Rev the clocks!
Anand Tuliani | 22 June 2010
Rev the clocks!
There are different approaches to overclocking your CPU and graphics card. Do it the way enthusiasts do it or simply hit the magic button!
By ANAND TULIANI
Overclocking is one thing people keep away from because it’s perceived as complicated and risky. Yes, it can get complicated if you do it via the BIOS or registry. Hence, motherboard and graphics card manufacturers now provide easy means for overclocking, such as an OC button on the motherboard and bundled OC utilities. These tools are extremely user-friendly and allow you to overclock your hardware from Windows without requiring you to know the fundamentals of overclocking. One of the biggest advantages of these tools is that they aren’t risky to use because the values suggested by them are optimal.
Since the current-generation hardware are made using a small manufacturing process (45 nm and 32 nm) they run cool and have a good amount of headroom for overclocking. For example, the new Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs can run 1 GHz faster than the stock speed.
A word of caution before you try overclocking your hardware—make sure your cabinet has good cooling, because overclocking causes hardware to heat up more than usual.
Go to the overclocking/frequency settings section in the BIOS and look out for BCLK (base clock frequency). Increasing this value will step up the speed of the CPU and memory. Make sure that the memory runs at its rated speed by adjusting the memory ratio. To find out the effective speed of the CPU, multiply the BCLK value with the CPU multiplier. The latest CPUs can easily run 800 MHz to 1 GHz faster than their stock speed.
Bundled CPU overclocking utility
Certain motherboard manufacturers such as Gigabyte and MSI bundle overclocking software with which you can overclock your CPU and graphics card from Windows. In the Easy mode, you simply have to choose one of the listed presets, restart your PC, and you’re done. Here, the software increases the base clock (FSB) and accordingly adjusts the RAM speed in the BIOS. In Advanced mode, you have the freedom to set the FSB, memory speed and voltages manually. Such tools will appeal to both beginners and advanced users.
Some motherboards have the automatic overclocking feature in the BIOS in addition to the manual mode to simplify things for beginners. All you have to do is select the target CPU speed from the listed preset values, save the BIOS settings, and restart your PC. For example, when you install an AMD Phenom II X4 945, the preset list will show Phenom II X4 955 and 965, which means you can run the Phenom II X4 945 at the speed of X4 955 or X4 965. The preset ensures the memory runs at optimal speed so as to maintain system stability. This technique allows overclocking the CPU by 200 MHz to 800 MHz.
Onboard overclocking switch
This technique is a no-brainer. It’s as simple as opening your cabinet, pressing the OC button on the motherboard and switching on the PC. The OC processor on the motherboard takes around half a minute to calculate the optimal CPU speed, memory speed and voltages, and applies them in the BIOS. Voila! You have overclocked your processor.
Bundled GPU overclocking utility
Overclocking graphics cards involves increasing the core speed, shader speed and memory speed. Graphics card manufacturers such as EVGA, Asus and MSI bundle an overclocking utility with certain models that allow users to overclock their card. The utility might or might not be specific to the card, meaning that it might work with other cards as well, for example, the EVGA Precision Tool.
Overclocking ATI Radeon graphics cards
The ATI Catalyst Control Center has a section called ATI overdrive from where you can overclock any ATI Radeon graphics card. You have to click on the unlock button to be able to adjust the GPU clock, memory clock and fan speed. We suggest increasing the GPU and memory speeds in small increments (25 MHz) until you reach the maximum stable limit.
CPUs with unlocked multiplier
AMD Black Edition and Intel Extreme Edition CPUs are special because they have an unlocked multiplier. With this feature, you can increase the multiplier beyond the rated value to overclock the CPU unlike in the case of regular CPUs. For example, the AMD Athlon 64 X4 955 BE which is clocked at 3.20 GHz (200x16) can be easily overclocked to 3.80 GHz by bumping the multiplier to x19. The advantage is that the memory speed doesn’t get affected by increasing the multiplier. These processors are an enthusiast's favorite toy.