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Once again Spoon graces our presence with his verbiage of hardware. The great
thing is that he makes even the most grueling of tasks seem like watching babes in bikini's at the beach. How can overclocking be made to be
fun?! Well kick back and watch Spoon in action.
I will start off by saying
this: overclocking is not simply a computer geek phenomenon,
it is a way of life. As such, it is not to be underestimated!
Sure, you start off with an easy overclock or two, maybe your
brother's Celeron, or your shiny new Pentium 3, but before
you know it the sickness sets in...you begin to overclock
your video card, your case fans, your power supplies, you
walk around and fantasize about peltiers, and look at nice
cars and wonder if their radiator would be good for water
cooling. Ahh yes, the sickness will eventually set in...it's
gonna be GREAT! Overclocking has long been associated with
the "hardcore", the "super l33t", the
"haX0rz", and it's gained a reputation as being
overtly risky and difficult. However the opposite is really
true, and with the right hardware, the right knowledge, and
a little bit of luck, overclocking can net enormous gains
for anyone, ESPECIALLY gamers. Being a gamer myself, I am
especially sensitive to the gamers' needs; we are not all
doing high-end graphics work or running UNIX servers, and
most of us don't have the budget to go out and buy every latest
processor or video card (although we wish we did!), but we
DO all want the most bang for the buck, and that is exactly
what overclocking can improve. I will assume that anyone reading
this knows how to build a computer or is at least familiar
with computer hardware. If not, Love2Play and Crash are working
on PQ's own system building guide. I will also assume that
(like me) most people reading this aren't able to spend huge
gobs of money to get that extra 5 frames per second. Lastly,
this will serve as a basic introduction to overclocking, more
advanced techniques like peltier systems, case mods, water
cooling, or (if you're a diagnosed maniac) custom-made phase
transition cooling systems will not be covered, this will
focus on the bread and butter of the overclocking world: air
cooling. So with these factors in mind, let's get it on!
What is overclocking?
Simply put, overclocking is the process of increasing the speed of a
component (usually a CPU) in order to gain performance. Before I
get into the next section, there are some basic principles you need to
know if you don't already. The magic of overclocking resides in the
CPU and the motherboard. The way a CPU's speed is derived is based
off a simple formula, it is:
SYSTEM BUS SPEED x CPU MULTIPLIER = CPU CLOCK SPEED
Bus speeds? Multipliers? What? Allow me
to explain: the system bus is basically the central pipeline
that your motherboard uses to connect it's main components.
Your CPU, ram, video card, PCI and ISA cards, and your hard
drive controllers are ALL tied directly into the system bus.
With older CPU's like the Pentium 1 and 2's and Celerons ran
on a 66 MHz bus, whereas the newer Pentium 2's and early Pentium
3's run on a 100 MHz bus, and the new Pentium 3 Coppermines
run on a 133 MHz bus. The CPU Multiplier is a number
that the processor uses to multiply the system bus by to get
the actual CPU clock speed. For example, a Pentium 2
450 chip would have a 100 MHz system bus and a 4.5 multiplier,
therefore: 100 x 4.5 = 450 MHz. A Celeron 366
runs on a 66 MHz bus with a 5.5 multiplier, so 66 x 5.5 =
366 MHz. Given this equation, the most obvious way to
overclock a CPU would be to just increase it's multiplier,
therefore resulting in a higher clock speed right? Sadly,
no. Ever since the Pentium 2 300's, ALL Intel CPU's
have been multiplier locked, meaning the multiplier is set
in the hardware and can NOT be changed (no matter how much
you threaten it with a large hammer). Now, NON-Intel
CPU's aren't always multiplier locked (eg. the AMD Athlon
is not), but Athlons are a special case which I will get into
later. The only other option then, is almost always
to increase the system bus speed, and THAT is the general
method of overclocking.
Am I cool enough to overclock?
If you're cool enough to be a gamer, you are definitely cool
enough to overclock! However some restrictions do apply.
The main thing is your hardware. You need to have a
motherboard that is able to at least change the FSB (short
for Front Side Bus, another name for the system bus, FSB will
be used to refer to it from now on), and a CPU that is good
for overclocking. Chances are, if you bought your computer
pre-made from a store or a place like Gateway or Dell, you
will most likely not be able to overclock without buying at
least a new motherboard. There IS an option for those of you
whose motherboard does not support changing FSB speeds, you
can overclock your CPU with a program called SoftFSB, which
runs in Windows 98/NT/2000 and as long as you know what kind
of motherboard you have, and what clock generator it uses
(which should be mentioned in your manual), you will be able
to use that program to overclock your processor whenever you're
in Windows. A link to download the program, as well
as some more info on it can be found HERE.
Before you go out and gleefully slam that shiny new Pentium
3 600 up to 1 GHz though, be sure to read the rest of this
article to learn about cooling, etc.
However, if you're planning on upgrading or building a computer
from scratch and want to overclock, you need to carefully
plan out your hardware choices.