Overclocking my processor.
June 20, 2007 10:30 AM   Subscribe

Overlocking-filter: I am building a new computer (my first attempt) and I wanted advice on overclocking my processor. I'm installing an Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 and I've heard it's great for overclocking, even with the stock cooler. Can anyone give me tips or a guide to doing this?

I'm building my first computer and my primary goal will be to get the machine working. After that, however, I'd like to overclock my processor, since I've heard it's easy and that the E6420 rseponds well. I am just using the factory fan and heatsink, but I heard I can still overclock it pretty well with these. Does anyone have any advice or a recommendation on a guide to use? Also, does anyone have an E6420 and have experience with its overclockability? Thanks!
posted by Aanidaani to Computers & Internet (12 answers total)
First of all you are going to have to buy more expensive components to overclock. Are you really going to use the extra performance? It will also void the warranty on the processor.

Just read a lot of the overclocking articles and you will get a feel of how to do it. Research the best motherboard and RAM speed you need.
posted by mphuie at 11:28 AM on June 20, 2007

I used to overclock quite a bit.

The most important thing is to get a motherboard that is meant for overclocking so that you can adjust to your hearts content. You might consider posting in the forums at HardOCP or Toms Hardware.

Once you have the system set up, make sure you keep the cooling under control. You can burn up your CPU in seconds if your cooling setup is not good.
posted by Argyle at 11:29 AM on June 20, 2007

You don't need to worry about burning up the processor - Intels have thermal protection in case they get too hot (as in this video) - it'll just crash lots instead.

Make sure you get a decent power supply to cope with the power needed for the extra speed.
posted by JonB at 12:49 PM on June 20, 2007

I agree with Argyle. The motherboard is usually the key to easy and successful overclocking. I will also emphasize again that you can easily destroy your CPU or significantly reduce the life expectancy of your computer if you don't do it properly.

Make certain that you know how to clear your BIOS settings, because your system may become unbootable if you get too aggressive with your settings. Almost every MB has two or three pins on it that are used to clear the BIOS settings. If you board doesn't have those pins then you will have to remove the board's battery and wait awhile for the CMOS memory to clear.

I don't know where you bought your components, but I usually order mine from newegg.com. In addition to having great prices and service, they usually have lots of customer reviews of the components they sell. By reading those reviews I can usually find out what is the best or most popular equipment to buy, and also find out what settings and other components (like memory and CPU fans) others have used with that equipment to overclock their systems successfully.
posted by 14580 at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2007

Make sure you get really good quality RAM as well; ram instability at high clock rates can cause a lot of issues unrelated to the CPU when you're doing this.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:01 PM on June 20, 2007

The best advice you'll get here is DON'T.

1. The performance boost is almost always negligible.
2. This is your first build, and you've got plenty to learn about not burning a proc without OC issues.
3. Your proc is almost certainly not your PC's bottleneck. That's usually RAM and Hard Drive.
4. Doing an OC right involves really good heatsinks and fans at a minimum, and this will come to a premium in the neighborhood of at least $50, probably more. And again, this is for a very modest speed bump.
5. Money again. This is your first time, and odds are very good that you'll accidentally let the smoke out of your nice, shiny chip. No manufacturer or retailer warrants this.

Seriously, weigh the benefits with the risk/trouble/cost. You're best off just being happy with a healthy Core 2 Duo. They're pretty damned fast fresh out of the box as intended.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:03 PM on June 20, 2007

You don't need to worry about burning up the processor - Intels have thermal protection in case they get too hot (as in this video) - it'll just crash lots instead.

This is crap. I've seen plenty of recent Intels burn. It's true that they have thermal sensors and auto shut off, but they don't always shut off in time to prevent Magic Smoke Evacuation.

As long as Overclocking isn't intended by the manufacturer, the engineers won't design for it. Thermal shutdown doesn't come anywhere near to eliminating this risk.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:13 PM on June 20, 2007

I promise I'll shut up after this...

I'm not saying you should never, ever overclock any system.

I'm just saying that you're new to this, and you're probably building a nice, new PC that you're going to expect work from.

This is not the PC to overclock, and it's not the point on your learning curve to do it.

If you let this one serve you for a year or two before attempting the OC, then the time it's already run will serve as a pretty good burn-in period, and you'll be about due for an upgrade anyway.

Then even if you do fry it, a replacement will be cheap, and you'll have learned a bit more about building PCs.
posted by SlyBevel at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2007

my primary goal will be to get the machine working

For that reason in your post alone, you should not be overclocking this machine. Overclocking is what you do on a separate non-critical/fooling around machine. Even if you get the overclocking right the first time, the last thing you want to happen is for your machine to reboot as you're working on an important document because your processor/memory/motherboard overheated.
posted by junesix at 1:27 PM on June 20, 2007

These guys are all a bunch of weenies. The hardware zone dudez clearly show that it's possible to run your chosen CPU way over spec and get performance in excess of CPUs costing 3x as much.

Personally though, the time I loose from one extra full-system crash (or, god forbid, a rebuild due to a corrupted disk) is worth way more than the performance boost, and I don't see overclocking as an end in itself, so its not worth it to me.
posted by Good Brain at 1:33 PM on June 20, 2007

and get performance in excess of CPUs costing 3x as much

It really depends on the CPU. Back in the days of PIIs and PIIIs, overclocking had the probability of being a good deal. Even back then how much performance increase you can squeeze out of a CPU depended a lot of the batch of CPUs (like, which month they were produces and from which factory) but even then it was still a crapshoot.

With current technology, unless you're a hobbyist, the gains from overclocking the CPU are insubstatial.

Overclocking is more of a hobby or something you do to an older processor when you don't/can't spend the money for upgrading.

For the neophyte overclocker, get some quality RAM and play around with the timing in BIOS. NVidia cards, with the "coolbits" registry adjustment are another great area to start playing around with overclocking (GPU frequency and RAM frequency/timing).

I've been out of the game for a while but Abit motherboards used to be the path-of-least-resistance towards overclocking because of the extremely friendly BIOS.
posted by porpoise at 3:32 PM on June 20, 2007

I'm in the camp that says it's not really worth it, but overclocking is quite a bit easier than it used to be (there's no fiddling around with physical pins or anything, like in the good ol' Celeron 300A days) and a bit more mainstream, now that companies are putting out fast DDR2-800/1066 memory and overclocked video cards and the like. Light overclocks are a lot more common than they used to be, and don't require much in the way of voltage/front speed bus adjustments. The key elements are motherboard and memory, but overclock-friendly versions of both are readily available for cheap prices (ex. Gigabyte's GA-965-DS3 has a solid reputation as a cheap o/c motherboard, and pretty much any DDR-800 or even CAS 4 DDR-667 will work for overclocks).

Your best bet, if you're new to overclocking, is to get a decent motherboard with simple overclocking features. The MSI motherboard I just stuck into this system has what I like to call a kiddy overclock: basically in the BIOS, you set a certain level of overclock (with cheesy names like "Sergeant" and "Commander" to indicate how much you're o/cing), and that's it. No fiddling around with voltages or FSBs or anything. The tradeoff for easy overclocking is that the boost in performance will be smaller than if you took the reins and did it yourself, but the built-in overclock settings are probably designed to make sure you don't do anything incredibly stupid.

Should you screw up an overclock, catastrophic things can happen, but even that isn't that common these days. For example, the board I just put in? Rescued it from another rig that went belly-up when its previous owner (my father, natch) was a bit too aggressive with the overclocking and fried the motherboard.

Or so he thought—after buying a replacement board, he found out that it was likely he hadn't actually damaged anything, and if he just let the board sit for a while without a CPU and CMOS battery, it would be peachy keen in about a week. I don't know the specifics of the method behind the madness, but it worked, and so I got a free motherboard out of the deal. Anyways, the point is that computer components these days aren't that fragile; as stated above, you're far more likely to suffer repeated crashes than an actual failed part.
posted by chrominance at 3:37 PM on June 20, 2007

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