We have talked previously about being able to manipulate the multiplier only if you have an unlocked processor. But what exactly is unlocking and how can you do it? Let's delve into that for just a bit, shall we?
What is Unlocking?
When a processor begins life, it is fabricated out of a piece of silicon. From there, AMD begins the process of creating a usable processor for your system. Depending on how advanced the manufacturing technique, they will then determine how fast the processor can run with 100% stability. Once the maximum speed is determined, they will generally throw these processors into a bin labeled with this maximum speed.
But now things can get interesting. If they have a whole slew of processors that can safely be rated at 1.53GHz (Athlon XP 1800+) but have a need to provide 1.4GHz processors due to customer demand, then they will internally reset the multiplier settings of these processors to allow for the 1.4GHz speeds to meet consumer demand. Once these processors have been locked in at this 1.4GHz speed, they are released for public consumption.
Simply put, unlocking is the act of overriding that factory set multiplier. Intel has removed the ability to unlock their multiplier range, but AMD has made it a relatively simple matter to play and tweak their processors. This act of unlocking is one of the major reasons (besides price) that makes the Athlon range of processors so much fun to play with. Though the Intel Northwood chips are making great leaps in outright overclockability, you just don't have the flexibility to get the most out of the processor since you can't adjust the multiplier.
As to how you actually perform the unlocking, that will depend on which processor you have. The older Thunderbird chips are an absolute breeze to unlock. And while the newer Athlon XP provides a bit more of a challenge to succeed, it is still very possible and the benefits are equally beneficial.
Unlocking the Thunderbird
Final Warning! Proceeding any further in this Guide will effectively VOID YOUR WARRANTY on your processor. While time and experience has proven this to be a relatively safe procedure, there is a risk of damaging or destroying your processor or other system components. Neither TweakTown nor myself will be help liable in the event that you damage your system or components.
When you were a child, you may have had the chance to play book games called Connect The Dots. If so, then you will have no problems unlocking your Thunderbird processor. Of course, even if you didn't play this game it will still be easy. Let's start off by having a look at the beginning product.
As you look at the above picture, you should notice that the dots labeled "L1" have a space between them. Each pair of dots going up and down are a set. These sets are called "Bridges" and are the means in which the manufacturer has locked your processor to its given multiplier setting. To unlock your processor you simply create a conductive pathway between these bridges. Since the amount of current required for this procedure is so small, even the small graphite content within a pencil tracing can create this conductive pathway.
A popular means to connect the dots is to take a pencil and draw a heavy line between each of the four bridges. Most folks have had good luck using an HB #2 pencil. And before you ask, HB is not the brand name but an indicator as to the hardness rating of the pencil lead. One advantage to using the so-called "Pencil Trick" is that you can just erase the pencil tracings and the processor will revert to its factory condition. Of course, this same concept is a disadvantage as the pencil tracing can wear off over time and you have to redo the work again.
WARNING - Make extra sure that you connect ONLY up and down when making the tracings. If you connect the bridges going from side to side, you'll be in the market for a new processor!
For those who are looking for a more permanent solution (like me for example), you can use solder to connect the bridges. Another popular method is to go to your local auto parts store and get a rear window defogger repair kit. The contents will create a permanent pathway over the bridge. Finally, several enthusiasts have also taken a pen with conductive ink and connected the bridges in that manner. It works in the same manner as the pencil but creates a more permanent pathway.
Since I preferred the solder method, here is a picture of the bridges connected. It should also serve as an example of what you need to do in any of the other methods talked about previously.