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Computer Overclocking Guide
Step #1: Ensure you know the definition of overclocking
This is the basic concept. You are going to be causing your computer component to run at a higher clock rate than designed originally by the manufacturer.
Step #2: Know that there are computers out there that should not be overclocked
Generally speaking, laptops are almost out of the question. Also, OEM computers such as Dell, HP, or e-machines are far harder to overclock than your custom built computer systems. For this reason, if you want to overclock, you should consider purchasing computer components and building it yourself so that you know you will have the capability to overclock the system. Now, we can start actually overclocking.
Step #3: The BIOS
Almost always, the vast majority of people would prefer to overclock the system from the computer BIOS. There are a handful of programs available out there that will allow you to do it from inside of the operating system. However, in the overclocking community, people often frown at this if you are doing it for anything more than testing purposes. The BIOS is pretty easy to get into, most often done by pressing the DEL key as your system is booting up. A few systems may require the F2, F10, or Ctrl-Enter to enter the BIOS. Inside of the BIOS, you have the capability of changing numerous things, including your FSB (front side bus), memory timings, and your CPU multiplier (generally referred to as the CPU clock ratio).
Step #4: Clearing the CMOS
At times, overclocking your system may cause it to become unstable. This does not mean that you have broken your computer, but it does mean that some manual manipulation may be needed. In this event, you will have to clear the CMOS. In simple terms, you are just resetting your BIOS back to its original and default settings. There are generally two ways to do this depending on your motherboard. On many motherboards you will see a clear jumper, you can change the position of this jumper, wait a few minutes, then return it back to its original position and boot up. You will find that the settings will be back on default. Otherwise, there may be a CMOS battery which will need to be removed. Again, waiting a few minutes, then placing it back in and your BIOS has been refreshed!
Step #5: Is your multiplier locked or unlocked?
You will need to know whether your multiplier is locked or unlocked. The easiest way to determine this is to go into the BIOS and lower your multiplier setting by one step. For example, this could be from 11 to 10.5. You should save and exit your BIOS which will restart your system. If your computer posts and shows a new CPU speed, this means that it is unlocked. If it remains black, this means that your multiplier is locked.
Step #6: Overclocking for Multiplier Unlocked Processors
Generally speaking, max overclock is always going to be limited by your RAM. The best starting place is to find the top memory bus speed that your RAM can handle while it stays in sync with the FSB. The best way of checking this is to lower your CPU multiplier by a few steps (11 to 9 for example). While you do this, increase your FSB a few notches (200 to 205). From here, you save your BIOS, reboot, and see if you can get to Windows. If you get to Windows, this is great! If not, then you know you have caused instability in your system. You will have to play with these settings until things begin to work for you.
Step #7: Overclocking for Multiplier Locked Processors
Having the multiplier locked means that you can only overclock by increasing your FSB. You can use the same strategy as above, except that you should start with very small increments, maybe one or two at a time. Always check for stability. Popular programs recommended for this is Prime95 or Memtest.
Step #8: Get your system stable
Unfortunately, there is no true way of testing stability to be 100% certain. Often, time will tell whether your system is truly stable or not. But, just to be sure, it is always recommended to put your system to the test. You can load up heavy resource intensive software to ensure that your system doesn't crash. Also, feel free to use the tools mentioned above, Prime95 or Memtest and ensure that they aren't showing any errors. If they are, you will need to do some more tweaking to get true stability in your system. Remember, you can always go back to default if something messes up. Remember to stick to small numbers as you increase the clock speed of your components.
Keep in mind that overclocking will increase cpu temperature and put added stress on your computer components. Do this at your own risk. Our overheating computer guide, CPU buying guide, Motherboard Buying Guide, Hard Drive Buying Guide, and Memory/RAM Buying Guide articles may be of use to you if you are looking to overclock.
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