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[EHW Experiments] Coffee Lake on Z170 from scratch [Ft. Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7 Pro]


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Hey guys, today I bring you the start of an experiment I've been wanting to do for quite some time. This is entirely new for me, but I'm hoping my log can give people future insight!

 

Are you guys ready for an adventure?! I sure am!

 

Let's have a little discussion about what this mod is. Basically, Z170 and Z270 (Skylake and Kabylake) are only able to support those two generations (6th and 7th gen). Now, the thing is, the socket is physically the same between these and 8th and 9th gen, which is considered as LGA 1151-2 (or revision two) since the electrical layout is slightly different.

 

This makes it so they're not compatible out of the box, so you can't just take a 8th of 9th gen Intel Core CPU and plug it in a Z170 or Z270 (or lower end chipsets from the same generation like H270, H170, H110, etc.) and have it work.

 

In this experiment, I'll cover the mods needed and what resources are available to help "try" this. I say "try" because success isn't a guarantee and worst case you can brick your motherboard and fry your processor.

 

I'll also be detailing what I'm doing, explaining the hardware I'll be using along with answering any questions anyone has along the way.

 

I repeat, I have never done this, so basically you'll join me on this quest.

 

Welcome to the party!

 

Table of content

 

1 - Mod discussion -

2 - Mods needed and resources available -

3 - Board variations -

4 - My board, RAM and CPUs -

5 - BIOS modding progress -

6 - CPU Modding Progress -

7 - RAM details and overclocking -

8 - CPU-Z details -

9 - Conclusion -

Edited by Steven
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I'm missing a few parts of hardware, then I can start listing what I need for this. I got my 8700K today, I'm waiting for my "flashing" chip and I need to make my stickers! :D

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  • 4 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

So let's first discuss on how one would need to proceed to achieve this mod. Firstly, you need a motherboard with Z170 or Z270 chipsets, these are the high end mainstream models from Intel for 6th and 7th generation Core series processors. This mod can be done on lower end chipsets also using likely a similar method (or even the same), but personally, I don't see the advantage of using lower end processors for such a mod (apart from maybe i7 8700 on H110 or H170?).

 

Regardless, I was able to source a Z170 higher end motherboard with EKWB monoblock for $95 USD. For a new board that would be twice the price for just the motherboard, add another $175 for a monoblock, you're almost at 4x the price.

 

So, enough digressing, to do this, you also need to get a 8th gen or 9th gen CPU. This will be your end result chip, I choose to buy a used 8700K (I was looking for a 8700K or 9700K, and got a great deal on a 8700K). You also need a 6th or 7th gen CPU to physically do this mod, as you need to mod the original BIOS, I got my hands on a kaby lake G3930 celeron, you can find these quite cheaply as a lot of miners are offloading their rigs were using these $40ish chips.

 

Luckily for me, this mod isn't new or half baked. A lot of resources exist to achieve this mod and specialized software tools have been create to help do all the tedious BIOS modding. In regards to modding the CPU, well, you've got a few eBay sellers selling the stickers you need to isolate pins on the CPU to trick the motherboard and/or CPU.

 

Fellow editor @mllrkllr88 had sent me a link to this eBay listing specifically. I didn't want to wait for these stickers and figured I could cut them myself, so I saved the images on my PC and use paint to convert them to black and white to be able to use the image files to cut them out myself on my Cricut vinyl cutter machine, took quite a bit of trial and error to get the sizing just right. Once I dialed in the size with just regular vinyl, I proceeded to apply two layers or Kapton tape over the paper backing from vinyl to cut on my machine, just like vinyl.

 

nhKJ1MY.jpg

YKNXDFv.png

 

Two tries later (to get the right cutting pressure) and I got what seemed to be two perfectly fitting stickers! Some motherboards require two pins to be also shorted, but luckily for me, the Gigabyte motherboards don't, so all I needed was stickers.

 

9TasOTR.jpg

tag0bnM.jpg

mGOgs7f.jpg

 

With the i7 8700K CPU modded. The next step was to mod the BIOS.

 

The BIOS needed to be modded for quite a few obvious reasons, but some aren't quite as obvious. 6th and 7th generation chips were only designed to go up to 8 threads, so firstly one of the modifications done is to bring the max thread count to 16 (in case you'd want to use a 9900K). There's a modification you need to do to enable the PCIE lanes to work, because 6th and 7th gen aren't quite configured exactly like 8th and 9th generation, so a modification in BIOS is required for this to reconfigure.

 

You need to also fix hyperthreading, since there's also a compatibility issue because of this, might be in relation to total thread count. Now you need to insert the microcode for the new batch of CPUs, because obviously any publicly available official profile won't be supporting these.

 

Luckily for anyone wanting to do this, there's a forum called https://www.win-raid.com/ which's core is deeper firmware level modding (BIOS's, drivers, firmwares, etc.).

 

This thread is mainly for BIOS modding for the mod I was aiming to do exactly, but as one would guess, it isn't as straight forward as plug and play (like a USB device).

 

My motherboard was on the latest BIOS already (BIOSes for my product) f22m, but basically I could update anything between latest and f20, which allows for multiple BIOS possibilities.

 

I used F21 BIOS at the end because more recent version changed things I was going to mod anyways. So with the tools available, you just extract the zipped folder using the downloaded software in the OP and follow the instructions (basically take your BIOS file and drop it on the AllInOne.exe found within the zipped file). You then only get one option, which is to select which microcode to inject by selecting the CPU you're going to be using. After that, it's all done by itself. I had to put the files on my root directory or I would get errors, they say so in the thread and it was applicable for me.

 

(Note, you'll see I modded f22m BIOS in the pictures, but I ended up using f21 for the reasons I mentioned earlier)

 

8aMpJZr.jpg

UDPVYl0.jpg

 

Now, the trickiest part for me is coming up. With the BIOS modded and CPU modded, all that was left essentially was to flash the BIOS. Simple task right? Not. Here's my super setup with the Celeron for flashing the modded BIOS.

 

KH1SAlV.jpg

6JfoI4y.jpg

 

There's a thread created specifically at Win-Raid for flashing Gigabyte BIOSes because often you get "Invalid BIOS image". I first tried exactly the method listed in post #5, which is downloading FreeDOS, rufus to make a bootable USB with FreeDOS and the modded EFIFlash utility. This failed, in every single combination possible for hours and hours. version 6.2, 6.5, modded 6.2 and modded 6.5. Every single combination of these with FreeDOS, various USB stickers yielded errors, which prevented EFIFlash for actually being usable, so I couldn't flash my modded BIOS. On a rested head, I created a second test setup the second night.

 

dpgaBJk.jpg

 

I figured I tried every single possibility with what I had the day before so I figured I had to do something new. Instead of using FreeDOS, I looked for an alternative, I downloaded UBCD (Ultimate boot CD) to get that same command line feature to execute, from command line, the software. This ended up not working either. So having my USB formatted under UBCD now, I kept it and looked for a new EFIFlash, something more recent and found a modded version 8.0, where? On the same forum!

 

Equipped with the new command line software, modded BIOS and new modded EFIFlash, I, ..., I'll continue in a next post! :D

 

Edited by ENTERPRISE
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This is the sort of thing (when I have time) I love to tinker with. Modding something to make it better or to make it work in an environment it should not is such a thrill when it all works out. Looks like you have made some awesome progress so far :cool:

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  • 1 month later...
Posted (edited)

Long overdue post! :o

 

So, equiped with everything, I booted into the command line interface and launched in DOS the new modded 0.80 EFIFlash too, entered the flashing command line and voila, the force flash process started. This had to be the most stressful part of the whole thing.

 

But, worth it, because I got that sought after "Success" message. At that point it was time to remove my flashing chip, the Celeron G3930 to make place for the beast i7 8700K. I was sort of stressed at this point because I didn't know if things really worked as there's no cookie cutter way to do this and no results page to show others results, but without a boot drive, I knew exactly that I'd go directly to BIOS is things worked as they should.

 

The All-in-one program created by a user at Win-Raid does quite a few steps to mod the BIOS, there's a mod to change the maximum amount of thread from 8 to 16, a mod to add the microcodes for a select amount of processors, there's three total for three different batch of processors, there's also one to fix hyper threading, one to fix PCIE Express lane distribution to the slots and a few other coffee lake specific issues for running on 6th and 7th gen motherboards.

 

So, back to the first booting, well, here was the results!

 

TZy1K1J.jpg

 

I see Z170X and 8700K on the same page, YES! SUCCESS!

 

At this point I was so happy everything was working, ram slots were working, so I wanted to start pushing this sytem. See what this 8700K was capable of! I put everything in the case PSU, Mobo+trimmings, GPU, two m.2 NVME SSDs with the watercooling.

 

p9LzM0C.jpg

 

Started the watercooling planning, it was quite straight forward because my part layout and parts I had on hand. which included like 15 inches of EK ZMT tubing, chromed alphacool tubing and some 16mm PETG. I loved working with chromed tubing last time, so I decided to use as much as I could again, so three of the five tubing runs had chrome and the two last ones had ZMT, turned out quite well if I say so myself.

 

Now, with everything up and running it was time to push this little CPU!

 

wYPXYkf.jpg

V7CE2F8.jpg

01JS4Q9.jpg

 

I had to play with the lighting because I just couldn't do the RGB thing, so I decided on a theme that fit the motherboard colors.

 

I pushed and pushed and pushed, climbed up to 5.3 GHz, just couldn't get it stable under CB R20 at a voltage that could keep temperatures under throttling limits with this monoblock and radiator solution. I although settled on 4*8GB of B-Die 3200/16 RAM with an overclock of 5.2 GHz.

 

https://valid.x86.fr/ze5ur8 et voilà!

 

Now that my CPU overclock is dialed down, it'll be the time to overclock RAM, which I'm hoping to achieve at least over what this motherboard is rated for, so above 3866 MHz.

 

Now, stay tuned until the next post! :D

Edited by ENTERPRISE
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Damn! If there wasn't a worry with the bios update not working, I'd be tempted to try it like I did the 771 Xeon to socket 775 mod. :)

 

Seriously! I had a MSI G41M board with a E5420 once upon a time, fun times, didn't even need to mod the BIOS!

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This is very interesting ! ...I got a Gigabyte SOC Force Z170 which currently serves as a testbench w/ a 4.8GHZ 6700K and 16GB of 3866 RAM (and also runs the 55 inch LG bedroom TV) - I would dearly like to update that to a 5Giggles 8700K. That Z170 SOC Force is one of my fav mobos (22 phases and all)...wondering if this method will work with it....?

7adfea941d1f.jpg

 

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Likely it would. I almost got one of those on ebay, but lost the auction last week.

 

my next project board is an ASUS Maximus VIII Formula.

 

If you're willing to try, get the CPU you want and I can walk you through it.

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Likely it would. I almost got one of those on ebay, but lost the auction last week.

 

my next project board is an ASUS Maximus VIII Formula.

 

If you're willing to try, get the CPU you want and I can walk you through it.

 

 

Thanks ! I am definitely going to try this...question is whether I go for a 8700K or 9900K - once the 10900k / LGA 1200 series is available for consumers, I expect current gen 9900K to drop in price, and that's when I'm going to move ahead with this. Luumi has been able to get a 9900K working on Z170 ASRock, but the process should be similar. Biggest hurdle is getting the right Gigabyte Bios update, and any help is appreciated then

 

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Thanks ! I am definitely going to try this...question is whether I go for a 8700K or 9900K - once the 10900k / LGA 1200 series is available for consumers, I expect current gen 9900K to drop in price, and that's when I'm going to move ahead with this. Luumi has been able to get a 9900K working on Z170 ASRock, but the process should be similar. Biggest hurdle is getting the right Gigabyte Bios update, and any help is appreciated then

 

 

It's theoretically the exact same process I did. When you're flashing you have the option to inject the microcodes for three or four different batches of CPU, just choose the 9900k instead of 8700k

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It's theoretically the exact same process I did. When you're flashing you have the option to inject the microcodes for three or four different batches of CPU, just choose the 9900k instead of 8700k

 

Cool ! Thanks again.

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  • 1 month later...
So @Steven you still rocking this mod on a daily ?

 

I am not unfortunately, but I'm making a second mod right now with an ASUS Z170 Sabertooth Mark S. The last higher end white PCB ATX motherboard.

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I am not unfortunately, but I'm making a second mod right now with an ASUS Z170 Sabertooth Mark S. The last higher end white PCB ATX motherboard.

 

Oh nice !, I do like white PCB Boards ! Send pics when you are doing it lol.

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Oh nice !, I do like white PCB Boards ! Send pics when you are doing it lol.

 

 

...yeah white PCBs rock, especially if there's a Galax 2080 Ti HoF OCL on top of it ! I do love my Aorus 2080 Tis, but they're a bit gaudy on the outside...fortunately, the black-white-silver theme of the workstation build they ended up in hides it all well.

 

...I'm still thinking about plugging a 9900K/S into my fav 'non-HEDT mobo', the Gigglebyte Z170 SOC Force (after I get rid of its orange theme with some Rustoleum white ;) ). I got this setup way back in '15, along with the first DDR4 3866 kit and a great 6700K ES which runs that RAM at 4000 / stock voltage. This combo has been serving as a testbench, and in various other functions...now I'm trying to decide whether to just make it a NUC, what with 3x M.2 on the mobo, a pile of Sata (+ a USB-C) connections and perhaps with a 4x M.2 PCIe card <> or instead mod it for the 9900K/S, per above posts...obviously, a 9900K/S wouldn't make much sense in a NUC.

 

 

a3a3b2b74b2a.jpg

0d3f87b50220.jpg

 

 

 

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I'm doing this combo for a friend too! Hope he enjoys it once it's done!

 

Now, I choose to go the programmer way to program the BIOS chips directly instead of finding way around flashing non-official BIOS.

 

This second attempt was more of a test to see how I could do ASUS Motherboards directly.

 

Now, I received my "real" stickers from ebay along with copper conductive tape, so I'm fully equipped to do quite a few more now with relative ease.

 

When I get everything, I hope to do a video on my next board, the ASUS Maximus VIII Formula!

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  • 2 weeks later...

 

 

...yeah white PCBs rock, especially if there's a Galax 2080 Ti HoF OCL on top of it ! I do love my Aorus 2080 Tis, but they're a bit gaudy on the outside...fortunately, the black-white-silver theme of the workstation build they ended up in hides it all well.

 

...I'm still thinking about plugging a 9900K/S into my fav 'non-HEDT mobo', the Gigglebyte Z170 SOC Force (after I get rid of its orange theme with some Rustoleum white ;) ). I got this setup way back in '15, along with the first DDR4 3866 kit and a great 6700K ES which runs that RAM at 4000 / stock voltage. This combo has been serving as a testbench, and in various other functions...now I'm trying to decide whether to just make it a NUC, what with 3x M.2 on the mobo, a pile of Sata (+ a USB-C) connections and perhaps with a 4x M.2 PCIe card <> or instead mod it for the 9900K/S, per above posts...obviously, a 9900K/S wouldn't make much sense in a NUC.

 

 

a3a3b2b74b2a.jpg

0d3f87b50220.jpg

 

 

 

Love the Galax HOF boards, so nice to look at. That would make a nice NUC for sure, I have found NUC's to just be so darn useful as of late, great as mini servers for the home as well lol.

 

I'm doing this combo for a friend too! Hope he enjoys it once it's done!

 

Now, I choose to go the programmer way to program the BIOS chips directly instead of finding way around flashing non-official BIOS.

 

This second attempt was more of a test to see how I could do ASUS Motherboards directly.

 

Now, I received my "real" stickers from ebay along with copper conductive tape, so I'm fully equipped to do quite a few more now with relative ease.

 

When I get everything, I hope to do a video on my next board, the ASUS Maximus VIII Formula!

 

Nice, you will have to let us know how you get on with the programmer, hell you could offer your modding as a service :p

 

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