I have recently seen a number of people documenting their purchase and build of a new AMD Ryzen 3000 series mainstream desktop system. Because of this, I thought was a good time to put together a quick list like this.
Tip #1 – Populate the motherboard as much as possible outside of the case
It is easier to install the CPU, CPU cooler, RAM, and a M.2 NVMe drive in the motherboard before you install the motherboard in the case, rather than installing the empty motherboard in the case and then installing those components. You can use your motherboard box as a temporary platform for the motherboard while you are working on it.
Some people will also temporarily connect a power supply and their discrete video card to the motherboard so they can do a quick power-on self test (POST) before they actually install the motherboard in the case. Some motherboards have a separate power button on the motherboard itself. Otherwise, you can use a small screwdriver to briefly bridge the two front-panel pins on the motherboard where the case power switch connector would be connected to turn it on for the test.
Tip #2 – Make sure you install components in the proper slots on the motherboard
Most new motherboards have two or more full-size PCIe 3.0 or PCIe 4.0 expansion slots available. These full-size PCIe slots are usually used for discrete video cards, but they can also be used for PCIe NVMe storage cards among other things. In most cases, you will want to install your video card in the full-size PCIe slot that is closest to the processor on the motherboard.
Doing this will usually give you the highest PCIe version and most PCIe lanes that your motherboard will support. For example, the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max motherboard has two full-size PCIe slots. The full-size slot labeled PCI_E1 (which is closest to the processor) will support PCIe 3.0 x16 (meaning 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes), while the full-size slot labeled PCI_E4 will only support PCIe 2.0 x4. If you install your video card in PCI_E4, its performance can be severely limited.
It is also very important to install your memory DIMMs in the correct slots in order to get the best performance. Most modern, mainstream AMD motherboards have four DIMM slots for DDR4 memory. These will be labeled DIMMA1, DIMMA2, DIMMB1, and DIMMB2. DIMMA1 is the one closest to the processor.
For the absolute best performance, you should start out with two DDR4 DIMMs, so that you are in dual-channel mode, with one DIMM per channel (DPC). You should insert the first DIMM in slot DIMMA2, and then insert the second DIMM in slot DIMMB2 (so the second slot and the fourth slot).
This is sort of counter-intuitive, and I have seen many people mistakenly install their two memory DIMMs into DIMMA1 and DIMMA2 (so the first slot and the second slot). I also see people install just one DIMM, which is a bad idea, since you will be in single-channel mode. If you really need/want as much RAM as the system will support, you can use all four DIMM slots. Just be aware that in many cases, this will reduce the speed of your memory.
I think 16GB (using a kit with two matched 8GB DDR4 DIMMs) is the sweet spot for gaming and general purpose usage. This much RAM is plenty for most games, and is quite affordable right now. AMD Ryzen processors are quite sensitive to higher speed DDR4 RAM with tight timings. Good quality DDR4-3600 RAM from companies like G-Skill and Corsair are usually good choices for 3rd Generation AMD Ryzen processors.
If you are using an M.2 NVMe storage card for your OS (which I think is a very good idea), you want to think about which M.2 slot to use (if your motherboard has more than one). If possible, you want the M.2 slot that is directly connected to the CPU (via the motherboard) rather than one that goes through the motherboard chipset. You should read the manual that came with your motherboard to figure this out (just as you should confirm the PCIe slot and DIMM slot choices).
Tip #3 – Update the UEFI BIOS on your motherboard
This is especially important for systems that will use 3rd Generation AMD Ryzen processors. These processors were released on July 7, 2019, and since then there have been multiple AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture (AGESA) releases from AMD (which show up as UEFI BIOS updates from your motherboard vendor). Here is an example of where you would get these BIOS updates for an MSI B450 Tomahawk Max motherboard.
AMD has improved memory compatibility, improved core boost performance, reduced hardware boot times, and has fixed many other small issues with these newer AGESA releases. These AGESA releases are cumulative, so you will just need the latest release to get up to date.
Every single motherboard I have ever bought has had an out-of-date UEFI BIOS version when I bought it. This is something that is easy to check and fix. You simply download the new BIOS version, unzip it, and copy the unzipped BIOS file to the root of a USB thumb drive, and plug that drive into your new system. Most modern motherboards have a BIOS flash utility inside of the BIOS setup, where you can then flash the BIOS to the new version. Make sure you do this!
Tip #4 – Enable Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) in your BIOS
Extreme Memory Profiles (XMP) is the ability to run your memory at a higher speed than the very conservative JEDEC rated speed. XMP is actually an Intel feature, but modern AMD motherboards usually support it, sometimes with a different name, such as A-XMP.
If your motherboard and memory DIMMs support XMP, you can (and should) go into your UEFI BIOS setup and enable it. Otherwise, your relatively more expensive DDR4-3600 memory will probably be running at DDR4-2133 speed, which means a pretty substantial performance loss for AMD processors.
There are usually two XMP Profiles to choose from, Profile 1 and Profile 2. Profile 2 is more aggressive, and will run your memory at a higher speed than Profile 1. Having good quality memory, a good quality motherboard, and an up-to-date UEFI BIOS is important if you want a stable experience with XMP. I see many people running their systems without enabling XMP.
If you want to really get into the weeds, you can try using manual memory settings that you can get from the DRAM Calculator for Ryzen. I don’t think this is necessary for most people, but it is something you can play with if you want. This GamersNexus video dives very deep into this subject.
Tip #5 – Install the latest AMD Chipset drivers
Your modern AMD Ryzen will happily run with the generic Microsoft Windows 10 chipset drivers. In some cases, Microsoft will install AMD chipset drivers automatically via Microsoft update. Despite this, you should go out and download and install the latest AMD Chipset drivers directly from AMD. Here is an example for Windows 10 64-bit for a B450 motherboard.
This important so that you can get the full performance and stability benefits from the latest AGESA version and from scheduler and boost improvements in Windows 10 version 1903 and later.
Tip #6 – Update to Windows 10 version 1903 or later
Microsoft worked closely with AMD to make a number of AMD-specific improvements in Windows 10 version 1903. These include better CCX topology awareness (so that threads fill one CCX before using another CCX) and faster CPU clock ramping using UEFI CPPC2 (so that clock speeds will ramp up much more quickly from the base clock speed to max turbo speed).
You need to make sure that you have a new enough UEFI BIOS (preferably the latest version), an new enough AMD chipset driver version (preferably the latest version), and Windows 10 Version 1903 or later to get all of these benefits.
You can type WinVer at the Start menu to pull up the About Windows dialog to check what version of Windows 10 you are running. Figure 3 shows one of my systems running Windows 10, Version 1909.
Tip #7 – Install the latest vendor specific drivers
Once again, most systems will happily run pretty well with the generic Microsoft Windows 10 drivers. Despite this, you should go to your motherboard vendor’s support site for your motherboard, and download and install the latest drivers for your motherboard. You should also get the appropriate drivers and utilities for your other major components, such as your storage and video card.
For example, if you have a Samsung M.2 NVMe storage card, you will want to get the latest Samsung NVMe driver and the latest version of Samsung Magician. If you have an AMD or NVidia video card, you will want to get the latest drivers for that.
Bonus Tip #8 – Run Windows disk cleanup after patching Windows 10
After updating to Windows 10 Version 1903, you will probably have roughly 30GB of files that you can safely delete using the Windows Disk Cleanup. If you have never used Disk Cleanup and you have gone from older Windows 10 versions to Windows 10 Version 1903, you might even have more space that you can free up by using Windows disk cleanup.
If you go from Windows 10 Version 1903 to Windows 10 Version 1909 (which I recommend), you will discover that the upgrade process is much quicker than it was going to 1903, and you will have much less “wasted” disk space to reclaim with Disk Cleanup.
You will need to use the Clean up System Files option to get rid of previous Windows 10 versions. This is important for NAND flash SSDs, which lose performance as they get closer to being full.