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How to give your PC a free performance boost with overclocking

 

Improving your PC’s performance is always welcome. But when it comes for free? That’s particularly sweet. Give it up, therefore, for processor overclocking. The basic idea is simple enough – to increase the operating frequency of your PC processor and in turn unleash more performance. But how is it actually done?

A quick Google search will throw up countless guides, many of which are excellent, however, there is no substitute for getting hands on with the help of experts. If that sounds like something that you would like to do, there’s a LAN party with your name on it. It’s called DreamHack Winter and it’s the biggest of its kind on the planet.

The world’s biggest festival for PC gamers, eSports enthusiasts and digital artists, DreamHack is held in countries all over Europe including Sweden, France, Romania and Spain. Intel is running a series of master classes at DreamHack Winter to help PC enthusiasts get the most from their rigs.

At the most recent instalment of DreamHack in London, OC3D.net founder and renown PC hardware guru and OC3D.net founder Tom Logan gave workshop attendees a masterclass in overclocking.

As Logan suggests, you could actually say Intel’s latest CPUs have a little automatic overclocking already built in. Intel Turbo Boost technology accelerates processor performance for peak loads, automatically allowing processor cores to run faster than the rated operating frequency.

By tweaking settings like the CPU divider and voltage, you can unleash significantly more performance

Take the Intel Core i7-6700K as an example. “It’s 4GHz out of the box and turbos up to 4.2GHz, but we can show you how to make it run even better with overclocking,” Logan says. Some PC motherboards have automatic overclocking features, which will give you a little extra at the flick of a switch. But if you want to take the next step and access even more performance, hand tuning is where it’s at.

By tweaking settings like the CPU divider and voltage, you can unleash significantly more performance. As with any significant change to BIOS settings, you should always proceed with caution and make changes in small steps rather than big leaps. However, most modern motherboards have buttons or switches to quickly revert settings to default. So the risks are relatively low.

Of course, there are a lot of variables that will decide just how fast a given CPU will run, including the quality of your power supply, heat sink performance, airflow through your PC case, CPU model and more. But what’s the most important single factor? Over to Logan. “If you’re overclocking, cooling is the single most important thing you can spend money on.”

Buy a decent CPU cooler, in other words. What’s more, according Logan the fact that your CPU will boot up at a given speed doesn’t mean it will remain stable. “I run a 30 minute stability check for each big settings change. When you think you’re happy with the new setting, run it for at least three to four hours, just let it run and get really hot,” Logan says. If it’s still stable after that, you’re good to go.

Logan also reckons overclocking is about more than just pure speed. “The workshop has been really good because we’ve got one set of people trying to overclock their systems to the maximum and another set trying to lower the voltage for cooler, quieter running. That’s the great thing about overclocking. More performance, lower temperatures, less noise – it’s all available to you from your PC’s BIOS menu.”

Get really good and you may be able to achieve it all – more performance at the same time as less noise and lower temperatures. Quite literally, it’s win, win, win. If that sounds good, why not swing past the next instalment of DreamHack and rub along with thousands of other PC and gaming enthusiasts while you’re at it. For more about DreamHack Winter and to find a list of upcoming DreamHack events around Europe, point your browser at http://dreamhack.se/ — Jeremy Laird (@lairdinho)

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