Pentium OverDrive for 486SX2 and DX2 Systems

The Pentium OverDrive Processor became available in 1995. An OverDrive chip for 486DX4 systems had been planned, but poor marketplace performance of the SX2/DX2 chip resulted in it never seeing the light of day.

One thing to keep in mind about the 486 Pentium OverDrive chip is that although it is intended primarily for SX2 and DX2 systems, it should work in any upgradeable 486SX or DX system that has a Socket 2 or Socket 3. If in doubt, check Intel's online upgrade guide for compatibility.

The Pentium OverDrive processor is designed for systems that have a processor socket that follows the Intel Socket 2 specification. This processor also works in systems that have a Socket 3 design, although you should ensure that the voltage is set for 5V rather than 3.3V.

The Pentium OverDrive chip includes a 32KB internal L1 cache and the same superscalar (multiple instruction path) architecture of the real Pentium chip. Besides a 32-bit Pentium core, these processors feature increased clock-speed operation due to internal clock multiplication and incorporate an internal write-back cache (standard with the Pentium).

If the motherboard supports the write-back cache function, increased performance is realized. Unfortunately, most motherboards, especially older ones with the Socket 2 design, support only write-through cache.

Most tests of these OverDrive chips show them to be only slightly ahead of the DX4-100 and behind the DX4-120 and true Pentium 60, 66, or 75. Based on the relative affordability of low-end "real" Pentiums (in their day), it was hard not to justify making the step up to a Pentium system.

AMD 486 (5x86)

AMD made a line of 486-compatible chips that installed into standard 486 motherboards. In fact, AMD made the fastest 486 processor available, which it called the Am5x86(TM)-P75. The name was a little misleading because the 5x86 part made some people think that this was a fifth-generation Pentium-type processor.

In reality, it was a fast clock-multiplied (4x clock) 486 that ran at four times the speed of the 33MHz 486 motherboard you plugged it into. The 5x85 offered high-performance features such as a unified 16KB write-back cache and 133MHz core clock speed; it was approximately comparable to a Pentium 75, which is why it was denoted with a P-75 in the part number.

It was the ideal choice for cost-effective 486 upgrades, where changing the motherboard is difficult or impossible. Not all 486 motherboards support the 5x86. The best way to verify that your motherboard supports the chip is by checking with the documentation that came with the board.

Look for keywords such as "Am5X86," "AMD-X5," "clock-quadrupled," "133MHz," or other similar wording. Another good way to determine whether your motherboard supports the AMD 5x86 is to look for it in the listed models on AMD's Web site.

There are a few things to note when installing a 5x86 processor into a 486 motherboard:

  • The operating voltage for the 5x86 is 3.45V +/- 0.15V. Not all motherboards have this setting, but most that incorporate a Socket 3 design should. If your 486 motherboard is a Socket 1 or 2 design, you cannot use the 5x86 processor directly. The 3.45 volt processor does not operate in a 5V socket and can be damaged.

To convert a 5V motherboard to 3.45V, processors with adapters could be purchased from several vendors, such as Kingston, PowerLeap, and Evergreen. These companies and others sold the 5x86 complete with a voltage regulator adapter attached in an easy-to-install package.

These versions are ideal for older 486 motherboards that don't have a Socket 3 design and might still be available in the surplus or closeout market. If not, you can create your own upgrade kit with a processor, voltage adapter, and heatsink/fan.

  • It is generally better to purchase a new motherboard, processor, and RAM than to buy one of these adapters. Buying a new motherboard is also better than using an adapter because the older BIOS might not understand the requirements of the processor as far as speed is concerned. BIOS updates often are required with older boards.

  • Most Socket 3 motherboards have jumpers, enabling you to set the voltage manually. Some boards don't have jumpers, but have voltage autodetect instead. These systems check the VOLDET pin (pin S4) on the microprocessor when the system is powered on.

  • The VOLDET pin is tied to ground (Vss) internally to the microprocessor. If you cannot find any jumpers for setting voltage, you can check the motherboard as follows: Switch the PC off, remove the microprocessor, connect pin S4 to a Vss pin on the ZIF socket, power on, and check any Vcc pin with a voltmeter. This should read 3.45 (± 0.15) volts. See the previous section on CPU sockets for the pinout.

  • The 5x86 requires a 33MHz motherboard speed, so be sure the board is set to that frequency. The 5x86 operates at an internal speed of 133MHz. Therefore, the jumpers must be set for "clock-quadrupled" or "4x clock" mode. By setting the jumpers correctly on the motherboard, the CLKMUL pin (pin R17) on the processor will be connected to ground (Vss). If there is no 4x clock setting, the standard DX2 2x clock setting should work.

  • Some motherboards have jumpers that configure the internal cache in either write-back (WB) or write-through (WT) mode. They do this by pulling the WB/WT pin (pin B13) on the microprocessor to logic High (Vcc) for WB or to ground (Vss) for WT. For best performance, configure your system in WB mode; however, reset the cache to WT mode if problems running applications occur or the floppy drive doesn't work right (DMA conflicts).

  • The 5x86 runs hot, so a heatsink is required. It normally must have a fan, and most upgrade kits included a fan.

In addition to the 5x86, the AMD-enhanced 486 product line included 80MHz; 100MHz; and 120MHz CPUs. These are the A80486DX2-80SV8B (40MHzx2), A80486DX4-100SV8B (33MHzx3), and A80486DX4-120SV8B (40MHzx3).

Cyrix/TI 486

The Cyrix 486DX2/DX4 processors were available in 100MHz, 80MHz, 75MHz, 66MHz, and 50MHz versions. Similar to the AMD 486 chips, the Cyrix versions are fully compatible with Intel's 486 processors and work in most 486 motherboards.

The Cx486DX2/DX4 incorporates an 8KB write-back cache, an integrated floating-point unit, advanced power management, and SMM, and was available in 3.3V versions.