What is Overclocking?

Question

What exactly is overclocking, and why are people so secretive about it?

-Jeffrey

Answer

This question was answered on January 13, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

In general, overclocking refers to running a processor, video card or other related component faster than the manufacturers rated speed and being secretive can be for many reasons

It’s kind of like what many young men do to their first car to try to make it run faster

And just like with a car, if you aren't careful, you can push your system past the breaking point and end up with a pile of useless electronics.

The most common overclocking target has been the processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit) primarily because of how they are rated

When Intel or AMD create a processor, they test each one at certain speeds If it fails at a certain speed, it is sold as the next lower speed to ensure a consistent operating performance specification.

When a processor is overclocked, it is told to run at a faster speed than the manufacturer recommends For instance, a processor may be rated at 2.8GHz, but if overclocked, it could run at 3.0 GHz, which may work or it may cause the system to become unstable In either case, an overclocked CPU will never be covered by a manufacturers warranty if it fails.

What was once a garage hack has become somewhat of an art form, driven primarily by the immense popularity of computer gaming

The minor increase in performance that overclocking provides for someone that surfs the web, sends e-mails and pays bills online is irrelevant, but to the gamer, every percentage increase can improve game play and allow them to beat their opponent.

Today’s high-end video cards are also equipped with their own processors and overclocking them has become so popular for gamers that some video card manufactures even include an overclocking program with guidelines and warnings (to avoid liability if it fails) They apparently have come to the conclusion that users are going to do it, so let’s try to put some form of control on the results.

Because overclocking causes a processor to run much hotter, a whole industry has sprung up to keep processors cooler when they are overclocked as evidenced by websites such as www.crazypc.com Everything from water to Freon to vapor cooling is available to keep hot running CPUs from overheating.

Many that are contemplating overclocking want to know if a manufacturer can tell if a device has been overclocked should it fail Generally, the only indicator is physical evidence such as a burn mark on the casing of the process, but not every processor that fails as a result of overclocking shows any signs of it.

Exclusions in the warranty try to cover this issue in a roundabout way For instance AMD states that “Warranty shall be null and void if the AMD microprocessor … is used with any heatsink/fan other than the one provided herewith” If you use one of the hyper-cooling systems, you technically void the warranty.

If your curious, both Intel and AMD provide free utilities to see if your system is running at the proper speed You can get the Intel’s “Processor ID utility” by searching for it at: http://support.intel.com AMD’s processor utilities can be downloaded at: http://datadr.com/redir.cfm/amd.

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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on January 13, 2006