Brief Intro to Overclocking
Overclocking a computer’s CPU is a free way to get more speed and performance out of your PC. By default, CPU processor manufacturers Intel and AMD put a cap on the processors that they sell. This cap is mainly designed for safety, and is there for good reason. Without limiting a processor’s clock speed (or core speed), the CPU will get extremely hot, overheat, and burn up. Obviously, this would lead to your computer not functioning. The thing is, Intel and AMD set this cap conservatively low. Meaning that the majority of CPUs out there very well could be faster than they are, and still be running at perfectly safe temperatures. This is where overclocking comes into play.
Overclocking a CPU processor involves adjusting certain variables, lifting restrictions, and raising limits. By doing so, a processor will run with a higher clock speed, which amounts to faster computing. The heavy majority of motherboards have built-in temperature regulators that will automatically shut down a computer, crash the operating system, and not allow it to run, should the CPU temperature get too high. This is actually a benefit, as it allows you to push the limits of the CPU without damaging any computer components or hardware.
Q: Can my computer’s CPU be overclocked?
A: In most cases yes, the CPU is capable of being overclocked. The thing that prevents people from being able to overclock their processors is the motherboard. Companies like Dell, HP, and Gateway incorporate their own BIOS into the computers they sell. This is why you see a Dell, HP, or Gateway logo each time you power up your computer. The BIOS controls the functionality of the motherboard, and most computer manufacturers simply do not include sufficient options in the factory BIOS settings for overclocking. Your CPU can be overclocked, but your motherboard may not allow it.
Q: If I build my own custom PC can I overclock the CPU?
A: 95% of the time you can. This is why many computer gurus and PC gamers choose to build their own PCs, so that they can hand pick each component of the PC, do hardware customizations, and even overclock CPUs to get max performance.
Q: Can RAM memory be overclocked?
A: Yes, RAM memory can be overclocked and set to higher speeds, but the majority of the time it is not needed. RAM works a bit differently than CPU overclocking. For example, you may purchase a motherboard that is capable of running the fastest RAM available. However, the RAM will not work by simple plug and play. Instead, you may need to configure your motherboard settings, and overclock the RAM to meet compatibility standards.
Continue on to Page 2
That’s all there is for now. Be sure to continue on to page 2, where you can learn how to overclock your CPU using motherboard overclocking software, or by adjusting motherboard BIOS settings.
Overclock CPU and RAM Memory Using Motherboard Overclocking Software
If you are uncomfortable messing with the BIOS setting on your PC, but still want to overclock the CPU, you are probably going to want to use motherboard overclocking software. Basically, motherboard overclocking software works by allowing you to adjust settings for your CPU and RAM, that have much of the same effect as a BIOS overclock. However, this is all done within Windows, using an easier to understand, wizard like interface. There are several programs out there that claim to be able to overclock within Windows. However, many of them may either be non-compatible with your motherboard, or not be as effective as direct BIOS overclocking. Alternatively, there are some motherboard overclocking programs that have proven to be effective. You may want to check out:
- AMD Overdrive - As you may have guessed, AMD Overdrive is for computers with AMD processors only. It has been proven to work the majority of the time, and is actually a very flexible PC hardware settings adjuster. Overdrive has two basic modes, Advanced and Beginner, making it easy for just about anyone to squeeze some extra performance out of their computer’s CPU.
- Intel Desktop Control Center - Intel Desktop Control Center is a lightweight utility designed for tweaking and adjusting CPU speed, RAM speed, and more for computer’s with Intel processors. Like AMD Overdrive, this utility is limited in compatibility and what motherboards it will work with.
- SetFSB - SetFSB is a shareware utility that allows you to overclock your PC by adjusting several motherboard variables from within Windows. Notably, Front Side Bus adjustments. This program has limited support for both Intel and AMD processors.
- nTune - nTune is an Nvidia only overclocking software, meaning that you must have a Nvidia nForce series motherboard to use it.
- CPU-Z - CPU-Z is the most popular overclocking software. It allows you to monitor and adjust several variables with Windows, and has good compatibility with a wide variety of processors and motherboards.
- GPU-Z - GPU-Z is a PC graphics card performance monitoring utility. Many people choose to overclock their graphics cards to get max gaming performance.
Overclock CPU and RAM Memory by Adjusting Motherboard BIOS Settings
Be sure to check out page 3 of the series, where we will discuss the most popular way to overclock PCs, by adjusting motherboard BIOS settings.
Brief Intro to BIOS Overclocking
Using the computer BIOS is not only the most popular way, but also the best way to overclock CPU and RAM. A computer’s BIOS is basically the software/firmware that allows your motherboard to work and be compatible with all of your PC’s other components. Thus, the CPU and RAM memory. The BIOS is the foundation of your PC.
Accessing your computer’s BIOS is done by pressing an F-Command key, or other key when you first boot up your computer. Likely, you will see the BIOS screen briefly appear before you see the Windows is loading screen. Upon entering the BIOS, you will be able to change many specific variables and motherboard settings, allowing you to overclock your CPU and RAM memory.
Not all motherboards officially support overclocking. For example, branded PCs such as Dell, Gateway, and HP often have limited BIOS options, with no option to adjust front side bus, and other CPU regulators. Commonly, branded PCs also restrict RAM overclocking, as there is no option for adjusting RAM speed.
Custom build PCs on the other hand, normally have very good overclocking options. This is actually one of the main reasons that people choose to build their own PCs.
How to Overclock CPU and RAM Using Motherboard BIOS
Overclocking a CPU or RAM memory is actually quite easy. However, each motherboard/CPU combination makes for a completely different process. Meaning, each motherboard manufacturer lists certain overclocking options in certain sections of the BIOS. Alternatively, each specific CPU (processor) may or may not have overclocking capabilities, or may have more or less overclocking capability due to chip set design and architecture. This combination makes for hundreds of different possibilities on how to overclock a CPU and RAM, and overclocking is essentially a motherboard/processor specific thing. However, the process for overclocking a CPU is generally the same for situations where it is possible. Here are the basic steps:
- Restart your PC and boot into the BIOS.
- Navigate through the BIOS until you find the overclocking variables. These differ significantly between different motherboard brands, but some keywords to look for are: FSB, Front Side Bus, RAM Speed, Clock Speed, Core Speed, multiplier, reference clock, and more.
- Increase these variables one at a time, only making incremental number changes at a time. After adjusting a variable, exit the BIOS and boot into Windows. Once Windows loads, your computer should be overclocked, but only slightly. Check the CPU clock speed and other variables using a program like CPU-Z.
- Restart your PC once again and boot into the BIOS.
- Go into the BIOS and raise the limits of the variables, setting the according numbers to each variable a bit higher than before.
- Exit the BIOS, boot into Windows and check the new clock speed and other numbers.
- Repeat this process until you are satisfied with the overclock, but also assuring that your CPU and RAM remains at a safe temperature, which in most cases is around 50 degrees.
If you push the multiplier and other variables up too much, your PC is going to crash. This is nothing severe. You will simply need to boot back into the BIOS and lower the variable settings. If your computer crashes and won’t even boot, remote the watch like battery on your board, wait 10 seconds, replace, and power on your PC.