Intel’s Anti-Upgrade Tricks Defeated With Kapton Tape

Screenshot of the Kaby Lake CPU pinout next to the Coffee Lake CPU pinout, showing just how few differences there are

If you own an Intel motherboard with a Z170 or Z270 chipset, you might believe that it only supports CPUs up to Intel’s 7th generation, known as Kaby Lake. Even the CPU socket’s pinout is different in the next generation — we are told, it will fit the same socket, but it won’t boot. So if you want a newer CPU, you’ll have to buy a new motherboard while you’re at it. Or do you?

Turns out, the difference in the socket is just a few pins here and there, and you can make a 8th or 9th generation Coffee Lake CPU work on your Z170/270 board if you apply a few Kapton tape fixes and mod your BIOS, in a process you can find as “Coffee Mod”. You can even preserve compatibility with the 6th/7th generation CPUs after doing this mod, should you ever need to go back to an older chip. Contrasting this to AMD’s high degree of CPU support on even old Ryzen motherboards, it’s as if Intel introduced this incompatibility intentionally.

There’s been a number of posts on various PC forums and YouTube videos, going through the process and showing off the tools used to modify the BIOS. Some mods are exceptionally easy to apply. For example, if you have the Asus Maximus VIII Ranger motherboard, a single jumper wire between two pads next to the EC will enable support without Kapton tape, a mod that likely could be figured out for other similar motherboards as well. There’s a few aspects to keep in mind, like making sure your board’s VRMs are good enough for the new chip, and a little more patching might be needed for hyper-threading, but nothing too involved.

Between money-grab features like this that hamper even the simplest of upgrades and increase e-waste, fun vulnerabilities, and inability to sort out problems like stability power consumption issues, it’s reassuring to see users take back control over their platforms wherever possible, and brings us back to the days of modding Xeon CPUs to fit into 775 sockets.

Don’t get too excited though, as projects like Intel BootGuard are bound to hamper mods like this on newer generations by introducing digital signing for BIOS images, flying under the banner of user security yet again. Alas, it appears way more likely that Intel’s financial security is the culprit.

We thank [Lexi] for sharing this with us!

60 thoughts on “Intel’s Anti-Upgrade Tricks Defeated With Kapton Tape

    1. Same, though I will be going from 7th gen to 9th gen on my home media server. 9th gen chips are getting cheaper on eBay, the i7-9700 non-K version goes for $130 right now, for a ~35% increase in performance over my 7700. And I can still resell the 7700 for about $60 making it even more enticing!

      1. Even better is the QQLS, QTJ0 & QTJ1 Mobile to desktop mutant CPUs that also use this coffee time mod. The QQLS when OC’d to 4.6GHz is 9900k performance for $80

      1. Except Intel QuickSync is far too useful.

        A 9th gen CPU can transcode 2x 4k60 streams for only 2-5w.
        NVENC needs like 15w each.
        And the AMD solution simply doesn’t have the grunt to even do it.

        Intel are evil overlords, but they spend more on engineering than AMD’s entire budget.

        As distasteful as it sounds, we NEED to support Intel’s NIC, GPU, and software projects like SRIOV, because they are our only hope of dragging Nvidia back from their current cyberpunk dystopian plans.

  1. Intel is currently trying to extract the maximum juice of a dry lemon. Industry is shifting toward RISC cpu, like ARM or RISC-V because the power / performance ratio now is in favor of those. The simple fact that one need a BIOS to bootload the system is already a PITA. I doubt we will talk about Intel in 10 years from now, or as an historical company or a GPU company.

    1. ARM/RISC-V are technically the better CPU indeed. HOWEVER, until the plug&play issue is solved for those platforms, they won’t take off as desktop replacements.

      Which is also why we have a BIOS in the first place, it facilitates part of this process of hardware detection and initialization.

    2. AMD also makes X86/X64 CPUs, not just Intel.
      Since Windows does not yet run on RISC-V and neither do most applications it becomes a chicken-egg problem. You need hardware and software.
      Software emulation won’t fix the problem completely since you will probably lose out performance gains and/or power savings.
      Google announced android will support RISC-V. This might be the bootstrap we need for the transition. Eventually there will be more and more powerful Chromebooks running on RISC-V and then Microsoft might start supporting some of those RISC-V CPUs for their surface tables. Then maybe AMD or Intel will start making RISC-V CPUs (perhaps with enhanced instructions to enhance X86/X64 emulation).
      A while ago Intel proposed a X64-only CPU. That would also be a smaller step then to move to a completely different architecture.

      1. Most software in the Linux world already runs on RISC-V. Debian is showing about 99.8 percent of all packages are there already. But as usual, games are the holdup for most people.

      2. It runs on ARM though, and with increasing emulation work (through LLVM IR or direct) adaptation will also be easier.

        Current gen Surface devices default with an ARMv8 chip.

      3. Right now running on Risc-V isn’t worth worrying about much, as the hardware has yet to really come close to pretending to be even the worst Intel/AMD CPU of a decade ago in performance…

        Though the open source world is mostly ready for when performance Risk-V does happen. It helps that things like the Pi really pushed any application that hadn’t yet made itself easily portable between architectures to become so in the last decade or two. And suitably big performance from Arm is just available off the shelf.

    3. ARM being more power efficient hasn’t been a thing for YEARS.

      On the server side, Ampere gets trounced by both EPYC and Xeon.
      Their only use is having a powerful arm desktop for doing mobile development.

      On desktop/mobile the gap is even wider.
      15th gen is 15-40% higher performance per watt than the best Rockchip and Snapdragon SoCs all the way down to 6w cTDP.

      The only place ARM wins is the <5w game.
      And they win by default.

      Further, the REAL kings are accelerators.
      Nothing is going to even come close to a CPU that can stay in deep sleep while dedicated networking, cryptographic, and video accelerators sip 1-2w to stream that full screen 4k video.

  2. It’s the waste that angers me. As consumers, we get the lectures about being responsible yet Intel (and Apple) keep pulling nonsense tricks like this?
    I asked the UK political parties what their plan was when W10 became unsupported and all the PC’s that couldn’t be “upgraded” to W11 became scrap. None of them had a clue.

    1. I spoke to some politicians some time ago about this topic – and right to repair in general (and how Apple likes to block 3rd party repair) – their answer was “This is not a political topic.” – “You care, some small amount of nerds like you care, but general public don’t care, they will not even understand what are you talking about.” That was the moment i finally understood how this work – there are 2 forces that drives policies

      1) General public – that would be large amount of people – large enough it can have meaningful effect on the results of elections

      2) Corporate lobbying – corporations create jobs and pays taxes (and sponsors political parties) – when a corporation (or trade group representing whole sector or similar) says “we need this changed / not changed to continue our business / continue employing people and pay taxes” – they will listen as that can have large impact on the economy – if we disregard corruption than 2) is taken into account only if not in conflict with 1) – politicians do understand (mostly?) that 2) can backfire. Right to repair is an esoteric topic.

      that’s why right to repair is so hard to get – corpos hates it and General public don’t care

      1. 1, sadly, is largely ineffective these days. The politicians know they can pay lip service to what the general public has voiced, and then let the matter quietly drop.

        Instead of giving examples that are guaranteed to piss off one so-called side or the other, I’ll simply leave you with this Princeton study from 2014 on how effective the general public is on changing policy here in the US:

        While this study is clearly US-centric, parallels can be drawn from it to other Western governments as well. Indeed, it may be an open question as to how much of a democracy any of us have at this point.

      2. It might be helpful if folks debated in good faith and used the terminology properly, instead of abusing it. CPU nerds (no insult intended; I am a nerd) who are obsessed with upgrading their CPU every 12 months is not a “right to repair” issue. Nothing is broken, here. Right to repair is a separate issue from the attempt to get manufacturers to make all their engineering decisions based on the needs of folks who want to upgrade over and over again and use new CPUs with old motherboards.

        1. I don’t think right to repair is a separate issue from collaborative engineering decisions. In the past the eu looked at the waste from mobile phone chargers and mandated that every phone sold should charge via usb, and it worked.
          We can demand that a similar law be created so that any new design processor sold in the eu must be compatible with a standardized mobo. the law creating the standard will of course be an open forum.
          What use is it to have a right to repair if compatible parts do not exist or are prohibitively expensive.
          Look at hyundai’s theta 2 engines, almost all of them bricked themselves due to manufacturing defects. toyota’s 2022 tundra v6 is currently going a similar route, as are many ford ecoboost.

          Second hand engines do not exist in sufficient numbers to fit these vehicles, therefore i recommend a standard be created so that each engine’s bell housing bolt pattern be compatible, in order to reuse older engines who have been scrapped due to unrelated faults. No new designs will be allowed to be sold unless they are compatible with the standard.

          I also recommend that all vehicle electrical systems follow an open standard. There should not be thousands of faulty incompatible electrical control units when they all do the same thing, and theft deterrence of proprietary systems is not a reasonable excuse. Some manufacturers use a coded system to internal parts such as on the flywheel that require a complete teardown to change. That is not something the kia boyz will do.

      3. If the general public don’t care it’s because politicians are not explaining it correctly. Instead of right to repair, lead with ‘right to not be charged more money for stuff I don’t need’ then the public would, in fact, care. Especially in the middle of economic downturns.

        1. Well that’s the thing – IMHO in democracy, politicians don’t explain, they represent people. I know it may sound naive, but politicians is there to do what you want (in democracy, that is a compromise between what various people want) – they are not suppose to do what they think is good for you and than explain why is it good for you. Rather they present what they will do if elected and you choose your party / representative by your alignment to what they promise (so if you want high corporate taxes, you choose somebody that promises that, if you want low corporate taxes, you choose somebody that want that instead). Nobody wants to talk about right to repair or other similar things because they believe it is a waste of precious potential voter attention – too little people care.

          I am from Europe – in all countries, there are way more there 2 parties – actually a big selection to choose from, of course only some will get into parliaments and governments, but still.

          As to “politicians doing what is good for you” – look at EU commission – they are trying to do just that sometimes – like banning incandescent bulbs (lot of people upset), banning too powerful vacuums (again lot of people upset), forcing mobile carriers to ditch roaming fees – surprisingly no one is upset about that etc. You get the point, it tend to upset people.

          So who should do the “explaining”? Well IMHO we do. If you care about that topic and want policies for it – you need to talk to people around you, convince enough or support local organizations which try to promote the topic. In the end, once there are enough people that will say “i will vote for you if you will push more stringent consumer protection / right to repair and i will not for you if you don’t promise that” things may start to change. Until then, nothing.

          1. Occasionally, when we are lucky, local politics works like that in the US. Our national politics, set up for land owning white men and not ever really meant to represent everyone, and then taken over by diametric politics and increasingly aggressive propaganda machines, very much struggles with things that should be fundamental to democracy like what you explained. We also struggle deeply with maintaining an educated voter base and with participation both from the standpoint of people caring to vote but also from the standpoint of allowing everyone a voice.

            When it comes to the direction that advocacy should take, I agree that people need to select politicians to speak for them, but sometimes those politicians need to do more than just cast votes to represent their voter base. Politicians have a platform, and if the people who put them there are passionate about something, then the politician using that platform to express that passion is important. Unfortunately, it can be hard to see the difference between advocacy for broad benefit and advocacy for a vocal or powerful minority. We see this here in things such as the drift of “farm bill” support to helping a few game the system over really helping individual farmers, or in the advocacy for China to buy poultry from the US, but in the converse, the incredible struggle of actual farmers to take on John Deer over right to repair their tractors (which was much more restricted than anything Intel ever did, and even looked a bit intense held up to Apple lockdowns, to the point that digital updates often could not be done by a third party, much less the tractor “owner”). Farmers are, I should say, incredibly motivated to have right to repair, since they are often somewhat isolated, farm equipment is often incredibly expensive in the first place (and so hard to simply replace) and they are pretty used to having to figure out problems on their own because it’s literally the only way to survive much of the time. Despite this, and the fact that farmers in the US have the single largest block of the actual votes represented in the Senate (I don’t mean the majority, but the largest minority group by profession or lifestyle), one of the main suppliers of tractors to farmers was able to exploit their Monopoly Trust position to against farmers who actively wanted better options to repair for more than a decade before there was a court judgement to finally push back.

            I deeply hope democracy works better for you wherever you are in the EU, and that advocating and educating get you the results that they should.

      4. I was under the impression that large corps DON’T pay taxes, at least not on the scale that they should, simply because politicians keep approving their “write-offs.”
        Whereas the working man, just getting by, has already lost most deductions that made sense, so now it’s the working man who pays the largest portion of taxes.
        I know MY taxes have certainly gone up, along with the cost of living.
        And there’s no respite, since politicians favor “big business” the lobbyists, and trade orgs when they pass new tax laws.
        Personally, I favor any mods that save me money and minimize e-waste.
        Not sure what the big problem with BIOS is. Since fast SSDs are available, the boot process doesn’t take long anymore, and anyway the tiny BIOS wasn’t what slowed it down.
        What is ppl’s problem with BIOS, besides not being able to put any processor into any mobo?

      1. That’s because Kaby Lake chips did not have PTT, but Coffee Lake U0 chips had it. The 8th and 9th gen i3s and some pentiums and celerons also do not have PTT, so they aren’t technically W11 compatible.

    2. It is an open secret that Win11++ will be supported on legacy systems via a registry trick by Microsoft itself. (As fas as I have heard from those who pretend to be in the knowledge.)

      I wouldn’t trust in an uneven Windows version number. :-)

      1. Just use Rufus to generate a Windows 11 USB key for installation and you can disable the TPM/RAM checks, etc., and install Windows 11 on most x86-64 systems.

        Windows 7 was pretty decent, though :-)

    3. Said people with unsupported computers could run Linux.

      Free software, and today’s install is pretty hands off compared with when I started using Linux in 2006.

      Why do people pretend Windows is the only way?

        1. this article was brought to you with help of a full-Linux stack so idk. “Need Windows for work” attitude is very 2016 and is best left there, some people might, but most don’t. Even less so, given just how much more Windows sucks nowadays than it did before.

        2. No, but rather, because they fail to realise that needing some piece of Windows exe software (which people genuinely sometimes do, myself included) can be overcome with either WINE (sometimes) or with a Windows VM (whenever wine won’t work) running as a guest on a Linux host system.

        3. With their plans for Recall and Copilot I wouldn’t trust any Windows system, at all. But good news, you can switch to Linux, and if you need some particular piece of Windows exe software (as many of us do when the Linux native equivalents aren’t up to scratch) you might succeed under Wine, or else you can install a Windows OS as a guest inside a VM and fully isolate it from any internet connections it might use for sinister telemetry.

          1. Already did, some half a year ago. I already have had dual boot for ten years due to games and it generally working. However, then along came windows with YET ANOTHER bloody Serial USB that was nigh impossible to get to work.

            And in doing so they broke the cardinal rule: “do as I tell you”. It worked first try in Linux.
            I still have the same dual boot install but have not actually started windows since.. most games running just fine in Linux is also a big boon.

      1. For most people Windows is their only way. They are not willing, in many cases capable, of learn or understanding even minimum technological subject matter. They want a toaster. Put the bread in, get toast out. As often as not any thing more than a single knob is simply beyond their understand and desire to learn.

          1. A refugee fleeing the disaster-zone of Windows will do better with Mint than Ubuntu though, they’re virtually identical behind the GUI but Mint is laid out more like Windows (clicking usual place to close a window, Ubuntu being left hand side instead…). I fled to Mint when M$ was distributing the GWX.exe malware to try to force Win 10 upgrades, have also used Ubuntu since. Both are very good Linux distros.

          2. Agreed most Linux distros from the bigger names now are already perfectly good and no bigger jump in user experience than between the ever shifting GUI layout of windoze versions.

            If anything with the advent of smartphone and everyone using app stores the Linux package manger/flatpack software model is now really easy to explain as well and far better than the install a download off the web and just hope it is what you thought it is…

    4. Politicians simply don’t understand technical matters, all the more reason we must all defy them when they try to ban encryption, order censorship built in to systems, try to push for internet ID cards, try to ban open source software repos, try to ban reverse engineering the firmware of your own devices so you can repair/modify/improve them… Folks who’ve had Philosophy, Politics and Economics, or Classics, degrees at Oxford as there only education and who wouldn’t even know how to hold a soldering iron, folks who think firm-ware means stiffened shoulder pads on a suit… aren’t competent (or benevolent enough in their overall intentions) to make sensible rules on these matters, so any rules they do make must be ignored. John Perry Barlow’s internet declaration must be our starting point, it stands as a constitution be be valued above the lunatic ramblings of a parliament which never does anything but blindly follow the demands of whichever bunch of fools holds a majority in it.

  3. I like the idea of not having to hack/trick my hardware… I never upgrade just the CPU, because by the time a new CPU is usually available, there is usually some new MB stuff available. But then I dont measurebate over single generation upgrades, I wait 2 or 3 and nothing really changes on my workflow. Back to my poiunt, I upgrade the CPU/MB/RAM as a package. Then I repurpose the older CPU/MB/RAM.

  4. This is old news but I’m glad it’s resurfacing years later. A bunch of us did this on the notebookreview forms (RIP) for the Clevo P870KM1/-G. Still to this day running and i9-9900KF and that z270 board (with upgraded cooler and thermal grizzly Conductonaut) 100% stable. Stock clocks & under volted. DSANKE bios mod.

  5. i appreciate that this is an epic hack indeed but does anyone actually ever change the CPU on their motherboard? i don’t think i have, even once. i thought about it just this week, for the first time in my life, when i saw that the top CPU supported by my 5 year old motherboard has twice as many cores and a faster memory interface and is now only $100 on ebay. but i talked myself out of it, because i guess it seems like a lot of waste for a mid-life-cycle upgrade?? it’s hard for me to make decisions like this now because the advantages seem pretty minor…it’s mostly just whether i want to deal with the headache of actually opening it up and finding out if it still boots after i’m done.

    i just feel like most PCs and servers are on an upgrade schedule where by the time you want a new CPU you also want a new MB and RAM too. i seem to be on a 9 year schedule for MB+CPU+RAM, anyways.

    1. I’d say it depends. I’ve often upgraded CPU ‘s in the last 30 years. My old desktop mobo, am2+ m4a from Asus wasn’t used very long as desktop 16? Years ago but still chugs along performantly on its 3rd (and last) CPU, my previous desktop CPU a phenom II hexacore. It went from 8 I believe (4*2g) to 24 to now 32g (all ecc).

      My desktop, an am3+ m5a Asus board also is on its 3 CPU. This 13? Year old mono runs an 8 core fx CPU, though almost forgot that upgrade at the time, but was lucky with a 70? Second hand deal.

      My desktop will last me probably 2 or so more years. Ive often thought of just using my laptop and a dock in the future for that, but laptops and desktops are still worlds apart in terms of performance I sometimes feel.

      My server will be upgraded in the fall, when zen5 hits, I’ll get an zen4 7900 probably with second gen mobo. And whener the last gen for that mobo hits the second hand market, that might be my desktop CPU first, or direct server upgrade at that point. Probably 7 years from now.

      So you see, it depends..
      And as long as I enjoy my homelab, I won’t be pushing things into the cloud yet. As developer at home, its nice to be able to compile stuff fast at home ;)

  6. I did these mods on an ASUS Maximus VIII Hero Z170 board and upgraded from a 6600K to a 9900K. The board’s VRMs were more than enough to handle all 8 cores of the 9900K at 5.1 GHz all core. Breathed some serious new life into that system.

  7. Intel appears to command a hugely loyal following, despite the silly tricks it pulls on them. But I’m done with Intel’s business ethics. I’m looking at AMD or ARM-based machines now and following RISC-V developments.

  8. I have been using mostly AMD processors for some 30+ years. Even back then I was already annoyed by intels marketing strategy. I don’t mind paying a bit extra for not giving my money to intel. I’m not an AMD fanboy, but an Intel disliker.

    But that said. I have been doing daily work on an intel processor from around 2010 to 2021. It was a core-duo or dual-core. During that period I got two PC’s for free, and both had an intel processor.

    Around 2 years ago I bought a new PC with an AMD Ryzen 5600G. Video cards were completely unobtainable during the virus and mining crisis, so a processor with built in graphics was the only option. This new PC is around 10x faster then those old ones, but in practice the difference in “feel” is very much smaller. It does not even feel 2x as fast. I mainly bought the new PC to connect a new monitor (4K 107cm). The video cards in those old PC simply could not handle that resolution. Before the big monitor I had been working with a dual monitor setup, and that was quite adequate. Now it’s … luxurious. I still have one of the old 24″ monitors to the side of the big one, but I very rarely turn it on.

    Concerning this article. I don’t understand why you would bother with a few “generations” of intel processors. It’s mostly marketing excrement from male cows with a handful of percent of speed increase. Not enough to really notice. But still, hat off for figuring out the hack, and confirming what many already suspected. They have been changing some random pins on the same processor, call it a “generation”, while AMD has been using AM4 sockets for consumer PC’s for a very long time. When AM4 ran out of bandwidth and pins a few years ago, they made the AM5 socket for the “newer generations”, and both have been available

  9. Bought a few Maximus 9 Extreme (Z270) at 90€ unit, a killer deal, and fitted them with 9700K back when they were the top CPU. I loved it. Although, be careful, you can’t benefit from hyperthreading on a 9900K

  10. Yep, I did this with a Gigabyte mobo. Twice, actually
    It was a little freaky, putting very small strips of kapton on the CPU pins, but yeah it worked really well.
    The guides helped a lot with patching your BIOS (needed since the CPU microcode won’t be native to your 6 or 7 series mobo.)

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