How hot to rock your clock. Or Overclocking and you.

Posted: March 24, 2011 by ryanlecocq in Technology

In “How to build a cheap gaming PC part 2” I briefly covered overclocking.  For those of you out there who are total laymen, I would NOT FREAKING OVERCLOCK, BUY A PS4! recommend using SetFSB.  It does cost $10 (6800 yen rather) and it says on the page ‘not for beginners’ but that’s poppycock.  Abo (creator) is a genius and won’t give you the activation code until you tell him your motherboard spec and he tells you the proper settings.  Finding a FSB overclock that both your CPU and RAM are comfortable with is easy and controlled with a simple slider interface.  Pretty fool-proof.  Assuming you have some idea of what you’re doing and would rather do this through the motherboard and not with software, read on.

EDIT 10/17 I saw that someone actually read this ancient article, so I had to update. Seriously people, never read a 6 year old article about tech advice. That’s like going back to the civil war and asking someone for respectful terms for black people.

Cooling: Read this regardless of what you know.

The primary reason your CPU isn’t overclocked from the factory is because there is no possible way (almost) that it can fail at stock speed with stock cooling.  Granted, since factory settings are so safe, moderate overclocking is still well within a safe margin on stock cooling.  Honestly though, is a 10-15% increase in failure rate really worth the risk on your $200 CPU?  Not when as little as $10 could reduce it to a 1-2% increase.

This section used to recommend Artic Silver 5, which was the best back then. Then I updated to MX-4, which surpassed it. Currently Gelid GC-Extreme is the best non liquid-metal solution, but always look for updated tests. Better pastes are constantly coming out.

Beyond that simple upgrade, you can get an upgraded heatsink with copper surface and heat-pipes for as low as $12 on newegg.com or geeks.com.  That will give you the increased cooling for any overclock someone likely to be reading this would need.  If you go with a liquid cooling system that uses water (usually actually RFC) or a high end liquid Nitrogen or Freon setup (I’m assuming that isn’t most of you reading this, but JIC), just remember that although these are getting better, they have the potential to leak or shatter and completely destroy the rest of your system.  If you are going this route, you are probably either a pro or are paying a pro, but just take note you adventurous do-it-yourself-ers.  It is possible to reach pretty high clock speeds with only a $15-30 copper pipe air-cooler, so don’t get carried away unless you are aware of the risks.

Proper use of the BIOS

The first thing to do before you try to boot up and access the BIOS is to determine that you have the most overclock friendly version.  This may not be the most current version depending on your board.  Googling your exact motherboard and CPU with the word overclock is a good way to find out.  Just look for someone else with the same setup and scroll down the posts until they say what worked.  If you have it, you may want to consult your MoBo’s manual, but they are often useless.

THIS IS IMPORTANT:  If you mess anything up in your BIOS settings, it’s not that bad.  Turn off your PC, unplug the power supply and hold down the power button for 5 seconds to drain the capacitors so you can safely reach inside.  You will find a watch battery (CR2032) fastened somewhere on the motherboard.  Pop it out of it’s fixture with a butter knife or standard screwdriver and push the power button briefly again to drain the BIOS circuit itself.  What you have just done is delete your settings and return to default the old fashioned way: by removing the electricity required to maintain the data.  Now (after returning the battery to it’s fixture and plugging back in obviously) your PC should boot just like the first time with factory motherboard settings. THIS IS ONLY MOTHERBOARD SETTINGS, NOT YOUR HARD DRIVE DATA I didn’t originally think that was necessary to state, but I have sense developed a new appreciation of stupidity. A hard drive does not require power to maintain data. The sectors are physically altered when it is active.

Finding the right speed, voltage and ratio between CPU and RAM overclock.

My first advice that I suggest you make every effort to follow first, is to look up what someone with the same hardware did that worked.  In the wide world there is at least one person who has overclocked the same MoBo and CPU that you have.  They probably also posted their progress and asked for help along the way on internet message boards.  By finding this post and scrolling down past all the mistakes they made, you can usually find the best working configuration at the end.

That’s an oversimplification as you may have much better cooling or may have installed your parts more properly and think you can go higher.  If that’s the case, still try the above and use it as a starting point and then go up from there.

It’s pretty easy to tell if your motherboard and CPU don’t like a speed and voltage combination.  Your PC won’t start and will hang on bootup.  A thing to watch out for is if your are overclocking your RAM and how much.  If your motherboard only allows increasing the front-side bus speed, you are overclocking both the CPU and the RAM.  Only some RAM can even be overclocked and how much varies greatly.  Usually you can find that information in reviews of that specific RAM.  Or you can test it and if you start locking up every time past a certain point, you’ll know the RAM is limiting you.

What you will be looking at in the most basic clock and voltage BIOS screen is the actual front-side bus speed (usually around 200MHz) and the multiplier which should be a number roughly between 5 and 25.  When a CPU is referred to as being “multiplier unlocked” you can just change the multiplier to increase or decrease clock speeds without changing the FSB and therefore the RAM speeds.  Unlocked CPUs generally achieve the highest clocks because no other components besides the CPU will limit it and the CPU has the highest endurance threshold of all the parts in your computer.  If your CPU is multiplier locked, you will have to test different speeds and potentially use additional settings and apps to limit the speed of other devices like the SATA drives and RAM to achieve a stable clock.  Once again, the best course of action is to look for results by someone with identical hardware and go from there.

Finally you will find the core Voltage, which should be between .750 and 1.5V , depending on power setting.  Generally you have to increase Voltage when you increase clock speeds.  Some CPUs, like AMD’s Llano, can be both overclocked and undervolted by a large margin though, so do a little research.  Always look up your CPU’s minimum and maximum Voltage and go up and down in small increments.  Finding the most stable and conservative setting takes some time and trial.  Be unworried though as you have to go significantly above or below factory settings to damage the CPU.  Just take baby steps and you may find yourself not only getting higher benchmarks, but generating less heat and using less power as well.

 

 

I would strongly advise you not to give up and call a paid professional unless as a last resort.  Overclocking generally voids your warranty.  Unless you have physically fried your CPU, there is no evidence that it has ever been overclocked.  So really even in this circumstance you might be better off replacing the CPU yourself if the computer is a laptop or a pre-built system.  If you call the store and admit to overclocking, they will try to upsell you to a new system by convincing you yours is warranty void and cannot be repaired.  If you go so far as to fry the motherboard and the computer is a laptop or pre-built system, my advice would this:  Turn the power button on and yank the cord out of the wall as fast as possible on a desktop or put a laptop power supply in the oven at 160-180 degrees for an hour.  If the power supply wasn’t blown, that hopefully did it.  Claim there was a power outage and try to get some sort of free service.  It ain’t pretty and I make no claims to the morality, just throwin’ it out there.

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Comments
  1. David Austin says:

    Nice article.

    I wonder how many points per day (ppd) the new Ivy Bridge overclock will generate on folding@home?

    ashane
    http://diekittymaschine.blogspot.com/

  2. Alec Tulloch says:

    Good stuff… Just killing some time at work rubbaging around and found your blog. Good looking site. I will have to save your page to come back and see what’s new. Cheers! My Blog: Lethalia Blogs

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