Overclocking for Newbies

Overclocking your processor can give your PC a significant speed boost--but you have to be careful

Note that the only other change we made was to manually set the DRAM frequency to 1333MHz. That's it--and the system ran for several hours under stress testing.

Stress Testing

If you overclock your system, it makes sense to run a stress test to confirm the system's stability. For serious stress testing, it's hard to beat the combination of FurMark running simultaneously with four instances of Prime 95.

Both of these programs have specific modes for conducting repetitive stress testing. Setting up that test takes a little work and knowledge, but running the two tests concurrently pushes a system hard. If all you want to do is test CPU stability, Prime95 should work fine by itself.

Another testing option is a robust system benchmark like PCMark Vantage. Unfortunately, many such programs cost money these days, as do utilities with stress-testing elements, such as SiSoftware Sandra. Still, you can generally get by with the free software we use for most stress testing.

You can save yourself a little money and gain a little performance by overclocking your CPU. Of course, here we've touched only on CPU overclocking. It's also possible to overclock memory and graphics cards. But pushing all three PC subsystems simultaneously is an advanced topic that requires patience and lots of stress testing.

So check out your motherboard's capabilities and dip your toes in the water. You should find that bumping your system up one speed grade is easy. But be cautious in your approach, and don't try to push too hard. If you're willing to limit yourself to one or two bumps in performance, you should end up with a stable system that's a little faster.

This story, "Overclocking for Newbies" was originally published by PCWorld.

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