Essential AMD Desktop PC Configuration Checklist

Introduction

With the imminent release of the new AMD Ryzen 5000 series desktop processors, many people seem to be very interested in building a new AMD desktop PC. I think that is a great idea, especially if you have an older desktop PC that is no longer meeting your needs. There are many build guides, that suggest what parts you should use to build a new AMD desktop system. That is not what this post is going to be. Instead, this will be a guide for some important steps you should take after you build your system, to make sure it is configured properly. That is why I call it the Essential AMD Desktop PC Configuration Checklist.

Many novice or “lapsed” PC builders will build a new system from parts and then just be thankful that it powers on and seems to work. Getting the system to POST, and then getting Windows 10 installed and working are important first steps. Many people will stop there, using all of the default BIOS settings and default Microsoft drivers. Their system will probably work, but it is likely they are missing out on quite a bit of performance by doing this.

Essential AMD Desktop PC Configuration Checklist

Here are some key steps that you should take AFTER you build your new machine.

  • Flash your motherboard BIOS to the latest available version
  • Install the latest version of Windows 10 (Currently Version 20H2)
  • Apply all Windows 10 updates from Windows/Microsoft Update
  • Run Windows Disk cleanup and choose the “Clean up system files” option
  • Install the latest AMD chipset drivers (from the AMD site)
  • Enable the AMD High Performance Power Plan (Ryzen 3000 Series)
    • Nov 6th Update: This is no longer required for AMD Ryzen 5000 Series processors. Just use the Windows Balanced Power Plan. This is according to AMD’s Robert Hallock
  • Install the latest device drivers from your motherboard vendor’s support site
  • Download and install the latest storage drivers and utilities from your storage vendor’s support site
  • Install the latest video drivers from your GPU vendor’s support site
  • Enable XMP in the system BIOS
  • Check your CPU clock speeds, memory speeds, and CPU/GPU temperatures

Flash your Motherboard BIOS

I have never bought a brand new motherboard that had the latest BIOS version when I took it out of the box. This is because your new motherboard is probably at least a month or two old (since it was manufactured) when you get it. It may be even older than that, depending on how long it has been on a shelf or sitting in a warehouse. New motherboard models typically have multiple BIOS updates during the first six-twelve months after release.

BIOS updates are important for AMD motherboards because there are usually new AGESA versions with most new BIOS versions. These new AGESA versions usually have important fixes and improvements for memory compatibility and performance. They are also required to support AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors in existing 500 series chipset motherboards.

Essential AMD Desktop PC Configuration Checklist
BIOS Updates for Ryzen 5000 Series

I have a YouTube video about how to flash your BIOS (on supported motherboards) with no CPU, memory or video card. This is particularly handy if you have a new Ryzen 5000 Series CPU, but the BIOS version in your motherboard is too old to support the CPU. It also comes in handy if a regular BIOS update operation fails, because this method uses a different set of operations than the regular method.

Install Windows 10

The modern and easy way to install Windows 10 on a new system is to download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. Then you use it to download Windows 10 and create your installation media on a USB 3.0 flash drive. After this, you can install Windows 10 pretty rapidly from that USB 3.0 flash drive. Doing this will give you the latest version of Windows 10 (which is currently Version 20H2).

Windows 10 Version 20H2
Windows 10 Version 20H2

The latest version will be supported longer and will require less patching than an older version. I also think each new version of Windows 10 has gotten better, overall.

Windows 10 Setup
Windows 10 Setup

You need at least Version 1903 to get some important AMD-specific performance updates for the Windows scheduler and for CPPC2 clock ramping. These two improvements definitely help AMD Ryzen performance.

You need a new enough AGESA version, new enough AMD chipset drivers, and at least Windows 10, version 1903 to get these two improvements. In addition, you need to be running one of the AMD Ryzen Power Plans in Windows.

Essential AMD Desktop PC Configuration Checklist
Windows 10 Improvements for Zen 2

Apply all Windows 10 Updates

After you install a fresh copy of Windows 10, there will probably be some Windows 10 Updates that need to be installed. You will want internet connectivity to do this, and you may have to download and install updates and then reboot at least a couple of times to get completely current.

This is just a standard best practice for a new system. Starting from Version 20H2 will mean you will have fewer updates to apply than if you start from an older version.

Run Windows Disk Cleanup

After installing and patching Windows 10, you will probably have quite a few files that can be deleted by Windows Disk Cleanup. This may free up many gigabytes of space on your boot drive. Having more free space makes NAND-based SSDs perform better. You should try to get in the habit of running Windows Disk Cleanup with the “Clean up system files” option every time after you install Windows Updates.

Windows Disk Cleanup
Windows Disk Cleanup

Install AMD Chipset Drivers

Windows 10 will install generic chipset drivers that usually work pretty well, but you actually want the latest AMD Chipset Drivers for your motherboard. These native AMD chipset drivers are required in order to get the AMD Ryzen Power Plans, which are required for the faster CPPC2 clock ramping.

AMD Chipset Drivers
AMD Chipset Drivers

AMD typically releases new chipset drivers every couple of months, so you should periodically check for new versions.

Enable the AMD High Performance Power Plan

By default, a new installation of Windows 10 will use the Balanced Power Plan. After you have installed the AMD Chipset Drivers, you should see some new AMD-specific power plans. You should choose the AMD Ryzen High Performance Power Plan rather than the stock Windows High Performance Power Plan.

Windows Power Plans
Windows Power Plans

Install the Latest Device Drivers

Windows 10 does a much better job of installing generic device drivers that will make most of the components in your system at least work after a fresh installation. The days of installing Windows, and then opening Device Manager and seeing many unknown and non-working components are mostly a memory.

Even so, you should try to install the vendor-specific device drivers that will be available on your motherboard vendor’s support site. These usually work better than what Microsoft installs by default. In fairness to Microsoft, they have gotten much better than they used to be about also getting vendor-specific drivers and pushing them out from Windows Update.

This is especially important for components like Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and onboard audio.

Device Drivers From Motherboard Vendor
Device Drivers From Motherboard Vendor

These drivers will usually be newer and better than what Windows 10 installed by itself. If you really want the latest drivers for some common components, you have two other places to look.

One is from TechPowerUp. They host some common component drivers from some large vendors like Intel, AMD and NVIDIA. For example, Intel Ethernet, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi drivers.

The other source is the component vendor. For example, if you have a Realtek integrated NIC on your motherboard, Realtek may have a newer driver version than the motherboard vendor does. These smaller vendors usually have more complicated web sites and you sort of need to know what you are doing to make sure you get the correct driver.

Install the Latest Storage Drivers and Utilities

If you have built a new system, you will probably have either an M.2 NVMe SSD or a SATA AHCI SSD for your boot drive. Most storage vendors (such as Samsung) will have storage utilities and/or device drivers for their products. You should download and install these utilities and drivers rather than using the generic Windows drivers.

Samsung Magician 6.21
Samsung Magician 6.21

This is especially important for NVMe drives (that need NVMe drivers). The storage utilities let you manage your drives and install firmware updates when they are released. For example, if you have a Samsung 970 EVO Plus M.2 NVMe SSD, you will want two things.

Enable XMP in the System BIOS

By default, your brand new motherboard will run your memory at the default JEDEC speeds, voltage and timings. You may have followed the common, good advice and bought DDR4-3600 RAM with tight CL16 timings, but your memory will only be running at 2133 MHz instead of the 3600 MHz speed that you expect.

This has a significant effect on Ryzen processor performance. How much of an effect depends on the workload. How can you check to see if this is happening to you? There are two easy ways to do this.

Windows 10 Task Manager shows your memory speed on the Memory page of the Performance tab. In the example below, it is running at 3600 MHz, which is good (for DDR4-3600 memory).

Windows 10 Task Manager
Windows 10 Task Manager

Another way to check is by using CPU-Z. The DRAM Frequency should be half of the rated memory speed (since it is double data rate RAM). So for DDR4-3600, it should be close to 1800 MHz. If it is much lower than this, you don’t have XMP enabled.

Memory Tab on CPU-Z
Memory Tab on CPU-Z

BTW, I have a YouTube video on how to use CPU-Z in Windows.

Using CPU-Z in Windows

This blog post has some more details about checking your memory speed.

You can fix this by going into your BIOS and enabling XMP. How you do this will depend on your motherboard vendor and model. Your motherboard manual will have directions on how to do it.

Check Your Speeds and Temperatures

After you have done all of this configuration work, you should do some basic checks and run some quick benchmarks to make sure everything is running at the expected speed. You also want to confirm that your system components are not running too hot. Too hot typically means above 70-75C under a full load.

You can use Windows Task Manager to make some quick initial checks. The Performance tab shows your current CPU speed and memory speed. With Windows 10 Version 2004, it will show your GPU temperature with many video cards.

Windows 10 Task Manager Performance Tab
Windows 10 Task Manager Performance Tab

You can dive a little deeper with CPU-Z and GPU-Z. CPU-Z will show the current clock speed of all of your processor cores, and your memory speed. In addition, you can also run a very quick CPU benchmark that gives you a sanity check about your CPU performance.

CPU-Z Bench Tab
CPU-Z Bench Tab

The GPU-Z utility has a Sensors tab that gives you your GPU and CPU temperature, along with other information, depending on your video card.

GPU-Z Sensors Tab
GPU-Z Sensors Tab

You can get even more detailed information from HWiNFO64. There is a system summary, and you can get pretty detailed information from the sensor status screen.

HWiNFO64 System Summary
HWiNFO64 System Summary

A portion of the Sensor Status screen is shown below.

HWiNFO64 Sensors Screen
HWiNFO64 Sensors Screen

Final Words

This has been a lot of information that covers a basic, Essential AMD Desktop PC Configuration Checklist. I think this is a pretty good starting point, but this does not cover every single configuration setting or technique. Still, if you do all of the steps in this post, you will be far ahead of the majority of PC builders.

Here are some recent related posts that you might find interesting.

If you have any questions or comments about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

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