AMD probes reports of deep fried Ryzen 7000 chips
Botched BIOS firmware, EXPO memory profiles possible culprit
Updated Excessive processor voltages have been identified as the potential culprit of fried Ryzen 7000 and X3D CPUs and damaged motherboards.
In a statement provided to The Register, AMD acknowledged the issue, stating it is aware of a "limited number of reports online claiming that excess voltage while overclocking may have damaged the motherboard socket and pin pads."
AMD says it's working with its board partners to ensure the voltages applied to its Ryzen 7000X3D parts are within product specs.
The statement comes after multiple motherboard vendors responded to reports of damaged CPUs and motherboards with BIOS updates to patch the issue in software. Asus and MSI also issued statements addressing the issue, suggesting it may be related to EXPO memory profiles — AMD's equivalent to Intel XPM — allowing the system-on-chip (SoC) voltage to reach unsafe levels.
"Recently, there have been reports of the 7000X3D series CPUs being damaged, which may have been caused by abnormal voltage issues," MSI posted on Reddit earlier this week. "In order to prevent over-voltage and reduce the risk of damage to the 7000X3D series CPUs, MSI has added some restrictions in both the AM5-series BIOs and the MSI Center."
The changes limit users to negative offset voltage settings, which MSI says should reduce the likelihood of damage.
Meanwhile, in a statement provided to noted overclocker and YouTuber Der8auer, the manufacturer said it'd rolled out new BIOSes with dedicated thermal monitoring mechanisms designed to prevent damage to customers CPUs and motherboards, and was working with AMD to "define new roles for AMD EXPO and SoC voltage."
Generally speaking, most consumer memory is advertised and sold at its XMP or EXPO speeds. Achieving those speeds, however, requires users to enable the appropriate memory profile, which works by telling the motherboard what memory speed, timings, and voltages are required. While widely accepted by chipmakers, it's important to remember these memory profiles are technically viewed as overclocking, thus are exempt from warranty in the case of damage.
Some have speculated these factors may have creating a scenario in which the CPU's thermal controls are rendered inoperable, allowing the chip to continue drawing power until it exceeds safe operating temperatures and releases the magic smoke.
With the launch of AMD's Ryzen 7000 chips last summer, the chipmaker implemented a new boost algorithm that allowed the chip to run at or near its thermal limit while feathering its clock speed to prevent overheating. If the thermal controls used to prevent the chip from exceeding spec were damaged — due to excessive SoC voltages perhaps — the chip could conceivably fry itself.
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As for the BIOS fix, multiple users on the AMD subreddit have reported elevated voltages when Expo profiles are enabled. After applying the patched BIOSes, others observed reduced SoC voltages.
The debacle has not only called into question conventional wisdom when it comes to memory overclocking and safe SoC voltages, but also the perception of XMP/EXPO as being a "safe" default. For the moment the generally accepted advice, at least among Redditors, is to disable EXPO, and revert any manual SoC voltage tweaks until the cause of the issue has been identified and resolved.
Disabling EXPO/XMP might mean living with slower memory speeds and looser latencies than advertised, but given the prices AMD is charging for its chips and OEMs for AM5 motherboards, we suspect that's a small price to pay compared inadvertently frying your system.
While many of the updates from motherboard manufacturers have focused on AMD's recently released 7000X3D parts, as noted by Der8auer, others have reported similar damage on the company's bog-standard 7000-series parts announced last August.
It remains to be seen how the BIOS tweaks will impact memory performance and stability. High-end memory kits often require higher voltages to maintain stability at faster transfer rates. As such, capping the maximum voltage or limiting boards to negative voltage off-sets may reduce the likelihood of damage but also introduce instability at advertised speeds.
It's also unclear whether the issue is the result of a defect in the design of AMD's silicon or simply a BIOS firmware bug that allows the chip to exceed "safe" operating parameters.
While EXPO and XMP may be overclocking, AMD may be giving users a pass in this case. In response to questions, AMD has advised anyone impacted by the issue contact customer support for help.
AMD's PC lineup hits another snag
This is hardly the only challenge Team Red has come up against following the launch of its Ryzen 7000 CPUs and RDNA 3 GPUs last year.
In November AMD began investigating reports of "unexpected" variations in performance among its Ryzen 7000 chips. Specifically, certain games were running slower on chips that use multiple core-complex dies, like the 12-core 7900X and the 16-core 7950X.
Meanwhile, that same month, AMD acknowledged an issue with the stock coolers on its Radeon RX 7900 XTX reference GPUs that resulted in "unexpected throttling." The fault is believed to be rooted in the overall design or problems on the part of the manufacturer of the vapor chamber used on the stock cooler.
AMD, which is scheduled to release its first quarter earnings next week, has forecast another down quarter with revenues slipping another 10 percent to $5.3 billion plus or minus $300 million. ®
Updated to add
"We have root caused the issue and have already distributed a new AGESA that puts measures in place on certain power rails on AM5 motherboards to prevent the CPU from operating beyond its specification limits, including a cap on SOC voltage at 1.3V," an AMD spokesperson told us.
"None of these changes affect the ability of our Ryzen 7000 Series processors to overclock memory using EXPO or XMP kits or boost performance using PBO technology. We expect all of our ODM partners to release new BIOS for their AM5 boards over the next few days. We recommend all users to check their motherboard manufacturers website and update their BIOS to ensure their system has the most up to date software for their processor.
"Anyone whose CPU may have been impacted by this issue should contact AMD customer support. Our customer service team is aware of the situation and prioritizing these cases."