What Is Overclocking?
The tempting idea behind overclocking is to increase system performance at very little cost. In many cases you only need to change a few settings on your motherboard to make your system run faster. In other cases you only have to add a few components (usually for cooling) to achieve the performance increase.
In the past, overclocking was usually nothing more than increasing a CPU's clock speed to that of the next higher model, e.g. a Pentium 120 to a Pentium 133. Now, with new bus speeds available on several motherboards, you can change the clock and bus speed of a CPU to values that don't officially exist. This new way of overclocking is yielding an even higher performance increase than the classic one. It even gives you the ability to increase the performance of the fastest model of a particular CPU production line (e.g. P200 to 250 MHz, PPro 200 to 233 Mhz).
Why not overclocking?
Although there are millions of tales of damaged CPUs and other system components, in most cases overclocking is completely harmless. There are, however, a few things to take into consideration.
- Your CPU could be damaged by so-called 'electromigration'. Electromigration takes place on the actual silicon chip of your CPU in areas which operate at a very high temperature, and can cause permanent damage to the chip. Before you start to panic, you should first realize a few things. CPUs are designed to run at temperatures between -25 and 80 degrees Celsius. To give you an idea, 80 degrees Celsius is a temperature that nobody is able to touch for longer than 1/10 second. I have never come across a CPU at this temperature. There are plenty of ways to keep the CPU case at less than 50 degrees Celsius which increases the probability of keeping the chip inside at less than 80 degrees. Also, electromigration does not immediately damage your chip. It is a slow process, which more or less shortens the life span of a CPU running at a very high temperature. A normal CPU is meant to live for about 10 years. However, in ten years nobody is going to be using a CPU with today's technology. I won't even use my CPU anymore in 2 months. If you want to be kept free from this electromigration scare, you have to do as much as possible to cool the CPU. Cooling is the Numero Uno Oncho in overclocking!!! Never ever forget that! These terms don't necessarily apply for Cyrix, IBM, and AMD CPUs. Because of the already high rate of heat production at their original clock rate, you must work extra hard to keep them cool in overclocked conditions. I've come across several dead Cyrix 6x86 CPUs so far, so be careful or just let it be!
- Nobody likes system crashes or hangs, but in a professional business environment, avoiding a system crash or hang can be most crucial. It certainly is a fact that you are increasing the probability of system faults by overclocking your CPU. But this is only the probability !! If you have just overclocked your system and the first thing you do is use it to start writing your dissertation, don't be surprised if a system crash occurs which causes you to lose all your data. After finishing the overclocking process you have to put your system through a tough and thorough testing procedure. If the system passes all the testing, only then can you talk of successful overclocking and feel confident everything is working well. I'm using Winstone and the BAPCo Suite for reliability testing. You may not have the BAPCo, but it certainly is worth getting the new Winstone 97.
- The third debate against overclocking is that your father, brother, best friend, neighbour, or boss thinks it's immoral. Well, I always enjoyed living in sin, but if you've got problems with that, read the next chapter.