Overclocking is easy. Get results!
Before you overclock1. Knowlege is power, and will not only be your success but your saving grace when overclocking.
2. Know what your components are (i.e. Brands, CPU, Power Supply, Motherboard, Memory brand/speed/timing (5-5-5-15), Cooling, etc.)
3. Know your system from BIOS to Operating System, learn your BIOS, read your M/B's Owner's Manual!!! It actually has useful information in it!
4. Understand that HEAT is your enemy, and when you overclock you will be beckoning it to destroy your expensive investment, COOLING is extemely important.
4. Learn your components, research, Google is VERY usefull! Learn what each of your component's jobs are, why they're there, why you have it/need it, what the affects are of modifying it.
6. The more you research, the more you can learn about Overclocking your system...
7. Understand the hazards of overclocking, what it can harm, what the wrong settings/adjustments can do, if you learn and understand how to avoid bad situations, destroyed compenents and such, even if that means not meeting your goal, you will be a successful Overclocker. Only the brave and experienced push the envelope.
Note: Remember that neither myself nor anyone else including TPU can be responsible for the decisions and actions you make while overclocking and what damage may occur, which is more reason to have a better understanding of what you are doing.
Important Links for Users:
Need help? Read this first!
Zek's PC Building Guide (Excellent Guide)
Bruins004's New PC Building Guide
Programs/Diagnostics/Stress Tests for Overclockers
Quick Step by Step No Boot Troubleshooting Guide
OCDB Project Forum - 100s of Different OC'd Rigs!
OCDB Project Page
Panchoman's Power Supply Guide (Very good information!)
eXtreme Power Supply Calculator (Great Utility!)
Fox34's Guide to Case Modding
Most of these are TPU Based Threads that are full of excellent information and resources to make Overclocking more easily accomplished and understood. Thank the great folks behind all of these threads as they deserve it, they have many, many hours of trial and error to bring you the best information possible. The least that can be done is to have read and learned from their teachings and mistakes, and there are many more problem/solution threads on TPU, you just have to look for them and the search function on this forum is quite convenient, use it to your advantage. The last link, eXtreme Power Supply Calculator, is very handy, you fill out the form and it will tell you how much Wattage your PC requires (has a good estimate algorithm) to run at different loads from ~60% to 100%! Also it will tell you how much wattage the CPU TDP is on Overclock! It has many options and selections and variables, for instance at the right are my System Specs under my name, that system requires about 328 Watts at maximum load. It's a great idea for someone building a new PC and wanting to know how much power they need to provide, I personally believe in having a buffer even if purchasing a good quality PSU, it may help to get a more powerful PSU and not have to worry about it when upgrading to newer more power hungry components. If you have a Laptop Style PC, and want to tweak it, OC it, make it perform better, do yourself a favor and read the excellent information that Theonetruewill, Ketxxx and many, many users have spent hours-upon-hours compiling to give you one of the best
Laptop OC Guides out there!
Also, Google is going to be your best friend, I have found Google to be the best search engine (as of 6/2007) for finding information that I need whether it's specifications, methods, settings, etc...
As always, TPU is great for an insane variety and a plethora of information on damn near any kind of PC system out there, but with mininal provided information by you there will be minimal help for you, and your thread may even go overlooked with ZERO responses. Also reading the sticky threads for Intel/AMD Overclocking is very, very useful as-well-as the OC Programs Downloads Thread which has many different utilities from temperature monitoring (extremely important) to overclocking in the OS to stress testing (also very important to verify stability). Reading these should be the first steps before even posting.
--Have a helpful guide/suggestions/comments? Contact me!--
Researching, Why you need to do it!
Probably the most important thing you can do is research what you have or what your are planning on purchasing. Sure you can ask people in these or any other forum if a component will be good, but that's only a partial search for recommendation and should not be considerend the main deciding factor of a purchase. Researching is an easy thing to do, but is time consuming, as I recommend reading at least a couple professional reviews and a handful of consumer statements/reviews. This will tell you a few things about how the component functions, performs, any issues with compatability, etc. If you learn as much as you can, the more confident you will be when the time comes to overclock that component or know it will be stable with other components being overclocked. I will personally spend at least a couple of hours researching the product I am considering purchasing, and it's closest competitors to see if the one I am choosing is the right one for me.
I see many people not looking hard enough, jumping on a purchase and having issues with that said component. The truth of the matter is that it is of their own decision that they are having issues/problems for not taking the extra time to ensure that is what they want, that they can make it work with what they have and so on. Like I've said before, Google is one of the best ways to search for information on a product. Also, on occasion Epinions.com may have a few consumer reviews on the product you're researching. There's also Newegg and Tigerdirect which allow reviews of products purchased by consumers, which are also very good to read through, read all of them or as many as you can stand to. The more you can read the better (have I emphasized this enough yet?).
If you take the extra time to read what more people thought and what their experiences were on the item/component you're researching, you'll have a better idea if it will be something you want or not. Some people are willing to deal with fewer features, or want to pay a higher price for better quality. But knowing what it has, how well it does, and how certain products perform during OC's can give you an average idea of what it's capable of. Keep this in mind if you want to get the most OC for your dollar. Of course check compatabilities, because even in this day and age, there are different products are incompatable with eachother. Do yourself a favor and know more about what you have or are getting, if wanting to push it's boundries, research until you know all you need to in order to get it to your goal (or close).
A lot of questions can be answered before they're asked if people would research a little more, and understand no two items will OC/Perform the exact same, different products even if similar in ratings or even design can net very different results. Even so, it helps to know more, it takes time, but consider it your solution before you ask something that you can easily answer yourself. Research and learning is extrememly important if you like to have a stable, cool-running, and enjoyable PC, the more you do research and learn, the better it will be.
BIOS, What's the big deal?
Ahh, BIOS, this is where the Overclocking is done, sure you can do some form of OC-ing in Windows, but it's best if left to BIOS for this procedure. This is where all your important settings are for speeds, timings, voltages, features, etc. This is where you increase settings to attain your OVERCLOCK for your PC. Be patient, take small steps at first, understand what you are doing, see what it changes. Verify your OC with SuperPI or a test to see how much your OC has increased your performance. You will start to see a difference, and that's when it becomes addictive, just don't let it get out of your hands. Take small steps, stay in control, keep on top of your overclock, monitor how things are changing so you can modify if an issue arises.
Bios for newcomers can be very intimidating with it's old DOS-like appearance and settings with little to no explanation of what they do or change. Bios is the brain of your motherboard, it allows you to change how your motherboard functions in many different ways and with more overclocker friendly boards this becomes even more intensive as-far-as
ammount of settings. I recommend you read your M/B's owner's manual for starters, if that doesn't make things clear enough, GOOGLE or ASK what you're not sure about before changing, find out what others are using/disabling in their BIOS, find out what settings are being used for an application similar to yours.
Once you start to use your BIOS, and understand how it works, what it controls, how you can modulate it to your advantage, you will be able to overlcock with more confidence. If you are unsure of a setting, then read up on it. Settings like Intel's power saving TM 1/2, C1E, SpeedStep etc., are no good for overclocking as they modify voltage levels and clock speeds which can cause instability, there are many other features that can be changed and that depends on your motherboard, it's provided Bios, etc. They are good for the regular user, which does not want to overclock or only wants a small overclock which can genrally be provided by MFG presets in Bios (depending on MFG and Motherboard/Bios).
There is also issues with updating your BIOS, it is recommended this is not done unless you are having issues and updating is recommended. All BIOS releases have some sort of reference or revision number, so research it and see what others have to say about it, and how their experiences are with it. Some add features, some add stability, some degrade stability, so it helps to have that knowlege before jumping into it. Some people prefer to use an older outdated BIOS because they have found their prime settings with that version and were unsuccessful with newer versions (if your board supports flashing with older bios versions).
Flashing bios is the process of updating to a newer version, can be done via operating system on a lot of mother boards now, but is not recommended because if your OS crashes or power is lost, you most likely just ended your motherboard's life, and if still covered under warranty would have to go through the RMA process (see your components MFG and the distributor you purchased the component from for more information on RMA Service). The recommended method is via 3.5" floppy disk or if supported USB Drive upon reboot. Even then you must ensure that the PC's power is not switched during the update (takes a couple of seconds average, might be short, but it's a very important two seconds).
Lastly, should a problem arise from an incorrect setting or failed Overclock, you may be required to reset your CMOS. This is generally a procedure that requires a physical change on the motherboard itself, please refer to your Motherboard's Owner's Manual for more information. Genrally you can find CMOS Reset Jumper, it's default position is pins 1 and 2, in order to reset your cmos, you take the jumper off and set it on pin's 2 and 3 for at least 15 seconds (depends on MB, I usually go at least 30 seconds), then remove the jumper, install back to default position, power up your PC and your BIOS will be set back to default, you'll have to set time/date, and all of your settings will be lost.
Another method is removing the CMOS battery, which is the small circular/flat shaped watch-style battery on your motherboard (see owner's manual), remove it for at least 30 seconds, then re-install it, it is recommended you use the Jumper method first though. Also, it is not recommended to be in your PC Case and touching your components without grounding yourself and removing the power source (unplug the power cable from the back of the PSU), you can ground yourself by keeping constant contact with the frame of the PC
and the PSU, or go fancy and purchase a grounding cable you attach to your wrist. Either way, it pays to be safe, and static electricity WILL do severe damage to electrical components, do not risk it!
As I've stated a handfull of times before, cooling is extremely important, even for a completely bone stock system. Heat is your enemy, and you must fight this enemy in order to be successful. There is a plethora of different cooling devices out there, and most everything now-a-days has a heatsink...but not always. Learning what to cool is important, and a good way to know is to understand that when you increase something's speed, even without a voltage increase, it will create more heat. Heatsinks are rated to only remove so much of this heat, this is where stock/regular heatsinks start to faulter. They were designed to just get by at stock speeds, so if you feed more heat to them, you will have serious problems. Voltage increases only make matters worse as this increases heat substantially...even a small 0.1v bump up in voltage on a component will generally cause a significant heat increase (generally measured in Celcius).
So if you plan on Overclocking, plan on spending more money now to save a lot of money later. What I mean by this is the fact that good cooling can be fairly cheap to come by, which would be the Air/Heatsink method. Similar to stock, but better quality, better efficiency based on design (generally larger than OEM). There are many brands out there such as Zalman, Arctic Cooling, Scythe, Thermaltake and many others who are primarily dedicated to just providing cooling equipment/products for PC components. There are other methods of cooling that are more advanced, efficient, affective and expensive such as Peltier or Water Cooling, and generally if you have a more advanced cooling system you have an understanding of overclocking and have no need for this guide.
What all do I NEED to cool? You are probably asking about now, well then keep reading. If you decide to overclock your CPU a healthy ammount, you will need to increased voltage on it, your bus (whether HTT or FSB), your memory voltage since it will generally be faster unless you have a divider to force it to run slower, your Northbridge and Southbridge voltages, etc, so all these components are not only increasing in speed, but are becoming unstable because they do not have enough voltage to do the job..this is where increased voltage comes in to play, and like I stated before, the more voltage the more heat created. It's like when driving a vehicle, the faster you want to go, the more fuel it needs and the more you need to give it via accelerator pedal, and the more airflow is needed for the coolant system to keep the engine from overheating and blowing up.
For example my Intel Core2Duo e6300 is rated at ~65W TDP at stock speeds and voltage settings (1.860GHz/1.325VCore), but once I overclock it to 3.360GHz, that increases to 117W TDP, that's almost a 100% increase! If the stock cooler is only good enough to cool a little more than the 65W TDP, then it's going to have serious issues dissapating almost 120W. And that difference is using the same 1.325 vCore, if it's increased to 1.35 vCore, the TDP rating increases to almost 140W! In this TDP rating, the more Watts = the more Heat produced. Just keep this in mind, as it will give you an idea of cooling measures that need to be taken in order to not destroy your investment.
So when overclocking, you will want to ensure all of these components are properly cooled and that there is proper airflow to remove hot air and replace it with cooler air (generally ambeint room temp air from intakes). Some motherboard manufacturers have good cooling already implemented, some don't. It is recommended that the Northbridge have at least a decent heatsink installed, the northbridge is kind of a CPU in it's own right and can get very hot. A larger, more efficent heat sink is definately in order for the CPU.
RAM these days is generally loaded with heatsinks installed, and there really isn't a whole lot you can do but add active cooling to your memory (Take a look at Corsair's XMS Airflow on Newegg for instance, has good airflow and is very quiet and is good for cooling up to 4 sticks of memory!), but shouldn't be required unless pushing some serious boundries on frequency and voltage. Also when mounting a heatsink to the CPU or chip that needs it, you must use a thermal interface compound such as Arctic Cooling 5 or Arctic Cooling MX-1 to help transfer heat efficiently to the heatsink. Follow recommended instructions for your application.
One situation largely overlooked by newcomers to Overclocking is TOTAL CASE AIRFLOW. This is dependent not only on design, but how many fans are installed, how fast they are spinning, what their CFM ratings are. Genrally you want good intake (front/side) fan(s) to suck in cooler air, and good exhaust (rear/top) fan(s) to exhaust hot air out, that is the general PC Case Layout, but cases can vary in shapes, sizes, configurations and airflow specifications. There are quite a few different sizes, but the most popular for cases/PC Towers are 80mm/92mm/120mm. The larger the fan the lower the speed the fan has to spin to create the same ammount of CFM (cubic feet per minute) of airflow, and the higher overall CFM at top rated speeds. Another posotive note is the larger you go, the quieter the fans are, so if you're aiming for a quiet system using air cooling, look for a case with good airflow qualities and spots for 120mm fans as primairy case fans. When looking at different case fans it doesn't hurt to have filters in place for intake fans to also help keep dust to a minimum. Most filters today are made for higher flow, hence will not degrade the overall CFM performance, which means they are now a better solution then they were years ago. I personally have used the Evercool Spider Fan/Filter Combos from Xoxide (I am using 80mm in intakes, I provided 120mm link), as they come with good high-flow filters that do a good job of catching dust particles and keeping airflow restriction a minimum (until the filter gets clogged with dust that is, but they are very easy to clean). New style PC Fan Filters are cheap, easy to install, usually screw into case with fan, recommended in front of fan so the fan sucks air through the filter. If you install the filter so it pushes through the fan you will lose cooling and CFM efficiency and may cause dust and clogging issues.
Another issue largely overlooked with Case cooling is Airflow Ratio. This is the ratio of CFM IN to CFM OUT. To keep dust out of your case, but also have the least ammount of effective cooling is to have More CFM IN than OUT. The most effective and most dust collecting method is to have More CFM OUT than IN, this will cause air to be sucked in through your case's seams, front panel gaps, side vents to compensate for the lesser CFM input from intake fans, which in turn means cleaning out your case more often. The Preffered method is to have a 1:1 ratio, or Same CFM IN as OUT, this creates a more equal airflow and has been argued to be more effective than More CFM IN than OUT, this method will still allow the side vents to be used (if applicable), and is also efficient at exhausting the hot air and promptly replacing it with ambient (room temperature) cooler air. This of course is more of a challenge unless you replace fans with ones you know have certain CFM specs that are matched, and taking into affect that there are Video coolers that exhaust (Average is approx. 15cfm) and power supplies (generally 15-25cfm).
Like I stated earlier, for a CPU, 55-60C is about as hot as you should let your CPU get, if you surpass this, then you need to turn it down a bit or improve your cooling. GPU's are a different story as they can take up to 80C+ (depending on GPU model/design), but that heat will also radiate and heat up the ambient temperature of your case, thus heating your other components more, so good cooling for your Video card should also be seriously considered. Another commonly missed area is your Hard Disk Drive, it is very important to keep your HDD cool, the cooler you can keep it, the longer it will last, to a certain extent. That rule applies to about all electronics. HDD's are often overlooked, but simple placement can keep your HDD cool enough to have no worries about. I try to keep my HDD temps in the 30s, generally 35C or less if possible, most HDD's are rated to hit a max temp of ~50C though. If you are unable to keep your HDD cool, then purchase an HDD cooler, they're simple to install and very effective, and generally cheap, like I stated though, simple placement (i.e. bottom mount location in front of lower part of intake fans) can solve this with no more money spent.
One final note on cooling is monitoring those temps! There are quite a few programs out there to use for temperature readings. I personally use Everest and Speedfan, but try them all and find one that you're comfortable with. They are not completely accurate, but will give you a good idea of what kind of temperatures you are at for different components, and some require adjusting the readings +/- C/F in order to be more accurate. A simple Google search of your Motherboard and including the selected cooling program will generally tell you if you can just install and go, or if you need to make a simple adjustment. It is very important when overclocking to monitor your temperatures in order to not overheat your system and burn it up, and to ensure you are properly cooling your system when under load, verify your idle/load temperatures, and lastly peace of mind!
Only a fool will not monitor the temperatures of their system while overclocking, and that is a fact. So do yourself a favor and get used to having a program open and monitoring, it will help you learn how different loads and fan speeds can change your temperature readings, and even experiment to find the best mix of cooling/quietness you can while staying within recommended boundries!