Concepts, Principles, and Stages of Overclocking

Concepts, Principles, and Stages of Overclocking

Forced modes extend the lifetime of obsolete computers that can't be upgraded because of the reasons given in this chapter. Recently, however, this method of performance enhancement became popular even among the users of brand-new PCs. The cases in which such users ask someone to overclock a computer before its purchase are not rare. Experienced PC users prefer to overclock newly purchased computers at home, carefully choosing optimal modes, and then carefully testing all subsystems at all overclocking stages.

Thus, improvement of overall system performance is one of the main goals of overclocking. Overclocking is popular not only because of the natural desire, characteristic of most advanced PC users, to improve the computer architecture. The main reason behind its adoption lies in the field of economics. The overclocking procedure achieves relatively high performance for relatively little financial cost. For example, performance gain for processors might increase 20% to 30%. With extreme overclocking modes (which are more risky), performance may improve 50% or more. Proceeding the similar way, the performance of RAM, a video adapter, and even a hard disk can be improved significantly. An overclocked computer automatically moves into a higher category. Lower-level components often compete successfully with more powerful and expensive products. The most important fact here is that this goal can be achieved without additional financial investment. Processor overclocking alone can save you several hundred dollars. You can compensate for decreased reliability by observing several recommendations and taking some simple steps. By following these recommendations, you can work successfully with an overclocked system for a long time.

Note that the popularity of overclocking has a negative effect on the economical interests of manufacturers. Most aren't willing to lose even a small part of their profits. Apart from this, some individuals use overclocking capabilities to gain illegal profits. For example, such individuals may fake a trademark; supply fraudulent components, including processors and memory chips; then sell them as more advanced and more expensive components. Some small companies go further: They manufacture ready-to-use systems based on overclocked components and sell them without informing their customers about the overclocking.

To counteract potential fraud and protect their commercial interests, most leading manufacturers introduce features into their modules mainly aimed at preventing fraudulent distribution and limiting performance improvement, making it difficult to use overclocked modes of operation.

Despite these efforts by brand-name manufacturers, overclocking popularity gradually has increased. The arrival of appropriate motherboards and chipsets, as well as the release of specialized software, serves as a catalyst to this process. The contemporary market consists of a variety of specialized tools that maintain optimal temperature modes for computer components. This simplifies the process of setting overclocked modes and of testing the system in various modes of operation.

However, improving system performance by using overclocking mustn't be considered only from the economical point of view. The newest units and components often operate in overclocked modes, even though the initial performance of these components is high. Current silicon-manufacturing technologies allow performance to be increased much higher than the level declared by manufacturers. In addition, most advanced PC users have a natural desire to predict the evolution of computer components. Hence, they have a goal beyond financial savings: Use forced modes to investigate the architecture of different elements and forecast the development of current technologies.

The investigation of forced modes and the development of recommendations interest not only addicted individuals (also known as overclocking fans), but also many serious companies all over the world. Such research work even may be sponsored by leading manufacturers. (The cooperation between KryoTech and AMD, mentioned in some publications, is an illustrative example. As a result of this research work, AMD processors in an extremely overclocked mode reached the barrier of 1 GHz long before the release of processors for which this clock frequency was routine.)

The interest in the overclocking problems manifested by some manufacturers can be easily explained. This research work helps them improve the architecture and enhance the performance of their products. Apart from this, it allows them to accumulate valuable statistical information on malfunctions and failures, which helps them develop efficient hardware and software tools that improve reliability. Finally, the ability of computer hardware components to retain stability in over-clocked modes serves as excellent promotional material for products. Some companies use the experience and technologies accumulated by overclockers in their manufacturing process and attempted to supply high-performance hardware. For example, Compaq was supplying high-end server platforms based on technologies developed by KryoTech for the extreme cooling of AMD Athlon and similar processors operating at clock frequencies that exceeded recommended values 1.5 to 2 times.

The results of cooperation and research conducted by famous and respectable companies have stimulated the growth of an army of enthusiasts. Most of them view extreme overclocking as a kind of sport.

As the number of overclocking fans grows, the number of Web sites dedicated to this topic increases. These sites consider various aspects of overclocking problems that might arise, and provide useful recommendations.

The materials provided in this book attempt to explain overclocking topics systematically and produce both general and specific recommendations for tuning and overclocking the main elements of a computer.