Last Resort for Performance Improvement


Last Resort for Performance Improvement

Besides purchasing a new computer or optimizing hardware and software, there is another way to improve computer performance. This approach prolongs the lifetime of a usable machine that rapidly becomes obsolete. Furthermore, it often gives a "second life" to a computer that hardly can be classified as "modern." This approach uses special methods of enhancing performance. The underlying idea of these methods is to exploit some computer components in forced modes to get the most out of their hidden reserves. As a rule, this significantly improves the speed of each component, increasing overall system performance. One of the most common methods of achieving a forced mode of operation is to increase the clock frequency beyond the level recommended by the manufacturer. That's why these methods are generally known as overclocking.

The possibility of overclocking is the consequence of manufacturing principles. It is impossible to ensure that a factory will produce identical processors. A similar situation exists for video adapters and RAM chips. Therefore, to guarantee that the manufactured components satisfy the declared requirements, manufacturers have to provide some performance reserve. This is especially true with the implementation of new technologies and architectures, whose initial performance barely differs from that of earlier products of the line. This hidden performance reserve usually can be implemented via forced modes such as overclocking.

Note that forced modes sometimes are achieved at the expense of component stability and, consequently, overall system reliability. In addition, forced modes usually decrease the MTBF parameter. In many cases, this is acceptable. Taking into account the duration of expedient usage of computer components, a possible decrease of reliability and the MTBF (for example, from 10 or 20 years to 5 years) often is justified. The system would remain usable until it became obsolete. In addition, as previously shown, upgrades become problematic after a certain amount of time. However, if overclocking procedures are used expertly, system crashes and hang-ups will be rare, and they seldom will produce fatal results.

The use of forced modes for server components is not recommended. Furthermore, the use of such modes should be prohibited in computer systems that manage potentially dangerous or critically important tasks at nuclear power stations, chemical industries, rocket launching facilities, hospitals, etc. In these areas, computer failures potentially are more dangerous than in homes or offices.