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The term overclocking is thrown around a lot, for better or worse. If you're one of the many who has never overclocked, this guide will explain what it is and how to do it to the computers' processor, motherboard and memory. - Version 1.0.0

The prospect of overclocking a computer system can be intimidating for a computer newcomer, to say the least. The idea is simple enough; make the computer's processor run faster than its stock speed to gain more performance without paying for it. The execution of this idea though, can be anything but simple.

Successful overclocking is as often a matter of 'what you know' as 'what you have'. Understanding the maze of hardware dependencies and tweaks that can make the difference between a successful overclock and total failure is a demanding practice.

In this Beginners Guide, PCSTATS will explore the process of overclocking processors, motherboards and memory to achieve a faster yet still stable computer. The article will guide readers step-by-step through understanding overclocking concepts, how to discover their hardware's overclocking options and the actual process of overclocking. If you consider yourself an expert already, read on - there are a few tips and tricks packed into this guide that you may not know... or have a look at our recent experiment with underclocking. For insight into videocard overclocking, please see our companion guide on that subject right here.

What Does Overclocking Do?

Overclocking a computer's processor or memory causes it to go faster than its factory rated speed. A processor rated at 2.4GHz might be overclocked to 2.5GHz or 2.6GHz, while memory rated at 200MHz might be pushed to 220MHz or higher. The extra speed results in more work being done by the processor and/or memory in a given time period, increasing the overall computing performance of the PC.

Can Overclocking Damage Computer Hardware?

Yes, but it's typically unlikely. Generally speaking, when computer hardware is pushed beyond its limits, it will lock up, crash or show other obvious errors long before it gets to the point where the processor or memory might be permanently damaged. The exception to this is if extreme voltages are used when attempting to overclock, but since most motherboards do not support extremely high voltages, and neither does this guide, it's not likely to be an issue.

For older processors, heat is also a factor worth keeping a close eye on. Modern processors have thermal sensors which will slow down or shut off the PC, but older CPUs do not necessarily feature these safety devices. The best know example of this is the AMD AthlonXP (socket A/462), which was famous for burning itself up in less than 5 seconds if the heatsink was not installed properly (or at all).

The Purpose of Overclocking

The most obvious reason to overclock a computer system is to squeeze some additional performance out of it at little or no cost. Overclocking the processor and system memory can significantly boost game performance, benchmark scores and even simple desktop tasks. Since almost every modern processor and memory module is overclockable to at least a slight degree, there are few reasons not to attempt it.


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