Intel updates microcode to block H87/B85 overclocking

July 25, 2013 // 8:49 a.m.

Tags: #b85 #bios #cpu #h87 #haswell #intel #intel-cpu #ivy-bridge #microcode #motherboard #processor #z87

Intel has confirmed that it plans to issue a microcode update for its processors that will prevent the use of K-series overclocking tweaks on all but Z87-based motherboard chipsets.

Intel has long tolerated overclocking on its products, competing enthusiastically with rival AMD to encourage overclocking competitions that allow its chips to hit ever-higher clockspeeds in the name of headlines. The company balances this, however, with a desire not to harm its revenue stream: if customers can get the same performance as a £150 processor from a £100 processor, there's little incentive to spend that extra £50 on a higher-margin product.

Accordingly, it limits overclocking to its more high-end products: only chips that feature a K suffix include unlocked multipliers for full control over the clock speed, and only Z-series chipsets include the controls required to adjust said multipliers. At least, that is how it has worked in the past.

Recently, however, several motherboard manufacturers have been releasing BIOS updates for their non-Z-series motherboards - which sell for less than their high-end Z-series equivalents, even when offering much the same feature set - which allow the user to play with the overclocking features of K-series chips. While they don't offer the same overclocking potential as the premium Z-series motherboards, largely thanks to corners cut in other areas such as voltage regulation, they do offer the chance for buyers on a budget to eke a little more power out of their purchases.

Until now. French enthusiast site Hardware.fr has confirmation from Intel that its motherboard partners are going to be given a slap on the wrist in the form of a microcode update that blocks all current K-series processor overclocking features from operating on anything but a Z87 motherboard.

'Intel plans to release a firmware update that limits processor core overclocking to Intel Z87 based platforms,' the short statement reads - confirming rumours that have been spreading from motherboard manufacturers over the past week. The update will patch the microcode of the processor via the motherboard's BIOS, and while its installation will not be mandatory for those who have already purchased a board and chip it will soon find its way into the retail channel as a preinstalled update.

Intel's statement suggested that the update was provided to motherboard manufacturers in Week 30 of 2013 - this week, in other words. As a result, we'd recommend that anyone enjoying the benefits of a K-series processor on B85 or H87 chipset motherboard treat any BIOS update from their manufacturer with suspicion from this point on.
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