, Dell and HP can buy the parts and put them together cheaper than you can.

(Having said that, HP wants $120 to go from 4GB of RAM to 8GB. When I can get 2x4GB Crucial DDR3 for $42, someone is being robbed. And the price hike to choose a beefier processor is substantially greater than the retail difference too).

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Re: Sooo...

Probably has more to do with people not knowing what they're doing and all the new fangled "overclock it for me" utilities. I've never used one, but I'd guess such utilities are heavy handed with the vcore. I've been running a Q6600 overclocked to 3.6GHz for the last five years without issues. The only BSODs were due to RAM issues, which as we all know, are all too common these days. In those five years I've probably been through three sets of DIMMs because one or both in a set failed. The memory, for what it's worth, is running at stock speeds and timings. I don't see a reason to mess with it.

Time to replace the old beast, though. I'd have never thought I'd have used it so long back when I built it.

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Linux

Re: Sooo...

Nonsense.

This is just an attempt to discourage consumers from buying from companies that aren't under Microsoft's thumb. White box vendor means someone that's not afraid of losing bulk discounts on Windows licenses.

Overclocking is an entirely separate issue.

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This is what Prime95 and that ilk is for.

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Alert

Prime95 for CPU but also Memtest for ram stability and both for at least 24hrs.

Most clockers I know, know what they are doing..

But that said most BSOD are from bad memory or bad settings (ie clocked badly).

I have never found a BSOD'ing machine that has not thrown a million errors in memtest.

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too many variables

Depends on the components! Dodgy rubbish mobo and psu + overclock = more crashes. Unlocking 2 extra cores on a dual core = more crashes. Mild overclock on a known good overclocking component with good PSU and mobo = probably ok.

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Headmaster

RAM Timings

I've found that the biggest cause of crashes on non OEM PCs is the RAM timings not being set in the bios correctly. The bios often resets them when you upgrade it and then phantom crashes start occurring. Its not something the average user would think about.

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Re: RAM Timings

Shouldn't those come from the SPD on the module and be known good?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RAM Timings

The SPD usually has default timings but overclockers like to push the envelope with more aggressive settings.

In fact, most high end memory is by definition "overclocked" and its SPD settings will in certain cases force it to perform at lower settings than rated.

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Gimp

So, to summarise...

Errm, so they're saying don't use Windows?

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Devil

Re: So, to summarise...

No.

The summary is - always use CPU frequency scaling and have a cooling system which has feedback control of some sorts - either 4 pin fans or 3 pin fans with integrated thermal sensors and rev control. Make sure you do not have hot pockets, etc too.

This would explain the rather strange laptop stats. The average laptop cooling system sucks bricks sidewize through a thin straw compared to a desktop. However, all of it is controlled by the OS (via acpi or whatever other interface is available) and cranked up to match the heat output. In addition to that air is taken from outside and dumped to the outside. There is no internal recirculation.

Out of all "other" reasons this is the most likely reason for "white box sucketh" results too. Most whitebox manufacturers do not have the resources to spend on analyzing and fixing airflow in their systems so they end up with hotspots here and there. Otherwise the parts which they use are not that different from "big labels".

By the way - the summary is totally valid for Linux too. If you want it stable - ensure that your cooling system operates properly and is matched by appropriate controls in the OS - lmsensors, fan control or the odd script which starts limiting the CPU frequency if the temperature crosses a particular threshold.

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Re: Make sure you do not have hot pockets

No, have ramen noodles instead.

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Re: So, to summarise...

"Errm, so they're saying don't use Windows?"

Yes. Well done. That is exactly the message you should take from this. Because when my CPU overheats or my RAM can't keep up with the memory timings I have set for it, it doesn't phase my Linux box in the slightest. Non-MS operating systems don't actually need reliable hardware to run. In fact, the processor is really only there for looks with them.

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Re: "Errm, so they're saying don't use Windows?"

It looks like I was not the only one who took:

According to Microsoft, the longer the TACT - the longer a PC runs continuously, without shutting down - the more likely it is to experience its first crash thanks to a CPU failure.

to imply that Windows systems have sever uptime limits compared to Linux systems.

I always knew that WindlowZE was a shitty O/S, and this now convinces me of that observation.

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FAIL

Re: "Errm, so they're saying don't use Windows?"

"It looks like I was not the only one who took:

According to Microsoft, the longer the TACT - the longer a PC runs continuously, without shutting down - the more likely it is to experience its first crash thanks to a CPU failure.

to imply that Windows systems have sever uptime limits compared to Linux systems.

I always knew that WindlowZE was a shitty O/S, and this now convinces me of that observation"

No, you are not the only illiterate moron here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So, to summarise...

Or the other way I can look at it is this another peice of propaganda from the church of MS.

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Happy

Re: So, to summarise...

No indeed. And also, the spurious 'Windows 8' in the article headline is misleading and rather naughty, as these are generic rules across the entire installed OS userbase.

Posted from a happily O/Cd i5 Win 7 lashup.

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Micosoft say

By from those OEM's who pay us for bulk licences or face the consequences.

Or am I reading this wrong.

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Stop

"Quality" OEMs

And as anyone who fixes PCs knows, we *never* have nightmares with shed-loads of Acer laptops and Dell desktops built to the headline price set by the marketing department to sell shed-loads of boxes to unwary buyers. As if.

</sarky-fucker>

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Pirate

Re: Micosoft say

You're reading it wrong, but sort of not.

Also it's just overclocked pcs crash more than not overclocked pcs, which is like saying people without ebola bleed less than people with ebola.

10/10 for stating the obvious and all that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Quality" OEMs

The word "quality" is likewise not something I would associate with my 5 1/2 year old HP work laptop's HW.

Note: I do have a replacement laptop (Dell) but my employer's admins seem incapable of imaging it correctly, and it takes me about 1.5 days to re-install all my open source utilities each time, making me more tolerant of the old HP pos.

I agree, MS is publishing interesting stats here, so let's not crap on them for doing so, "quality OEMs" aside.

What intrigued me was the increased likelihood of a first crash after long TACT and increased subsequent crashes probabilities after the first.

- heat buildup may be driving this and turning a computer off can't hurt.

- once you've had your first BSOD you may either have damaged your CPU/RAM. Or you have been issued a lemon in the first place and it will continue in that direction. Or your overclocking is incompetent and will remain so until fixed. In any case => more BSODs to be expected compared to a BSOD virgin.

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Errm...

What's this got to do with Windows 8? It's a study into all existing Windows PCs. And yes, most BSODs are caused by driver problems so naturally you'll get less problems with mass marketed, expensive, branded products than cheap own-brand stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Errm...

Or poor error trapping in the OS

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Re: Errm...

May not be that simple. Remember the tilt bits and other DRM junk built into vista and above. What microsoft may be saying is that there are now so many checks, balances encryptions, decryptions and obfuscations built into their OS to keep everyone but the purchaser happy that it is now barely stable in the real world. One flipped bit somewhere and the whole thing comes crashing down.

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Re: the whole thing comes crashing down.

WindblowZe kind of reminds me of a tall building that has only 4 supports, one in each corner.

Pity the fool in a bulldozer that should accidentally knock down one of those supports.

Every tine I watch a building demolition, I am reminded of the 'shitty house of cards WindblowZE is'.

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Alert

OT - skyscrapers

You might be surprised to know that most tall buildings have only one support, right in the middle. Everything else is cantilevered off this core. These days, the core has to designed proof against airliners colliding with it and large (I don't know how large) explosions.

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Terminator

Re: Errm...

"Or poor error trapping in the OS"

You need to go back to writing kernel school for that one I'm afraid. Same thing that causes a BSOD in windows causes a kernel panic in Linux and that stupid error screen in OSX.

These are uncatchable errors and not normally the fault of windows (or linux or the osx kernel).

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Mushroom

Re: OT - skyscrapers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronan_Point

Icon - well, because.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Errm...

Back to programming school

Things crash because they are not error trapped !

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Anonymous Coward

Crashes just like the Surface ?

Hmm anyone recall Steve Sinofsky's mid-demo crash of the Surface.

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Windows

If the hardware is stable then what difference does the OS make? or are they just stating the obvious, that unstable hardware will crash eventually.

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Holmes

Yup, I think you have it.

<--- Straight out of this school.

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I know their problem

On Mac, if you see the more stylish kernel crash, you immediately suspect memory. On Linux, you -again- suspect memory or your freak hacks while building kernel.

On win, you suspect nothing, you directly blame Microsoft since their image is horrible, majority of users are not advanced etc.

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Meh

Re: I know their problem

I agree, the only Mac Kernel panics I have seen in years have been from iffy ram. Macs are reliable, but they are fussy fucks when it comes to ram.

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Anonymous Coward

What?

Don't overclock? Don't build it yourself? One word: Microsoft can go screw themselves.

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Trollface

Re: "Don't overclock? Don't build it yourself?"

No, that is not the take home message for those of us who like to build ourselves and "fettle" a bit. The (rather obvious) take home message is that if you do, use decent components. If you do not, or you buy a box from GenericKrapTek PLC you are likely to end up in bother - thought we all knew that didn't we, hmm?

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Headmaster

Bad science?

"Once a PC crashes, its crash probability rate goes up by a factor of 100 and for a second and third crash."

This implies cause, doesn't it? Unless the first crash can be artificially engineered somehow for a control group, I don't know how you can support this.

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Terminator

Re: Bad science?

So once a machine knows how to crash, it remembers that look on your face and keeps doing it for fun?

Who'd have thought it... bad machine!

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Boffin

Re: Bad science?

You're 100% right, it does imply some kind of cause, but it's not at all it's an after the fact corelation, if a machine is flaky then it will probably crash, you don't know which will crash until it does, once you know which one is likely to crash then it's not more likely than before (as the implication) it's just been identified as one of the more likely, as they say, there's lies, damn lies and statistics.

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Re: Bad science?

"This implies cause, doesn't it? Unless the first crash can be artificially engineered somehow for a control group, I don't know how you can support this."

It's just a slightly ambiguous translation from the maths. What they should properly say if they want to be clear is that for a bunch of the same machine, with a chance of crashing in a given time span of X, if one of those machines is known to have crashed previously, the chance of that machine crashing in the given time span is actually 100X. The the probability of recording a crash later has gone up by a factor of a hundred for that machine.

I.e. they are not to say that a previous crash makes it more likely that the machine will crash, but that the probability of a machine that has previously done so crashing, is higher than that of a machine that has not previously done so.

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Anonymous Coward

So - if you buy an overpriced PC that's been "built" by an expert outfit such as D(h)ell it will help stop the robot rebellion. Sounds like it could be worth it.

*It is a little known fact that the hosepipe ban was engineered by the robots, taking our first line of defence. If only they had been running on a robust platform built by D(h)ell

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Facepalm

Nothing changes does it? I remember IBM saying much the same thing about OS/2. One comment was "If the motherboard says 20ns RAM latency that's what the OS assumes it is."

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JDX
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overclocked CPUs are more likely to make a Windows PC crash

Um, no s**t Sherlock. Running a CPU faster than designed raises the possibility of problems? Surely ANY computer running ANY OS is more likely to crash in such cases.

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Boffin

Re: overclocked CPUs are more likely to make a Windows PC crash

Well, not strictly true.

Most CPUs are designed to run at a certain speed. When a particular member of a chip family is first spun, chances are only a small percentage of the silicon will run reliably at the full design speed, but many more will run at a fraction of that speed. So they are marked with the slower speed, and sold as slower chips. But they were still designed to run that the higher speed.

Manufacturers put pretty much every CPU through some testing, starting at lower speeds and increasing it until the chip fails to execute something correctly. They then stamp the chip with the last speed that worked sucessfully, and then move on.

What overclockers do is that they reason that when a chip runs above it's tested and rated speed, the cause of failure is probably due to heat, so they put a better heatsink on the chip, and then ramp the speed up above the rated value until it fails, and run it at the highest speed that it functioned correctly. The better the cooling, the higher the clock speed you can run it at (that is why some HPCs have direct water cooling of the CPUs, and why people like Amari [I believe] used to sell an actively refrigerated PC at one time).

Unfortunately, another aspect of heat damage is that it can be cumulative. This is, I believe, what Microsoft are trying to say. This aspect has a name, and it's called 'cooking' the CPU. Once you've cooked it, the chances if it running reliably at the same clock speed (or even at it's rated speed) is seriously reduced.

The most obvious case of this I saw was Throughbred AMD Athlon XP2600s (that was the highest speed Throughbred cores with 133MHz FSB, faster Athlon XPs were Barton cores with an FSB of 166MHz). These were actually clocked with a multiplier at something like 2.06GHz, but over time, even if you did not overclock them, they stopped performing at their rated speed. You had to gradually step down the speed to keep the PC stable. Replace the CPU, back up to full speed, at least for a few months. I went through three or four before I realised what was going on, and this happened even with overspec'd heatsinks and fans.

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FAIL

damn lies

Wow, I had forgotten just how gullable El Reg reporting could be on occasion. Somebody did a data trawl and wanted to get paid for for it, so they came up with messages that support their sponsors beliefs (or wishes): "beware the overclocker!" (for he shall not upgrade to your latest overpriced kit) and "beware the non-mainstream PC" (for it shall not make us profit).

Yet , if you look at the same figures from a slightly more critical perspective, you get:

1) "If your PC has a problem that will show up with time, then give it time and it will show up!"

2) "If you do something that makes your PC crash, then if you keep doing it, it will keep crashing!"

But I don't suppose anyone will pay them for stateing the blindingly obvious...

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Boffin

Re: damn lies

My two main PC's are both overclocked (both Dell; dual quad xeon 490 2.66Ghz -> 3.3Ghz, dual quad xeon T7400 2.5Ghz -> 3Ghz), the T7400 has always been stable (can't recall any crashes) and the 490 crashed a few times until I put the volts up and now is rock solid (which is the opposite of the "if it crashes, expect more" in the article).

The chip manufacturers trouble is that they produce really good chips, the Intel chips have been always ripe for stable overclocking sometimes to a really significant extent (and more so as the yields go up), they often underclock a higher spec chip to make sure they have products across the range.

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It doesn't even mention Windows 8 in the report.

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Big Brother

Smoke and mirrors . . .

. . to disguise the fact that we all know the real probability of any crash increases exponentially with the importance of the work being done, the proximity of the deadline, and the lack of a backup on another disk.

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