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Tech Tips

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    PlanetQuake | Features | Tech Tips | 6-3-2000
   

Tech Tips
This is where your gaming and hardware needs are met. Be all that you can be or get out of the game! This won't be a forum for techno-geeks to find more ways to impress their non-technical friends, it's for plain folk who need help to better their gaming experience. But don't blame us if you blow your machine sky high; we're offering tips, not the Bible on computers. The mailbag is alive and well - send in those questions to TechTips.
by Love2Play

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.


Overclocking
     -
by Spoon

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.



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