Linux Support For Intel Core i7 (Nehalem) Processors

by on October 3, 2008 · 21 comments· LAST UPDATED July 8, 2010

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Latest version of Linux kernel does support the Intel Core i7 (Nehalem) processors. Nehalem (microarchitecture), developed by Intel Corporation, successor to the Intel Core microarchitecture. Nehalem is the largest change in Intel's system architecture since the introduction of the Pentium Pro. Nehalem is highly scalable with different components for different tasks.

Intel Core i7 is a family of three Intel desktop x86-64 processors, the first processors released using the Intel Nehalem microarchitecture and the successor to the Intel Core 2 family. All three models are quad-core processors.

I've tested this CPU with CentOS Linux version 4.7 / 5.2 and RHEL 5.2, Ubuntu Linux 10.4 without a problem.

  1. The front side bus is replaced by QuickPath interface. Motherboards must use a chipset that supports QuickPath. As of 24 November 2008 (2008 -11-24)[update], Intel, EVGA, ASUS, MSI, Foxconn, and Gigabyte have all released X58 motherboards, all supporting the i7's LGA1366 Socket interface.
  2. On-die memory controller: the memory is directly connected to the processor.
  3. Three channel memory: each channel can support one or two DDR3 DIMMs. Motherboards for Core i7 have four (3+1) or six DIMM slots instead of two or four, and DIMMs should be installed in sets of three, not two.
  4. Support for DDR3 only.
  5. Single-die device: all four cores, the memory controller, and all cache are on a single die.
  6. "Turbo Boost" technology allows all active cores to intelligently clock themselves up in steps of 133 MHz over the design clock rate as long as the CPU's predetermined thermal and electrical requirements are still met. This mode isn't enabled when the CPU is manually over-clocked by the user.
  7. Re-implemented Hyper-threading. Each of the four cores can process two threads simultaneously, so the processor appears to the OS as eight CPUs. This feature was present in the older NetBurst architecture but was dropped in Core.
  8. On-die, shared, inclusive 8MB L3 cache.
  9. Only one QuickPath interface: not intended for multi-processor motherboards.
  10. 45nm process technology.
  11. 731M transistors.
  12. Sophisticated power management can place an unused core in a zero-power mode.
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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Knox March 26, 2009 at 11:41 pm

This is a very helpful article. Thank you so much for detailing all of these.

Reply

2 husaren March 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Nice article.
Im planning on setting up a similar system with CentOS 5.2 soon. Could you confirm that there was no magic involved in installing centos on a core i7 ?

Works out of the box ? Ethernet and all ?

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3 nixCraft March 27, 2009 at 8:45 pm

I’ve no problem running CentOS 5.x or RHEL 5.x.

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4 Michael Weichert April 13, 2009 at 4:28 pm

What was the kernel release that you tested with?

Thanks,
Mike

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5 nixCraft April 13, 2009 at 6:22 pm

2.6.18-128.1.6.el5

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6 Michael Breuer June 26, 2009 at 7:04 pm

What motherboard/system?

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7 nixCraft June 26, 2009 at 9:34 pm

White box server based upon Supermicro motherboard. You can get branded server from HP / Dell or IBM too.

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8 Anazel July 1, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Hello,

This is a great help..Do you think intel core I7 is compatible for the Openvz?

Please reply.
Thanks:)

Reply

9 nixCraft July 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Yes both Virtuozzo and OpenVZ works with I7, chkout v2.6.18-028stab062.3

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10 Rob October 9, 2009 at 11:59 am

I got ubuntu 9.04 to work dual boot with vista home premium on my i7 machine. but i have to install easybcd to be able to choose which os i want at boot (was easier that way than to go to grub and type some code in). I tried installing ubuntu directly on the i7 but that failed, so i have this shuttle kpc and i installed it there first then took the harddrive and added it to the i7 machine and it worked like a charm. Specs: i7 920 processor, intel dx58so board, 3 gb ddr3 tri-channel, hd radeon 4670 1gb ddr3 graphics card.

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11 Rajendra October 20, 2009 at 7:57 am

Hi,

Will Linux 2.6.8 (debian 3.1r1) work with Nehalem CPU?

Thanks
Rajendra

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12 Ross December 20, 2009 at 9:23 pm

Does turbo boost work for anybody? I’m interested in buying an i7 mobile box and putting Ubuntu 9.10 on it, but I’ve had very conflicting information about whether turbo boost works.

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13 Jasa B. February 26, 2010 at 12:25 pm

@Ross: I’m just trying out i7 920 on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard but sadly TurboBoost doesn’t work out of the box. It is enabled in BIOS but “watch grep MHz /proc/cpuinfo” never show the frequency go beyond the stock 2.67GHz.

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14 @Jessa B. March 24, 2010 at 10:28 am

thats because the MHz are calculated at boot time once only AFAIK, not dynamically. you won’t see the difference. I can confirm that the Xeon E5540 (which should be pretty much the same as a i7) works like a charm with 2.6.31 kernel, turbo boost also works pretty well. i just had to disable it, becaus virtual machines inside virtualbox (or others) suffer from fast running clocks as soon as turbo boost kicks in ;]

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15 Andy Sharp March 18, 2011 at 6:58 am

That’s incorrect, the clock frequency is sampled whenever you access the /proc/cpuinfo “file”, hence it will update as quickly as you like.

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16 chiawwei May 31, 2011 at 9:14 am

hi bro,
can i know the exact model of your i7 (e.g. i7-2630QM)?

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17 Roger Mangin June 6, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I run 64-bit Fedora Core 14 on an Intel i7-920. When hyperthreading is enabled the box crashes several times per week. When hyperthreading is disabled the box is rock solid. I know the kernel supports SMP (Symmetric Multi Processor). Why is hyperthreading a no-go?

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18 Victor September 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

Excelente y muy esclarecedor el articulo. Thanks !!

Reply

19 Karan September 29, 2011 at 5:06 am

Hi,i have a HP-dv6-6121tx laptop with windows 7 home premium.I tried to dual boot it with ubuntu and Linux Mint 11 but it didn’t worked.Linux get installed but while booting sometimes it shows a black screen while sometimes it hangs up.Please help me with your suggestions..

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20 Lawrence November 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Can i use CentOS 6 in my machine?. My Machine Description – Processor – Intel Core i7 2600k, MB – Asus P8Z68 V Pro, RAM – Corsair CMZ4GXM1A1600C9, HDD – Seagate 1 Tb.

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21 Bryan December 5, 2011 at 1:11 am

I have an Asus Intel Core i7-2630qm cpu @ 2.00Ghz (x8) And have ubuntu 11.10 running x64 dual with win 7 have booted w/ Knoppix, and planning more just to see what happens really interested to see how Gentoo will handle this..

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