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April 9, 2010

5

Upgrading the CPU in a Dell Studio XPS 1640

While the default Dell Studio XPS 1640 is fast and is a decent work laptop, it needed to do one extra thing, run virtual machines (VMs). I spend a lot of my time debugging, hacking and otherwise trying to make software behave in ways that the developers had not intended.

Tools like VirtualBox, VMWare, Xen and QEMU make this job less tedious. The problem is that with the Intel T7350 CPU, I cannot run 64 bit VMs. Turns out that T7250 is a 64 capable chip, but without the VT-x extension which allows for hardware assisted virtualization.

Look your Intel CPU up to see if it supports the VT-x flag.

It turns out upgrading your CPU is relatively easy as Dell did a good job in designing the laptop. The instructions are all in their online service manual.

Replacing CPU in a Dell Studio XPS 1640

The only hard part is figuring out what CPU is compatible and then buying it. Thankfully my company had no problem ordering an upgrade and after the first successful attempt, they ordered more for my other colleagues as well.

When picking an upgrade CPU, you must find one your motherboard supports. Your best and most compatible guess is to choose one in the same family as your own CPU, essentially a later model. Since the T7350 has a 1066 front side bus (FSB) , 45nm process and takes 25W, it is then easy to find a similar CPU with those values but at a much higher clock rate and L2 cache, and most importantly, VT-x flag.

Wikipedia has a list of all mobile processors that have the VT-x flag.

  • Mobile Core 2 Duo T5500, T5600, T6670, T7100, T7200, T7250, T7300, T7400, T7500, T7600G, T7700, T7800, U7500, L7200, L7300, L7400, L7500, L7700, U7500, U7600, U7700 (Merom)
  • Mobile Core 2 Duo SU7300, SU9300, SU9400, SU9600, SL9300, SL9380, SL9400, SL9600, SP9300, SP9400, SP9600, P7350 (mac),P7370, P7550 (confirmed), P7570, P8400, P8600, P8700, P8800, P9500, P9600, P9700, T8100, T8300, T9300, T9400, T9500, T9550, T9600, T9800, T9900 (Penryn)

A successor of the T7350 (Merom-2M) is the P8700 (Penryn-3M) and fits all my requirements to fit in the laptop. It is faster and more importantly has the VT-x flag and is easily found online for very cheap.

The installation went without incident and upon reboot I entered the BIOS and enabled the “Hardware Virtualization” option. Saved and rebooted, Virtualbox finally gave me the option to create and run 64-bit VMs.

An additional note: Updating (Flashing) the BIOS is not necessary. The BIOS checks to see if the CPU has the flag or not and will not display the “Hardware Virtualization” option if the CPU does not support it.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jul 18 2012

    Thanks for that info. I need to replace a P7350 and I was hoping to find out about upgrade choices. I think I’ll be getting a P8700, P9500, or similar. Thanks.

    Reply
  2. Matheo
    Feb 25 2013

    I have the same notebook (Dell Studio Xps 1640). There is a Core 2 Duo P8700 cpu inside. I would like to upgrade it to quad core Q9100. I wonder if it is possible,

    Reply
    • Feb 26 2013

      You’ll NEED to match the socket when upgrading CPUs. You’ll see the P8700, a mobile CPU uses Socket P: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Intel_Core_2_microprocessors
      The mobile Q9100 also uses Socket P, so at least there’s a CHANCE it’ll work.

      Beyond that, did the Dell XPS 1640 originally offer a Q9100 upgrade? The reason I ask is twofold:
      1) The chipset May or May Not support the Q9100. It’s really a matter of luck if you can’t find information about your exact motherboard (try using CPU-Z, it’s a great tool).
      2) The P8700 is a 25W CPU. I doubt the motherboard will provide adequate power for the 45W Q9100.

      Even if all of this stuff checks out, it may not work. I’ve had success the one time I upgraded a T2050 to a T7600. But that doesn’t mean laptops are meant to have their CPUs replaced.

      Make sure to do a bios update before swapping CPUs as this can be very important for compatibility.

    • Feb 26 2013

      @Matheo: Doug gave a good answer and is correct. It is the reason why I didn’t go quad-core because of the 45W requirement. I wasn’t sure if the power supply could handle that nor was I sure that the heatsink/pipe and fan could handle the kind of heat it would generate.

      It is up to you if you want to risk it, it is an ageing laptop and you can likely find the CPU for cheap on ebay or the like. I wish you luck!

  3. Charlie Wilson
    Mar 13 2013

    With the 45W processor, the unit will not boot unless plugged in. Definitely not worth it! Also, for those who want to upgrade the RAM, unless you are using rendering software, going over 4GB makes no difference. Spend the money on installing an SSD. Now THAT makes a HUGE difference!

    Reply

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