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Alienware 13 - nVidia 960m Overclocking

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I just recently received my newest Alienware purchase - the new 13" model with an nVidia GeForce GTX 960m (a Maxwell chip.)

I'm aware of the recent debacle in which nVidia disabled all mobile overclocking in their drivers, I believe versions 345.09 and up. It's also been said that they've disabled it in their new vBIOSes as well. However I was able to uncover a link in which users are confirming that version 347.88 enabled overclocking even on cards that are intended to be clock-blocked in vBIOS: NVIDIA 347.88 Game Ready Driver - 17/03 (re-enables overclocking!) | NotebookReview

There's even a user who reports having inf-modded that driver to allow installation with the new 960m, and claims to have unlocked overclocking capability. However, as yet I've been unsuccessful in modding that same driver to install on my system. I've copied the main ListDevices.txt file and all the .inf files in the Display.Driver folder over from version 350.12 which naturally supports the 960m but the result reports "required files are missing" and will not install.

  1. Could someone with more experience than I when it comes to inf-modding a driver give me some pointers?
  2. Any other ideas or solutions for unlocking the likely massive OC potential of the 960m? vBIOS mod perhaps? I've seen a mod for the 970m along with a modified nvflash EXE. I can provide my current vBIOS if anyone is willing to look into it!!

Thank you!!

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There is nothing to unlock in the driver...347.88-90 ignore the vBIOS lock-bit anyway and allow an OC of 135Mhz.

Upload your drivers "nvdmi.inf" and I'll Mod it for your HWID.

If NVIDIA again doesn't remove the driver lock I can later also unlock the locked vBIOS, but I am busy with other projects atm...dump your vBIOS with GPU-Z and PM me the file and I'll put it on the list.

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Prema,

Thank you for your reply! Attached is the nvdmi.inf from driver version 347.88. +135MHz sounds like an improvement, for sure, but I was hoping to see just how far you can go on this system - as I've read that Maxwell has extreme overclocking potential, limited by little else than your ability to dissipate heat. For that matter, I do remember being able to successfully overclock my 650m by over 450MHz with a modded system BIOS.

On that note, I've also uploaded two screenshots - one attempting to save the current vBIOS with GPU-Z, and another attempting the same with svl7's mnvflash utility. Both fail, as GPU-Z reports "BIOS reading is not supported on this device" and mnvflash throws a more specific error. There does appear to be a key in the registry, under HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Class ... nVidia card's key, that appears to be the entire contents of the vBIOS - and I could upload that but even if you could use it in the form of a .reg file to do some modding we'd be left with the question of how to re-flash the product, as mnvflash appears to fail regardless of whether there's an nVidia driver installed or not.

My ultimate goal here is obviously a modified vBIOS that allows for a ton of overclocking headroom to play with, and I'd appreciate anything you can do to help me work toward that goal - and for the possibility to create and test something to post and share with the community, but in the meantime I understand and respect that you're busy so a modded inf file would be appreciated as well! ... whenever you have the time; Thank you!!

My full hardware ID is as follows: PCI\VEN_10DE&DEV_139B&REV_A2

nvdmi.zip

post-7271-14495000023436_thumb.png

post-7271-14495000023703_thumb.png

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In your case, vbios is a part of main system bios. For modify vbios, you need modify main system bios.

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Yes I'm aware of that, like my previous M11x and M14x. What surprises me is that the vbios alone can not be extracted at least for viewing using either of these tools. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I guess you're suggesting one would open the main system BIOS rom file, as provided by Dell, extract the vbios from that, do their modding, and re-integrate it for flashing when finished?

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It maybe either hosted in BIOS or NFLASH got no access because the system switched to iGPU (keep GPU-Z active in the background while using NVFLASH).

Attached my newer NVFLASH Mod that you can try to make sure it doesn't have its own vBIOS chip.

PW: premamod.com

Also attached is the driver .inf Mod. Simply replace the file and boot with driver signature enforcement disabled, to install it.

This will give you the +135Mhz OC back even with your clock blocked vBIOS.

(I won't remove the new OC lock from the newer vBIOS until the next driver update proves that they actually keep using it against their promises...)

NVFLASH_WIN_5.218_x64_PM.rar

nvdmi.rar

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I attempted to use the modified nvdmi.inf file, pasted into driver version 347.88 - and it does act like it can install (doesn't say the hardware is incompatible) but the final summary screen indicates it fails to install the graphics driver. This is the same result I got when patching nvdmi.inf from driver version 350.12 into 347.88 before I made contact with you.

If you know what's going wrong, let's see if we can tackle it, but let it be known that I'm ultimately looking for a larger overclock capacity than +135MHz. The last thing I want is to sound ungrateful but we're already talking about a chip that achieves a boost speed of 1197MHz out of the box, so +135 is about an 11% increase. I was able to achieve a 70% increase on my 650m (M14xR2) and it was 100% stable. Now I guess it's possible I won the silicon lottery on that machine but that's the kind of testing I want to do on this new unit. If I were modding the vBIOS, which I'm pretty sure will require extracting and pasting back into the main system BIOS (which I'd also love to have unlocked for that matter) I'd set the OC limit to, say, +800MHz and see how high I can go before encountering artifacts or disturbing temperatures.

svl7 created something wonderful which I used on my M14x a couple years back. It was a combination of his fully unlocked system BIOS and an integrated vBIOS that was labelled "for testing" which allowed very high OC speeds to be set - and that single download absolutely transformed the capabilities of that little machine, putting it nearly on-par with my AMD 7970m-powered m17xR4! Now I'm not looking to go into this with expectations for similar performance, but I've owned four of these Alienware laptops now and I really get the feeling that this one is not pushing anywhere near its true performance limits. The highest dGPU temperature I've been able to evoke was 64C, and I've never noticed anything higher than 62C in an actual game. Also the fans do not seem to spin at maximum speed, ever. I've observed what they do during Dell's system BIOS update, which locks them to max for the duration of the update, and nothing I can throw at this machine makes them spin nearly that fast! Whether that's a limitation in the BIOS itself, intended to make the machine quieter, or due to it not getting hot enough to need the full cooling power, I can't say at this time... but everything I'm observing tells me the true potential of this machine has yet to be unlocked!

I do have a lot of well-rounded knowledge when it comes to the PC platform and I've worked in the industry for fifteen years, but with the exception of changing a POST-screen image once a few years back, BIOS modding is sadly not in my wheelhouse. Now if someone out there is willing to attempt creation of an unlocked BIOS/vBIOS mod for the 960m-based Alienware 13, I'd be willing to pay for that person's time, as well as to provide a test platform. And on that note, if we could roll something out for testing before June 7th, it would be easier for me to recover from the possibility of a bricked machine because I would still be eligible to exchange the machine outright if it failed, which I've found in my own experience to be a lot less painful than dealing with a warranty call for a bad motherboard.

Regardless, thank you Prema for your time in this so far!! Have a great weekend everyone!

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347.90 (just click) driver was the first to support GTX960M (incl. yours natively btw) and also ignores the OC lock in your vBIOS.

If you unlock your vBIOS the old school way it will also be the only driver that will allow for more OC. Every other driver will have no OC at all unless the vBIOS is modded with my new method.

Unlocked and overvolted a GTX960M does about 1500-1600Mhz.

You didn't mention if you tried the other nvflash or kept the GPU active by keeping GPU-Z open in the background.

As for your FANs you need to downgrade the BIOS to version A00, Dell messed up the FAN tables on newer BIOS.

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So I downloaded that driver, 347.90 via the link provided, ran it normally, and it actually bolloxed the system. Specifically it appeared to install (clean install) but produced no nVidia icon in the system tray. Upon immediate reboot, Windows appeared to "think" it was working normally behind the scenes, but the display output was all black and the system was unusable.

As for the newer nvflash, I just tested it and got the same result as before. Initially I had ran it with an actual game running in the background, but holding the dGPU open with GPU-Z yields the same result:

post-7271-14495000032478_thumb.png

I'd sure appreciate a system BIOS including a vBIOS modded with your "new method!"

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Looks like your driver is messed up by earlier attempts to mod the .inf...

Run DDU in safe mode to clean the mess, then install the driver from scratch

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No, nothing is messed up from earlier attempts to modify anything. I went from a fully stock 350.12 to the 347.90 provided and it made a terrible mess. Nothing inf-modded has ever installed on this system - it always fails to install if attempted, and this is not the fault of the existing driver. Furthermore I'm not looking to go through the messy recovery process from installing the 347.90 driver a second time.

I'm looking for a modified vBIOS that allows use of the regular old driver from the nVidia website which installs happily without error, as does the slightly earlier, but later than 347.90, version provided on the Dell support downloads site for this machine.

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I hear you, but it's not the driver that came with THIS system nor is it the version presented by Dell for this system (the secondary components presented for install don't match up either) and I doubt very seriously that its dysfunction is due to anything I've done. No modified driver has ever successfully installed on this system, and any failed attempt has always been followed up with a clean install of 350.12 from the nVidia website. I was under the impression that you believed you were able to modify the vBIOS in a way that would allow any driver to allow overclock - and more so than +135MHz.

Now when this thing failed the first time around, system restore to an earlier point also failed (I've found it terribly unreliable on Win8.1 despite being rock-solid on 7) so I had to restore back to the first full system backup I created just after installing all necessary software on the system. That was before any attempts to modify anything, so at this point in the system's lifespan, it's had the original pre-installed Dell driver replaced with 350.12 and that's it; nothing else. Now if I run DDU and install the driver you suggest and it still fails a second time, can we please move on to the vBIOS?

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Right now I am the only one who knows how to remove the CURRENT vBIOS lock-bit.

Guess what is going to happen when I go ahead and start unlocking those vBIOS? Other modder copy the method, put it into their vBIOS and modding applications...

That would be the end of people turning their heads towards NVIDIA, fighting for their freedom as hardware owner and as a result the next-gen may very well be no longer be mod-able at all:

http://forum.techinferno.com/general-notebook-discussions/8998-nvidia-officially-states-they-cut-overclocking-mobile-gpus.html

http://forum.notebookreview.com/threads/nvidia-clockblock-vbios-unblocked-in-347-88-reblocked-in-350-12.771900/

Nvidia clockblock: vBIOS (unblocked in 347.88, reblocked in 350.12) | NotebookReview

Heck the lock-bit is already present in newer DESKTOP card vBIOS, its just the driver still ignoring it at this point...

I will eventually unblock the new vBIOS if NVIDIA doesn't come around sometime soon, but while nice for the time being it'll only backfire in the long-run...

If the user don't take a stand now and get NVIDIA to reverse their new anti-OC policy on their own we won't be able to Mod stuff for much longer...

EDIT: NVIDIA finally made the right move and removed the lock-bit once again from driver:

http://nvidia.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/3659

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Hello prema, i need help with mx xps 15 9550 960m card. I want to mod the vbios so that i can undervolt it. It reaches 90°C during gaming. Thanks a lot!

 

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