The boxed Intel® Core™ i7-900 processor series
The following overview and installation instructions are for professional system integrators building PCs that use the Intel® Core™ i7-900 processor series with industry-accepted motherboards, chassis, and peripherals. It contains technical information intended to aid in system integration on LGA1366-based desktop boards. Boxed Intel® Core™ i7-900 processor series product information can also be found in the processor product brief, frequently asked questions (FAQ), and selling guide for the Core i7 processor.The boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor
Platform component selection
Integrating systems based on the Intel® Core™ i7 processor
Please note that there is also an Intel® Core™ i7-800 processor series family that uses a different processor package (LGA1156) and socket. Please refer to the integration instructions for this different socket type if you have this processor.
Processor overviewSee the product brief for details on the performance enhancing features of the Intel® Core™ i7 processor. Additionally, see the following pages for additional steps required for enabling certain processor features:
Included with the boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor
- Intel® Core™ i7 processor in the 1366-land package
- Intel designed thermal solution with support for Intel® Quiet System Technology
- Thermal interface material (attached to the heatsink)
- Installation instructions and certificate of authenticity
- Intel Inside® logo label
The Intel® Core™ i7 processor in the 1366-land package refers to processors in the 1366-land Flip-Chip Land Grid Array (FC-LGA4) package with an integrated heat spreader (IHS) that aids in heat dissipation to a properly attached fan heatsink.Figure 1. Intel® Core™ i7 Processor in the 1366-land FC-LGA4 Package
Boxed Intel processor thermal solution overview
As processor power has increased, required thermal solutions have generated more noise. Intel has added an option to the boxed processor that allows system integrators to have a quieter system in the most common usage.
Older generation boxed Intel fan heatsinks contain built-in circuitry to control fan speed. They had a thermistor in the fan hub which measured the chassis ambient air temperature. The fan circuitry then adjusts the fan speed to properly cool the processor at the slowest speed allowable. If the chassis ambient temperature is cool, then the fan will run slower and quieter. If the ambient temperature is hot, the fan will run faster.
This fan had to work in a variety of operating conditions so it had to be designed in such a way that it would cool the processor when running at its maximum power at any given ambient temperature (up to 38°C). In normal operating environments, the processor rarely reaches its maximum power rating.
Under most conditions the fan is spinning faster and louder than necessary. (The fan heatsink is required to work this way so that it will properly cool the CPU in all specified operating environments.)
Intel® has been aware of customer concerns over increasing fan noise. Intel® has now designed a fan speed control technology to take advantage of the fact that the processor is not always running at its maximum power. This was done by basing the fan speed control on actual CPU temperature and power usage.
The speed of the new fan heatsink is controlled by the additional 4th wire of the fan cable. ("4-wire fan speed control.")
The additional 4th wire sends a signal from the motherboard to the fan heatsink to control its speed. There is a digital thermal sensor in the processor which measures actual CPU temperature. The processor sends information to the motherboard about its specific thermal requirements and the actual processor temperature. The motherboard then uses this information to optimally control the speed of the processor fan.
Figure 2 shows the current fan speed curve (red) of a 3-wire, fan heatsink-thermistor based fan speed control. The additional curves in blue represent fan operations at lower CPU temperature and power consumption levels based on the 4-wire fan speed control fan heatsink.
Figure 2. Internal chassis temperature effect on boxed processor variable speed fan heatsink noise
The "Max Temp" in Figure 2 represents the upper set point or worst case ambient temperature of 38°C. The "Min Temp" represents the lower set point or the slowest possible fan speed at an ambient temperature of 30°C. (See Table 1)
The acoustic benefits of the 4-wire based fan speed control may vary depending on the specific motherboard implementation. (The acoustic benefits are reliant on the motherboard implementation of fan speed control.)
Intel® has developed a motherboard based fan speed control called Intel® Quiet System Technology (Intel® QST). This new technology uses a PID controller that can measure the rate of change of the processor temperature, thus predicting when the processor will reach its maximum temperature. If implemented correctly by the motherboard manufacturer, the control algorithm will operate the processor fan at minimum speed under most operating conditions. Since Intel® QST can predict when the processor will reach its maximum temperature, it will delay increasing the fan speed until just the right moment in order to keep the processor from exceeding its maximum temperature. Consult your motherboard manufacturer to see which motherboards they offer with support for Intel QST.
A 4-wire fan does not guarantee a quieter system. If the processor is being used in a hot environment and is under heavy loads, the fan will have to run fast enough to properly cool the processor. The internal chassis temperature is required to be maintained at 38°C (or lower). Selecting the correct chassis (see Chassis Selection) and verifying proper thermal management is critical for integrating a high quality boxed Intel Core Quad processor-based system.
Table 1. Boxed processor variable fan heatsink set points
1 Set point variance is approximately ±1°C from fan heatsink to fan heatsink.
|For boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processors in the 1336-land package|
|Internal Chassis Temperature (°C)
||Boxed Processor Fan Heatsink Set Points|
|X <= 301,2
||Lower set point: Fan speed constant at lowest fan speed. Recommended temperature for nominal operating environment.|
|Y = 35
||Recommended maximum internal chassis temperature for boxed Intel Core 2 Quad processor-based systems.|
|Z >= 391,2
||Higher set point: Fan speed constant at highest fan speed.|
2 Intel® Core™ i7-965/975 Processor Extreme Edition do not use a thermistor so upper and lower set points are not relevant.
Figure 3. Processor box label
Identifying a boxed processor
Boxed processor specifications (or S-Specs) marked on the integrated heat spreader of the Intel® Core™ i7 processor identify specific information about the processor. Using the Product Specifications and Comparisons and the information marked on the processor, a system integrator can verify the appropriate processor number, speed rating, stepping, lot number, serial number and other important information about the processor. The numbers marked on the processor should match the numbers on the processor box label (see Figure 3). If the processor is already installed in a computer system then use the Intel® Processor Identification Utility.
Once the boxed processor is installed in a system, the fan heatsink covers the integrated heat spreader and all the markings on the processor. The label on the box of the boxed processor (that has the processor number, speed information, test specification, and lot number) should be photocopied and taped to the inside of the chassis for reference. This will allow quick access to the information that is no longer available on the top of the processor when the heatsink is installed. If a system's processor is later upgraded or replaced, causing the photocopied information inside the chassis to have incorrect information, the photocopy should be replaced, removed, or visibly marked as obsolete to avoid confusion.
Platform component selection
Motherboards used with the Intel® Core™ i7 processor must specifically support the Intel® Core™ microarchitecture. In general, look for a motherboard which uses the following chipsets and sockets:
Intel® X58 Express Chipset and LGA1366 socket
It is important to verify that the specific motherboard model and revision support the specific Intel® Core™ i7 processor number being used. Motherboards may also require a BIOS update in order to support specific processors.
Platform Compatibility Guide (PCG)
PCG is a processor power specification to help identify thermal solutions, power supplies, and chassis that will meet specific power requirements. The PCG mark can be found on the box label and engraved on the Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) of the processor. PCG information for a specific processor can be found at the Product Specifications and Comparisons page.
The PCG mark does not promise compatibility. The PCG mark specifies likely component compatibility with processor electrical requirements. Compatible chipset, BIOS, drivers, hardware, and operating system are required. Contact your hardware for specific support of the Intel® Core™ i7 processor.
Fan heatsink support
The boxed processor includes a high-quality unattached fan heatsink specifically designed to provide sufficient cooling to the Intel® Core™ i7 processor when used in a suitable chassis environment. The fan power cable must be connected to the motherboard power header as shown in the processor installation notes (included in the boxed processor package).
The motherboard 4-pin header uses two pins to supply +12V (power) and GND (ground). The fan uses the third pin to transmit fan-speed information to motherboards. The fourth pin allows motherboards that support 4-wire fan-speed control to control the fan speed based on actual processor power consumption. The motherboard must have a 4-pin fan power header located close to the socket.
||Refer to your motherboard manual for the location of the CPU fan power header.|
Systems based on the Intel® Core™ i7 processor in the 1366-land package must use a chassis that complies with the ATX specification (revision 2.2 or later) or microATX specification (revision 1.0 or later), depending on the motherboard form factor. Intel® recommends system integrators using ATX form factor motherboards choose a chassis that complies with the ATX specification (revision 2.2 or later). Likewise, system integrators using microATX form factor motherboards should choose a chassis that complies with the microATX specification (1.0 or later).
It is recommended to use a chassis on the Tested chassis list to ensure proper chassis airflow, electrical support (ATX12V or SFX12V power supply), and compatibility with boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processors using an Intel® Desktop Board. Chassis that pass this thermal testing provide system integrators with a starting place for determining which chassis to evaluate.
The chassis must also support a lower internal ambient temperature than many standard ATX and microATX desktop chassis. The internal chassis temperature for systems based on Intel® Core™ i7 processors in the 1366-land package should not exceed 38°C when the chassis is used in a maximum expected room temperature of 35°C. Most chassis designed for the Intel® Core™ i7 processor use extra internal chassis fans to improve airflow and many include ducting to bring cool air directly to the processor fan heatsink. Intel tests chassis with the boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor and the Intel® Desktop Boards for minimum thermal requirements. These chassis meet Intel's processor specifications with the Intel® Desktop Boards. It is strongly recommended that system integrators perform thermal testing on the chassis selected for each configuration of Intel® Core™ i7 processor-based systems, even when using a chassis on the Tested Chassis List.
Power supply selection
Power supplies must comply with the ATX12V 2.2 design guidelines (see the Form Factors Web site for details) and supply additional current on the 12V power rail through a 2x2 connector. The Intel® Core™ i7 processor requires a minimum of 8 Amps continuous and 13 Amps peak for 10ms on 12V2. All Intel® Core™ i7 processor-based systems require either the standard 2x10, 20-pin ATX power connector or the new 24-pin ATX power connecter as well as the 2x2, 4-pin 12V connector. Each motherboard/platform may have additional requirements based on graphics cards, TV tuners, ADD2+, HDD, ODD, chassis fans, etc. Consult the motherboard and system component documentation to determine additional power supply requirements. Intel tests power supplies to determine a minimum level of electrical compliance. Consult the Tested Power Supply List for more information.
Integrating systems based on the Intel® Core™ i7 processor
Integrating Intel® Core™ i7 processors in the 1366-land package
Motherboards supporting the boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor include a manual with installation instructions in addition to the boxed processor manual before building a Intel® Core™ i7 processor-based system. The boxed Intel® processor in the 1366-land package integration video also shows the installation process using a boxed Intel® Desktop Board. In addition, the following information can aid system integrators in successfully integrating a system based on the boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor in the 1366-land package.
You can view the Processor integration video (LGA1366) below:
Operating system support
Nearly all modern operating systems designed for Intel® architecture support the Intel® Core™ i7 processor, although some may require specific versions or processor support files. Microsoft Windows Vista* and Microsoft Windows XP* (with SP2) support the Intel Core i7 processor. Additionally, Linux* distributions offer support for the processor. Other vendors may have support for the Intel® Core™ i7 processor in their operating systems. System integrators should verify that the operating system they have selected supports the Intel® Core™ i7 processor.
Operating system support for Intel® 64 architecture can be found in the Intel® 64 integration document.
Applications optimized for multi-threading can benefit even more on a dual-core processor. No additional optimizations are required.
With specific drivers that use the SSE4 instructions, graphics accelerators, audio hardware and software, and other system resources can experience substantial performance gain. Graphics card vendors typically highlight support changes with new driver releases. Download and install the latest drivers from the vendor's Web site. Also, verify that the driver version contains optimization for the Intel® Core™ i7 processor.
Many applications also take advantage of 64-bit computing with specific optimizations for the Intel® Core™ i7 processor. In order to take advantage of Intel® 64 architecture, an entire 64-bit hardware and software solution stack is required, ranging from processors and device drivers to operating systems, tools and applications. Contact your software vendor for available Intel® 64 support. System performance is greatly affected by proper operating system and driver installation processes. For example, it is important to install the latest Intel® Chipset Software Installation Utility immediately after installing most Microsoft operating systems to ensure proper drivers for the chipset are installed prior to installation of other drivers. System integrators should confirm boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor-based systems are optimally configured and integrated.
Boxed Intel® Core™ i7 processor-based systems require proper integration. System integrators who follow the guidelines in this document will experience higher customer satisfaction by providing higher quality systems.
This applies to: