Ask the Doctor: 660 SLI or 680 Single Card? Dual-Booting Windows 7/8, and More

Kaya Systems

This month the doctor tackles CPU Temperatures, Dual-Booting 7 and 8, Hybrid Drives for Gaming, and more

Will My GPU Support Touchscreens?

I want to build a PC based on your Midsize Menace , except with 32GB of RAM, an Asus GTX 670 DirectCU TOP video card, and Windows 8 . My questions revolve around the touchscreen user interface. Will the Asus GTX 670 drive dual touchscreen monitors with the ports it has, and what is the difference in types of monitors?

- Clayton Lieck

The Doctor Responds:

The touch capabilities of most monitors are not driven by the graphics card. Instead, a USB connection sends touch and location data from the monitor to the PC. The Asus GTX 670 supports up to four monitors: two DVI, one DisplayPort, and one HDMI. It will run two touch-screen monitors (or any other monitors) without a problem as long as they have the correct inputs and you have two free USB ports. As for the type of monitor to get, you’ll want a projected capacitive monitor with multitouch capability, which won’t be cheap. Most affordable touch monitors today use infrared, which is more limited in resolution and multitouch capability than capacitive. Microsoft requires at least five-point multitouch in order for a device to be certified for Windows 8, so you should look for a monitor that is advertised as Windows 8 compatible. You’ll also want one with a flush bezel, as many Windows 8 touch features rely on being able to swipe onto and off of the edge of the screen. A prominent bezel will interfere with that.

Dell’s S2340T is one of the new multitouch monitors optimized for Windows 8.

CPU Temp Differences

I am running an AMD Phenom II X6 1090T CPU overclocked to 3.9GHz on an MSI 970A G45 board, a Zalman CNPS9900 cooler, 8GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM, and an AMD Radeon HD 6950 video card.

I noticed the core temperatures in your review of the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo and was curious as to why mine run much lower. Running Prime95, my burn temps never exceeded 58 degrees Celsius and my idle temps are always running around 28 C, both according to CoreTemp. When I saw the temperatures of your test machine’s Core i7-3960X my first thought was that it was terribly close to what I consider the maximum safe operating temperature of 80 C. Does this CPU simply run that hot?

Richard wants to know why our Hyper 212 isn't able to cool as well as his

I have run my test several times during the tweaking process of my CPU and they really haven’t changed very much. During my test all six cores of my 1090T are at 100 percent load. Why so much difference?

- Richard Gray

The Doctor Responds:

There are several reasons why you’re seeing different burn temperatures on your CPU than we are on ours, Richard. The first is that they are different CPUs. The Phenom II X6 1090T is an AMD processor and has a slightly lower thermal design profile (125W versus 130W). Intel’s chip also now feature advanced power control units that closely monitor the power consumption and thermals of the cores. The Doctor believes this lets Intel push the chip harder, too. Intel processors generally have a higher safe operating threshold; they can go to around 90 C before they’ll start throttling themselves down to prevent damage. AMD CPUs should generally be kept under 60 C or so. Also remember that each company’s TDP ratings and thermal specs are difficult to compare directly.

Then there’s the difference between the function of your PC and our test bed. Your PC is a day-to-day machine, while ours is designed to run the CPU as hot as possible to better highlight the capabilities of the CPU coolers we test. Our CPU is overclocked and overvolted and subjected to an internal Intel stress-testing tool that heats up CPUs far more than any publically available tool that we’ve seen. The stress-testing tool is designed to heat up all circuits of the chip while most public stress tests can’t do that. In day-to-day use the Core i7-3960X runs far cooler.

Dual Boot Windows 7 and 8

I have a PC with a 1TB hard drive. I want to buy an SSD and install Windows 8 on it. Will I be able to choose which drive the PC boots into? I have been searching for the answer as to how to do this, with no success.

- Preetham Grandhi

The Doctor Responds:

Microsoft actually makes it really easy this time. All you’ll have to do is install the SSD into your machine and boot your PC from the Windows 8 install disk. Install Windows 8 onto the SSD. Once you’ve gone through the setup process, Windows 8 will throw up a screen asking you to choose which OS to boot into by default. From now on, if you don’t pick the other OS at that screen during startup, your PC will boot into the default.

Clean Update from XP to 8?

I have been holding the line for quite some time with a Windows XP system that I have primarily used to play WOW, but with the lower-dollar upgrade cost to Windows 8 I am looking at diving in. If I purchase the Windows 8 upgrade, based off my Windows XP license, am I then able to do a full install from scratch, or does it require that I have XP installed first and then pop in the Windows 8 disk? I was looking at building a new system, and thought this might be a cheap way to get to a more current OS, and retire the old girl to the pasture. What I do not want to happen is to actually have to load XP on it first.

- Adam Menossi

The Doctor Responds:

Adam, in order to take advantage of the Windows 8 upgrade you will need to install it on a computer that has a genuine copy of XP, Vista, or 7 already installed. The old workarounds won’t work now that you can’t skip activation on install. You can and should do a clean install, but you will need to leave the XP install intact. The Windows 8 install process checks for a valid Windows key on the existing hard drives during installation and won’t activate if it’s not there.

Microsoft sells System Builder licenses for new systems, but those are significantly more expensive than upgrade copies. If you want to build a new system but use upgrade media, you’ll have to install and activate your copy of XP first, which may involve a call to Microsoft to reactivate the key. It’s a bit of a pain, but so is spending $140 for a new license.

Hybrid for Gaming?

Would using a Seagate Momentus XT hybrid as a secondary hard drive be a good idea? I am not able to upgrade my 256GB primary SSD at this time, and would like a fast drive to use for storing my games.

- Chris Phenecie

Seagate Momentus: A good idea?

The Doctor Responds:

Yes, with some caveats. First, it will generally only be as fast as a normal Seagate Momentus of the same capacity: Speedy, but not SSD-speedy everywhere. This is because it only has 8GB of NAND cache. Seagate’s caching algorithm copies the most frequently used sectors to cache, so the stuff you use often will feel a heck of a lot faster. If you play the same few games regularly, their load and startup times will decrease. If you tend to play one game at a time for weeks and weeks, it will load and start up much faster, as well, after you’ve played it a few times. You won’t get the universal speed boost you’d get from having everything on SSD. Still, the extra NAND can only help with frequently accessed content, so it’s a decent choice for a gaming hard drive.

SLI or Single?

Doc, my rig is a 2.6GHz Core 2 Quad with 8GB of RAM and a pair of GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI, booting from a 750GB Seagate Momentus XT hybrid. I want to upgrade my GPUs and am wondering if I'd be better off pairing a couple GeForce GTX 660 cards or buying a single GeForce GTX 680 . Both options cost about the same. I plan on completely rebuilding this machine after the holidays, keeping only the video cards and hybrid drive. Until then, my objective is to be able to play Skyrim on the highest settings; currently it barely runs on the lowest.

- Eric Long

Price being equal, Eric want's to know if he should get a single 680 or two 660s.

The Doctor Responds:

Nine times out of 10, our advice is to buy the single fastest video card your budget can afford, rather than two cards. If you buy two GTX 660s, the only way to upgrade is to add a third GTX 660, or throw out both cards. If you get a GTX 680, you can add another one down the line if you want to upgrade. That said, two GTX 660s in SLI will be faster than a single GTX 680. But a single GTX 680 will be more than enough to run Skyrim on its maximum settings. Of your two choices, we say go for the GTX 680.

Time for Some Spring Ripping

In my constant quest to declutter my life, I recently realized I have a lot of DVD movies taking up a lot of space. I was wondering if you have any recommendations on how to convert these into a digital format that I can store on my computer. I’m familiar with DVD rippers, but there are so many choices that I don’t know which is best. Any suggestions?

- Chris Hilland

The Doctor Responds:

The doctor is a huge fan of Slysoft’s AnyDVD , which you can buy for about $64 with two years of updates, or $90 for a lifetime updates. AnyDVD HD allows you to also rip Blu-ray discs that you own, but if you are only going to rip DVDs, the standard version is fine. AnyDVD will let you rip the contents of discs you own to your hard drive, but they do take up a lot of space. So the Doc recommends also running the free transcoder HandBrake . If you point it to your DVD drive, it will transcode the video files after AnyDVD has removed the copy protection, saving you a lot of storage space. The video quality is excellent and the program is multithreaded so it won’t take a year to convert a video. There are several different presets you can choose from but for hard drive storage, High Profile is fine. If you’re price averse, you may want to try the free DVD43 decryption tool . It’s not in the same league as AnyDVD, but it’s free.

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