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Topic Title: Suppport for ECC memory in Athlon II
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Created On: 12/17/2009 09:48 PM
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Answer This question was answered by hbrendel, on Wednesday, January 6, 2010 10:21 PM

Answer:
Thanks for the confirmation that the AMD AThlon II processors support ECC.

4. ECC being enabled in the BIOS. There usually should be a BIOS option to enable/disable ECC and set the type of ECC error correction, and I do not see this in the manual for your board.

There is no such option in the BIOS.

But I don't know about that last one. ECC memory runs in non-ECC mode unless ECC is enabled by the BIOS. I have a hunch the manual really means "ECC memory will work but only in non-ECC mode.)

Yeah, maybe. I posted the question to Gigabyte, but so far I got no useful answer.
 12/17/2009 09:48 PM
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hbrendel
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There is a topic from 2005 (RAM ECC support in A64, X2, and FX?) in this forum, where Grayhound states that "ECC-support is available on all AMD K8-class processors (Athlon 64/Athlon 64 FX/Athlon 64 X2/Opteron/754-pin Sempron)."
To ask the probably superfluous question: do the CPU's of the Athlon II family support ECC memory?

I'm asking because I have a GigaByte GA-MA770T-UD3P with an AMD Athlon II X3 405e. The GigaByte specs say it supports ECC if the CPU supports ECC. I'm running with two Kensington D3 2GB 1066-7 ECC DIMMs but memtest86+ says that ECC is disabled.

Harald
 12/22/2009 06:01 PM
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Amrynel
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Funnily enough I've been researching ECC for exactly that board (and for AMD kit in general). After a LOT of rummaging - you'd think they'd make this stuff easier to find! - this is what I've learnt:

#1. ECC comes in at least four flavours: (un)buffered, (un)registered.

#2. Athlon II and Phenom II families apparently support ECC only if it is un-buffered AND un-registered. Opterons support more (but not all) combinations, depending on which Opteron.

This would presumably mean that your Kensington memory is not that type of ECC. Can you check?

(so far I've found Crucial has compatible ECC memory, no luck with Corsair or Kingston, at least according to their respective websites)
 01/04/2010 09:57 PM
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hbrendel
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Hi, happy new year.
Stupid me, the memory is obviously by Kingston not by Kensington. The model number is KVR1066D3E7/2G. Kingston's specs say it's unbuffered. To my knowledge, that means it is not registered (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registered_memory).
Which Crucial memory do you have in mind? Is it CT2KIT25672BA1067?
 01/05/2010 05:22 AM
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Amrynel
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2x4GB CT2KIT51272BA1339, 2x2G CT2KIT25672BA1339, 1x2GB CT25672BA1339, etc. At least, according to Crucial's own experiments (nb: use ECC checkbox)... I'm as yet still tracking down an Australian supplier...

The trouble is that there appears to be no industry-standard rigid terminology for ECC modules; "unbuffered" and "unregistered" are only "mostly" equivalent definitions that system builders cannot rely on (so my previous post's info is... possibly dubious... or erring on side of caution, depending on your POV).

Without ECC: if you have any random DDR2 motherboard, you can reasonably expect - indeed, demand - that any random memory specified as being DDR2 should work in it. You shall pass POST, you shall boot OS, thus spoke JEDEC.

But with ECC: any random combination of ECC motherboard and memory cannot be trusted to pass POST, let alone actually provide ECC functionality to the OS. You have to research each manufacturer's own trial-and-error reports!

And that - pardon my Australian - is absolutely bloody deplorable.

If AMD wants to win some extra customer loyalty - and thus some market share - they could do worse than implement an "AMD ECC Compatible" logo or other similar customer-friendly indicator that a given motherboard or memory will provide ECC support to the OS when combined with a similarly logo'd counterpart and an AMD processor...

Edited: 01/05/2010 at 08:34 AM by Amrynel
 01/05/2010 06:06 AM
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Amrynel
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In case it helps, I'll add useful/interesting links/info to this post as I find them (rather than create a bunch of posts). Some interesting (IMO) reading re ECC:
A rigid terminology does appear to exist (or be emerging? or obvious to those in the know?):
Does this mean googling for "ECC UDIMM" when shopping for ECC for Athlons/Phenoms is promising? Lots of results, etc... will investigate...

Edited: 01/05/2010 at 09:46 AM by Amrynel
 01/05/2010 10:53 AM
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Amrynel
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Hmm. What version of memtest86+ are you running? Latest version is 4.00 on the official site. What is the exact text displayed by the program re ECC?
 01/06/2010 11:01 AM
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MU_Engineer
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Originally posted by: hbrendel

There is a topic from 2005 (RAM ECC support in A64, X2, and FX?) in this forum, where Grayhound states that "ECC-support is available on all AMD K8-class processors (Athlon 64/Athlon 64 FX/Athlon 64 X2/Opteron/754-pin Sempron)."

To ask the probably superfluous question: do the CPU's of the Athlon II family support ECC memory?


They are supposed to.

I'm asking because I have a GigaByte GA-MA770T-UD3P with an AMD Athlon II X3 405e. The GigaByte specs say it supports ECC if the CPU supports ECC. I'm running with two Kensington D3 2GB 1066-7 ECC DIMMs but memtest86+ says that ECC is disabled.

Harald


ECC working depends on four things:

1. ECC support in the memory controller. The Athlon IIs are supposed to support ECC, so this is a check.
2. ECC memory modules. Yours are, so check.
3. ECC support in the motherboard. Apparently it is, so check.
4. ECC being enabled in the BIOS. There usually should be a BIOS option to enable/disable ECC and set the type of ECC error correction, and I do not see this in the manual for your board. I guess the BIOS is supposed to look and see if there is ECC support and then flips the ECC initialization flag to turn ECC on if there is all ECC memory in the system.

But I don't know about that last one. ECC memory runs in non-ECC mode unless ECC is enabled by the BIOS. I have a hunch the manual really means "ECC memory will work but only in non-ECC mode.) I do know that many ASUS AM2+/AM3 boards do support ECC and they have all of the BIOS options and everything.

-------------------------
 01/06/2010 11:18 AM
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MU_Engineer
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Originally posted by: Amrynel

The trouble is that there appears to be no industry-standard rigid terminology for ECC modules; "unbuffered" and "unregistered" are only "mostly" equivalent definitions that system builders cannot rely on (so my previous post's info is... possibly dubious... or erring on side of caution, depending on your POV).


The confusion is between "normal" registered memory and Intel Fully Buffered DIMMs (FB-DIMMs.) Those are two very different and incompatible types of memory. Some people want registered DDR2 memory for a Socket F Opteron or Intel E7520/5100 chipset board and click the "Buffered" checkbox. They don't look closely enough and accidentally get FB-DIMMs that fit but don't work. Or some poor sap gets a Socket 771 Intel unit with the 5000/5400 chipset that needs FB-DIMMs and orders regular registered DDR2 modules.

Apart from FB-DIMMs, registered and buffered memory are the same thing.

Without ECC: if you have any random DDR2 motherboard, you can reasonably expect - indeed, demand - that any random memory specified as being DDR2 should work in it. You shall pass POST, you shall boot OS, thus spoke JEDEC.


No. Registered/buffered memory has a clock delay for buffering. It will not work with systems requiring normal unbuffered/unregistered memory. I've accidentally stuck registered memory in unregistered-only desktop systems on a couple of occasions and it has always failed to work. Very few systems that use registered memory will work with unregistered memory- the only ones that I know of are the new dual Socket LGA1366 Xeons.

The only modules that are really compatible with each other are the ECC and non-ECC unbuffered memory. If you put unbuffered ECC memory into a platform that does not support ECC, the ECC gets turned off and the memory runs as unbuffered non-ECC memory.

But with ECC: any random combination of ECC motherboard and memory cannot be trusted to pass POST, let alone actually provide ECC functionality to the OS. You have to research each manufacturer's own trial-and-error reports!


Some motherboards are picky about their memory and some non-JEDEC-standard memory gives normal boards fits, but any random motherboard and memory should work as long both or neither are registered parts.

If AMD wants to win some extra customer loyalty - and thus some market share - they could do worse than implement an "AMD ECC Compatible" logo or other similar customer-friendly indicator that a given motherboard or memory will provide ECC support to the OS when combined with a similarly logo'd counterpart and an AMD processor...


That's a good idea, although they'd first need to convince people why having ECC is important and why they want to pay more for that feature (ECC RAM is more expensive than non-ECC RAM due to that ninth memory IC per rank.) Otherwise, they're not going to get uptake with the "AMD ECC Compatible" program by vendors. Vendors won't waste money with promotion and validation unless demand is there.

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 01/06/2010 04:55 PM
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Amrynel
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Originally posted by: MU_Engineer
Originally posted by: Amrynel
Without ECC: if you have any random DDR2 motherboard, you can reasonably expect - indeed, demand - that any random memory specified as being DDR2 should work in it. You shall pass POST, you shall boot OS, thus spoke JEDEC.

No. Registered/buffered memory has a clock delay for buffering. It will not work with systems requiring normal unbuffered/unregistered memory. I've accidentally stuck registered memory in unregistered-only desktop systems on a couple of occasions and it has always failed to work. Very few systems that use registered memory will work with unregistered memory- the only ones that I know of are the new dual Socket LGA1366 Xeons.

Thankyou. I forgot about (or lumped it in with ECC) registered/buffered memory when I high-horsedly wrote that. Mea culpa.

The only modules that are really compatible with each other are the ECC and non-ECC unbuffered memory. If you put unbuffered ECC memory into a platform that does not support ECC, the ECC gets turned off and the memory runs as unbuffered non-ECC memory.

Some motherboards are picky about their memory and some non-JEDEC-standard memory gives normal boards fits, but any random motherboard and memory should work as long both or neither are registered parts.

This is good to know!

So when buying for an Athlon+ECC system, what is the key phrase one should be looking for - ECC UDIMM? Avoiding - RDIMM, FBDIMM? Is there a simple "three step" plan or similar?

Edited: 01/06/2010 at 06:05 PM by Amrynel
 01/06/2010 05:49 PM
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Amrynel
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Originally posted by: Amrynel
If AMD wants to win some extra customer loyalty - and thus some market share - they could do worse than implement an "AMD ECC Compatible" logo or other similar customer-friendly indicator that a given motherboard or memory will provide ECC support to the OS when combined with a similarly logo'd counterpart and an AMD processor...

That's a good idea, although they'd first need to convince people why having ECC is important and why they want to pay more for that feature (ECC RAM is more expensive than non-ECC RAM due to that ninth memory IC per rank.)

Until a week ago I didn't understand soft errors or memory scrubbing - I'd heard of them, but I didn't realise what they meant. There's plenty of small system builders like me out there. Convince us, and we'll convince our customers. Outside the "Big City", a lot of small businesses run a couple to a half-dozen workstations 8+/5 with a fileserver 24/7/365 out the back (often without aircon), none of which need anywhere near the firepower of a big Xeon system but DO need memory integrity - and if an Athlon or Phenom can easily do the job... the extra cost of that ECC vanishes compared to the savings of not having to buy enterprise-grade Intel workstation/server platforms (and I don't know about your area, but over here AMD might as well not exist as far as the salespeople seem to be concerned - they just want to sell us enterprise Intel at a premium).

I don't think it's necessary to do a big flashy PR campaign for this - if AMD could organise a decently written article or two for the (e.g.) Anandtech and Tom's Hardware crowds with (1) a primer on the background and usefulness of ECC and then (2) the meat of how to correctly identify what you need to build a working ECC system for your Athlon/Phenom, word of mouth and an "AMD ECC Compatible" logo should do the rest and keep the ball rolling.

Otherwise, they're not going to get uptake with the "AMD ECC Compatible" program by vendors. Vendors won't waste money with promotion and validation unless demand is there.

If by vendors you mean motherboard/memory makers, I don't know if there's that much money to waste? They should already know which of their boards/modules would be compatible, otherwise we wouldn't be able to go digging through their published validation tables to try to figure it out for ourselves?

I think what I'm saying is: the knowledge (how to do ECC properly) is there. We just need to spread that knowledge.
 01/06/2010 09:59 PM
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MU_Engineer
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Originally posted by: Amrynel
This is good to know!

So when buying for an Athlon+ECC system, what is the key phrase one should be looking for - ECC UDIMM? Avoiding - RDIMM, FBDIMM? Is there a simple "three step" plan or similar?


That is absolutely correct. Also, double-check the model numbers of the memory you're about to buy with the manufacturer's website. I've accidentally bought unregistered ECC memory for a server that only takes registered memory because the vendor's website mistakenly listed it as registered- it didn't work and it had to go back. Manufacturers' websites are almost always correct.

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 01/06/2010 10:21 PM
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hbrendel
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Answer Answer
Thanks for the confirmation that the AMD AThlon II processors support ECC.

4. ECC being enabled in the BIOS. There usually should be a BIOS option to enable/disable ECC and set the type of ECC error correction, and I do not see this in the manual for your board.

There is no such option in the BIOS.

But I don't know about that last one. ECC memory runs in non-ECC mode unless ECC is enabled by the BIOS. I have a hunch the manual really means "ECC memory will work but only in non-ECC mode.)

Yeah, maybe. I posted the question to Gigabyte, but so far I got no useful answer.
 01/06/2010 10:24 PM
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hbrendel
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I use the latest version of memtest. It says:

AMD II X3 405e processor (ECC: Disabled) and one can not enable it in the config menu. I mean the config has the option to turn it on, but it does not change anything.

And this is the output of smbios:

$ smbios -t SMB_TYPE_MEMARRAY
ID SIZE TYPE
37 16 SMB_TYPE_MEMARRAY (physical memory array)

Location: 3 (system board or motherboard)
Use: 3 (system memory)
ECC: 3 (none)
Number of Slots/Sockets: 4
Memory Error Data: Not Supported
Max Capacity: 2147483648 bytes
 01/06/2010 10:32 PM
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hbrendel
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Hello,

perhaps, we try to do the same thing. I'm running my system under OpenSolaris with ZFS as home/office server. That's why I picked a mobo that should support ECC memory.

Well, the Crucial homepage only says that the memory is compatible with the Gigabyte board. It does not confirm that ECC is turned on, does it?

My Kingston RAM works fine too. My server is up since two months, everything is running smoothly. It's just that I got not the ECC support I intended to have.

I have posted a question to Gigabyte, and if you are interested, I will keep you informed. Otherwise, I think the question related to AMD is answered.
 01/08/2010 06:15 PM
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Amrynel
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I've been digging through the motherboard manual on the Gigabyte website. There's a bit that says, "Some advanced options are hidden in the BIOS Setup program. Press <Delete> to enter BIOS Setup during the POST. In the Main Menu, press <Ctrl>+<F1> to show the advanced options."

Does this reveal any ECC options?
 01/19/2010 06:11 AM
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Amrynel
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I've received a response from Gigabyte. I asked:

"Can you please provide information on which - if any - of Gigabyte's motherboards for AMD Phenom CPUs actively support ECC memory via BIOS settings. Please note, for my purposes it is NOT sufficient that the motherboard merely functions with ECC memory operating in non-ECC mode."

The response from Gigabyte:

"Thank you for your kindly mail and enquiry. Currently we do not have AM2/3 motherboard which can support ECC memory."
 02/27/2010 12:12 PM
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Formula350
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Sorry to resurrect this thread (but it's not that old so...)

I've been tinkering around with BIOS files recently, and in quite a few of the boards like my K8N-Pro/SLI there are ECC settings hidden or moved to an area that isn't visible to us. Now I've moved them around and still can't see them, but I attribute that to there not being any ECC memory in the board for it to trip the ECC flag and show them. However if it still wouldn't show them, I do have the option to enable them by default so after you flash, it'll be on.

Now I'll tackle what you're undoubtedly thinking... "Editing the BIOS... ehhh that doesn't sound very safe, thanks but no thanks!"

Yes, it can be unsafe HOWEVER! I've so far edited about 9 board's BIOS files and on top of that I've edited the BIOS files multiple times for those boards to reflash due to settings either being pointless to leave in, or because they didn't show up so I had to move them so they would. I've flashed my K8N's BIOS about 5 times now with different versions of the latest BIOS that I've messed with and every board so far has not been bricked!

I also made a HUGE change to a HP S754 board that is made by ASUS but obviously was crippled. I was able to unhide more options than I'd ever had thought possible! I started listing them in [url=http://www.bios-mods.com/forum/Thread-HP-K8S-LA-v3-15?pid=7316#pid7316]this other thread[/url] but got tired of typing because there was just soo many lol

Also I'm NOT hex editing these, I'm just using a Award's "ModBin" DOS program that has a GUI. I don't even know how to hex edit, so I'm not doing anything that any of you couldn't I'll be happy to try if anyone wants theirs looked at. Award or "Phoenix-Award" are what I am familiar with. Just Phoenix ones aren't modable by my, so if your board has that type you'd have to maybe see if folks at RebelsHaven can. AMI are apparently able to be changed, but I've not tried one and can't say for sure if it'll work out as good as Award ones. Similarly there ARE some Award ones that I've come across that just won't open up with ModBin.

Also thanks for this thread! I was trying to find out if the Athlon II supports ECC and it does apparently

Seemingly I can't subscribe for replies to the thread, so if you're interested in having me take a peak at your BIOS, PM me.

-------------------------
On the move to AM3 from 939!!
 04/02/2010 11:11 AM
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LordHavoc
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My own rules as an amateur system builder (for our home office) for ECC support and reasonable pricing are:
Motherboard - Anything from Asus in AM2 or AM3 form factor, all of their consumer boards support ECC, other choices are Tyan or Supermicro (but these vendors are notoriously fickle about memory compatibility among other things).
CPU - At this time I favor the AMD Phenom II X4 905e 2.5ghz above all else, because 65w is a very nice thermal footprint for servers that have to keep running during a power outage, and 6MB cache is a good amount for server software.
Memory - Any unbuffered ECC modules ought to work, I am currently using Kingston Unbuffered ECC 2x2GB DDR2 kits which seem to work great with my Asus motherboards, I hold no strong opinion on manufacturers in this space.
UPS - APC SUA1500 is my favorite, good Linux support, great uptime for carefully designed low-power servers, a good UPS is a must for a server (what use is memory reliability if the power goes out?), obviously for more serious installations and longer outages you would want a highend industrial UPS, but that's a whole other range of pricing.

So far Asus has been the only motherboard vendor to support ECC functions on their entire line of consumer-level motherboards, kudos to them for this.

I hold no particular opinion on hardware RAID cards and other equipment, I use Linux software RAID here.

I hope this recipe helps out fellow small office administrators
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