Oldschool: MSI GX660 Rookie Upgrade Misadventures

Discussion in 'MSI' started by zancis, Jan 3, 2019.

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  1. zancis

    zancis Newbie

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    Hi,

    Long time lurker, I am new to the forum. Glad to be here. Thank you for all the wealth of shared info here.
    I want to give some reading material back, and share my experience with MSI laptops, which I've been using for something close to 9 years now.

    I've had two of them.

    Currently using a GT72 6QD with the Skylake 6700HQ, and Nvidia 970M and I'm extremely happy with the system, apart from some shoddy build quality issues (lost the blue color on the keyboard backlight, broke the left screen hinge, and some minor others)

    Prior to that used I an GX660 (non-R) which I still have (Nehalem i5-460, 4GB Ram, ATI Radeon 5870), It has been in storage since 2014. It has served me extremely well for DAW work (Nuendo, Pro Tools) and gaming in the spare time. The only problem I had with the laptop in the period from 2011 to 2014 is that the battery got completely shot. It is truly a well built machine, with chintzy "party like its 2000" looks So I've decided to dust it off and see, whether it can be used in 2019, and make some upgrades, and I would like to document this in this thread :)

    Basic maintenance first - clean out the cooling system, re-paste CPU, GPU, and see if I can still use it.
    So I took it apart for the first time ever - I was too big of a chicken to disassemble a laptop, especially when I had work stuff on it, and ongoing projects, but in this case, the GX660 is retired, so it gave me a little more comfort in doing that :)

    After cleaning out all the crap from the heat sinks and fan, I've repasted the CPU and GPU with Arctic MX4, and ran some tests - I usually do video compression routines for maxing out a CPU - Compressing a ProRes video to h264 and vice versa - this usually loads all available CPU threads to 98 %. Results were nice - MSI Afterburner showed 74 degrees Celsius max during 1 hour on CPU, and this is on stock clocks, and stock fan curve, with no Cooler Boost. Pretty nice. Idle temps were nice too - 44 degrees when using "Gaming Mode" profile (2.7 GHz clock)

    So far so good, but when I stopped using this machine back in the day, I remembered that my Windows installation got so rotten, that the computer took like 2-3 minutes to boot and start windows 7, and during startup windows was completely non-responsive, and the HDD just kept grinding on and on - It was so annoying.

    So yeah, in era of NVME SSDs, you kinda get spoiled with boot speeds. I had the brilliant idea to update to Win10 by thinking that it could somehow be a more efficient OS, and I'm going to be able to weasel my way through rest of maintenance tasks. Yeah, LOL.
    After spending half of day of installing it and getting updates (instead of trying to de-fragment all partitions which I should have been doing in the first place) I successfully completed the upgrade, and got hit with even worse loading times, and generally lower system performance.

    So I decided to go ahead and install an SSD after seeing how my GT72 handles Win10. There's really no going back to slow HDDs, after you've been on SSDs for the past years. I really couldn't be arsed with defrag and potentially losing an entire day of doing it, and not getting any performance boost. Well I'm glad I did!

    With today's excellent prices, I snagged up an WD Blue 500GB SATA SSD. I tried reading forums about potential pitfalls, how the SSDs are not recognized, how I need modded BIOS in my system, but a lot of info was outdated on the topic, and in general it got too much like trying to cure herpes by reading Internet, so I just decided to go ahead and cowboy my way through it.

    I guess I got lucky. My machine has Stock MSI non-RAID bios, version 10L. I put the unpartitioned SSD in Icybox SATA to USB3 adapter caddy and the GX660 instantly recognized the drive in OS and mounted it as unallocated storage blob. Then I proceeded to clone my HDD's partitions to the SSD using Macrium Reflect free edition. I cloned it straight to USB - I couldn't install the drive, in the second 2.5" Bay, because I don't have that stupid bracket with screw holes to support it in the bay.

    The drive cloning finished in under two hours. Then I took the laptop apart again, and swapped the old HDD for the SSD.

    I didn't even manage to enter the bios setup to change the boot order when I already found myself at the Windows desktop - the system booted up so fast - it was like night and day difference!

    So I can pretty much say that this drive is Plug and Play, just in case if any of you are planning a similar upgrade. Model is Western Digital Blue SSD WDS500G2B0A

    Pretty happy with how it all went so far. Turned out to be a best case scenario.
    The key takeaways are:

    1. MSI used to make really good machines back in the day. Of course all my Macbook Pro toting colleagues would laugh me out of the office due to looks, but hey - at least I didn't have a single warranty issue.
    2. SSDs are a real shot in the arm for veteran machines like this one.

    So, time for next steps. I got bit by this tinkering bug, so I'm gonna keep modding this machine, until I turn it into an usable one in 2019:

    1. RAM upgrade (8 Gigs Max? 4 gigs is way too low these days)
    2. CPU Upgrade (920 or 940xm). Gotta love those sockets in laptops. Also the clock speed on these can be pretty high, just a teeny bit lower on turbo, than my current 6700HQ. Really shows how Intel has been making us pay through the nose all these years.
    + I really would like to do something about that single cooling fan in the system. It is bit too loud for my taste - is it possible to change it to AAVID like in my GT72 or something similar? Has anyone done this?

    I will follow up with the next upgrades.
    Happy New Year everyone!
     
    Bobbert9 and M18x-oldie like this.
  2. Bobbert9

    Bobbert9 Notebook Geek

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    Always good to see an older machine resurrected! I'm in the process of adding an SSD to a friend's desktop gaming PC that is taking about 10 minutes for the hard drive to quiet down after boot.

    Sent from my SM-N950U using Tapatalk
     
  3. johnbb

    johnbb Notebook Consultant

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    As gx660 has 3 RAM sockets, you can go up to 12GB (3 x 4GB) or probably 16GB (2 x 8GB).
    It's LVDS so you can go as high as 980m gtx. As the old stock 5870m (or 460m gtx I don't remember) is really lame now... Or a second hand 780m gtx for cheap would do the job nicely.
    920xm was definitely a beast back in the days. Used to have it rock stable at 3.4Ghz on all 4 cores on my old MSI GX660. It's worth less than 50$ on ali or ebay. So definitely worth the shot :)
    But with 980m and 920XM, you need the biggest PSU (aka 180W model). You can go higher but if I remember correctly there's a BIOS/EC trick that triggers throttle if more than 180W is drained from PSU.
    Keep us posted! And post some pics. I loved that lappy with all the orange led bars ;)
     
  4. ryzeki

    ryzeki Super Moderator Super Moderator

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    Welcome and nice to see previous GX660 owners! This model is the one that made me an MSI fan, previously being an Asus fan. My ex GX660R is still alive, just no longer with me :) I had upgraded mine in LCD (bought a nice LG one with much better colors and quality), the CPU I had was a 920XM, RAM to 16GB and dual SATA SSDs in raid 0.

    Keep in mind the following: While that model was still capable of using a wide assortment of GPUs including recent ones, the heatsink and general cooling capacity was not made for such GPUs. Unless you also mod the heatsink/change and adapt it with another one, I would suggest not to upgrade the GPU to the higher end GPUs like 980m, and instead use, at best, something like the 970m. The last upgrade I remember for said GX660 was an HD7970m.

    And! if you do use the 920xm, remember to use/buy a higher capacity power supply! The included 120w is not enough for an unlocked 920xm with an HD5870m, and if overclocked it will shut down! At the very least get a 150w PSU, but if you do plan on getting a higher end GPU, try for a 180w PSU.

    MSI laptops are great, but naturally some models had infamous issues. The GT72 had the hinge issue, which my previous GT70 also was a victim of. But of all the models I have had from MSI, all of them are alive and well, and working great.
     
  5. johnbb

    johnbb Notebook Consultant

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    I've never had any hinge issue with GT60/70 chassis. Honestly they are quite solid compared to the old msi GT/GX chassis (gx740 / gx640)...
    They need a bit of silicon spray once in awhile (or to be greased) but that's about it.
     

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