Overclocking Overview


What is overclocking?

Definition: hardware overclocking : Any adjustments made to computer hardware (or software) to make its CPU/GPU/RAM run at a higher clock frequency than intended by the original manufacturers. Typically this involves replacing the crystal in the clock generation circuitry with a higher frequency crystal, changing jumper settings, or software configuration.

If the clock frequency is increased too far, eventually some component in the system will not be able to cope and the system will stop working. This failure may be continuous (the system never works at the higher frequency) or intermittent (it fails more often but works some of the time) or, in the worst case, irreversible (a component is damaged by overheating/overvolting). Overclocking may necessitate improved cooling to maintain the same level of reliability.

Why do people overclock?

Most people overclock out of thrift, and the satisfaction of pushing the hardware’s limits. These people (myself included) are out to purchase the slower (and less expensive) hardware to yield better performance than their higher-priced equivalent. Example: Say I buy the AMD 3700+ San Diego core processor (2.2 GHz with 1MB cache multiplier locked at 11) at a price of $233. I get it home and I overclock it to 2.6 GHz, which is the equivalent of an AMD FX-55 San Diego (2.6 GHz 1MB Cache unlocked multiplier) at a price of $811… I just saved my self $578 Now let’s get some better cooling, like water, peltier, or vapor chill and clock it to 2.8 GHz. That is the equivalent of an AMD FX-57 (2.8 1MB cache unlocked multiplier) at $1011. Now the money I just saved on the processor just paid a hefty chunk of the cooling, with a $778 savings! For that you could have bought 3 more 3700+ processors.

By overclocking you just might gain 10-15 FPS in the latest games, such as DOOM 3 or Battlefield 2. That does give you bragging rights though. Benchmarking… “The new extreme sport!” (Extreme sports (now also known as action sports) is a general, somewhat hazily-defined term for a collection of newer sports involving adrenaline-inducing action. They often feature a combination of speed, height, danger and spectacular stunts. Levels of danger vary widely, but there is always an element — an “extreme” factor — that causes an adrenaline rush which keeps participants loyal to their sport.)

My personal Futuremark 3DMark05 Score.

Futuremark 3DMark05 scores change all the time because someone squeezing 50mhz more out of their processor (or 20Mhz more out of his video memory). These guys take overclocking very seriously, and are three to four-thousand dollars, sometimes more on hardware and cooling solutions. The record for 3dMark05 at the moment is 17,560. This score belongs to Kinc * SWE * Team Hardware Asylum*. They are running a AMD FX-57 Overclocked to 3.917Ghz, two Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX’S clocked at Core 675mhz, Memory at 1584mhz on extreme cooling. The Average overclocker gets between 3000 points and 8500 points, it just depends on how much money they have spent on their hardware. Personally I have about $3800 tied up in mine, and I have a respectable score of 13,094.

On the flip side of saving the money you must have the patience to deal with the BSODs (Blue Screen of Death), the hours of stability testing, the hundreds of dollars spent on roasted hardware. Not to mention the RMA time you will spend waiting on parts that have defects that jump out and confuse you while testing that processor at 2.6ghz