Top 7 Myths About Overclocking

21-Apr-2010

For those less familiar with the term, overclocking is the art of tweaking a computer component such as a processor in order to make it run at a specification higher than the one rated by its manufacturer.

How is this possible you say? Every computer part produced by companies such as Intel and AMD are tested and then certified for a given speed. However, most parts are underrated for increased confidence in the numbers. This is where overclocking comes into play. Overclocking is simply taking advantage of the untapped potential that exists for a given part but that the manufacturer is unwilling to guarantee.

Over the years, we have heard it all. According to some, overclocking could very well be the single most important factor behind global warming. Others have claimed that overclocking a computer will not only shorten the life span of its CPU but also of its owner... Joking aside, we routinely receive all sorts of overclocking questions from our users. Through these, we have identified key misconceptions that people have on the subject of overclocking. We thought it would be interesting to compile a list of the biggest offenders and try to demystify them.

Without further ado, we present to you our top 7 myths about overclocking:

1) Overclocking should be pronounced “proc-es-sor”

Many newcomers to overclocking make the mistake of focusing too much on their processor and forget that overclocking is an equation that contains multiple variables. Putting an adequate cooling system into place, adjusting the power provided to your component, monitoring your results with the right tools and doing the necessary research are all critical steps on the path to safe and successful overclocking. It's also very important to verify that other key components are able to handle the speed bump. For example, if you plan on overclocking the bus speed and keeping the memory synchronous, make sure that you are using memory that's been rated or tested for the new target speed. If you are a gamer, you might also want to look into overclocking your GPU for maximum performance.

2) Overclocking is dangerous and will make your computer explode

Speeding up the operation frequency of a hardware component will increase its thermal output in a linear fashion, while boosting voltages will cause the generated heat to sky rocket. If improperly managed, these increases in temperature can cause permanent physical damage to the component or even “heat death”. Having said that, your computer will generally show signs of malfunction, such as crashes or lock ups, long before something dramatic happens giving you the chance to make the appropriate adjustments. Recent hardware is also equipped with thermal sensors that will trigger a throttle mechanism or even a complete shut down when the heat level is too high. Add to that the fact that you are a responsible overclocker and that you will provide sufficient cooling to your system, and you may go about your overclocking business without fear of explosions.

3) Overheating is the only side effect of overclocking

Overheating gets most of the attention when it comes to the side effects of overclocking since its manifestations are flashier and make for better stories. However, functional incorrectness is a much more prevalent and often overlooked side effect of overclocking. Since an overclocked component operates outside of the manufacturer’s recommended operating conditions, overclocking can create unpredictable errors which may lead to system instability and data loss. Although it is near impossible for a private individual to thoroughly test the functionality of a component, “stress tests” such as the System Stability Test provided by EVEREST Ultimate Edition can be helpful in detecting potential errors before they get out of hand.

4) There exists a universal recipe for overclocking

Truth be told, overclocking is trial-and-error and very much so. The reason for this is simple – all hardware components are different. Each component has its unique limits and will behave in diverse ways depending on its configuration and the environment it operates in. Even two processors originating from the same manufacturing process, with the exact same specifications on paper, may give you conflicting results in practice. For example, one could be stable at a higher clock rate than the other with the same voltage. This means that you should always be cautious when reading about overclocking recommendations for your hardware or when comparing notes with others. Nothing beats hands-on testing.

5) Overclocking will allow you to retire richer

A well-known benefit of overclocking is that you can purchase a lower performance, cheaper component and overclock it in order to attain the performance of a more expensive one. However, people often forget that overclocking incurs new costs that may or may not offset these potential savings. For example, you might need to purchase a high-performance fan or acquire a water-cooling system in order to better handle the heat generated by your overclocked component. It must also be said that overclocking results in higher power consumption which may in turn raise your energy bills. At the end of the day, you should consider overclocking more like a hobby than an investment.

6) Half of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives are overclockers

Actually, there are absolutely no laws against overclocking. In fact, overclocking is sometimes offered as a legitimate service or feature to consumers by manufacturers and retailers. Several manufacturers even offer factory overclocked versions of their hardware components, warranty included, which can be an attractive solution for computer enthusiasts seeking better performance that still includes warranty protections. However, it must be said that this is not a universal practice. Many manufacturers will void their warranty if they detect overclocking-related tampering. Even though proving such modifications have been made can be very difficult, we highly recommend that you read the manufacturer’s warranty policy before any overclocking attempt. Just in case.

7) Only computer gurus should bother with overclocking

While considering overclocking for the first time, one often feels overwhelmed. If that’s your case, remember that every expert was a beginner at some point. Just take it slow, do your research, familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade and get involved in overclocking communities such as www.overclockers.com and www.extremeoverclocking.com – the rest will follow. Did we mention that you should take it slow? We highly recommend that you approach overclocking with baby steps. Try changing your bus speed from 60 MHz to 66 MHz and see how it goes. If that works, try a little higher. If it doesn’t, take a step back. Whatever you do, make sure to have fun! Overclocking can be an engaging and highly rewarding hobby that will allow you to gain valuable knowledge about your system and computers in general.