Sunday, 8 January 2012

Beginner's Overclocking Guide - Part 1


As I already wrote about, a stable PC is very important. However, today I'm going to try and teach the basics behind how to destabilize your PC with faster clocks - and then, hopefully, get it stable again with safe voltage and temperatures.

There are many reasons to overclock, but for the current generation of CPUs it's more a matter of "why not?" than "why should I?" I'm not here to convince anyone to overclock, but if it's something you're interested in then I hope I can help you understand it a little better and get you on your way. Overclocking can be tedious, but also fun once you get the hang of it and achieve a successful overclock.

There are some differences between how Intel and AMD CPUs are overclocked. A lot of it, though, is nomenclature. Most of my experience is with Intel chips, so that is what I'm going to focus on. However, there are some terms that are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable with what you see on AMD chips. More on that coming up.

One more thing, for the absolute beginner. If you are totally unfamiliar with overclocking, this is the gist of it: You increase frequencies and/or multipliers or ratios in order to increase the speed at which your hardware runs above and beyond the stock speeds. Once you reach a certain speed, the default voltages are no longer enough to keep it running stable so you need to increase them. The question about how much and which ones are what I hope to help answer by the end of this guide.


There's a few things that you absolutely need before you can consider overclocking. The first is a motherboard that supports overclocking. Unfortunately, if you own any "big name" PCs like Dell, Gateway, HP, etc., you will not have the option to overclock. Some PC makers like Alienware and CyberPower will use motherboards like Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI which generally do allow overclocking. Just go into your BIOS at startup (typically DEL key during the POST/boot) and see what options you have.

The second thing you need, and this is very important, is good cooling. The case itself needs to have a decent amount of air flow. Typically most "aftermarket" cases will be sufficient, but if you upgraded the motherboard using one of the smaller HP/Dell/etc towers, you may need to make some changes. I've seen many that only have 1 exhaust fan, on the bottom. Ideally you would have at least 1 intake and 1 exhaust. On top of good case cooling, you also will need good CPU cooling. Typically the stock cooler that comes with a CPU is not going to cut it for overclocking. You might get a very small performance bump out of it, but it will quickly run out of thermal headroom. Ideally you need an aftermarket tower cooler, even a cheaper one like the Hyper 212 Plus. Guide Part 2