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Overclocking Guide


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General Considerations & Overclocking Introduction

Before I get into this guide I'd like to comment on the biggest myth of PC gaming. PC gaming is not expensive; unless you want it to be. You don't have to run every game at 1920x1200 w/ 8AA and 16AF to enjoy PC gaming. Its called Personal Computer Gaming for a reason; its about customization. Customization that no other system or even combination of systems can match. A $400-600 upgrade can play the same games as a $5000 tri-SLI water-cooled Penryn setup; just not at the same settings obviously.

Always build a system around two major factors; what resolution you want to play at, and what budget you want to pay. More on this in the Parts section.

For those of you that don't know what overclocking is, it's simply increasing the speed of computer components beyond stock/standard values. Overclocking greatly increases the value and lifespan of your PC; and I personally consider it mandatory on any system I build. Don't expect overclocking to make everything start running at 60fps solid all of the sudden. You will of course see framerate improvements and faster load times, but the main benefits of overclocking are increasing the lifespan of parts, and allowing you to buy cheaper parts.

As a warning: overclocking can void your parts' warranties depending on the manufacturer. Most situations I've had with parts breaking down is because of fans dying after a long period of time (mostly power supplies and graphics cards). The risk of actually destroying a component when overclocking is very low nowadays. Everything will shut down before shit hits the fan.

I'm writing this guide to overclock components that are running stable 24/7 with gaming in mind, not just looking for maximum speeds for benchmark purposes. If you're trying for maximum benchmarks then you already know about overclocking anyway; why the fuck are you reading this guide? :jerkit:

I'll take any constructive criticism and adjust things to make this article better. If for some reason you want to be a jackass and criticize anything here (my writing style, what parts I recommend, or my methods) without contributing then go fuck yourself. B)

Choosing Your Parts

This is one section I'd really like some input from other hermits for in terms of parts to buy. Don't just say "wait for..." since something new is always coming out, try to stick to current parts.

Overclocking begins with choosing the right parts for your system. Some noteworthy things;

- When building with overclocking in mind; never ever skimp on the motherboard and power supply (a quality 500W >>> cheapo 700W). Overclocked parts get power hungry on your PSU, and if you go cheapo on the MOBO don't expect to get good results.

- Your CPU is going to be Intel. Historically they have generally been the better overclockers over AMD, and that holds true today.

- Core 2 Duos generally give better game performance today, but Core 2 Quads/Penryns are more future-proof and better for many RTS games.

- An after market heatsink (HSF) isn't required for overclocking your CPU/GPU, but will greatly increase the results.

- Intel Extreme processors are only worth it on a near-infinite budget to get maximum performance as they will often be in the neighborhood of 1000$. They set themselves apart from the rest of the lineup in the fact that have an unlocked multiplier. Both upwards and downwards. Also, they are generally the best chips that will attain the highest clock speeds.

- I have no experience with water-cooling, but its generally only for big-budget systems.

- Keep in mind many after market HSFs are massive and require a large enough case to fit in.

- Use Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste for your CPU. The thermal goop that comes with CPUs/HSFs is generally crap. (notable exceptions are Zalman and Thermalright heatsinks. The provided paste will surely prove sufficient.)

- Be aware of what Chipset your MOBO has. If you want to go SLI you'll most likely have to use a Nvidia based chipset instead of an Intel based board. Also, try to find the chipset that has the best OCing reputation, choosing a motherboard will prove much easier.

- DDR2-800 is the best values for RAM ATM. 2GB is the perfect amount for most games today on XP; 3 and 4GB from most of the benchmarks I've seen are mostly marginal improvements.

- On that note: XP > Vista. Wait a couple service packs and DX10/10.1 to be worth a damn before you even think about moving to Vista. When building, it is generally unwise to buy an OS. Considering you want to optimize money, the OS is the best part to lose some weight. What are you going to do without an OS? Let's just say we'll leave the deciphering to you.

- Shop around. Prices for computer parts change daily so you can almost always find a deal on whatever you're looking for.

Some good sites for computer parts that I've dealt with;

NCIX: http://www.ncix.com/ - These guys have a brand new sale every 2 weeks (when one ends another begins), they'll price match, awesome service, and is my personal favourite. They ship to both Canada and the US, and if you're outside of BC in Canada you only pay GST. They're order processing may take a bit longer then some others but its worth it. Try to select all your parts from the sales page, this is most likely the best place to buy a computer from.

DirectCanada: http://www.directcanada.com/ - Another BC based computer store. They have lots of surprise specials, deals, and air shipping for $10 on low weight (5lbs or less) shipments. They're a lot like NCIX (processing can take awhile), but won't ship to US or price match.

Newegg: http://www.newegg.com/ - Ship to Canada damnit.

If you have another site to add lemme know. I don't know many American/European retailers unfortunately.

With those pointers in mind, heres some parts to consider;

Case: A personal favorite of mine is the Antec Sonata III, it looks mature so you won't look like a complete dork for having it. It also comes with an excellent Antec 500W PSU that can power most builds. It can be found for just over $100. If you want to go balls to the walls with cooling and badassery, the Antec 900 Gaming case is the way to go. One look at it will be pretty self-explanatory. It doesn't come with a PSU so it can be an expensive choice.

CPU: E2180 or E2160 (excellent dual core performance, overclocks very well, and dirt cheap), Q6600 or X3210 (best bang for your buck quad core, overclocks to 3.2GHz [from 2.4] easily, and future-proof. Try to get G0 stepping, you'll have to ask around, most retailers won't disclose what stepping their CPUs are.)

Heatsinks: Thermalright Ultima-90 (best paired with a Scythe S-FLEX 120mm fan), Tuniq Tower, Arctic Freezer 7 (theres more, open to recommendations)

MOBO: Any motherboard from a decent manufacturer (ASUS, Gigabyte, ect) that says P35 or the most recent Nvidia MOBOs (600 series, 700s are starting to come out). The Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L and GA-P35-DS3R are some of the best motherboards to keep an eye out for.

RAM: 2GB DDR2-800, whichever is on sale at the time. Always get RAM with heatspeaders on them.

No heatspreaders;

Spoiler
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Heatspreaders;

Spoiler
20-146-565-05.jpg

GPU: ATI 3850 256mb ($180, only if you're willing to play at 1440x900/1280x1024 or lower), 8800GT 256mb ($200, for 1440x900/1280x1024 or lower), 8800GT 512mb ($250, for 1680x1050/1600x1200 or even 1920x1200)

If you're strapped for cash, you could always try to find an X1950PRO at $130 or lower.

GPU Heatsinks: To be updated.

PSU: If you're building a single GPU system all you need is 500W. If you want to go SLI/CF 600W is generally a minimum for 2, and go up from there for 3/4 GPUs. Always buy from a quality manufacturer like Cooler Master, Corsair, or Thermaltake. Theres other good manufacturers as well, but those come to mind first.

Optimal Installation

Building your own PC is our own right of passage as hermits. Any idiot can buy an overpriced dell/hp/compaq/alienware and toss in a 8800 GT. That doesn't make them a PC gamer.

Nonetheless, always start with just your MOBO outside of the case. Insert the CPU and apply thermal paste to it following these instructions; (if you don't want to read, just apply thin layer over the surface of the CPU) http://www.arcticsilver.com/arctic_silver_instructions.htm

Now insert the ram sticks carefully.

Install the heatsink on the CPU following the included instructions.

Leave the MOBO alone now that the CPU/HSF are installed on it. Grab your Case and install the PSU, HDD(s), DVD-ROM(s). Its a lot easier to do this without the MOBO in the case.

Most decent Cases have holes on the motherboard tray;

P160_inside.jpg

If you want to improve airflow in your case run all the PSU cables behind the tray and tie-wrap them down. This isn't necessary, but does offer a nicer looking interior and better airflow.

Not mine, but an example.

newcase2.jpg

For optimal airflow performance, make sure there's stream of air that goes through the entire length of the case, from the front to back. Make sure no wires are in the way.

With the PSU and everything in the case, install the MOBO (instructions come with the case). Throw in your RAM/GPU, plug the PSU into everything, and attach the HDDs/DVD-ROMs.

If you want to go any more indepth with case mods hit up Google, I have no experience with them. :]

Overclocking

Finally at this part. I'll be dividing this into a few sections;

0) Introduction

1) Prelimary stability tests and setup

2) Terms you need to know

3) The overclocker's bible

4) Jumping the CMOS (very important to know how to do this when you're overclocking)

5) First Steps: The BIOS, Jumperfree Configuration, Overclocking Limits, Power Saving Features

6) Overclocking the CPU/RAM

7) Stability and torture tests

8) Overclocking the GPU

9) Final thoughts

Introduction

I'd just like to note I am writing this guide to help you get started overclocking. No matter how much you read on overclocking you won't learn much about it until you've gained some trial-and-error experience. Overclocking isn't difficult, but there is a lot to know. Here is a list of useful software for overclocking:

Spoiler

Tools:

Monitoring Software - It's handy to know what voltages and temperatures you're tinkering are producing. A program specific to your MB is often supplied on the driver disk, others include:-

Speedfan - Gives CPU, MB and HD temperatures and also voltages

Core Temp - Neat little program that tells you the core temperature and also the max safe temperature

**Getting Core Temp to Work in Vista64**

Read here to find out how to get Core Temp to work in Vista64

Stability Testing Software

Prime95 - One of the main stability tests when CPU clocking - make sure you enable Round Off Checking in the advanced menu

SP2004 - Prime95 with improved GUI

SP2004 Orthos - SP2004 with added dual core functionality in one instance

OCCT - Nice little program that can be used for a quick 30min stability test

S&M - Contains one of the harshest CPU tests (FPU test) and has been known to kill hardware

Superpi(mod) - CPU benchmark that can also be used for quick stability tests

3dMark - Whole suite of graphics benchmarks that can also be used to test CPU/RAM stability to some degree

Memtest86 - RAM tester, in my opinion it no longer cuts it, Prime Blend seems more sensitive to RAM instability

Other Tools

Clockgen - Allows overclocking in Windows for supported MBs

Systool - Gives a whole suite of overclocking tools

ThrottleWatch - Provides useful indication on whether your CPU is throttling or not

CPU-Z - Provides fairly detailed CPU and RAM information

Everest - Suite of handy tools

No need to download them all right now but if you need some applications mentioned, here is a good place to get them

Prelimary Stability Tests and Setup

After you build your computer and load up Windows XP (yarrr) install all the necessary and latest drivers for your hardware (particularly the MOBO and GPU). Everything for the MOBO except the latest BIOS comes on the included CD (keep the MOBO manual handy as well). If you're setting up your hard drives in RAID 0 or something else get that out of the way as well. Download Prime95, Orthos, SuperPi, 3DMark06, and CPUZ (see above, Xenon's contribution). Run a 1M test on SuperPi and a 3DMark06 benchmark (your monitor's res, no AA). We'll come back to these numbers later to see how much of an improvement your overclock gives you.

Always keep your motherboard BIOS and GPU drivers up to date. I don't care how obvious this seems, but sometimes the most obvious things are neglected. The manufacturer's website of your respective MOBO/GPU will have the latest BIOS/drivers to download. Any decent MOBO will come with BIOS update software you can use right in Windows as well (see why you should never skimp on the MOBO?).

This was the difference updating the BIOS made on my Q6600 (look at the voltage); [Windows wouldn't even load properly at a 390 Bus Speed before I updated the BIOS.]

termsde8.jpg

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If you have an Intel processor do a Google search for '<processor model number> VID voltage range', without quotes and your specifc model number.

vidvoltagerangeyo9.jpg

Whenever overclocking, try to stay within that voltage range (in the BIOS; generally CPUZ is lower then what you input). Even if you have expensive water cooling, or even liquid nitrogen too much voltage can kill a CPU over time. For good 24/7 overclocking settings you should aim for about 90% of the max recommended voltage (write that value down). Credit goes to DanoruX for telling me about this.

Everything work alright? No BSODs or problems? Good, read on.

Terms You Need to Know

Most of these terms are in relation to overclocking Intel CPUs. Many of them are the same for AMD processors, but there are a few differences here and there. Also note I'm not a computer science major... anymore. I'm an electrician and am using the basics of these terms.

Important CPU terms;

Core Speed : This is the rated speed of your CPU; calculated by multiplying the CPU's Bus Speed (or Frequency) by the CPU's Multiplier.

Bus Speed or CPU Frenquency: The operating frequency or speed of your CPU. This value is tied to 3 vital components of your system; your CPU, MOBO, and RAM. The higher it is, the faster all 3 run at.

CPU Multiplier: Via wiki: 'The ratio of CPU clockspeed to front-side bus or northbridge clockspeed. A system with a CPU multiplier of 10x will have its CPU execute 10 complete cycles for every cycle of its FSB.'

Rated FSB (front side bus): The speed in which the CPU communicates with the RAM.

Voltage (Vcore): The amount of voltage going to the CPU. Higher clock speeds need more voltage. There's always a point in overclocking where you have to make a huge jump in voltage for a minor improvement (much like when you are buying expensive parts, you'll make a huge jump in price for a minor performance boost over other options). IMO the best 24/7 overclocks are just before this point.

Revision: Over time Intel/AMD will update they're manufacturing process and slightly change their CPUs. Most of the time this is a good thing (generally they'll run at lower voltages).

Spread Spectrum: Disable this to help overclocking.

There are many arguments on overclocking sites about Higher Bus Speeds > a Higher Core Speed and vise versa. For gaming a higher Core Speed is generally better, but keep in mind that you will need more bandwidth (Rated FSB) as your Core Speed gets higher, and may need to go with a lower multiplier/higher bus speed instead of a high multiplier/low bus speed.

Important RAM terms;

Frequency: The operating frequency or speed of your RAM. This number is multiplied by two to determine the speed of your RAM (IE: DDR2-800 RAM has a frequency of 400).

FSB: DRAM: This is the ratio of your CPU Bus Speed to your RAM. You cannot change the RAM's frequency by itself, you change it by adjusting the CPU Bus Speed and the ratio from it. (IE: I have my CPU Bus Speed @ 400, with my ratio @ 1:1, so my RAM frequency is 400)

CAS, RAS to CAS, RAS, and Cycle Time (Tras) are the RAM's timings. The lower the better.

Command Rate is blocked out for me (something to do with my MOBO + quad core), but its either 1T or 2T. 1T is best.

There are also many arguments on overclocking sites about RAM Timings versus Frequency. I tried favoring each one, but found a nice balance between the two worked best for me.

The Overclocker's Bible

You know that MOBO manual I told you to grab earlier? Consider that your bible.

Why is it so important?

- I can't make this guide for each MOBO manufacturer, I have to make it a general guide so you're gunna have to do some reading.

- It contains the instructions for reseting the CMOS. This is very important in case you go overboard with your overclock to the point where you can't even get into the BIOS.

- Those terms I just told you? Your MOBO manual will tell you how to navigate the BIOS so you can adjust them.

- Want to know where to put your RAM for dual channel bandwidth? The manual.

- Want to RAID 0 your hard drives? Manual.

Jumping the CMOS

At some point during overclocking you're going to push generally the RAM way too far, and when you boot your computer it will stay at a black screen. You won't be able to get into Windows, let alone the BIOS to change anything back.

Reseting the CMOS will clear all data in the BIOS (it won't affect Windows or your harddrive). Date, time, and any overclocking settings will be erased. Try to remember the last working values for your frequencies/timings so you can easily change them all back.

If you ignore this only to come back on a different computer to bitch at me your computer won't boot; don't say I didn't warn you. :happysad:

First Steps: The BIOS, Jumperfree Configuration, Power Saving Features, Overclocking Limits

The first step to actually overclocking your CPU/RAM (about time eh?) is getting into the BIOS. For most MOBOs you have to hit 'del' on start up when the MOBO logo comes up.

For most decent motherboards there is an Advanced tab where you can adjust your CPU/RAM settings (if not, check the manual). In the Advanced Tab there is generally a Jumperfree Config option. This is where you'll be doing most of your overclocking. In Jumperfree Config there is usually an option called "AI Overclocking"; change it from 'Auto' to 'Manual'. Leave Jumperfree Config for now, you have to adjust a couple more things before you start tweaking.

Most MOBOs/CPUs now have power saving features, which have a tendency to make high overclocks unstable. Generally they work by lowering the voltage and multiplier of the CPU when they aren't under load. GPUs have a feature like this as well, but doesn't make them unstable. The only one I know of for AMD users is called 'Cool & Quiet', while for Intel users there are 'C1E' and 'Intel Speedstep'. Search through your MOBO manual to find where these settings are and disable them. For 'Intel Speedstep' you can only access the option to Enable/Disable it while the multipler for your CPU is set to Auto. If you Disable it while your multiplier is on Auto, it will stay disabled when you set the multiplier on Manual.

Two other options you should configure are PCI Express Frequency (set to 100) and PCI Clock Synchronization Mod (set to 33.33) so they don't scale with your FSB.

99% of the time if you install your HSF and thermal paste on your CPU correctly, your RAM is going to be the limiting factor of any overclock you do. Keep this in mind if your computer becomes unstable when overclocking. Sometimes just adjusting one timing setting on the RAM or lowering the frequency can make your PC stable again. Also a note for if you have a quad core, you won't get nearly as high overclocks as the dual cores. Not only do quads generate more heat, but also put a lot more stress on the RAM with higher Rated FSBs.

Overclocking the CPU/RAM

You should still be in the BIOS from setting everything up in the last section.

Look in your manual and find where you can change the settings for your RAM, specifically;

DRAM Frequency or FSB: DRAM ratio (this varies between MOBOs, for mine it's DRAM frequency and you select from different RAM speeds like [Auto][DDR2-667][DDR2-800][DDR2-1066] ect.)

Your timings: CAS, RAS to CAS, RAS, Cycle Time (Tras), and Command Rate

DRAM Voltage

If you have DDR2-800 RAM, set the DRAM Frequency to DDR2-667 for now (or run it at a 1:1 ratio with the CPU). Set Command Rate to 1T, and leave everything else on Auto. If you have DDR2-1066 RAM, set it to DDR2-800. The idea here is to lower your RAM to a slower speed while finding your CPU's max overclock.

Frequency Overclocking

To start, leave both your CPU Vcore and Multiplier on AUTO for now. Bump your CPU Frequency up so your Core Speed increases in an increment of 100 (IE: If you have a 9x multiplier, bump the Frequency by 11. 6x multiplier? 17 more Frequency. Ect.)

Exit the BIOS and save your changes. Does Windows fully boot up normally? (No stalls, no hanging, all your regular programs run without a problem?) Open up CPUZ to verify your overclock, Core Temp to make sure your temperatures aren't high (less then 70C is ideal under load) If everything boots up alright restart your computer and go back into the BIOS. Bump the Frequency again so your Core Speed increases by another 100. Exit the BIOS, save your changes, and see if Windows boots up normally.

Do this until you get a BSOD, Windows starts to hang, programs won't run probably, Windows boots up slow, your regular startup programs have errors, or something similar. When you start getting those kinds of errors your overclock is considered unstable.

So its time to give your CPU some more voltage. Remember that 90% max recommended voltage number I told you to keep handy earlier? Set your CPU Vcore to that value (or as close as you can get) in the BIOS. Save the changes and boot into Windows. The bump in voltage should make your overclock stable. No BDODs? No problems with startup programs? No hanging? Back to the BIOS.

Keep bumping up the Frequency like before; increasing the Core Speed by 100, booting into Windows, doing a quick check to make sure everything is stable, then repeating the process until you start getting errors again. This time however when you get errors you won't be bumping the voltage. Set the Frequency back to the last stable settings and stop there for now.

Why not go up in smaller increments right away? Because while you may find the maximum overclock for booting into Windows without errors, it may be too much to do a full 8-12 hour torture test (more on this later).

Multiplier Overclocking

This is more for AMD users. AMD has been releasing Black or Unlocked editions of their CPUs; meaning you can adjust the multiplier not only to a lower setting (IE: 8x from 9x) but also to a higher one (IE: 12x from 9x). Unlike Intel processors that can be heavily overclocked with only their Frequencies, AMD CPUs are very poor overclockers in that respect. They can however be overclocked (particularly the Phenoms) by raising their multiplier. Its essentially the same processor as Frequency Overclocking; raise the mulitiplier, boot into Windows, if it doesn't work bump the voltage, and so on so forth.

RAM Overclocking

The most tedious of any overclocking, and also the least beneficial IMO. Generally I sacrifice RAM timings/frequency in favour of a higher CPU overclock.

Nonetheless, the frequency you can set the RAM at depends on your CPU Bus Speed, and what ratio you run from that. If a higher frequency makes your system unstable try adding a little voltage and loosening (increasing) your timings.

If you're running your RAM at stock or low frequencies you can tighten (lower) the timings on the RAM. Do these in small steps since they can easily make your system unstable.

Stability and Torture Tests

Aside from the obvious errors in the OCing CPU/RAM section (BSODs, Windows hanging, ect) the final test of stability is a Prime95 torture test (make sure to enable round off checking). If Prime95 can run for 2 hours without any errors then your overclock will be fine for most games. 8 to 12 hour torture tests without errors are considered fully stable.

In terms of CPU temps, 40C or lower @ idle is good for air cooling, with ~60C under full load is good for 24/7 settings. Always stay under 70C.

And this is all overclocking is really. Tweaking a setting, testing for stability, lather/rinse/repeat.

Overclocking the GPU

Both ATI and Nvidia drivers come with overclocking tools (ATI Overdrive w/ Catalyst Control Centre and NTune w/ Forceware respectively). Both have sliders in which you can set your Core Clock and Memory Frequency. Most cards can get a good boost to the Core Clock on stock cooling, although I've found Memory Frequency to cap out pretty quickly.

If you want to put your GPU to a higher clock then allowed by Overdrive/NTune then try out ATI Tool and/or Coolbits. Both have a lot less restrictions, allow you to adjust clock speeds, test for artifacting, ect. I don't have much experience with either program so any input here is appreciated.

Final Thoughts

I didn't expect how long this guide would turn out; even when trimming it down to the basics and being as general as possible it proved to be quite a project. I learned much of this myself from Googling overclocking guides/articles, reading tech sites, and just talking to other hermits. The best way to learn something however is through experience, and it really applies to overclocking. Please read this guide in its entirity, and try overclocking your parts before asking me on Xfire/Steam/here how to do something. If anyone has any input to the guide I'm open to suggestions.

Also, re-run those 3DMark06 and SuperPi benchmarks to see how much they've improved.

Thanks for reading everything, and I hope to see a little more orange in the forum. B-*

Let's see of this works, you guys develop parts you want to do and I update them to the first page. I'll add stuff along the way and supervise the whole thing.

Make it happen, you have it in you. B-* to all that help.

(Part 0 trhough 2 are thanks to Infernal. Part 3 is the work of XeNoN. Please do not copy or sell their work without their permission.)

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Oh damn. Nice project.

I could, but it takes a long time. I might type some later if I feel like it. I suggest a copy paste from extremeoverclocking.com or overclockers.com forums. They have very in-depth guides.

Ask 'em if it's ok though B)

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Tools:

Monitoring Software - It's handy to know what voltages and temperatures you're tinkering are producing. A program specific to your MB is often supplied on the driver disk, others include:-

Speedfan - Gives CPU, MB and HD temperatures and also voltages

Core Temp - Neat little program that tells you the core temperature and also the max safe temperature

**Getting Core Temp to Work in Vista64**

Read here to find out how to get Core Temp to work in Vista64

Stability Testing Software

Prime95 - One of the main stability tests when CPU clocking - make sure you enable Round Off Checking in the advanced menu

SP2004 - Prime95 with improved GUI

SP2004 Orthos - SP2004 with added dual core functionality in one instance

OCCT - Nice little program that can be used for a quick 30min stability test

S&M - Contains one of the harshest CPU tests (FPU test) and has been known to kill hardware

Superpi(mod) - CPU benchmark that can also be used for quick stability tests

3dMark - Whole suite of graphics benchmarks that can also be used to test CPU/RAM stability to some degree

Memtest86 - RAM tester, in my opinion it no longer cuts it, Prime Blend seems more sensitive to RAM instability

Other Tools

Clockgen - Allows overclocking in Windows for supported MBs

Systool - Gives a whole suite of overclocking tools

ThrottleWatch - Provides useful indication on whether your CPU is throttling or not

CPU-Z - Provides fairly detailed CPU and RAM information

Everest - Suite of handy tools

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First 3 parts; working on the OCing section. Constructive criticism is appreciated, if you just wanna be a dipshit and pick this apart then fuck off.

General Considerations & Overclocking Introduction

I decided to merge the Theory of Overclocking section with General Considerations.

Before I get into this guide I'd like to comment on the biggest myth of PC gaming. PC gaming is not expensive; unless you want it to be. You don't have to run every game at 1920x1200 w/ 8AA and 16AF to enjoy PC gaming. Its called Personal Computer Gaming for a reason; its about customization. Customization that no other system or even combination of systems can match. A $400-600 upgrade can play the same games as a $5000 tri-SLI water-cooled Penryn setup; just not at the same settings obviously.

Always build a system around two major factors; what resolution you want to play at, and what budget you want to pay. More on this in the Parts section.

For those of you that don't know what overclocking is, it's simply increasing the speed of computer components beyond stock/standard values. Overclocking greatly increases the value and lifespan of your PC; and I personally consider it mandatory on any system I build. Don't expect overclocking to make everything start running at 60fps solid all of the sudden. You will of course see framerate improvements and faster load times, but the main benefits of overclocking are increasing the lifespan of parts, and allowing you to buy cheaper parts.

As a warning: overclocking can void your parts' warranties depending on the manufacturer. Most situations I've had with parts breaking down is because of fans dying after a long period of time (mostly power supplies and graphics cards). The risk of actually destroying a component when overclocking is very low nowadays. Everything will shut down before shit hits the fan.

I'm writing this guide to overclock components that are running stable 24/7 with gaming in mind, not just looking for maximum speeds for benchmark purposes. If you're trying for maximum benchmarks then you already know about overclocking anyway; why the fuck are you reading this guide? :-*

I'll take any constructive criticism and adjust things to make this article better. If for some reason you want to be a jackass and criticize anything here (my writing style, what parts I recommend, or my methods) without contributing then go fuck yourself. :glad:

Choosing Your Parts

This is one section I'd really like some input from other hermits for in terms of parts to buy. Don't just say "wait for..." since something new is always coming out, try to stick to current parts.

Overclocking begins with choosing the right parts for your system. Some noteworthy things;

- When building with overclocking in mind; never ever skimp on the motherboard and power supply (a quality 500W >>> cheapo 700W). Overclocked parts get power hungry on your PSU, and if you go cheapo on the MOBO don't expect to get good results.

- Your CPU is going to be Intel. Historically they have generally been the better overclockers over AMD, and that holds true today.

- Core 2 Duos generally give better game performance today, but Core 2 Quads/Penryns are more future-proof and better for many RTS games.

- An after market heatsink (HSF) isn't required for overclocking your CPU/GPU, but will greatly increase the results.

- Intel Extreme and Nvidia GTX like products (high end hardware) are only worth the price of admission near launch. Don't bother with them afterwards unless you got a lot of money to burn.

- I have no experience with water-cooling, but its generally only for big-budget systems.

- Keep in mind many after market HSFs are massive and require a large enough case to fit in.

- Use Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste for your CPU. The thermal goop that comes with CPUs/HSFs is generally crap.

- Be award of what Chipset your MOBO has. If you want to go SLI you'll most likely have to use a Nvidia based chipset instead of an Intel based board. For the best OCing potential always try to go with the CPU manufacturer's chipset when possible.

- DDR2-667 and DDR2-800 are the best values for RAM ATM. 2GB is the perfect amount for most games today on XP; 3 and 4GB from most of the benchmarks I've seen are mostly marginal improvements.

- On that note: XP > Vista. Wait a couple service packs and DX10/10.1 to be worth a damn before you even think about moving to Vista.

- Shop around. Prices for computer parts change daily so you can almost always find a deal on whatever you're looking for.

Some good sites for computer parts that I've dealt with;

NCIX: http://www.ncix.com/ - These guys have a brand new sale every 2 weeks (when one ends another begins), they'll price match, awesome service, and is my personal favourite. They ship to both Canada and the US, and if you're outside of BC in Canada you only pay GST. They're order processing may take a bit longer then some others but its worth it.

DirectCanada: http://www.directcanada.com/ - Another BC based computer store. They have lots of surprise specials, deals, and air shipping for $10 on low weight (5lbs or less) shipments. They're a lot like NCIX (processing can take awhile), but won't ship to US or price match.

Newegg: http://www.newegg.com/ - Ship to Canada damnit.

If you have another site to add lemme know. I don't know many American/European retailers unfortunately.

With those pointers in mind, heres some parts to consider;

CPU: E2180 (excellent dual core performance, overclocks very well, and dirt cheap), or Q6600 (best bang for your buck quad core, overclocks to 3.2GHz [from 2.4] easily, and future-proof)

Heatsinks: Tuniq Tower, Arctic Freezer 7, Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme (theres more, open to recommendations)

MOBO: Any motherboard from a decent manufacturer (ASUS, Gigabyte, ect) that says P35 or the most recent Nvidia MOBOs (600 series, 700s are starting to come out).

RAM: 2GB DDR2-667 or DDR2-800, whichever is on sale at the time. Always get RAM with heatspeaders on them.

No heatspreaders;

Spoiler
20-141-198-07.jpg

Heatspreaders;

Spoiler
20-146-565-05.jpg

GPU: ATI 3850 256mb ($180, only if you're 1440x900/1280x1024 or lower), 8800GT 256mb ($200, for 1440x900/1280x1024 or lower), 8800GT 512mb ($250, for 1680x1050/1600x1200 or even 1920x1200)

GPU Heatsinks: To be updated.

PSU: If you're building a single GPU system all you need is 500W. If you want to go SLI/CF 600W is generally a minimum for 2, and go up from there for 3/4 GPUs. Always buy from a quality manufacturer like Cooler Master, Corsair, or Thermaltake. Theres other good manufacturers as well, but those come to mind first.

Optimal Installation

Building your own PC is our own right of passage as hermits. Any idoit can buy an overpriced dell/hp/compaq/alienware and toss in a 8800 GT. That doesn't make them a PC gamer.

Nonetheless, always start with just your MOBO outside of the case. Insert the CPU and apply Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste to it following these instructions; http://www.arcticsilver.com/arctic_silver_instructions.htm

Just pick which kind of CPU you have and follow the instructions given. Install the heatsink on the CPU following the included instructions.

Leave the MOBO alone now that the CPU/HSF are installed on it. Grab your Case and install the PSU(s), HDD(s), DVD-ROM(s). Its a lot easier to do this without the MOBO in the case.

Most decent Cases have holes on the motherboard tray;

P160_inside.jpg

If you want to improve airflow in your case run all the PSU cables behind the tray and tie-wrap them down. This isn't necessary, but does offer a nicer looking interior and better airflow.

Not mine, but an example.

newcase2.jpg

With the PSU and everything in the case, install the MOBO (instructions come with the case). Throw in your RAM/GPU, plug the PSU into everything, and attach the HDDs/DVD-ROMs.

If you want to go any more indepth with case mods hit up Google, I have no experience with them. B)

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Nothing wrong with buying value ram without heat spreaders

you can easily apply heatsinks to it and save yourself some money :glad:

Same thing if you can find it cheaper. Forgot about that. :glad:

Also i have knowledge on case modding :D

Share? :glad:

I'd love to

but i need to know what u wanna know

there's about hundreds of different things i've done to pc cases :happysad:

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Nothing wrong with buying value ram without heat spreaders

you can easily apply heatsinks to it and save yourself some money :glad:

Same thing if you can find it cheaper. Forgot about that. :|

Also i have knowledge on case modding :glad:

Share? :glad:

I'd love to

but i need to know what u wanna know

there's about hundreds of different things i've done to pc cases :happysad:

Anything specific that could relate to proper installation, or better airflow? :D

Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing wrong with buying value ram without heat spreaders

you can easily apply heatsinks to it and save yourself some money :D

Same thing if you can find it cheaper. Forgot about that. :D

Also i have knowledge on case modding :glad:

Share? :|

I'd love to

but i need to know what u wanna know

there's about hundreds of different things i've done to pc cases :happysad:

Anything specific that could relate to proper installation, or better airflow? :glad:

modding doesn't have much to do with proper installation :D

for better airflow simply create more spots for a fan

It's incredibly simple. Just need a drill and one of these

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=178399-28303-30166-K66L&lpage=none

course the size varies depending on what type of fan it is(as in what mm)

that and fan grills can be found anywhere

I'm going to be building a new rig at the end of january.

I'll document the whole process(with pics and all)

Most likely going to mod the case a bit with new fan holes and cut the side panel for a custom window :glad:

I prefer custom cuts since I get to be creative :o

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