Deciding to overclock your computer is a decision you should not take lightly, it’s a risky process that if done incorrectly or in haste will burn out expensive components. However, do it right and oh boy you are in for a treat.
Overclocking is often seen as taboo, something that only a the elite, or an experienced overclocker, can do. While that may have been true 15 years ago when you had to use motherboard jumpers, that couldn’t be further from the truth today. However you must first weigh up the risks, if you only play Facebook games and browse the internet, then I don’t think PC overclocking is for you.
If you are a hardcore PC gamer, or a PC enthusiast, then Overclocking might just be what you need to squeeze a few extra FPS out of your favourite video game, or a bit better of a score in your most demanding benchmark.
PC Overclocking Saves you Money
If you plan on overclocking a new computer you are going to build, then do your research first and find out what components are consistent performers in the overclocking department, it will pay off in the long run I promise!.
When I bought my current setup around 2 years ago, The Intel 2500k was all the rage. Being one of the first CPUs coming fully unlocked, it was a consistent performer that 90% of the time delivered for its user.
I have not upgraded my gaming rig now since then apart from to get a 290x. It’s currently sitting on a custom-built water cooling loop that cost me £150. Running at 4.8ghz at a very very nice ambient temperature running 24/7 stable – It’s safe to say I have not needed to upgrade my CPU for a long while!
I know its easy to get carried away and just buy your PC components impulsively, but if you slow down and do your research you can spend far less and still outperform 99% of off-the-shelf computers by a huge margin just by ramping up the CPU.
Overclocking Can Cost you Money and Headaches
Overclocking compared to 15 years ago is a breeze, all settings are taken care of in the bios, you don’t even have to open your pc case anymore to reset the CMOS if you push your pc to far, most motherboards designed to overclock come with reset buttons built into the rear I/O port making it a breeze to reset your pc and start again. However you can still kill your components if you don’t take care.
Here is a few rules I have developed over the past 12 years of my overclocking career, and while not entirely comprehensive they have helped me a lot to not wreck any hardware:
- Never overclock with applications in Windows. It may work on the fly but it’s not safe. I have killed an entire rig like this and learnt the hardway
- Always overclock your CPU via the BIOS
- Always adhere to the processors maximum rated temperatures and voltages, failure to do so will result in a dead chip.
- Always stress test your overclock to ensure stability, this will ensure a safe overclock.
- Be patient, and overclock slowly, don’t take huge jumps, it makes it harder to find the instability and fix it.
Obey the rules
The point I really want to touch on is the processors maximum rated temperatures and voltages. This, for me, is the decider of the chips maximum safe overclock. If you want to keep your hardware safe then you should never go over the maximum voltage for your processor! That is unless you are a nut case cooling his PC with liquid nitrogen that is. In which case, I would like some pictures for a feature- because that is impressive!
It gets a little more complex depending on whether you are cooling your CPU with a traditional fan powered HSF, Liquid CPU Cooling or even phase change but that is totally dependent on your hard, if I went into that here we would be here for weeks for every different possible combination. Google is your friend.
There are a handful of overclocking tools and monitoring applications that can make your life easier such as monitoring temperatures, voltage spikes and CPU frequency, I don’t recommend using the desktop-based overclocking features for CPUs. GPU Overclocking is a whole different ball game and an article I will cover in the near future.