Saturday, July 30, 2016

How to Make a MULTI-UEFI Bootable USB! (Windows/Easy Method)

Making a bootable USB has never been easier with the amount of software freely available on the Internet. My favorite happens to be Rufus, but there are many to choose from. And while there are several multi-boot USB programs for MBR, or single-boot GPT USB programs, making a multi-boot GPT USB in Windows is somewhat unheard of. I want to share with you how to make a multi-boot GPT USB easily in Windows.

In the past there was only BIOS, but in recent times UEFI and EFI have become the new standard for motherboards to use. The main reason for this is that BIOS has space constraints that UEFI improves upon. Much like many protocols, BIOS was made and meant for a certain era, while UEFI attempts to modernize and supplant BIOS.

The simplest way to think of UEFI is like a better BIOS.

Multi-UEFI (GPT) Bootable USB
I want to start off stating that Linux and Unix users have had the capability to use a multi-UEFI bootable USB's for quite some time, albeit through a CLI (Command Line Interface). But Windows users have really not had the ability to do this--until now...

Why is a multi-UEFI bootable USB a good thing? Because you may have several rescue CD's or Windows/Linux Live CD's that you want on one USB as opposed to several. For example, if you were IT for a company that fixed systems, it would be a big hassle to use several USB's, and even worse if none were labeled!

Is It Necessary To Use UEFI?
I would argue that currently it is unnecessary. I have never come across a motherboard for either a desktop or laptop that primarily used UEFI (or EFI), but did not have a "legacy" mode that would allow for a BIOS-compatibility mode.

In essence, this is a switch to change between BIOS or UEFI.

That being said, it should be noted that it is likely that this will not always be the case. It may take a long period, but I doubt that this legacy mode will always be around. And, for the sake of simplicity, it is much nicer to be able to just plug in a USB and not fiddle around with UEFI settings beforehand to get a USB to be recognized.

While having to switch a couple of settings does not sound like a chore, it certainly can be. Last week I had to do a lot of testing in legacy mode; so I had to go into the UEFI, switch to legacy mode, test a USB, go back into the UEFI, switch back to UEFI mode, then restart to get back to Windows. It was not fun.

Introducing YUMI
Some of you may already know of YUMI, it is most commonly known as a multi-boot USB for BIOS (MBR) systems. It is simple to use, portable, and has an intuitive interface.

What most people may not know is that YUMI now offers a UEFI beta version of their program. This only works with 64-bit systems, so be aware that any 32-bit system will not be able to utilize this version of YUMI. (A 32-bit version is being worked on). You must also disable Secure Boot if it is enabled in your UEFI.

There are a few (known) restricted rescue CD's and Live CD's that will not work with YUMI UEFI, which is not something the YUMI creators can fix.* That is because these CD's were not made to work with UEFI, so support for this CD's would have to come from the CD creators.

And while there is a list in YUMI of CD's that can be used, CD's that are not on the list are not guaranteed to work or not work. You will have to try such CD's to find out if they can boot and work properly.

*In this list, CD's that cannot work in UEFI will have a note next to the name stating "BIOS ONLY".

Using YUMI UEFI is very simple, but I will outline the steps for those who would rather get a sense of what to do first:

Go to the YUMI homepage.
Scroll down to "Beta Download -> UEFI YUMI - Windows".
Download YUMI UEFI by clicking on the "UEFI YUMI - Windows" text only.
Double-click the "UEFI-YUMI-BETA-0.0.0.#.exe".
Press "I agree".
Click the dropdown arrow under "Step 1".
Select the USB flash drive you have inserted.*
Click the dropdown arrow under "Step 2". This will show you a menu of every known rescue and Live CD that YUMI supports.
If you do not have one already, download a rescue or Live CD you wish to use.
Click the dropdown arrow under "Step 2" again.
Select the rescue or Live CD you have ready. If your rescue or Live CD is not in the supported list, you can either choose a supported rescue or Live CD that from the list that may be similar so you can move onto "Step 3".
Press "Browse" under "Show All ISOs?". Check off "Show All ISOs?" if your rescue or Live CD is unsupported, or if you have changed the original name.
Browse for your ISO and double-click it.
Check off "Format #: Drive (Erase Content?)".
Click "Create".
YUMI will not show a progress bar, and when full, it will display a "Finished" button. Click "Finished".

*Note I: If you do not have a USB flash drive inserted, do so now, or check off "Show All Drives?", then select any drive. But be careful, you do not want to accidentally format your OS drive.

Note II: An external USB HDD/SSD (and in fact an installed HDD/SSD) can also be used to create a Multi-UEFI bootable device. To find these options, check off "Show All Drives?" in YUMI.

To test your multi-UEFI bootable USB, first ensure that Secure Boot is disabled in your UEFI. Reboot your computer and click the F# key to get to your Boot Priority screen (or go into your UEFI and either rearrange for USB devices to be found first, or select the USB to boot from it). If the multi-UEFI USB is working, the Boot Priority screen will just show a USB, instead of a designated name that you might find using a BIOS.

While in theory this should work with any USB and USB port, I would recommend using a USB 2.0 flash drive, however, a USB 3.0 flash drive may work fine. But even moreso, be sure to test on a USB 2.0 port, if possible.

The reason I mention this is because I have found USB 3.0 ports to be finicky at times, especially during POST. I did not have this problem with my multi-UEFI bootable USB, but I tested with a USB 2.0 flash drive in a USB 2.0 port...

Too Simple?
No, it really is that simple. There are a few useful rescue CD's that cannot be booted from UEFI, but the majority you may know of are all available for UEFI.

For someone like me who may need to diagnose or repair a UEFI system every-so-often, a multi-UEFI is worth its weight in gold! And I know that more than a few people have been waiting for an easy method to make a multi-UEFI from Windows.

Friday, July 29, 2016

CPU Lapping vs Delidding: One, The Other, or Both?

CPU lapping and CPU delidding are two things that can help with your CPU performance in terms of thermals, and thus, overclocking ability. The majority of computer users will have no need to perform either, but those of us who strive to squeeze every drop of performance out of our CPU's may want to try one, the other, or both. Today I want to give an explanation explain on what they are and what they can do.

CPU Lapping
Simply put, CPU lapping is the process of taking a CPU and making it perfectly flat. You may be thinking, "Isn't it already flat?". For the most part, it is. However, there are often times where it is not perfectly flat, and because of that, it can have an affect on your CPU performance.

First off, a CPU will be connected to some sort of heatsink in order to properly dissipate the heat it creates. If the surfaces of the CPU and the heatsink are perfectly flat, then the contact between the two will allow for the best heat transference possible. Yet, if the CPU, heatsink, or both, have surfaces that are not perfectly flat, then they may only be making some contact, allowing the CPU to retain a portion of the heat it is meant to get rid of through the heatsink. Generally, more heat to the CPU equals less performance.

Second, before one would perform CPU lapping, they would want to check if their surface is flat or not. An extremely easy way to do this is to take a metal ruler and check different areas on the CPU to see if it is evenly flat. If it is, then CPU lapping is unnecessary. The same can be done to check a heatsink.

The actual act of CPU lapping is relatively straightforward: Take sandpaper (you can use one type of grit or have differing grits for smoother results), place the sandpaper on a smooth surface like a table (taping it is a good idea), then proceed to move the CPU up-and-down on its surface over the sandpaper until the CPU has a reflective surface.

CPU lapping is meant to help bring down temperatures, and it can, but the amount it can depends on the severity of the CPU surface. From what I have read, it seems that most people get very little gains compared to the time and energy used to achieve those gains. I would say, on average, most people get around 1-2 degrees less on their temps.

CPU Delidding
Delidding a CPU is defined as taking off the lid--otherwise known as the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader)--and replacing the thermal paste inside with a better grade of thermal paste.

This was not something that was always done as it was not until the Ivy Bridge generation of Intel CPU's that made this (somewhat) necessary. Prior to that generation, all "lids" were soldered on. For some reason, Intel decided to change this approach and use cheap thermal paste, causing worse heat transference.

The process of delidding can be done in a few ways. The most common is by use of a razer to carefully pry open the lid. More recently, a few companies have decided to produce and sell delidding tools that make it foolproof to perform this process: Rockit 88, der8auer, & Enter Setup.

I happened to pick up the Rockit 88 version, as it was the most inexpensive and the only one located in the USA. The der8auer version I believe was the first on the market, and is from Europe, but at least twice as much as the other options. The Enter Setup version is probably the cheapest choice if you happen to live in or near Europe.

On a side note, if you do happen to get the Rockit 88 delid tool, you have the option to also pick up the "re-lid" tool, which is meant to help to place the lid back on. I recommend not buying this additional tool as it should make little difference if you plan on putting the CPU immediately into a motherboard after delidding... 

If you have a 3D printer and want to make your own delid tool, here is a project that people have had success with: 3D Printer Delid Tool Project

Once the lid has been popped off, you will clean the small rectangular surface area that has the current thermal paste (which is probably solidified). Apply some new thermal paste and place the lid back on. The tricky part is that you will want to apply pressure to the lid so that it is completely flat. Most people who perform this procedure are ready to place the CPU into a motherboard and attach a heatsink, which helps keep it flat.

Again, from my readings, most people seem to notice a 5-10 degree drop in the average temperatures. This is a decent drop, and replacing factory thermal paste will often produce such results.

Is CPU Lapping/Delidding Important?
I would say that most people will have no need to really do either procedure. Even horrible temperatures would suggest issues elsewhere that need investigating. But it will matter to enthusiasts and overclockers. People who have the desire for the lowest temperatures at all times!

An enthusiast may just want this for bragging rights, but an overclocker will want to try these methods since lower temps can help achieve higher CPU overclocks. There is obviously no guarantee, and a stable overclock will largely be based on the binning of the CPU; but I can attest that lower temperatures definitely help to push a CPU further.

I guess if I was looking for the best temperatures possible, then a CPU lapping and delidding would be in order.

But I am a practical guy, and I actually just faced this situation recently on a new desktop with an i5 3570K. The CPU lapping seems easy enough to do, but for getting 1 degree less on my average temperatures, it is just a waste of my time. I have also heard that it can depreciate the resale value of a CPU compared to one that has not been lapped.

Instead, I opted to only do a delidding. I used the Rockit 88 delid tool as I did not want to harm anything with a razor. I then applied some thermal paste and placed the lid back on the CPU.

Was It Worth It?
I did end up buying the re-lid tool for Rockit 88, so I let my CPU sit overnight before inserting it into an ASUS P8Z77-V motherboard. My goal was to see if I could overclock the 3570K to at least 4.8GHz, so I attached a Thermaltake Water 2.0 Extreme AIO closed-loop solution. With the Thermaltake AIO running in silent mode, my temps stay in the low 30's.

While I soon realized my 3570K was an average overclocker, the combination of the delidding and the Thermaltake AIO allowed me to achieve a stable 4.9GHz overclock! For those of you familiar with the "legendary" i5 2500K, most people would claim a 2500K running at 5GHz could match a 3570K running at 4.8GHz. When using the benchmark in CPU-Z I was able to outperform an i7 4970K, and come close to reaching an i7 6700K.

Not bad for a CPU from 2012 that has no Hyper-Threading.

My foray into delidding was a successful one. It cost a bit of money due to the reason of not just using a razor (of which I have none on hand). And I completely avoided CPU lapping as it really seems to do so little. I mean, if the CPU is not relatively smooth to begin with, then that CPU needs to be returned to the manufacturer!

If you decide to try either method, I would advise watching some of the YouTube videos to get a better feel of what you need to. And if you do not try any of the techniques, rest assured that you are not suffering any great performance losses (unless you are an overclocker!).