Many people every week post asking how to overclock their system, so I thought I'd save them and those that post back the time by compiling the basics of any OC into one easy to read package. I will split this up into two main sections (CPU/Memory and Graphics), and split those as needed.
Before I get started, theres a few things that need to be said. First, you must realize that every chip is a bit different, and that not every chip will overclock in the same way. For this reason, I only included the method to use, but don't give any information like "You will get this far". Also, if you bought your computer Pre Built from a company, you probably wont be able to overclock. This is because evil corporate entities like to seal off frequency options to avoid lawsuits. This is also true with older Intel-made motherboards for mostly the same reason.
One more quick thing people can't seem to grasp:
THERE IS NO WAY TO TELL HOW FAST YOUR HARDWARE WILL OVERCLOCK!!!!!
Everything is different, even if it's the same. By this I mean that if someone else has the exact same system you do and has it OC'd to 3.98GHz, that doesn't mean you will. You might only get to 3.1, or 4.3, or 1.2, or 9.5, or 3.6, or......
You get the idea.
This is due to the fact that there are tiny micro-imperfections in every chip. Some help overclocking ability, some hinder it, and some just sit there twiddling their thumbs. It all depends on the unique chip and it's uniqueness, so Please
please PLEASE don't make posts asking how fast your hardware can go. It'll just be a waste of everyones time.
With that out of the way, lets get started!
Quick terminology you need to know
FSB- Front Side Bus. This is what the CPU speed is based off of. This is called HTT on AMD CPU's.
Multiplier- The number of times the FSB is multiplied to get the CPU clock speed. IE: 266MHz FSB x9 Multiplier = ~2400MHz CPU speed (2.4GHz)
vCore- Voltage going to the CPU
QDR- Quad Data Rate (Intel chips only). This means that when you have a 266MHz FSB, it may show it as 1066MHz, because it is running 4 packets of info through every cycle.
DDR- Double Data Rate. If you have an AMD CPU, the HTT may show 2000MHz when it's really only 1000MHz, because there are 2 packets of info going through each cycle. This also applies to DDR, DDR2, and DDR3 RAM.
I know I said we'd get started, but Newbie suggested I move this to the top so everyone knows what stability testing is before they start frying parts.
When you test for stability, you make sure that your system will run fine at loads when overclocked. There are several ways to do this. If you just overclocked your CPU and don't know if it's stable, I suggest CPU Burn-In, found here:
Let it go for about 5-8 hours, and if your system didn't crash, it's probably fine.
Another method of stability testing actually accomplishes things while you wait! It's called Folding @ Home, and you can read more about it by going to the bottom of the forum index and clicking the "Team MaxPC" forum. Here is the download site:
If you overclocked your Video card, I recommend something in the 3Dmark series. Probably 3Dmark06, but 3Dmark05/03 will work if needed. They are found here:
I got a suggestion yesterday afternoon to add this in, so I did. It's called Prime 95, and it is yet another was to test CPU stability after overclocking. I don't know much about it, but I'm pretty sure it uses your CPU to calculate the highest prime number it can through a series of mathematical formulas.
Required skills: Common Sense
Now, Just about every motherboard you buy will have some form of frequency control. To access these controls, you need to boot into the BIOS. To get here, restart your computer and press the "Setup" button when you hear the POST "beep" (Setup button is usually "del" or "F2". Check your motherboard manual to find it if you don't know). Now your in the BIOS. Your second step on the way to a faster machine is to locate the Frequency Control options. Depending on your mobo's manufacturer, it can come in many different forms, and you almost always have to dig for it. Some boards may even require that you enable it first (this usually means a menu where you have to set frequency options to "Manual", or something like that). Once you have an overview of things like HTT, FSB, PCI bus, and RAM frequency, you know you're in the right place. Now the fun begins.
To make your CPU go faster, you need to raise the FSB (or HTT if it's an AMD CPU you want to OC). Remember, use caution when raising this.
DON'T GO CRAZY!!!
Raising that number an insane amount can start to fry things. I suggest starting by raising it in increments of 10-15MHz, then test for stability. Once you've raised it up a bit, start to slow down your steps. Instead of 10-15, try 5-10. the higher you go, the lower you want to increase it. If you've gone over 100MHz (and it's still STABLE), you only want to make jumps of 1-2MHz each. This helps narrow down where to revert to if you get unstable. If your system doesn't boot after you go up, Don't Panic! You can reset the BIOS back to how it was. To learn how to do this, check your manual, because this is unique with every mobo. You can, however, almost always just remove the button-cell battery from the motherboard for about 10 seconds to reset it, but the manual will usually have an easier way.There ya go! You've learned the absolute basics.
Required skills: More common sense
Don't worry, you're not gonna learn how to catch anything on fire yet. This section just focuses more on RAM overclocking, since it can be a bit more complex. First, there are two ways to OC the memory, depending on what kind of board you have. Most motherboards have the RAM and FSB on a set ratio, so when you raise the FSB, the memory goes up to. Lets use a basic example:
You have a 400MHz FSB and DDR2-800 memory. This means that you are working at a 1:1 ratio, because the DDR2-800 memory is working at DDR, so it's really only 400MHz.
Most boards also allow you to change this ratio to maintain stability. If you overclock your CPU really high, you will have to lower this ratio, or else your RAM will be unstable.
Some chipsets also allow you to be able to set the RAM frequency manually without having to worry about the ratio. The FSB and RAM are handled totally separately, so they both can run independently of each other. To accomplish this, you must set the RAM/FSB ratio to "Manual" in the bios.
The last thing I will cover in this section is RAM Timings. These are the amounts of time (in milliseconds) it takes for the RAM to do each task. When you buy RAM, you will see a string of numbers like 4-4-4-12, or 5-6-6-15. Those are the timings. Obviously, the lower that number is, the better. This is one of the easiest ways I have found to make your system unstable, and it doesn't do much for real world performance, but it sure gives you bragging rights. To lower them, just find where in the BIOS it mentions RAM settings or RAM timings, and lower the numbers one at a time, then test for stability.
Required skills: Tons of common sense, maybe proficiency with a fire extinguisher.
This is where things can get a little dangerous, but only if you're careless. This is because we are now going to be working with voltages, and more voltage means more heat, and more heat means more chance of things being fried. The purpose of doing this is to increase stability at higher speeds. Keep in mind though, that this is a last resort. As Chumly once said, "It's like rearranging your living room with a bulldozer. It gets the job done, but it's not the most delicate operation".
If you're still here, you probably want to know how, but again,
DON'T GO CRAZY!!!
Doing so WILL fry things.
Most overclocks will work fine without adding voltage, but really high ones need that extra oomph. To give it that extra oomph, these are the things that need extra voltage:
I wouldn't recommend adding more than a tenth of a volt, and possibly not even that. Just go in small steps like you did with the FSB and test to see if it's stable yet. If you add more than .1V to anything and it's still not stable, you probably should just turn down the frequency.
RAM will also need more voltage (usually) if you lowered it's timings in the step before. This is because lowering timings puts extra stress on the RAM, especially at higher speed.
Well, there you have it. If you're still reading this, you survived through those steps and now should have a faster system. Next up-
Graphics Card Overclocking
Required skills: Common sense.
This is what gives you the most gaming performance. If you're framerates are suffering, try this! I will be using Rivatuner
for this tutorial, and I suggest you do the same. I'll wait while you go and install it.
Now that you have it, you will learn the basics of overclocking your videocard. First, open up Rivatuner. Depending on what drivers you have for your card, it may or may not give you a message at startup saying that your drivers haven't been tested. Don't worry about it. You should now be looking at the main screen. Look where it says Forceware Detected (Catalyst detected if you have an ATI card). In the right of that is a button with a triangle on it. Click it.
You now have a menu extended from that. Click the Left-most button. You will know be taken to the frequency adjustment screen. Here you will use the same techniques I taught you in the Beginner section of CPU overclocking to slowly raise the frequency of your GPU and vRAM. Go slowly and test for stability after each movement of the sliders.
There, that wasn't to hard, was it?
You will now, however, have the possible issue of a rather hot video card, depending on how high you went. To remedy this, go back to the main menu of Rivatuner, then click the little triangle next to the box that lists the stats of your card (IE, mine says "256-bit G92(A2, 128sp) with 512MB DDR3". Yours might say something different). Now, click the left-most button in the pull out menu (sound familiar?) and you will be at a window that allows you to change your fan speed. Check "Enable low-level fan control", check "Fixed", then set the fan to whatever setting you want. I usually have it around 70-80%, depending on how hot things are. If they're really burning up, you can put it at 100%. It will scream like a banshee, but should keep the card cool. Do whatever is needed to make things work. You can monitor temperatures with ATITool, regardless of your brand of card.
Alternatively, you can buy an aftermarket heatsink (or if you're really ambitious, go into watercooling), but that shouldn't be needed for most overclocks.
Operative word "most".
Another thing I should mention is that you need proper cooling to OC successfully. Here are some tips on how to get the best effect when putting on your HSF.
1. Make sure it's clean! Dirty surfaces hurt performance.
2. Don't use too much thermal paste. It can actually impede heat transfer when too much is used.
3. Make sure you seat it correctly. Intel stock sinks are the worst because you have to push so hard you think you might damage the mobo to install it. Then, a week later, you start overheating.
How do you properly apply thermal paste? There are a million ways, but these are the ones I use.
1. Put a pea sized blob on the CPU, then place the HSF on top and let it spread out the TIM (thermal interface material).
2. Put a pea sized blob on the CPU, then spread it out with a credit card before putting on the HSF.
For more information, you can look here
- A useful application that shows system temperatures. Useful in finding how hot your processor gets.
IMPORTANT NOTE- This program is often not 100% accurate! Take these results with a grain of salt!
- Shows all the speeds in your system. RAM, CPU, FSB, Timings, and some other things like your core model and make.
Another device that will check your CPU temperature. The more the better, because they are almost guaranteed not to always have the same results. Use with other temp monitoring programs.
IMPORTANT NOTE- This program is often not 100% accurate! Take these results with a grain of salt!
- Another method of overclocking your video card that integrates into your Forceware driver if you have an nVidia card. Also allows overclocking of the CPU from inside windows on certain motherboards.
Processor Spec Sheet
- This page shows the general "maximum" temps and voltages of processors. While these are not set in stone, they are good guidlines to follow, ESPECIALLY if you're new at this.
These are all the tidbits of info you want and need to know that I couldn't find a place for anywhere else.
Intel CPU mathematics
- These are several formulas that show how individual speeds in an Intel CPU relate to eachother. First is the formula for finding the CPU speed based on the FSB.
FSB x Multiplier = CPU core speed
IE 266MHz x 9 = 2394MHz (rounded off to 2.4GHz)
Sometimes your motherboard will report the QDR FSB speed instead. If you see a FSB like 1066MHz instead of 266MHz, this is why. In this case, theres an extra step that must first be taken.
QDR FSB / 4 = FSB
IE 1066MHz / 4 = 266MHz
AMD CPU mathematics
- AMD is similar to Intel in most regards, with only a few differences.
HTT x Multiplier = CPU speed
Now, if I remember correctly, AMD reads the DDR speed if their HTT to find the CPU speed, so you don't need to worry about breaking this down. I have never worked with AMD though, so if I'm wrong, please tell me!
Well, I have taught you what I know about overclocking. I hope this thread lives for a while to help people learn the basics of milking every drop of performance from their dream machines. If anyone has suggestions, questions, or add ons, Please, bay all means, Post them! Let the world learn how to do this!