Overclocking your processor can give your PC a significant speed boost - but you have to be careful. Here's how to overclock your system's processor without frying it.
Disclaimers and myths
Before we start adjusting core multipliers and memory clocks willy-nilly, let's pause for an important disclaimer:
Overclocking will void the warranty of your retail CPU. Overclocking may destroy your CPU, your motherboard, or your system memory. It may corrupt your hard drive. Be careful when overclocking. You have been warned.
After reading this disclaimer, you may be inclined to walk away. Don't. Moderate overclocking is mostly safe.
These days, Intel and AMD don't frown on overclocking as much as they did a few years ago. Both companies now ship CPUs equipped with core multipliers (which we'll discuss shortly) unlocked, and even CPUs that have locked multipliers are fairly easy to overclock.
First, though, let's take a look at a few overclocking myths.
Myth #1: Overclocking requires expensive liquid cooling or very noisy air coolers.
Actually this isn't a myth if you're planning on doing extreme overclocking. But moderate overclocking (one to two speed grades higher than spec) is often achievable without replacing or supplementing the stock cooler supplied with a retail CPU. On the other hand, a better cooler can extend the life of the product at those higher clock speeds.
Myth #2: Different iterations of the same chip have the same capacity for overclocking.
Because the manufacturing yield is a statistical distribution, you'll probably get a CPU that can run much faster the listed speed, but you might end up with a processor that runs only about 10 percent faster. Consequently, the fact that your friend down the street can run a Core i5 750 (rated at 2.66GHz) at 4GHz doesn't mean that your Core i5 750 CPU can will be able to run that fast. That caveat is well worth keeping in mind when you attempt to overclock.
Myth #3: Overclocking requires expensive motherboards and memory.
Not necessarily. We'll look at examples involving a fairly high-end motherboard (roughly £200), a £125 board, and a micro-ATX board that's priced around £110. The £250+ motherboards that gave rise to this myth are luxuries for people bent on extreme overclocking (which requires certain special features). Likewise, unless you want to overclock your DRAM to extreme speeds, modestly priced DRAM (which we'll be using in our examples) will work fine.
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