Your Athlon XP
Author : Wayne
Date : 14th January 2002
With the introduction of the Palomino cored Athlon
XP, AMD went a step further in their attempts to stop people
overclocking. While the standard Athlon had the L1 bridges erased
with a laser that did little more than scour the surface, the
XP uses a more powerful laser that actually burns a small rectangular
pit into the substrate. To make life even more difficult, at
the bottom of each of these pits is a copper ground which needs
isolating from the final bridge connection if things are to
work as expected.
Okay, I'm sure this isn't the first XP unlocking
guide you've read, but unlike some of the others I'm going to
tell you straight, this isn't an easy operation by any stretch
of the imagination. You need a keen eye, a steady hand and some
level of planning. It's more along the lines of neuro-surgery
than it is your typical tweak or mod, but with the right steps
it can be done without too much grief. Rush it and you'll screw
up, you need to be patient and take your time or it'll end in
Being the responsible kind of site we are,
I need to remind you that carrying out this process will invalidate
your warranty, and if you do happen to destroy your prized processor
don't come crying to us about it, we did it because we're idiots!
First off let's examine what you're likely to
Depending on the approach you take, you may or
may not need a fine, non electrically conductive filler, some
Sellotape (Scotch Tape) and an Exacto or other sharp knife.
You will need a conductive ink or paint or a rear demister (defogger)
repair solution and a pin or other instrument with a very fine
For the filler, there are several options. You
can use nail polish, Super Glue (Crazy Glue), automotive body
filler, epoxy resin and Tip-Ex to name but a few. If you go
for the automotive body filler, you're actually better using
what's known as a knifing putty or "stopper" as this
is a very fine filler designed for filling very small imperfections.
Super Glue works but dries a little too quickly for my tastes
meaning you have to work much quicker. Personally I prefer epoxy
resin, it can be bought in small two part sachets and so doesn't
cost a fortune. It also doesn't dry too quickly giving you about
5 minutes or so to clean up and correct any mistakes. For this
particular processor I used Nanotherm thermal epoxy simply because
I had a bit here and I know it's not electrically conductive.
Stencil blade Exacto knife and rear demister repair solution
Identifying the L1 bridges :
Identifying the L1 bridges isn't too difficult,
mainly because they're actually marked up as L1. There are five
pairs of gold contact dots separated by the pits we mentioned
earlier. The image below shows you where to find them.
And here's a diagram showing more clearly what
you're looking for.
Once you've located the contacts, you're safer
cleaning the substrate with a cotton bud (Q-Tip) and either
an alcohol based solvent, Isopropyl Alcohol or cassette head
cleaner, or if you have none of those use a small amount of
soapy water but use very little of it and dry well when you've
Before you start, position the processor on a
soft surface to avoid damaging the pins. I used a folded pot
towl but anything similar will do. Don't place it on the carpet
as the shuffling of feet tends to build up a nice static charge.
Also, make sure you're in a good strong light and, if your eyesight
isn't perfect, get yourself a magnifying glass, eye glass or
Which approach? :
There are several techniques you can use to improve
your chances of success, but if you don't want to fill in those
pits there's only really one route you can take, and no matter
how easy it looks in this diagram I can assure you it aint.
At least it aint easy to do and be certain none of the ink/paint
has run down into one of the pits.
Failing this, the first step is to fill up those
pits with your filler, but it's important none of your filler
gets onto those gold coloured contacts. To do this we need to
mask the two rows of contacts with Sellotape (Scotch Tape).
Cut two fine strips of tape and place them over the two rows
of contacts (Below). You may find this is easier done with a
pair of tweezers, especially if you have fat fingers like I
With this done, you can then use a fine spreader
to "massage" your filler well into the pits. For this
I used a very fine watchmaker's screwdriver but a cocktail stick,
large pin or something similar will probably serve the same
purpose. Obviously if you use Super Glue it's a case of squirting
it in and tidying up as quickly as you can before it sets.
Below you can see the contacts masked with Sellotape
and the Epoxy now filling the pits.
Once your happy and everything is as it should
be, wait a minute or two and just whip off the tape and wait
until your filler is completely dry, the time will vary depending
on the type of filler you've used. If you've used nail varnish
or Super Glue, you probably now have a small ridge between the
two rows of contacts. You may want to carefuly scrape this back
down to substrate level using the point of your knife as it
makes drawing in the traces that bit easier later.
The next step, and probably the most difficult
for most people is to join up those gold dots. The diagram below
sure looks neat, but if you manage to get your final job looking
anything like that you're a better man (or woman) than I am.
The easiest way to apply your conductive ink/paint is with a
pin, cocktail stick, tooth pick or other fine pointed object.
Go lightly or not only will the ink not draw, you'll also risk
damaging the contacts in the process. You may find a match stick
or other small, straight edged item can help keep the line steady
but chances are it'll just get in the way and make life difficult.
The picture below shows the best I was able to
manage, although to be fair I was actually pretty pleased with
that. If you get it wrong first time, and there's every likelyhood
you will, just clean off the paint/ink with a little Isopropyl
Alcohol or if you don't have any of that an eraser supposedly
works. As a last resort use a little cream cleaner on a damp
One thing you must avoid is allowing the
bridges to make contact with their neighbours. So far as I'm
aware this won't cause any major damage but it will lead to
incorrect multiplier setting. The diagram below shows what I
If you think you might need a little help keeping
the bridges separate, you can cut another strip of tape wide
enough to cover both rows of contacts (Below).
Then using a sharp knife such as an Exacto, cut
away the paths between the two contacts. Don't use too much
pressure or again you risk damaging something.Once done, carefully
remove the remaining strips of tape with the tip of your knife.
The final step, for me anyway is to cut a strip
of insulating tape and place it over the newly connected bridges
just to stop them getting scraped when changing heat sinks or
sliding temperature sensors under them, or just from general
handling. If you don't do any of these things you won't need
the tape, but better safe than sorry I always say.
Now all you need to do is to pop back your processor
and check to see if you have the full range of multipliers at
your disposal. If you don't, simply swear several times out
loud and prepare to try again.
As with all delicate jobs, the secret's in the
planning and the time you take over the job. Why didn't we use
a pencil?? well, for one it's not as permanent as we'd like
it to be, and the other reason is that there seems to be a fairly
low success rate using pencils on XPs.
Whether the whole process is worth the gains you'll
see is something only you can decide. I've not yet had time
to see how far I can push the XP2000+ I used in this review
but as soon as I have I'll post a few benchmarks.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments
then head on over to our forums.