On April 25 I reported that some AMD Ryzen 7000 CPUs were suddenly burning out, causing damage to the processors themselves, and in some cases to the connected motherboard.
Thankfully, AMD has quickly gotten to the root of the issue, and issued a timely AGESA firmware update for the 600-series AM5 motherboards that support the next-gen CPUs, which will limit the voltage to the chip to 1.3V. AMD said in a statement that it expects board partners to release BIOS updates containing the new firmware within the next few days.
As I previously reported, it was suspected that unsafe overvolting was the cause of the thermal issues, as voltages in excess of 1.35V appeared to be damaging the chips’ thermal safety measures and allowing them to reach unsafe temperatures.
Now, if you don’t overclock any of your components, you can just go ahead and close this article, since that sort of overvolting was only happening when users were manually overclocking their CPU (or using certain in-BIOS overclocking profiles). The issue was affecting both Ryzen 7000 and 7000X3D chips, most notably the flagship Ryzen 9 7950X3D.
Penalties for overclocking?
If you’re still reading, you’re no doubt aware that overclocking one’s components is a common practice among PC gamers and tech enthusiasts. This is done either by using a pre-loaded profile in the motherboard BIOS, or by manually raising the target operating frequencies and supplied voltage to your PC parts. We’ve got a guide on how to overclock right here, if you’ve kept reading out of curiosity!
This new firmware may come as a blow to overclocking fans, since it looks like plenty of Ryzen 7000 chips can in fact be safely overclocked above 1.3V; I noted in my previous article that 1.35V appeared to be ‘safe’, and judging by the low number of cases reported, we can assume that some Ryzen 7000 products can handle more than that with the right CPU cooling solution.
On the bright side, AMD has assured users in a statement that “none of these changes affect the ability of our Ryzen 7000 Series processors to overclock memory”, which was a concern some users had when the issues first arose, and the prospect of a voltage cap fix was suggested. There will also be no impact on AMD’s Precision Boost feature, which is a sort of automatic ‘smart overclocking’ mode.
Still, serious overclocking enthusiasts will no doubt be displeased; the competitive overclocking scene relies on esoteric liquid nitrogen cooling to push CPUs to incredibly high frequencies and voltages in order to eke out precious extra performance, and a hard voltage cap on all Ryzen 7000 processors is basically going to shut all that down.
It’s also unclear at this point whether AMD intends to refund any damaged chips; in its statement, it said that “anyone whose CPU may have been impacted by this issue should contact AMD customer support”, but it should be noted that this may only be for data-gathering purposes, since damage caused by manual hardware overclocking is explicitly not covered in Ryzen product warranties.