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  • Introduction to Overclocking
Technology Articles > Hardware > Motherboards > Introduction to Overclocking

Overclocking your central processing unit (CPU) or other hardware on your motherboard is the geeky equivalent of souping up your car. Overclocking a CPU is easy enough for any enthusiast to accomplish, and doing so gives you an extra boost in performance and speed from your machine. While widely practiced, overclocking obviously carries some risks.

Overclocking Definition

Overclocking PCs forces a computer component, such as a CPU or a GPU or RAM, to run at a higher clock rate than it’s been designed to handle. For example, if you have a 2.4 GHz CPU, you may be able to overclock it so it actually operates at 2.5 GHz or 2.6 GHz. This is typically done by tweaking the BIOS or altering jumpers on the physical motherboard.

Advantages of Overclocking

The primary benefit of overclocking is to get more performance out of a lower end CPU without investing in better hardware. For example, instead of paying $1,499 for the 3.2 GHz iMac, you could pay $1,119 for the 3.06 GHz iMac, overclock it to 3.2 GHz (or faster) and save yourself $300. Overclocking can also help lengthen the time between upgrades by delaying the obsolescence of your PC.

The most dramatic performance improvements occur when you overclock an area where a “bottleneck” occurs. For example, some motherboards limit the clock rating for RAM units based on the CPU’s clock rate. By overclocking the CPU, you can also speed up the RAM.

The ulterior benefit of overclocking your PC is the enjoyment you may get from tinkering with your computer’s inner workings. During the process of overclocking, you’ll likely learn far more than you would than an average user about how the motherboard works and how the CPU interacts with the other components of your computer.

Disadvantages of Overclocking

Overclocking will void your warranty. That’s because you’re pushing your computer beyond the limits recommended by the manufacturer. As such, any damage to your computer that results from overclocking will not be covered by your warranty.

The greatest risk associated with overclocking is “heat death.” Overclocked CPUs create much more heat than a normally operating CPU. Furthermore, the OEM cooling fan isn’t usually equipped to handle this additional heat. You may have to install an additional cooling system or upgrade your cooling fan.

Heat death can impact more than just the CPU. An overheated processor raises the temperature of the entire PC case, which can damage the other components as well.
Overall, an overclocked CPU will usually have a shorter lifespan, due to its increased power consumption, greater heat and higher operating frequencies.

There is also a temporary risk of improper setup of your BIOS and other tweaks that go towards overclocking. While this may not permanently damage your hardware, a faultily operating system can cause instability and damage the file system. You may also find it difficult to restore your computer to normal operations if you are inexperienced.

Before You Begin

This article is just an introduction to overclocking. There are many more articles about overclocking here at R-TT.com. Be sure to read them all and do your homework before attempting an overclock.