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Overclocking

What is overclocking?

 


 

Most technical components have rated speeds i.e. speeds at which the manufacturer states they are designed to run. Processors have GHz ratings, motherboards may have maximum FSB (Front Side Bus) ratings, and RAM may have MHz ratings.

Overclockers use a variety of methods to make those components run at speeds faster than they were originally intended. Some of it is done as easily as by changing jumpers on your motherboard or making changes to the BIOS/CMOS. Some overclocking is more involved and requires physical modification to the product. Sometimes it can be done by overclocking software or overclocking utilities. However, it's not just a matter of making a part run faster, it's a matter of getting it to run faster without affecting the stability of the PC.

Once a part has been overclocked it's then a matter of testing to see if the whole computer is stable. Booting the PC into Windows and having it crash all over the place is an obvious hint that not all is well. It sometimes takes many hours of time before you can tell if a component is stable at the overclocked speed.

What's the difference between overclocking and optimising?

Optimising and tweaking involve making changes within the warranty conditions. Over-clocking is generally frowned upon by manufacturers of components for obvious reasons as over-clocking frequently damages product beyond repair. Some manufacturers allow minor over-clocking and, in fact, provide you with the information/tools telling you how you can over-clock their product. These are usually quite tame over-clocking facilities and they will allow you to go only as far as that manufacturer believes is safe for you to over-clock their product i.e. they'd like you to feel that you have achieved some extra speed at no additional cost :-)

Optimising - as the name suggests - involves getting more performance out of your PC. Optmising though does require a higher level of knowledge and expertise if you want to achieve best results. It involves knowing everything about the hardware and software you are working with, from all those obscure BIOS settings, to every line of the Windows registry, to every driver released for every components, every version of DirectX, Intel Application Accelerator and all the various other programs, patches, switches, service packs and updates you can use with a given PC. You need to know how are the parts and software interact with each other, what the "poison" combinations are, which configuration is likely to affect which component adversely... and a lot  of other information that can only be gained by a great deal of experimentation, trials, testing, benchmarking and analysing. Optimising does not affect your warranty.

Why overclock? 

The main reasons we believe that people overclock are (in order of importance):

1. The "My PC is faster than yours" brigade: Usually young people fighting for bragging rights. It's common for an individual to spend several days overclocking and running benchmarks on his graphics card in order to gain a fraction of 1% in extra performance so he can boast online to friends and foes about his benchmark score ...or the number of frames per second he's getting in his favourite game.

2. The "I'm entitled to more performance for my money" mentality: Manufacturers, like Intel, often underclock products. Processors, for example, may be sold with different rated speeds even though they were all made on the same day, the same die, and to the same specs. When they come off the manufacturing line the units that fail quality tests for faster speeds are then tested at lower speeds. When they are found to be stable at a certain speed they are marked down and sold as processors rated to that lower speed. Anybody who believes that this marking down is purely a marketing gimmick to create product differences may pay less for a lower spec 8 GHz (fictional number) processor and attempt to overclock it to the more expensive 10 GHz speed.

3. Cheats: Companies competing for business have been known to artificially inflate the performance of PCs they've manufactured to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors in reviews. Fortunately, this is not seen often but you'd be surprised at how this cheating is not limited to small town or fly-by-night merchants. Big names like ATI and nVidia have been very publicly accused of cheating in the mainstream IT press.

4. Idiots: Heard about the gizmo that could convert black and white TVs to coloured TVs? There are plenty of the modern day equivalents around. And there are always suckers who'll pay 10 for a widget that will make their 80 processor run (supposedly) as fast as an 800 one.

5. Work related - The PC engineer or technician doing research work: The extent to which a product can be stretched sometimes does predict it's long term stability running at rated speed.

What parts can generally be overclocked?

CPUs (processors), motherboards, and video cards are the most common targets. AMD CPU overclocking is probably the most discussed on the internet. Overclocking AMD Athlon processors is considered by many to be a kind of entry point to more dangerous overclocking. Overclocking the video card seems to also be very popular (particularly among the gaming community)

How do you overclock a PC? 

There are numerous sites covering the "hobby" of overclocking. There's sysopt's overclocking section and whole sites like Extreme Overclocking devoted to little else.

What are the risks of overclocking?

You could blow yourself up :-) That doesn't happen a lot but overclocking components does cause them to generate more heat. If adequate extra heat dissipation hasn't been factored in the part could burn out. It's not impossible for PCs to catch fire, then all you need is a curtain in close proximity.... ;-)

The main risk you need to worry about though is the warranty. Overclocking often ruins products. Even if it doesn't ruin the component it will definitely lower it's life expectancy. Manufacturers have very clever ways of examining a burnt out product and deducing what caused the problem. And they won't compensate you with a replacement part if they suspect that you ran their product beyond it's rated capacity/speed. And the part may not burn out immediately, it may happen in weeks or months.

Is overclocking necessary?

Absolutely not. Overclocking in most cases is just juvenile, silly and a waste of time. And don't bother writing in to tell us that overclocking roolz. You won't get a reply :-)  

Do you provide an overclocking service?

We have the UK's top experts optimising our PCs. That is why we have an enviable track record for performance computers. (This is what some of the experts have said). 

We'll leave the overclocking to the boy racers and we'll continue to product the optmised performance PCs that we are so famous for. The fact that they also beat overclocked machines by a wide margin provides us with immense satisfaction and results in you, the customer, having more performance for a lot less money. It also results in you not losing any of your warranty rights (as happens with overclocked parts). 

Proceed to the PCs that don't ever need overclocking to run fast >>

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last updated: Jan, 2010