Difference between an AMD Phenom X4 and an Intel I7 Oct 2009

When people do searches for the difference between an Intel and an AMD CPU, they often want to know how each handles overheating.  It seems that there is agreement that the Intel-based chips have built-in protection.  AMD, on the other hand, does not.  Therefore, I will explain the difference.

Both processors must have a heatsink installed.  That is mandatory for all computer systems.  I am pretty sure that both the Intel and AMD will fry without a heatsink within a few seconds.  Furthermore, both processors have a fan attached that cools the heatsink.  If that fan dies, both chips will begin to heat up and eventually die if not monitored.  Therefore, if the fan dies, how will each CPU react?

In the case of Intel, the processor will shutdown when it reaches a certain temperature.  Furthermore, the motherboard should have a setting in the BIOS that will also shutdown the computer when the temperature gets too high.  Therefore, Intel CPU’s will most likely never melt since the CPU is designed to prevent it from heating up too quickly too fast.  The Intel CPU should have enough time to shutdown to prevent damage.  So the Intel CPU’s have two methods to detect overheating.

In the case of AMD, the processor will not shutdown when it reaches a certain temperature.  Fortunately, the motherboard should have a setting in the BIOS that will shutdown the computer when the temperature gets too high.  Therefore, AMD CPU’s will also most likely never melt since the motherboard is designed to prevent the CPU from heating up too quickly too fast.  The AMD CPU should have enough time to shutdown to prevent damage.  AMD relies solely on the motherboard to prevent overheating.

Now if the motherboard fails, there is still a chance that the CPU will be saved.  The last resort safety check is the blue screen of death.

When the CPU overheats, data being transferred to and from the CPU may become corrupted and will result  in the data looking different when it reaches the destination.  This can cause the computer to crash.  This is a good indication that something is wrong inside.

In conclusion, as long as the motherboard is doing its job, and the motherboard temperature detection is working, one should not have to worry about melting CPUs.  If the computer shuts down due from overheating, one may find that the CPU fan needs to be replaced.

There are many solutions to the above overheating problem for both AMD and Intel processors such as the aftermarket CPU heatsink at http://www.scythe-usa.com/product/cpu/046/scnj2100-detail.html that does not require a cooling fan.  Although, proper airflow in and out of the case is required.  How can one find out if that is the problem in the first place?  The tool you need is a thermometer.  Scythe sells one that is less than 10 US.  It is easy to use and can be used to determine if the problem really is overheating.

Aftermarket Scythe CPU heatsink

thermometer

http://www.scythe-usa.com/product/acc/040/tm02bk-detail.html.  There are free software versions available for download and these can be used too.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any documentation from AMD related to the overheating question.  I have found a system builders guide from 2002 that is written for the AMD Athlon XP processor, but it does not mention how the AMD CPU reacts when it reaches critical temperatures. http://www.amd.com/us-en/assets/content_type/white_papers_and_tech_docs/26003.pdf.  Doing a Google search for AMD overheating on the web and/or on the news will give many results of current and past AMD CPU overheating issues.

Intel processors have built-in overclock protection http://www.intel.com/support/processors/tools/frequencyid/sb/cs-007627.htm

Intel processors have built-in overheat protection http://www.intel.com/support/processors/sb/CS-029426.htm

As for me, I always use AMD processors on my desktops.  I have an AMD desktop that is 3 years old as of May 2010.  All my desktops have an aftermarket heatsink with a 120mm fan on the AMD CPU.

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