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Intel P55 Overclocking Issues: A Shocking Problem

written by: M.S. Smith•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 11/29/2009

Intel's P55 chipset and the associated Core i5 and Core i7 processors are great performers, and even more so when overclocked. However, it turns out there is an issue on some P55 motherboards which can cause serious damage. The problem is explained here.

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    The Fried Board Parade

    Enthusiasts were understandably excited to get a hold of the first Core i5 processor, the Core i5 750. Enthusiasts often buy mainstream processors of this type and then overclocked them in order to obtain top-tier performance a mainstream price. Considering how friendly Intel's Core 2 mainstream processors were to overclocking, there wasn't any immediate reason to imagine a problem.

    Then the reports started coming in. Overclockers began to report failures. There is nothing strange about that, per say - the extreme overclockers who take regularly to various overclocking forums fry components fairly often. However, as more reports came, a trend seemed to become apparent. Then both Anandtech and Tom's Hardware brought up their own bad experiences with overclocking the new socket LGA1156 processors. Both of these websites are large, authoritative sources for in-depth reviews about hardware, and the problems reported had come straight from test rigs during their overclocking tests.

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    The Problem

    Many motherboards, such as this Gigabyte P55 motherboard, use Foxconn sockets The root of the failures when overclocking the new socket LGA1156 processors, as it turns out, is the sockets themselves. When a processor sits on the motherboard socket, it needs to make contact with all of the pins on which it sits. This ensures that the power draw of the processor is evenly spread rather than concentrated at any particular point.

    But some of the new P55 motherboards are shipping with processor sockets which do not make full contact with all of the contact pads on the bottom of the processor. When a processor is latched into a socket fully, it should be tight enough to create a mark on the bottom of each contact pad of the processor. However, users are finding that not all pads have these marks, indicating full contact is not being made.

    This is a recipe for disaster. It creates an uneven power draw on the socket which can literally destroy the contact pads of the processor and the pins on the processor socket. As you'd expect, a processor which has become damaged in this way is often destroyed, as is the motherboard.

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    The Suspects

    The problem exists on motherboards which use Foxconn processor sockets. This does not mean it only occurs on Foxconn motherboards, as most motherboard manufacturers purchase their processor sockets from Foxconn or another third party and then place those sockets onto their own motherboards.

    It is important to note that the issue has only been confirmed on processors which are overclocked to speeds of 4Ghz and beyond. Such overclocking would be difficult, although not impossible, to reach by using air cooling alone. There is no confirmation that the issue will damage processors which are not overclocked. On the other hand, there is no confirmation it will not. It is possible that uneven power load could cause damage to stock processors over time.

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    The Solution

    None of the manufactures involved have been particularly forthcoming with information. In fact, those who don't regularly visit computer hardware websites are likely oblivious to the potential problem. No motherboard manufacturer has released any official time frame for a fix, nor has Foxconn officially stated what it is doing to make sure the issue is resolved. It is entirely possible that the issue has been fixed already, but this can only be speculation since no party involved has taken responsibility for the issue.

    That said, there are motherboards which do not use Foxconn sockets. High-end EVGA motherboards do not use them, and DFI announced they would not be using Foxconn sockets in the immediate future. Buying a motherboard which does not use a Foxconn socket is the only real work-around at this time. Remember that overclocking usually voids any warranty on a product, so those who experience these failures are out of luck. Overclockers should be careful to research a motherboard before purchasing, or considering purchasing a X58 motherboard instead.