Hardware LightBoost Modification HOWTO

First published December 5th, 2013

NOTE: If you are a single-monitor user, this is overkill. See Easy LightBoost HOWTO.

Blur Busters has long been very enthusiastic about NVIDIA LightBoost for motion blur elimination, with the hugely popular LightBoost HOWTO running on 120Hz monitors. However, for people who spent thousands of dollars on a surround setup, read on:

Driver Disaster For Triple Surround LightBoost

FixingSurroundLightBoostSurround LightBoost 2D users got a very unpleasant surprise from NVIDIA during Fall 2013. People who upgraded to NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 327.23 and later, lost ability to use LightBoost for 3 monitor surround. Interestingly, AMD Eyefinity users are unaffected; these users easily use LightBoost with ToastyX Strobelight Utility. Ironically, LightBoost easier to use on AMD than NVIDIA? NOTE: single monitor users are unaffected for both NVIDIA and AMD.

Solution: Hardware EDID Modification

To satisfy upset users sitting on 4-figure investments in NVIDIA products, Blur Busters is pleased to provide a solution, thanks to Toni Wilen, the author of WinUAE (Amiga emulator) who is a triple surround LightBoost user.

DISCLAIMER: You are about to make permanent modifications to your monitors. Damage is possible. Injury is possible. Warranties will be voided. Blur Busters disclaims all responsibility for any damage or injury caused by these instructions. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!

These advanced instructions involve opening up your monitor for a minor modification. This is to physically disconnect a write-protection pin for the EDID chip, and then using a utility to reflash the EDID with LightBoost-specific modes (modes containing a larger Vertical Total).

You will also need a separate computer running an older graphics card, for the EDID reprogramming part, since a lot of EDID utility software (e.g. PowerStrip for Windows, edid-rw for Linux) only work with older graphics cards.

After this process is done, LightBoost will be enabled by default, even at the POST screen at bootup! This process should not interfere with the upcoming G-SYNC upgrade, though you may need to re-flash the EDID back to original. Proceed at your own risk.

Step-by-Step Instructions for ASUS VG248QE

These instructions assume you have the ASUS VG248QE computer monitor, one of the most popular LightBoost-compatible monitors. Other monitors (e.g. BENQ XL2411T) have very close similarities, however, these instructions are only tested on the VG248QE.

1. Get organized. You will need a Philips screwdriver. A soldering iron is highly recommended, however, an ultra-sharp large utility knife blade (fresh, new ‘exacto’ type blade) will also work if you are extremely careful (an accidental slip will do a lot of damage).

Make sure your work area is washed/cleaned, as you don’t want dirt getting into your monitor innards. You will be temporarily removing screws, so do not lose them! Get a few sandwich bags, small containers, or several cups, to store loose parts in.

2. Make sure you don’t have static electricity. Touch a grounded metal object (e.g., the metal surface at the back of your computer). Also, make sure your monitor has been unplugged for at least 15 minutes, so there’s no charge left in your monitor’s capacitors.

3. Remove the plastic casing from the monitor. This is called “de-bezelling” your monitor, which surround monitor users often do in order to reduce the gap between monitors during surround mode. This video, by HatlessChimp from overclock.net, provides good instructions on how to disassemble the ASUS VG248QE:

If you are only doing this temporarily, simply stop following the video once you gain access to the interior (5min into video).

4. Lay the the screen face down carefully, with the metal rear of the monitor facing upwards. Make sure your surface is clean and completely clear of debris, so it does not scratch or damage the glass of your monitor.

finished

5. Remove the metal cover. Do this by carefully removing all tape pieces surrounding the large protruding metal cover (tape may be silver color instead of black). Then unscrew all 4 screws near video connectors. And then disconnect the speaker cable. Once done, you can carefully lift the metal cover, revealing the green circuit board underneath:

partially_open

6. Unscrew the circuit board. Remove the two screws that hold the main circuit board. Upon doing this, you can now see the chips sitting on your monitor circuit board.

main_board

7. Find the correct EDID chip for DVI. See attached image, with circle. The correct chip you want is immediately behind the DVI connector. It is a tiny 8-legged chip, and says “ATML” on it as the first few letters. For the electronics geeks, this is the DVI I2C EEPROM chip, an Atmel 24C02C. There are two of them, one for HDMI, and one for DVI. However, we only need to modify the one for DVI.

main_board_closeup

8. Disconnect the Write Protect Pin of the chip. This is pin #7 of the Atmel chip. If you have the DVI port facing towards you, this leg is third from left. Tip for Electronics newbies: Pin numbers are often counted counterclockwise from pin #1 indicated by a white dot on the chip. If you have the same chip as in the screenshot, the correct pin will be on the opposite edge as the white dot, and be right above the label “ATML”

pin_desoldered_arrow

Soldering Iron Method: The use of a electronics soldering iron, with a thin tip, is recommended. Heat the pin just enough until the solder melts, and bend the pin upwards using the soldering iron’s tip (or another pointy metal tool). Do not overheat.

Utility/Exacto Knife Method:  This method is accident prone, and easily does accidental damage. However, it works if you are careful with the knife method. Use a fresh, new utility kife blade. Carefully and slowly, with light pressure, cut pin #7, by sawing through it gently until it cuts through. Gentle cutting is less accident prone than a hard push (where a sudden slip accident can sever multiple circuits). Use a very sharp, fresh blade, so it is easy to cut the pin with just light pressure, minimizing the chance of a “slip” accident.

Note for Electronics Geeks: The ATMEL 24C02C datasheet says the pin should ideally be connected to ground, however, leaving the pin unconnected works too.

9. You’re Done.  Reassemble the monitor. Reattach the circuit board (2 screws), reattach the metal cover (4 screws and tape, use new tape if necessary), and reassemble casing if desired (or keep it de-bezelled, during surround use).

Reprogramming the EDID chip of ASUS VG248QE

Download either one of these files:
(a) edid_120hz-lightboost-only.bin — If you only want 120Hz modes
(b) edid_120hz-lightboost-plus-60hz.bin — If you also want 60Hz modes.

Choose a method of flashing the EDID:
Most approaches require the use of an older graphics card (e.g. Geforce GT 8800) since several free EDID reprogramming utilities often don’t work from newer graphics cards. When you reprogram your EDID, make sure you connect only one monitor at a time, and reprogram them one at a time. Repeat these steps for each monitor.

Option #1: Paid method, Windows 32-bit, Old Graphics Card

The paid version of PowerStrip (free version won’t work for this) is capable of reprogramming the EDID of your monitor using these .bin files from a Geforce GT 8800 (and certain older cards) under a 32-bit Windows system. This is easiest done on a separate computer, so pull out an old 32-bit Windows box (even running Windows XP) and an older Geforce or AMD/ATI card, preferably a GeForce 8800 GT as it has been tested and known to work. You can borrow somebody else’s older computer for this, too.

Install PowerStrip, reboot, run, select system tray icon -> Options -> Monitor Information.

First, backup your monitor’s EDID, and save to a file. This allows you to undo the permanent LightBoost EDID later, if necessary. This is useful when you want to sell your monitor, for example. The EDID also contains your monitor’s serial number, which you will be overwriting! If PowerStrip cannot find your EDID, try a different graphics card. For example, a GeForce 8800 GT worked, while GeForce 8600 GT did not find an EDID.

When you select “Update EDID”, you may see “EEPROM Error“, saying “An EDID EEPROM was not detected on the selected monitor. Do you want to scan the bus for other EDID EEPROMs?“. When you click Yes, you may see another pop-up message “EEPROM Found: <MONITOR>” and a message “An EDID EEPROM has been found at port #1. Do you want to attempt writing to this EEPROM?“. Click Yes. Select the .bin file and PowerStrip will flash your monitor with the new EDID. Once you’re done, go to Testing your New LightBoost.

Option #2: Free method, Linux shell, Old Graphics Card

This method is good if you are reasonably familiar with Linux. You might still need to run on an older graphics card for this to work (GeForce 8800 works) depending on support. Obtain your favourite Linux distribution (e.g. Linux packages, or bootable LiveCD .iso). Next, obtain a copy of edid-rw from Sourceforge, or install using sudo:

sudo apt-get install python-smbus edid-decode

Once you’ve got the ‘edid-rw‘ and ‘edid-decode‘ commands installed, find your I2C bus number by replacing X with 0, 1, 2 until you see valid EDID output:

./edid-rw X | edid-decode

Once you’ve found the number for value X, use the number value for all subsequent mentions of X in commands. Next, backup monitor’s original EDID. Remember that each monitor has different EDID serial numbers, so keep separate EDID backup files from each monitor. Backup your original EDID using this command (replacing X with number):

./edid-rw X > name_of_backup_file.bin

Choose one of the .bin files (e.g. edid_120hz-lightboost-only.bin) and make sure it is in the same folder as edid-rw. Next, reprogram your EDID with the following command (replacing X with number):

./edit-rw -w -s 0.01 X < edid_120hz-lightboost-only.bin

Note: The small delay (-s 0.01) is necessary, otherwise you get error messages. If you are trying to reflash other monitors, you may need larger values (especially on older models, such as the ASUS VG278H which has very slow I2C). Also, if you ever want to restore your old EDID, this is the same command you use (with the backup .bin file you saved). This is useful when you want to sell your monitor, for example.

Now, verify your EDID with this command (replacing X with number):

./edit-rw X | edid-decode

If all checks out, you’re finished with this monitor. Repeat all the above steps with the next monitor of your surround setup, until you are finished with each monitor. Once you’re done, go to Testing your New LightBoost.

Alternate Options

If you prefer to use a different EDID flashing utility, you are on your own. Be careful! The use of Tomasz Orczyk’s EDID converter [WARNING: Untested] can allow you to convert .bin files to other formats (.dat or .raw) compatible with other EDID utilities. If you discover an easier method of flashing your EDID, please post in the comments!

Testing Your New Permanent LightBoost

Once done, reconnect all your monitor(s) to your original system, power them up. Install and run ToastyX Strobelight once.  This is a one-time procedure to wake up LightBoost permanently, after having unplugged your monitor. Once this is done, you don’t need to run Strobelight again even after reboots (Unless you want to use Strobelight for easy adjustments, including LightBoost brightness).  In fact, next time you reboot, your monitor will have LightBoost enabled during the BIOS / UEFI screen, or even when rebooting into a different operating system that automatically configures from the hardware EDID!

Next, set up your surround mode (e.g. triple monitor portrait surround), and LightBoost will continue merrily working, independently of your graphics drivers, assuming the EDID was flashed correctly into your monitor.

setup

Triple LightBoost portrait surround working with latest GeForce drivers.

Remember if you unplug your monitors from power, you will need to re-run ToastyX Strobelight (or 3D Vision initialization) once, to wake up LightBoost, and make it stay stuck on again.

Interaction With Software EDID Overrides

The use of the hardware EDID method does not prevent the ability of doing software-based EDID overrides using ToastyX Custom Resolution Utility (CRU). For example, even if you installed the 120Hz-only EDID, you can still add 60Hz modes manually via CRU. However, these modes will not work in surround modes. Only the hardware-installed EDID (flashed on the monitor) will reliably work in triple surround mode with the newer NVIDIA drivers.

Future G-SYNC Upgrade

This modification should not interfere with G-SYNC, as G-SYNC uses the DisplayPort connection rather than the DVI connection. However, just in case, you should keep a backup of your original EDID, so you can reflash your monitor’s EDID back to original. Also, the G-SYNC upgrade also includes a LightBoost sequel that was revealed earlier.

Credits

These instructions were brought to you as a Blur Busters exclusive, provided by reader Toni Wilen, the author of the WinUAE Amiga Emulator (www.winuae.net). If you have improvements (e.g. easier Windows EDID programming utilities) or a way to bypass the need to open up the display, please contact squad@blurbusters.com.

Feel free to donate to Toni if he is a hero for saving your 4-figure-priced setup. If you love emulators, we’d like to note that Toni’s WinUAE has software-based black frame insertion! This permits 60Hz with reduced motion blur on 120Hz monitors.

If you are looking for a new monitor, see the Official List of 120Hz Monitors.

24 Responses to Hardware LightBoost Modification HOWTO

  1. Pingback: EXCLUSIVE: Hardware modification to permanently enable LightBoost | Blur Busters

  2. badugib says:

    Damn nice article! I feel like the ASUS VG248QE monitor is the best/modifiable lightboost monitor out on the market. Also Gsync compatible too, which is crazy.

  3. I just received news that the BENQ XL2420T EDID chip is not write protected, so you can reflash its EDID without opening up the monitor! (Source: StrobeMaster)

  4. yasamoka says:

    That’s an awesome modification. However, wouldn’t it be less permanent to simply connect the write-protect pin to a ground terminal? I’m assuming the pin works by sending ‘1’ to the chip to enable write-protection. This can easily be determined by using a voltmeter / oscilloscope (to watch for the variations with operation).

    • If the pin is currently connected to a voltage that’s not supposed to be connected directly to ground, then connecting that voltage directly ground could cause a short circuit or blow a different component. Boom!

      So cutting was safer. We didn’t want to take the risk of not doing the cut. The cut can be undone with a small piece of jumper or a drip of solder as a bridge. However, if you can track down whether or not it is safe, and explain why it’s safe to put a jumper wire there (from that pin to ground), so that we can do it with confidence, please definitely be our guinea pig — but do not attempt this without an oscilloscope and some sleuthing to verify that it can be safely connected to the ground without cutting the pin! (e.g. Voltage being sent through a sufficiently-high-value resistor before the pin).

      That said, for a monitor-independent solution (not knowing the circuit), cutting the pin #7 of this 8-pin ATML would be pretty safe. Though, incidentially, not all monitors need this to be done. The BENQ XL2420T lets you reprogram the EDID without needing to open up the monitor.

      • yasamoka says:

        Interesting. It was probably best to think about the lines of connecting the pin on the chip’s side to GND so that it receives a 0 rather than connecting the intact pin to ground as you’re right, it can easily introduce issues.

        Any ideas whether the Qnix, or any no-OSD Korean monitors with bypass boards for that regard (since all have pretty similar PCBs) have a reprogrammable EDID? That would solve the issue of being unable to overclock those monitors on Linux, unless it is already possible to override the EDID flags on Linux with binary Nvidia & AMD drivers.

        • If you are daring, give the Linux edid utility a try on the QNIX — if it dumps valid EDID information, try getting that edited & reflashed. Be careful though & also have a backup handy!

          • yasamoka says:

            Hmm, good idea, but do you know of any Windows software other than PowerStrip that edits EDIDs and works with modern graphics cards?

            The reason is two-fold. I don’t have Linux installed, and I might want to make a GUI tool where you can enter the resolution, refresh rate, and timings you would like to add and the tool would use an EDID editor to flash the EDID, should there be an EDID and this idea work.

  5. dreamss says:

    3 questions:

    were does the gsync module connect too? looks like we gonna have to replace the whole pcb area any news on this

    each Atmel 24C02C holds the edid separaly for dvi and hdmi? what about displayport?

    again… since were here haxoring and flashing.. anyone try dumping the eeprom so we can modify/fix the crap gameplus crosshairs?

  6. dreamss says:

    also were the heck is teh gsync kit..

    since the gsync kit comes with its own external powersupply, i really think we gonna have to remove this pcb/powersupply aera and use nvidias. so i seriously think it wont affect gsync since we will just remove this stock pcb

    looks like displayport is done in the flash… so need to dump/edit that if i want this on dp.

    can anyone read/paste/pic for me the part number for the 2 extra chips… hynix and prolly the cpu and see if it has any pins for jtag?

    if it has no jtag i wonder how the flash them oem… tru the ports?

    anyone wanna help me on any of this.. would love to modify the UI/crosshairs and (maybe) add this option on the bios/monitor ui

    • High resolution photos are available by clicking on the thumbnails above. You may wish to ask Toni of WinUAE for that.

      For modifying and reprogramming a monitor’s firmware, we love to see such creativity from our readers — though we must attest this is a very risky “do at your own risk” activity that voids your monitor’s warranty and also possibly bricks it (renders it useless).

      I can tell you, “keep tuned” about G-SYNC. As you can see, Blur Busters has a G-SYNC section already, and we’re paying very close attention to NVIDIA.

  7. dreamss says:

    best i found so far which is for XL2420T :(
    ftp://210.65.248.224/LCD%20Monitor/Document/ServiceManual/9H.L7PLB.QBE.pdf

    anyone seen the asus service manual? :P

    does this say the MST8556T has 2mb flash embeded? anyone seen a 2mb (size could vary) flash in the asus pcb by any chance

    DDC (Display Data Channel) function: We use DDC IC to support DDC2Bi function. DDC
    data is store in 24C02 (EEPROM). Those data related to LCD monitor specification. PC
    can read them by “SDA” and “SCL” serial communication for I²C communication for
    DDC2Bi.
    2.) Scalar IC: There are A/D, TMDS receiver, Scaling, OSD and LVDS transmitter functions
    built-in one MST8556T ICs. Scaling IC is revolutionary scaling and color engine, capable
    of expanding any source resolution to a highly uniform and sharp image or down scaling
    from 1920×1080, combined with the critically proven integrated 8 bit triple-ADC and – 74 –
    patented Rapid-lock digital clock recovery system. It also support detect mode and
    DPMS control.
    3.) MCU embedded in Scalar: Control unit, it controls all the functions of this interface board,
    just like the OSD display setting, the adjustable items, adjusted data storage, the external
    IIC communication, support DDC2Bi. .
    4.) EEPROM: We use 24C32 to store all the adjustable data, user settings and uses four
    24C02 to store D-SUB, DVI and HDMIx2 data.
    5.) Flash-rom stores source code

  8. dreamss says:

    my last post dint link pics… dont aprove it plz

    here some pics from mine.. if anyone figured out what is what plz give me a heads up
    http://img202.imageshack.us/img202/6500/y2sf.jpg
    http://img707.imageshack.us/img707/3127/i4xv.jpg

  9. A user (latexyankee of overclock.net and geforce.com Forums) wrote in that he succeeded in getting Triple LightBoost Surround working with these instructions, but he had to reflash the EDID using a GeForce 8800 GT since a GeForce 8600 GT did not work. PowerStrip is very picky about which graphics cards it can see the monitor’s EDID with, and the paid version of PowerStrip is required as the free version cannot write the EDID.

    We want to mention that GeForce 8800 GT’s have been quite reliable so far in working with PowerStrip, when used with a 32-bit edition of Windows (XP worked too) and a properly functioning Dual-Link DVI cable.

    Theoretically, someone (e.g. ToastyX) could write a utility to reflash the EDID directly from a modern, new computer using current OS (64-bit) and graphics cards. However, until then, an older OS and graphics card is the most reliable way to reprogram a monitor’s EDID.

  10. dreamss says:

    2 more things… Try setting the asus into service mode, this might disable the write disable pin, some people mentioned this works on some other monitors. to get into the service mode menu, turn off the monitor -> hold the menu key -> press the power key. if you dont see the asus logo it means you can now access the service menu by suing meny key

    i found this library… which seems to work well on any os/gpu (havent tested writing but can access DP just fine) http://www.nicomsoft.com/products/i2c/ (i had to track down the actual zips somewere else cause the library has been discontinued http://www.download3k.com/Install-WinI2C-DDC.html http://www.download3k.com/Install-WinI2C-DDC-Lite.html)

    it comes with a bunch of sources paired with sample mini execs.. trying to make a “superapp” butt his being my first VC++ project, its not going fast

    this is the 2 main samples im trying to glue toguther :p

    http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/9490/0d44.png

  11. dreamss says:

    2 more things… Try setting the asus into service mode, this might disable the write disable pin, some people mentioned this works on some other monitors. to get into the service mode menu, turn off the monitor -> hold the menu key -> press the power key. if you dont see the asus logo it means you can now access the service menu by using meny key

    i found this library… which seems to work well on any os/gpu (havent tested writing but can access DP just fine) http://www.nicomsoft.com/products/i2c/ (i had to track down the actual zips somewere else cause the library has been discontinued http://www.download3k.com/Install-WinI2C-DDC.html http://www.download3k.com/Install-WinI2C-DDC-Lite.html )

    it comes with a bunch of sources paired with sample mini execs.. trying to make a “superapp” butt his being my first VC++ project, its not going fast

    this is the 2 main samples im trying to glue toguther :p

    http://img19.imageshack.us/img19/9490/0d44.png

    this might make a nice alternative :P

  12. dreamss says:

    ps: an usbjtagnt or bus pirate is the MOST reliable way and also pretty much anything that does i2c will let u do it.

    WinI2C/DDC library also seems rather reliable… all the ddc comands worked on win8 64bit. (havent tested edid writing) but comes with “EDID Write VC Sample” (as i said it includes source, installs by default to C:\Program Files (x86)\WinI2C-DDC\Samples\EDID Write VC Sample ).

    edid flashing with bus pirate in linux
    http://www.blaicher.com/2012/06/howto-fixing-a-broken-edid-eeprom-with-a-bus-pirate-v4/

    pppps: STILL CANT DUMP THE MAIN FLASH FROM THE MONITOR.. GAH

  13. bsadams says:

    Will the hardware mod work with a laptop with a GTX 660m?

    • Depends if you are using NVIDIA Optimus or not.

      If you are using Optimus, ToastyX Strobelight doesn’t work on Optimus systems where the NVIDIA graphics card is in the system at the same time as Intel graphics. It is historically extremely difficult to get LightBoost working on an Optimus systems. There are some successes, but with convoluted instructions involving a 2nd computer to initialize LightBoost before switching to the Optimus laptop, creating the custom resolution (with the 1145-Vertical Total) via the Intel Custom Resolution utility instead of NVIDIA.

  14. biuzenho says:

    Does this stilll work?

  15. Frank76 says:

    Hello.

    Thanks for your work. So far, I easily used Strobelight.exe for my Asus VG278 with a nVidia Card.

    But now I got a Radeon 5850, and I don´t get it to work anymore. Uninstalled and reinstalled, 121 is shown in Catalyst Driver, but no Result. Strobelight.exe does not load/start.

Add Comment Register



Leave a Reply