Overclocking – Should You?
I’m 29-years-old. I’m at the age where I grew up with the computers that were green and black and had no internet. My elementary school had one good computer in the library where we would watch the Space Shuttle take off through a program called Encarta (An encyclopedia program). I know the lack of the new tech age and much as I know the tech revolution going on now. One thing I’ve heard over the years is how people are overclocking the processors on their computers. We have amazing tech, but we want — as Daft Punk put beautifully — we want it to be “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.”
Currently, I’m writing this on a laptop with my smartphone and tablet right next to me that have more computing power than the Apollo mission did when it went to the Moon. With so much power, you always want more. We push the limits with what we have and always want more speed. Overclocking your computer’s processor is something that does exactly that.
If you’ve never heard of Overclocking, it’s okay, that’s why we’re here. According to Wikipedia, “Overclocking is the process of forcing a processor component to operate faster than the manufactured clock frequency (hence the name “Overclocking”). Operating voltages may also be changed (increased), which can increase the speed at which operation remains stable. Most Overclocking techniques increase power consumption, generating more heat, which must be dispersed if the chip is to remain operational.”
Think about your computer as a car. Think of Overclocking your computer as injecting nitrous to make your car go faster than it should, but it’s not temporary, it’s constant. That’s Overclocking your computer in a nutshell.
If you’re thinking, “Hey, I want my computer to go faster! I’m going to do that!” Wait! Before you think about doing this, make sure you know all there is to know about Overclocking. If you’re just an average user, you probably don’t need to overclock your computer. If you use your computer for basic stuff like writing and e-mail, don’t bother.
For example: I’m rocking a Nexus 7 (2013) tablet. Right now, Lollipop 5.0 (New Android Operating System) is slowly being rolled out to all the hardware that can support it. I have yet to get the update because it just hasn’t shown up on my tablet yet. People are manually flashing/updating their tablets with the new software that is available from online sources. However, there are still bugs and people are reporting problems with the new OS when they do it themselves. If you go on Twitter and search for “Nexus 7 Lollipop” you’ll see non-stop tweets of people complaining about problems with the update.
If you manually do it and you don’t really know what you’re doing, you could ruin your hardware. I’ve done it on my past phones and tablets only because I knew what I was doing. I’m waiting because I want software to be bug free. I rely on my tablet for most tech things and don’t want to install buggy software before it’s perfected. If you look over a vague tutorial before doing something like Overclocking or flashing your devices, you could end up having a very expensive frisby on your hands.
Overclocking is for computers that use massive amounts of data. If you have a good computer and need it to go faster to save money, then Overclocking may before you. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of Overclocking your hardware.
- The user can, often, purchase a lower performance, cheaper component and overclock it to the clock rate of a more expensive component.
- Higher performance in games, encoding, video editing applications, and system tasks at no additional expense, but with increased electrical power consumption. Overclocking can extend the useful life of older equipment.
- Some systems have “bottlenecks,” where small Overclocking of a component can help realize the full potential of another component to a greater percentage than the limiting hardware is overclocked. For instance, many motherboards with AMD Athlon 64 processors limit the clock rate of four units of RAM to 333 MHz. However, the memory performance is computed by dividing the processor clock rate (which is a base number times a CPU multiplier, for instance 1.8 GHz is most likely 9×200 MHz) by a fixed integer such that, at a stock clock rate, the RAM would run at a clock rate near 333 MHz. Manipulating elements of how the processor clock rate is set (usually lowering the multiplier), it is often possible to overclock the processor a small amount, around 100–200 MHz (less than 10%), and gain a RAM clock rate of 400 MHz (20% increase in RAM speed, though not in overall system performance). (Via)
Limitations with computers is huge when you have a game that needs a heavy duty computer to run it. Lag is big in gaming. If you’re lagging .000001 second, it could mean the difference between winning or losing a first-person shooter. I’d play Halo and we’d always argue on who hosted the game because of the hosting advantage you’d have. If you had a faster computer, you’d overcome the non-hosting disadvantage. Sometimes, however, Overclocking isn’t beneficial.
- The lifespan of semiconductor components can be reduced by increased voltages and heat. Warranties may be voided by Overclocking.
- Increased clock rates and voltages increase power consumption, increasing electricity cost and heat production. The excess heat increases the ambient air temperature within the system case, which may affect other components. The hot air blown out of the case will heat the room it is in.
- An overclocked computer which works correctly may misbehave at future configuration changes. For example, Windows may appear to work with no problems, but when it is re-installed or upgraded, error messages may be received such as a “file copy error” during Windows Setup. Microsoft says this of errors in upgrading to Windows XP: “Your computer [may be] over-clocked.” Because installing Windows is very memory-intensive, decoding errors may occur when files are extracted from the Windows XP CD-ROM.
- High-performance fans running at maximum speed used for the required degree of cooling of an overclocked machine can be noisy, some producing 50 dB or more of noise. When maximum cooling is not required, in any equipment fan speeds can be reduced below the maximum: fan noise has been found to be roughly proportional to the fifth power of fan speed; halving speed reduces noise by about 15 dB.Fan noise can be reduced by design improvements, e.g. by designing fans with aerodynamically optimized blades for smoother airflow, reducing noise to around 20 dB at approximately 1 metre. Larger fans rotating more slowly, which produce less noise than smaller, faster fans with the same airflow, can be used. Acoustical insulation inside the case, e.g. acoustic foam, can reduce noise. Additional cooling methods which do not use noisy fans can be used, such as liquid and phase-change cooling.
- Some motherboards are designed to use the secondary airflow from a standard CPU fan to cool other heatsinks, such as the northbridge. If the CPU heatsink or fan is changed on such boards, other heatsinks may not be cooled sufficiently.
- Increasing the operation frequency of a component will usually increase its thermal output in a linear fashion, while an increase in voltage usually causes heat to increase quadratically. Excessive voltages or improper cooling may cause chip temperatures to rise almost instantaneously, causing the chip to be damaged or destroyed.
- Exotic cooling methods used to facilitate Overclocking such as water cooling are more likely to cause damage if they malfunction. Sub-ambient cooling methods such as phase-change cooling or liquid nitrogen will cause water condensation, which will cause damage unless controlled.
- Overclocking components can only be of noticeable benefit if the component is on the critical path for a process, if it is a bottleneck. If disc access or the speed of an Internet connection limit the speed of a process, a 20% increase in processor speed is unlikely to be noticed. Overclocking a CPU will not benefit a game limited by the speed of the graphics card.
- While Overclocking which causes no instability is not a problem, occasional undetected errors are a serious risk for applications which must be error-free, for example scientific or financial applications. (Via)
So many disadvantages are related to Overclocking. This is why I stress that you should know what you’re doing before doing such a thing. The moment you start the process, you could void your warranty. So, if you screw up, you’re completely out of a computer. You make a miscalculation? Your computer overheats, burns out and you’re out of a computer. If you think you want to overclock your computer, you should consult that one friend who knows more than you do. Everyone has that one friend who knows tech better than you. If you are that friend, you already know if you should overclock or not.
Check out this guide on how to overclock your computer so you don’t end up having a really high-tech paper weight. Even with this very thorough guide, I’d still recommend you talk to a pro before you do this or anything like it.
If you REALLY want to get it done yourself, then I suggest the ultimate and specific geniuses over at Reddit to go through each action of any computer to make you an expert on it:
- Overclocking Basics – Part 1: CPU
- Overclocking Basics – Part 2: Memory (first half)
- Overclocking Basics – Part 3: Memory (continued; and video memory)
- Overclocking Basics – Part 4: Overclocking the GPU
- Overclocking Basics – Part 5: Overclocking the Video Memory
- Overclocking Basics – Part 6: Tools for testing
- Overclocking Basics – Part 7: Tools for the CPU
- Overclocking Basics – Part 8: Steps for overclocking the CPU (unlocked)
- Overclocking Basics – Part 9: Reference clock (advanced)
- Overclocking Basics – Part 10: Overclocking the reference clock (hands-on)
Think of it like knowing nothing about your car: You’re not going to try anything complicated if you don’t even know how to change your oil. You’re certainly not going to take out an engine and replace it.
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Jeff Sorensen is an author, writer and occasional comedian living in Detroit, Michigan. You can look for more of his work on The Huffington Post, UPROXX, BGR and by just looking up his name.