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How to Overclock / Improve computer performance

Q:

What Is The Hardware Requirement For OC?


A:

Under consideration of system performance needed, purchase the proper hardware and note that each hardware model has different function and performance. Possible incompatibility issues may exist between hardware during operation.

1. Motherboard

A fine graded motherboard that supports overclocking is the most important key in terms of overclocking range and stability. Most motherboard manufacturers include overclocking options or provide updates to their BIOS. These options include adjustments to CPU Core voltage, I/O voltage, GPU voltage, memory voltage, memory timing settings.

2. CPU

Each individual CPU has its significant overclocking performance. A better graded CPU has wider overclocking range. With proper CPU cooler and enhanced cooling system environment, such as water cooling system or liquid nitrogen, CPU could be pushed to its highest limit possible.

3. Memory

Data are read and transferred in and out of memory modules all the time. Faster transfer rate simply means more efficient data flow could be adopted under larger bandwidth. Just like the network bandwidth, larger bandwidth means faster data flow and less lag.

To achieve best performance, CPU and memory modules must run at the same FSB/BCLK (Front Side Bus or recently known as BCLK – Baseblock with the more recent CPU such as the Intel Sandy Bridge) frequency. In order for memory modules to run at 1:1 ratio to the CPU's operating FSB/BCLK, a fine graded memory module must present.

What is the definition of a fine graded memory module? There are really no specific specs to determine whether a memory module is good or bad because it all comes down to its original design, manufacturing facility's quality control and packaging technologies used. The only and simplest way to determine the quality of such memory modules is to put it on the test. It is said an overclock-able memory module is a better graded module than those that cannot.

PCB layer: The PCB - Printed Circuit Board of the memory stick is consisted of several layers. When memory modules are operated under high frequencies, interferences between high frequency signals cannot be tolerated. Therefore, in design, more PCB layers reduce the interferences thus enhance the transfer rate.

Connecting Golden finger: The pins used to connect the memory modules and motherboard also affect the transfer rate. Two kinds of surface finishing are commonly used among manufacturers today “ Gold-30u plating" and immersion gold-3u". To give a better conductivity, Gold-30u" plating is preferred in the industry.

Column Access Strobe: This is the time needed for memory modules to index data stored. CL7 and CL9 are the period timing needed to send data. Smaller number means faster speed and less time needed. Hence, CL7 is faster than CL9. This information could be obtained from manufacturer labels on their products. (For example: CL 9-9-9-28) to help end users find better memory modules with a faster CL value.

4. System Environment:

Motherboard, CPU, and memories all produce heat under high frequency operation. It is very easy to cause the whole system to shut down by itself if the system is over heat. Therefore how to provide a cooler system environment also plays an important key.

CPU : A CPU cooler is a standard accessory these days. CPU heat-sink made of copper and a CPU cooling fan with 6000+ rpm are strongly recommended for better heat reduction. Liquid Nitrogen has taken over water cooling system, becoming the most popular cooling method for professional overclockers.

Memory: Most memory manufacturers provide heatspreaders for their memory modules today. There are also heatspreaders sold separately available in the market for users who own memory modules that originally came without one. Memory modules with headspreaders work better with active cooling fan. (Note: Copper made heatspreaders have better performance over aluminum made ones.)

Case / Case fans: There must be enough space inside the case for air flow to present. It is recommended to install one or two more case fans to help the overall air flow so the hot air could be extracted out of the system/case and keep the whole system cool.

5. Power Supply Unit

Basic power needed is recommended to rate from 500W and up. More power is needed depends on other add-on components. More and more computers are being used as media station today. All kinds of performance enhancement interface (3D acceleration cards, professional purpose video cards, USB, optical drives and etc) have been introduced to the public continuously to meet market's demand. All of these interfaces require additional power supply. Therefore, when there is not enough power present, the performance of components will not function properly and could cause serious instability and damage the system.

Q:

Where Do I Go To Adjust System Settings When OC? Tweaking the BIOS


A:

When overclocking beyond hardware's capable limit, it is very easy to cause the system to shut down and when adjusting voltage variables, such hardware could be damaged if voltage is set too high.

Enter the BIOS menu

STEP1 - CPU SPEED Adjustment [Advanced Menu]

1.When [CPU Speed] is set to "Manual", users are allowed to set the CPU operating frequency manually. In general, CPU operating frequency = CPU frequency multiplier x Front Side Bus: Eg. i7-2600K 3.6 GHz could be obtained from 20x (multiplier) x 180 MHz (FSB/BCLK) = 3.6 GHz To play safe, it is recommended to increase the FSB frequency by intervals of 1MHz. It is also easier to determine where the limit of the system is this way. 2. When [CPU V Core Setting] is set to "Manual", users are granted permission to give CPU more power in order to push CPU to its limit. It is best recommended not to increase the CPU VCore voltage by more than 0.15V to prevent sever damage to the physical CPU (VCore voltage increment may vary by CPU model, make sure enough research and study is done before tempting to adjust the VCore voltage, proceed at your own risk).

STEP2 - Memory DRAM Setting Adjustment [Advanced Menu]

CPU/ Memory Frequency Ratio: Set the CPU operating frequency and memory operating frequency to 1:1 ratio. Depends on the quality of the CPU and memory modules, not all can be run at the same frequency; change the ratio if necessary. Because each motherboard manufacturer provides different menus in their BIOS, individual user's setting may vary. In general, DRAM frequencies are obtained as following "DDR3 1333 = 100x13.0 (BCLK x System Memory Multiplier), DDR3 1600 = 100x16.0 and etc.

Eg. Adjusting a 2133MHz labeled memory to 2400MHz, you would adjust the System Memory Multiplier from 21.3 to 24.0, given the memory module has the overclock-ability, and you would get 100x24.0  2400MHz.

DDR Reference Voltage: This is DDR SDRAM's operating voltage. It determines the range of voltage provided by manufacturer or by DRAM frequency. Higher DRAM frequency means higher voltage must be applied.

Note: DDR1 Default voltage is 2.5v+-0.1v, DDR2 Default voltage is 1.8v+-0.1v, DDR3 Default voltage is 1.5v+-0.1v.

Memory Timings Configuration: When this is set to "[User Define]" users are allowed to change the speed timing as they desire within memory module's capability. Less period timing means faster and better performance. However, there are risks to cause instability when timings are set too low. A good memory manufacturer should provide performance related timing values for users' reference. (Note: default setting is always set to "By SPD" which means the timing values are read directly from the memory module preset by the manufacturer.)

Following is a list of examples for timing variable settings:

  • A. SDRAM CAS Latency: DDR1: CL2-CL3. DDR2: CL3-CL5. DDR3: CL7-CL11
  • B. SDRAM RAS to CAS Delay: DDR1:CL2-CL4. DDR2:CL3-CL6 DDR3: CL7-CL11
  • C. SDRAM RAS Precharge Delay: DDR1:CL2-CL4. DDR2:CL3-CL6. DDR3: CL7-CL11
  • D. SDRAM Active Precharge Delay: DDR1:CL5-CL8. DDR2:CL8-CL15 DDR3: CL24-CL36
    Above values may vary depending on product specs

    Eg. Lowering timings without raising frequency on 1866MHz CL10-10-10-29


    • DRAM CAS# Latency is set to 10 Clocks
    • DRAM RAS# Precharge is set to 10 Clocks
    • DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay is set to 10 Clocks
    • DRAM Precharge Delay is set to 28 Clocks

    Then you would go into each of the value column to select a lower timing such as shown below:


    • DRAM CAS# Latency is set to 9 Clocks
    • DRAM RAS# Precharge is set to 9 Clocks
    • DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay is set to 9 Clocks
    • DRAM Precharge Delay is set to 28 Clocks

    (Note: When set to "User Define", if the memory module's timing values are set too low, it may cause system to shutdown or reboot automatically. The motherboard will use the SPD setting it read from the module or previous manually set settings.


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