As expert bikers will tell you, every machine is capable of a lot more than what its specifications say it could handle. By tuning the bike engine correctly, one can derive a lot better performance from it, taking it beyond its limitations. Similarly a piece of computer hardware like a processor, graphic card or a memory card can deliver higher performance through overclocking. However, it is a very delicate procedure, which needs thorough understanding of the various dependencies that influence hardware performance.
A valid question that may arise in the mind of budding overclockers who plan to derive better performance from their existing computer hardware is whether overclocking can actually make a difference. That's exactly what I have tried to answer in this Techspirited article. After providing you with an overview of what overclocking a CPU is all about, I discuss the benefits and risks of this procedure.
About Overclocking Computer Hardware
Every electronic circuit in a computer, including the processor, graphic card, front side bus and memory is operated by a clocking frequency, which decides its speed of performance. Through overclocking, these computer hardware devices can be made to perform at a higher clocking frequency, beyond set limitations, boosting overall computer performance in the process.
For example, a processor with a base clocking frequency of 1.8 GHz can be made to perform at a clocking frequency beyond 2 GHz. This is achieved by tweaking the FSB frequency, providing a higher memory, core and chipset voltage. Due to the higher voltages supplied, extra cooling equipment is required to prevent overheating. Let us now consider the advantages, as well as disadvantages or risks of overclocking.
Advantages of Overclocking
One of the obvious benefits of this technique is the marginal improvement in computer performance, without hardware upgrades. Instead of paying for a brand new processor with a higher clocking frequency, you can derive a comparable performance from your existing processor through overclocking. Thus, overclocking can be cost-effective in a sense and it also saves your existing hardware from going into abeyance due to upgrades.
Another advantage is the enrichment of your cerebrum with some real knowledge of the working of a computer system. You get a real nut and bolt feel of what's happening under the hood. You get to understand firsthand, how the processor, motherboard and memory modules work together to make the computer work.
Risks of Overclocking
So what are the risks involved? The biggest risk of course, is permanent hardware damage, which can be caused by overheating of components, because of incorrect voltage settings and improper cooling mechanism. If you are foolhardy in changing the voltage settings, you may simply end up frying the processor. This makes it increasingly important that you learn the craft before attempting overclocking. Another risk lies in the fact that your motherboard and other computer hardware warranties becomes void, after you have tampered with the voltage settings. I would suggest that you try out overclocking 'expendable' old computer hardware, as a test run, perfect your technique and then implement it on processors that are in use.
Does Overclocking Really Improve Performance?
Overclocking works and the millions of computer enthusiasts who have benefited from it, can stand testimony to its advantages. When you overclock correctly and arrange for adequate cooling equipment, you will see an improvement in overall computer performance. The amount of improvement you will see, may be anywhere between 5% to more than 10% depending on the processor, motherboard and your overclocking procedure. Unless you are into gaming or running CPU intensive tasks like video editing, it would be overkill. However, those who need that extra computing power, will find overclocking to be worthwhile.
To sum it all up, I would say, YES, overclocking does make a difference and help you gain better performance from your computer, but it comes with many inherent risks, that you need to take into consideration. Don't attempt it without proper know-how. If you study the intricacies of overclocking, take adequate precautions and are confident of pulling off a coup, go ahead. Know what you are doing, know how far you can push hardware limits, understand the risks, prepare for them and only then begin the overclocking operation. There is plenty of online help in the form of forums, run by expert overclockers, who can provide you with information about the risks involved. There are high chances that your first bid might fail, but with practice, you will only get better. A recommended read for all budding overclockers is 'The Book of Overclocking: Tweak Your PC to Unleash Its Power', by Robert Richmond and Scott Wainner. Good luck!