Overclocking your CPU/GPU

Games, Gaming and Hardware
02/01/2012 10:46 PMPosted by Mÿxxï
If you're feeling VERY wordy and would feel better just making a word document
never stopped me before, good luck. Not sure how to split this up, wouldn't feel bad if you took out anything regarding choosing CPU for new build, there's less options for PII these days anyway. (actually, if you would just edit all my posts all the time, everyone would be happier. =P)

AMD Athlon 64. Athlon II, Phenom and Phenom II CPUs overclock similarly to prior AMD processors. A main referance "bus"(often called the FSB, but it technically isn't) with a default speed of 200, having a series of multipliers for cpu clock and actual bus speeds. Phenom II "Black Edition" (commonly "BE") processors have an unlocked CPU multiplier, they are made for overclocking and are obviously the most desirable. It is much easier to overclock with a BE processor since you can leave the main reference clock close to 200 and not worry about memory OC at all. The non-BE Phenom or Phenom II's (or any of the Athlon line) are still able to be overclocked, but it takes more work to set up and you need a more "enthusiast-friendly" motherboard to adjust all the multipliers - or else you will be overclocking the memory too much, which is harder to get stable and usually not necessary.

If you are building from scratch for overclocking, it is relevant to know how AMD "classes" and numbers their CPUs. (as far as I know they have always done it this way) All AMD CPUs having the same core type and stepping (ex. Deneb core C3-stepping) are the same chip, produced in large runs and then tested. Seeing as how millions of transistors are formed on the chip, they do no all turn out equal. The CPUs are tested similarly to what we do with overclocking, to find which chips will run what speed with what voltage. Chips that do better are given higher model numbers and sold set at higher clocks. The most popular Phenom II's for overclocking are probably the 955 and 965 x4 Black editions having the later "C3" revision(125w). That is not to say others are bad, these were just the best ones during the height of Phenom II overclocking's popularity and are also as much as you need to spend to reach top performance. The vast majority of C3 Deneb x4s run at 125w and these are normally recommended for a quad core build. 1055T and 1065T are popular x6 Phenom II processors, although 6 cores is typically seen as overkill for gaming since few games take advantage of more threads(chips with less cores are typically clocked higher to begin with). Higher numbered models are technically a better chip, but are most often already pushed pretty far and have similar max overclocks to slightly lower models. Many vendors are running out of the lower numbered chips since AMD has moved on to producing the FX-series chips.

You need a good CPU heatsink for overclocking
, even without touching voltages. The stock AMD heatsinks that come with Phenom and Phenom II CPUs are decent, but won't keep you safe over standard Phenom II speeds. The Cooler Master Hyper 212+ is very popular and fits on AM2(+) and AM3(+) sockets - for the money, this is about the best cooling you can get without going to liquid cooling or something huge(er). There are also water cooling options that come prefilled and intended for internal mounting that are easy to set up. If you're building for overclocking, you want good cooling and an unlocked multiplier.

Generally for the beginner, leave the clock at 200, leave the voltage on default or "Auto" and adjust the CPU multiplier, .5x at a time(or smallest increment), until the system becomes unstable, then back it off. Before you start, get a program that lets you monitor your temperatures. HWmonitor is a commonly recommended free program, although there are many more advanced monitoring programs like AIDA64 if you want to pay a little money(AIDA64's "stability test" is not as good as anything I will mention for that). Per AMD, the "Maximum operating temperature" of most Phenom IIs is 55C - 62C. That is not to say that your CPU will instantly become blue-smoke at those temps, but to avoid damage you should make sure your processor never reaches them! Searching for your CPU's model number on http://www.cpu-world.com/ will tell you many things including max temp and supported voltage. Programs like CPU-Z, AIDA 64 and others will tell you your chip's exact model and stepping if you don't know it.

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Stability in your Overclocking

There are many ways to check stability. Booting into windows is the first test, but does not mean you're in the clear! Monitor your CPU temps throughout any testing, if it gets too high, stop! Being able to run benchmarks like PCmark or 3Dmark without crashing shows some degree of stability. Better yet, specific programs can me used to stress your CPU and memory. MemTest86 is not as good as it used to be for checking memory overclock (and it takes many tests over a very long time). There are stress tests like Prime95 which make your processor continuously do math at 100% to stress it, using variable amounts of system RAM. I found Prime95 to be the most demanding test you can run. It might be dangerous to run Prime for days on end like some people do - usually 15-20 minutes is good enough and surviving an hour counts as "solid" to most people. "Linx" or "Intel Burn Test" can also be used for this, completing several passes of these extremely harsh tests will stress your system at least as much as Prime will and are usually faster. For stress-testing, make sure the program you use is set to run as many threads as you have cores. Hyper-PI is a program that will run multiple instances of the popular "SuperPi" benchmark simultaneously on multiple cores, computing 32M completely on all cores is a decent test. Used correctly, all of these programs are more "stress test" than they are "benchmark" and can help verify your overclock as stable and cool. Maximizing your CPU via overclocking

When overclocking, the above tests will eventually reveal instability by returning errors or crashing the system. When you discover the limit of your stability, voltage is usually the first thing to look at when you want to go further. With a simple multiplier overclock, the CPU voltage(vcore) is usually the only relevant one. If raising this value by a small amount does not help, the problem may lie elsewhere, either with temperature or memory settings. With larger multiplier-only overclocks, other voltages will sometimes have an effect on stability, but don't go ahead and change them without first researching! It can get confusing since the BIOS of different motherboards use different names for voltage and bus settings, be sure to research your specific board before you mess with it. Among others, "CPUNB" and "NB" can mean entirely different things on different boards, please do some googling before you start over-volting something that doesn't need it(for example, in specific cases, one of the "NB" voltages might refer to on-board GPU instead of what you want).

In order to "go all out", a stable memory overclock is usually achieved first (with a low CPU multiplier) before attempting to reach the desired CPU speed. Doing it in this order is the only way to maximize both speeds. Get some CPU benchmark programs to make sure the memory overclock is actually giving you significant improvement. Use something that runs a lot of math using a lot of memory, SuperPI is popular and free.

AMD CPUs reportedly respond better to memory overclocking than Intel CPUs, but again this requires more BIOS options and more risk than a simple multiplier overclock(read: it's harder). Specifically, low memory latencies have much more of an impact here than on Intel systems. The most obvious factor effecting overall memory latency is the "timings" that your RAM is set to. Better RAM supports better timings out of the box - CAS Latency(CL) is usually the first (and most important) number in memory timings - lower is better for timing #'s. To stay stable, it is generally recommended to choose quality RAM of the speed you want with a low CL and keep memory overclocking to a minimum. The overall latency is not always linear with timings and can be measured with certain programs (PCmark and AIDA64 include this test). Phenom II's love low latency above all else and yet are happy at all but the lowest supported RAM speeds but memory overclocking is said to be more important with the FX-series chips. Due to flaws in the "Bulldozer" micro-architecture's current implementation, FX systems are accepted by many to be held back or "bottlenecked" by all but the fastest, lowest-latency memory(FWIW, many of the initial reviews that made everyone hate FX were done with 1333, while the more recent tests are often 1600 or 1866).

On all current AMD systems (with or without overclocked memory) it is common to increase the multiplier for the "northbridge frequency" and raise the associated voltage if necessary - this speed often effects memory latency as much as the timings and is seen as an essential part of a full AMD overclock. It is important to note that this NB memory bus is different from the Hyper-Transport link. Increasing HT-Link speed has almost no effect besides lowing stability, it is best to keep it near stock speed so you don't need extra voltage and heat.
Going over the recommended voltage for RAM modules is not usually necessary and not a good idea in general since it often voids the RAM's warranty. In AM-socket systems, the DDR2 and DDR3 memory controllers are inside the processor chip, and the relevant memory controller will have its own voltage setting(s) in BIOS. These voltages are much more important to stable memory than the DDR voltage itself. Being on-chip, altering these voltages increases load on the CPU heatsink. HT voltage can sometimes add stability, but this is mostly with large overclocks and/or specific motherboards(did I mention researching your board?).

Although reliant on modified BIOS's in the past, with modern motherboards the memory "command rate"(CR) can often be set to either "1T" or "2T" with a BIOS setting - adjusting how often the CPU accesses the memory(some people will still call this "CPC-on"/"CPC-off" respectively, meaning "Command Per Clock"). 2T command rate increases stability, but 1T is faster(but not as much faster as it should be!) For many years AMD has designed their stuff to tolerate 2T command rate in lieu of better error-correction, 2T is quite common for overclocked AMD systems and not as big of a performance hit as it sounds like. Running CR2 is fine if you have a lot of RAM or pushing your RAM faster than supported, or if you are running an unsupported memory configuration. For Phenom II, filling all 4 slots of DDR2-1066, or running any DDR3 over 1333 is technically unsupported. FX-series currently supports dual-channel up to 1866. Most of these "maximums" can be violated with quality ram and luck. DDR3-1600 is quite common on Phenom II, although many have had to set it to 1333 and run a 240 reference(keep in mind that most buses like HT and NB frequency assume a standard 200mhz ref clock and therefore must be turned down accordingly when significantly increasing the reference clock).
I had my old CPU over-clocked, the motherboard just had a switch, so it was easy.. Thinking about overclocking my 2500k, but it just doesn't seem necessary.

I never mess with GPUs though, its scary..

Good guide though!
I had my old CPU over-clocked, the motherboard just had a switch, so it was easy.. Thinking about overclocking my 2500k, but it just doesn't seem necessary.

I never mess with GPUs though, its scary..

Good guide though!

So far, pretty much all the thanks for the knowledge goes to Kalganized :) I do hope to get some more contributing going, because the more people contribute, generally the better the information is and the more audiences it can reach and help.
As a side note, when overclocking Nvidia GPU's.

The default Nvidia fan profile is TERRIBLE. I found my GPU approaching its "maximum safe temperature" (according to NVidia themselves) while the fan was still turning at a measily 30% of max.

That being said - If you are going to attempt to overclock your GPU, I reccomend you get the program MSI Afterburner (not just for MSI cards/motherboards) and use that to set up a MUCH more agressive GPU Fan profile. Yes, you'll get more fan noise from the card, but you'll also reduce the risk that your 200-600$ video card will go up in smoke, literally.

Also - The Core i7 (first generation socket 1366) CPU's can easily be overclocked. I've got my i7-920 (2.67ghz stock) running quite stable at 3.8ghz, and acutally turned the v-core DOWN.

I do reccomend NOT using stock cooling if you're going to try to overclock. Corsair makes some nice H series CPU coolers that are self-contained watercooling. Check out the H-60, and h-80.
Really depends on the specific coolers and fans in regards to when they become noisy. Some fans can be dead silient at 60% but if you crank it to 65% they get really loud. Just depends on the fan.
The default Nvidia fan profile is TERRIBLE. I found my GPU approaching its "maximum safe temperature" (according to NVidia themselves) while the fan was still turning at a measily 30% of max.
This is very true. A much better "software fan control" profile can be set with programs like MSI Afterburner or EVGA Precision. Most of these programs are just branded versions of Rivatuner, but are much easier to figure out than Rivatuner itself. As such, they are able to be used with nvidia cards made by companies other than MSI or EVGA as long as the GPU is supported. There are others, but these two seem to be the most popular and most complete Rivatuner frontends.

In the past, Precision did not support GPU voltage control, but they seem to have gotten the bugs worked out of applying voltage settings at Windows startup. Even though altering the GPU core voltage is quite often unnecessary to gain performance, the addition of this feature made Precision just as good as Afterburner. It's now no longer necessary to run both programs in order to get all the features you want.

GPU overclocking can be better with programs like this than with nvidia Control Panel. nvpanel profiles tend to include settings for everything it can control, which often includes things you don't want it to touch, like the CPU referance clock.
Hey guys, finally got around to updating this for the AMD processor overclocking. It could probably use a bit of cleaning up, but I don't really know enough to figure out where to trim off some miscellaneous info and compact it for a more novice user.
02/01/2012 05:41 PMPosted by Mÿxxï
with minimal editing by Myxxi
I was always better at the research paper than at the outline :)
I don't think I thoroughly described voltage changes anywhere. If I have some time tonight I might add that to the (edited) "easy" section, or to "stability" - since that can be involved with the basic OC and is very much the same later only with more voltages. I'll have more time to think tonight....
That would be cool. Free bump!
Awesome thread. I've been meaning to look into squeezing a little bit more out of my computers since I had to build them on the low end (I had a budget of ~$800 to build 2 computers for me and my wife last year and they were still HUGE upgrades over what we had).
Thank you, Mÿxxï! Very informative thread - I requested that it be stickied in this forum. Others should do the same :)

Can any of you comment if it's worth over clocking an i5 2500k. I know WoW is "CPU intensive" so I'm wondering if it will help to do so.

I'm planning to get a new PC soon - i5 2500k with one of the new AMD 7950s (maybe 7970 but 50 seems good enough). Note - not just using it to play WoW, as I know that GPU is probably overkill for it. Nonetheless I don't want to have the GPU being bottlenecked by the CPU because WoW more heavily relies on the latter. How much will over clocking to 4.0-4.2 help WoW? Would like the game to run on max settings (maybe shadows turned off) with 60fps+.

Also wondering about the motherboard. Never overclocked before and wondering if my motherboard will hinder it somehow or anything like that.

Motherboard: [CrossFireX/SLI] Asus P8Z68-V/GEN3 Intel Z68 Chipset DDR3 ATX Mainboard w/ BT GO! Lucid Virtu and Intel SRT & 7.1 HD Audio, Intel GbLAN, USB3.0, 2x SATA-III RAID, 2x Gen3 & 1x Gen2 PCIe X16, 2 PCIe X1 & 2 PCI (All Venom OC Certified)

I suppose I should list the rest of my planned build: EDIT*** Posted it in a new thread. See here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/4044746893?page=1#0 for full build.
Any Z68 motherboard worth their salt can do at least some degree of overclocking.

It's the extreme cheap ones like H61 motherboards that won't let you, and H67 won't really go very far.

Just ensure you have a good CPU cooling before you attempt.

It should help your FPS in cities and raids if you OC your i5-2500k.

With a 7950, WoW should be running with flying colors.
02/09/2012 08:06 AMPosted by Mÿxxï
That would be cool. Free bump!
Sorry I've been playing that "RL" game too much....

I edited the last 2 sections of my post to talk about voltage. Of course it got longer, but I just have a thing with that. Hard for me to add to something without questioning everything that's already there :)

I could have more memory insight within a week, I just pulled the trigger on AM3+ the other day...
OK been messing around with overclocking my i5-2500k, have an Asrock z68 mobo with a hyper 212+ cpu cooler. All I did to OC was change the multiplier and left everything else on auto. At 4.0ghz and 4.2ghz running Prime95, I am having no problems. CPU temp around 41C, highest a core gets is 59C. Core Voltage sits around 1.264 to 1.272.

When I try for 4.4 ghz, i get the error

FATAL ERROR: Rounding was 0.5, expected less than 0.4 Hardware failure detected

Does this just mean I need to up the voltage manually? Doing an little google search thats the best I can come up with. If that is the case what settings in the BIOS do I need to disable or change? Also, should I update the mobo bios?
Yes, but 4.3 is already a good speed, so unless if you are willing to tweak voltage (offset) (which can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing), I'd stop at 4.3.

And yes, you should.

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