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Phenom II Overclocking Guide

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So you're here looking for some good info to help you learn how to overclock your Phenom II (hereafter referred to as PhII's). And in the absence of a dedicated PhII guide, I decided that I would try my hand at helping everyone out.

First off, I do not claim to be the most experienced user/overclocker out there, or even on this forum. That said, I do feel that I have a pretty good handle on things, and have helped out enough people that are new to this, that I know mostly what they need to know to get started with their own OC.

A few Questions before we get started:


Do you have an OEM (prebuilt) computer?


I have seen a lot of people ask for help OC'in a prebuilt computer... which unfortunately, you cannot do (except through software, and we really don't recommend that, because almost all OC'in programs have terrible reputations as far as system stability is concerned [AOD is one notable exception]).You are unable to OC because the mobo is locked... meaning, none of the options in the BIOS that you need are able to be changed. Now, you can get a cheap mobo if you really want, but you should know a few things first. If that's what your plan is, read through THIS, just so you're aware of what will happen.


Do you have proper cooling?


OC'in is basically pushing a chip past its designed speed, so it only makes sense that the cooling system would need to be up to the larger demand that is placed upon it through the added clock speed and voltage. Now, you can OC some with a stock cooler, but we recommend that you keep your CPU under about 55 degrees Celsius for its full load temp, because that is the low end of AMD's max rated temps. So some OC'in can be done with a stock heatsink, but don't expect to get as far, because you wont be able to push the voltage much past stock. For more information about how high performance heatsinks work and which ones to look for, or how you can make do with your stock cooler, check HERE and HERE.

Can the rest of your machine handle it? (PSU and cooling check)

Often people that are looking to OC are looking for improved performance in games, which often includes a new graphics card and the aforementioned overclocking. An overclocked CPU will draw more power than it did at stock clocks, and better graphics cards almost always require more power, so you need to make sure your PSU can power all of the upgrades. While this is less of a problem with enthusiast built computers, for people looking to upgrade or build for the first time, it is important to mention that the PSU is something that you should never skimp on. The PSU can make or break the whole system (literally), so I don't see why people would try to just barely get by with one. For more reading on this topic, check THIS out, as it can help you figure out how much power you really need, and which brands to look for.


Are you looking at upgrading to a PhII?


I did this same thing, and decided that I would post some benchmarks when I made the switch from my 4600 brisbane to my 720 BE. You can see the results of the test HERE. Hopefully that will help you decided (as if the barrage of professional reviews on the web weren't enough to make up your mind).


Some important info before you start: (Do you have a Black Edition or not?)

There are two ways to OC the AM3 chips, and both have their own advantages. The first way is for those of you that bought a Black Edition processor. You probably know that you can increase the clock speed by just raising the CPU multiplier. The advantage of this is that you can increase the clock speed easily, without changing any of the other speeds or settings (because the reference clock isn't being adjusted, no other settings will need to be changed).

The second way is by raising the reference clock, This is what those of you that have non-Black Edition processors will have to do. It will sound more complicated, but in all reality, its not that difficult, its the way that people have been overclocking for ages, and it has the added bonus that you can overclock things other than just the CPU clock speed (namely the ram, as well as the Northbridge and Hypertransport speeds), which can provide additional performance benefits over just changing the CPU clock speed. So, like many other things, the additional time that is spent perfecting the OC this way, can definitely pay off for those of you that are looking for the most performance that you can get.

While there are various methods and theories to achieve this end, I will show you how I generally do it. It is slightly less scientific than the one that is laid out in Durches guide, but it is also faster to do. If you want the more precise method, try looking at Durches excellent AM2 guide, you will just need to apply some of what you learn here to that guide, as the AM3 chips are slightly different, but the concepts are almost identical. Done properly, each should get you about the same max OC, so just take your pick as the methods can easily be incorporated into the same OC.


Reference clock overclocking:

We'll start with the old school way of OC'in, as this is the one that most people struggle with. Start out by raising the reference clock a few MHz at a time (try 5 or so to begin with). The overall clock speed is based on the reference clock and the CPU multiplier, so by changing this, you will be raising this by 60-100MHz per step. We do it a little bit at a time, because when instabilities surface, it is infinitely easier to find out what is the cause, when you only have one or two things that should be causing it. After each increase in speed, you need to check for stability.

Now, to be considered fully stable, you need to run a program like Orthos, OCCT or prime95 for at least 6-12 hours, but while working with your OC, you don't need to run it near that long. You're just trying to find out if its even close to being stable at the speed it is at right now. In general, if I pass one of the above tests for more than 5 minutes, I'll reboot and continue pushing the OC. Run the longer tests when you think you're where you want to end up, and if it fails before those 6-12 hours, then lower the OC, and try running it again. Otherwise, you're risking running an unstable system for every day, 24/7 usage. Trust me, you do not want to do that, its not worth what it costs for those few additional MHz.

*(primarily you risk corrupting your operating system, as a system that will run your OS, but not pass a stability test will start to perpetuate small errors, and those will eventually be saved to the HDD. That translates into one day your computer runs just fine, the next it wont boot, and there is really nothing you can do to salvage the OS other than to try and save your data, and then reinstall).

Following this pattern, you should likely get the reference clock to about 220-235 before you run into any problems (not a guarantee, but that is based on my experiences here). So now we have a system that is unstable. I will tell you right now, that about 85-90% of the time when you become unstable at this point, its because of the ram being overclocked. Because you have been OC'in with the reference clock, you have also been raising the speed of the ram, because like I said earlier, it is tied to pretty much everything. You can check if it is the ram by running memtest (tests 5 and 8 are the most rigorous, so we usually recommend you run those about 30 minutes each). You should know pretty quick if the ram is your problem.


What to do when you encounter ram instability:

To get you past system instability in this case, all you need to do is lower the ram speed setting in the BIOS to the next lowest setting. (If you're running your ram at DDR1333 in the BIOS, then change the setting to DDR1066 for example). The ram speed setting is what we like to call a “divider”. In 'normal speak' this means that the speed of the ram is based on a simple formula. When you change the speed setting to a lower value, you are really just dividing by a larger number, so the speed of the ram goes down. To get a much more in depth understanding of how this works, read THIS. For a more basic understanding, I would recommend checking THIS about memory speed and their timings, as many people get them confused.


North Bridge, Hypertransport and IMC:

So now you have likely overcome your first instability, and are just cruising right along. The next issue you are likely to have when doing this, is either the NB (NorthBridge) or HT (HyperTransport). The NB effects the speed that the ram communicates with the CPU, while the HT deals with how fast the CPU communicates with the rest of the components on the motherboard (it essential replaced the FSB for those of you intel (or pre socket 754 AMD) owners out there). The NB and HT are related, and in fact, you can't set the NB speed any higher than the HT speed. Overclocking the HT speed has been shown to provide only marginal improvements in performance (perhaps in cases when multiple high end GPU's are being used). In fact, most of the time people find that there is almost negligible difference in performance between overclocked and underclocked HT's. This is primarily because the HT has such a large bandwidth, that it is rarely saturated with information, so an increase or decrease in speed often is hard to notice. You can see that HERE.

*The HT is really more important for multi-socket Servers, as the communications between CPU's and components becomes much more important.

The NB is where things can get quite confusing for people. The NB is between the CPU and the IMC, and the IMC is the Integrated Memory Controller. So you can see that having this go faster will make the memory faster. So obviously the NB speed can be very beneficial to increase. The memory access times and read/writes often go down quite a bit when the NB is OC'd. In fact, this is part of why the memory speeds of the PhII's are so much faster than the original phenoms (you can see this HERE). From tests and reviews that I have seen, you can expect that most AM3 chips will hit 2.4-2.8GHz on the NB, although that will likely require some additional CPU/NB voltage and/or cooling to ensure stability. Read through THIS thread if you have more questions about NB and NB/CPU voltage and settings, it is one of the better sources I have found for good info on that topic.

Another excellent source is has been provided by our very own "Tator Tot", and it does a great job explaining what the voltages actually do, and what they are often referred to in the BIOS. Check it out HERE.

Right now we're still on our quest for more clock speed, so if you encounter instability right now, try lowering the NB and HT multipliers, so that their speeds are closer to the stock values. You should be fine if the values are within a few hundred MHz or so (obviously lower speeds would work as well).


If the OC is still unstable:

If you do that and the OC is still unstable, the chances are just that you need more voltage (usually marked as the Vcore in the BIOS). While what increasing the voltage does is actually quite technical, its effects are essentially to help stabilize an unstable processor, but it does this at the price of increased heat, and higher power consumption. In general, there is a point of diminishing return for increasing voltage for higher clock speed. You should be able to notice this as it will take much larger increases in voltage for the same increase in clock speed. Regardless, increase the voltage a little (I generally do one increment at a time, as you don't want to increase the voltage more than necessary) and press on. Keep in mind that you should keep an eye on the temps, and that we usually strive to stay under about 55c for the loaded temps (the temps while you're doing the stress testing).

*Note that AMD has noted a max safe voltage of 1.55v for the Phenom II's, although generally I would not recommend going above 1.5v for 24/7 use.

Continue to do this until you have reached a point where no matter what you do, you cant seem to get any farther with the OC, no matter what you try to adjust at least one thing will hold you back. Sometimes it will be voltage, for others it will be temps, and even for others it will be the processor has hit its maximum performance.

Once you get your max clock speed, try changing some of the settings, and see if you can't squeak a little more performance out of it, by raising the ram, HT and NB speed settings one at a time (one at a time is important, otherwise figuring out what caused what is almost impossible). You can try increasing the voltage to each of those if they are borderline stable, and that can often give you that little bit that you needed to get the OC stabilized. I will say that generally raising the NB voltage has more of an effect than the others, especially at higher reference clock values.

Once you're set on your OC, don't forget to run a stability test for at least 6-12hrs.


Multiplier Overclocking

For those of you with Black Editions, you can just increase the CPU multiplier until it is unstable, increase vcore to fix it, and keep going until you hit the limits on either temps, or voltage. Of course, you could also use some of the principles that you learned reading through here to max out your OC. You just have the additional flexibility of changing your multiplier. For instance, you have the ability to increase your multiplier farther than anyone else, which lets you do something like this. Lets say that you are stable at 3.6GHz (200*18) but not anywhere past that. To improve the total system performance, you could lower the multi to 17 and raise the reference clock to 211, and achieve slightly better performance. Doing it this way you also seeming dodge most of the bullet when it comes to having to tweak the ram speed settings and the like, since the reference clock is still so low.

*Note: You will "usually" be ok using the above method, but overclocking is anything but a guarantee, so depending on your setup, you still might need to tweak things a bit.

Good luck, and if you have any questions or are still running into issues, don't forget to post your problem (not in this thread though, make another one smile.gif), that's what the forum is for wink.gif

Other comments:


You might have people tell you that it is better to have really high reference clock values, and a lower CPU multi (All CPU's have their multiplier unlocked in the downward direction, but black edition chips have it unlocked upwards, which is what makes them special). That information is not very relevant to AMD chips anymore as all AMD chips since the 754's have used the reference clock and HT, instead of the front side bus (FSB). Since the overall HT, NB and clock speeds are what are important, it isn't as important how you get there when it is based off of the reference clock. That advice is much more applicable for CPU's that still utilize the FSB. The FSB is used to communicate between the CPU and everything else on the motherboard (ram, GPU's, PCI, everything). So having the FSB be faster would help the computer be faster in general, since everything was running faster.

This is also a slightly outdated concept in terms of max clock speed as well. With most PhII's being able to reach 3.6-4GHz, it would take reference clock speeds upwards of 300 if a low CPU multiplier was used. Most AMD boards will have a hard time reaching those speeds, so in general I would leave the CPU multiplier at its stock value, in order to get the max overall clock speed.

I've tried to include many useful links in this thread, but most of them are "hidden" in the main text, For this reason I'm going to be listing them here for easier access, although I'll still be leaving them where they are as well.

Overclocking Guides:
Official AMD "Dragon" Overclocking guide

Durches AM2+ Overclocking Guide

Important info for OEM computer owners:
http://www.overclock.net/amd-general/525108-important-note-oem-computers-looking-upgrade.html#post6475100

AM2 (brisbane) vs PhII 720 BE "review"

AM3 Motherboard buyers guide

Air Cooling:
How Heatpiped coolers work

Guide: Temperatures, heatsinks, monitoring and more

Hardware information:
PSU Basics/Buyers Guide

Ram Basics: For those that don't speak nerd

HT Link explored

NB Speeds

NB Speeds, which is best?

Tator Tots "AMD Overclocking Voltages Explained"

Comments (229)

WOW very nice this is exactly what we needed....Thank you sir++rep
Quote:I will say that generally raising the NB voltage has more of an effect than the others, especially at higher reference clock values.The NB settings and voltages really are mostly dependent on the chipset in the motherboard. Some can hit high voltages no problem and some just cannot(LUCKY/UNLUCKY CHIPSET). I would bet in the clip below, the higher NB and voltages have aftermarket chipset coolers.Nice job Logan..... Here is a clip from our forum... Link below to show some NB settings and Voltages.http://www.overclock.net/amd-cpus/506756-phenom-ii-steppings-max-oc.html
hey logan, it's quite odd. but my nb speed is always higher than my ht. but wierd stuff happens with my sensors when the difference is about 1000mhz, as my mobo would report a cpu freq of 50mhz instead of the usual. also, in my mobo, i couldn't figure out which one is for the imc tweaking. i read somewhere that there is something like nbcore voltage for imc and nbvoltage for northbridge voltage. i still don't get the purpose of increase imc volts value or whatsoever.
Quote:Originally Posted by gerikoh;6475638 
hey logan, it's quite odd. but my nb speed is always higher than my ht. but wierd stuff happens with my sensors when the difference is about 1000mhz, as my mobo would report a cpu freq of 50mhz instead of the usual. also, in my mobo, i couldn't figure out which one is for the imc tweaking. i read somewhere that there is something like nbcore voltage for imc and nbvoltage for northbridge voltage. i still don't get the purpose of increase imc volts value or whatsoever.It sounds like you might have a sensor issue like you say. I don't know if you checked out all the links in the guide yet, but this one is really interesting.Quote:*: Because of the NB frequency of 1.8GHz, we were not able to test HT link performance scaling beyond 1.8GHz. The HT Link has to be equal or lower than the NB frequency at all times due to the design.SourceAnd as for the voltage question, try looking HERE, as that is one of the better explanations that I have seen. Look at post #5.My understanding is that the IMC voltage is for the few cases when the IMC is the cause of the ram instability, rather than the ram itself. The NB voltage should be for helping stabilize the NB under heavy OC'sJimi-My experience overclocking the NB is actually fairly low compaired to some. So that number of 2.4-2.8GHz is actually an average of what I have seen on the review sites (looking for the link right now, but I remember reading one that said that each PhII sample they had received had been able to hit 2.8GHz). I mentioned that extra voltage would likely be required for those speeds, but neglected to effected to mention that the NB and chipset cooling would effect the max NB OC they got. I will add a qualifier to the OP to explicitly state that.Thanks for the tip
thanks for the link. but how would i know that the imc is not the cause of instability of my oc? so far, i just can't boot windows when i have a nb speed greater than 2400mhz even at nbv or 1.5. i dunno if it's the imc or my ram. but i already loosen my timings and i already tried some overvolting with my ram, rated 1.8-2v and i tried it at 2.05v. should i try 2.2? though i'm kinda scared that to fry my ram till i get a better cooling. btw, this is with an igp oc since i'm still waiting for my gpu to be on stock. could this be the main reason why?
Quote:Originally Posted by gerikoh;6475890 
thanks for the link. but how would i know that the imc is not the cause of instability of my oc? so far, i just can't boot windows when i have a nb speed greater than 2400mhz even at nbv or 1.5. i dunno if it's the imc or my ram. but i already loosen my timings and i already tried some overvolting with my ram, rated 1.8-2v and i tried it at 2.05v. should i try 2.2? though i'm kinda scared that to fry my ram till i get a better cooling. btw, this is with an igp oc since i'm still waiting for my gpu to be on stock. could this be the main reason why?I don't know of any really scientific method to find out if the IMC or the ram is unstable, other than increasing the voltage a bit and seeing if it helps out any. The problem is that the ram is so connected to both of those, it is hard to determine with part is causing the instability. If someone knows a better way to determine this, I would be appreciative.You can't get the NB above 2.4GHz? I as long as the ram is close to stock clocks, then I don't see how the ram could be part of the problem. Although, most DDR2 is good with up to around 2.2v, its beyond that that I would start worrying.Have you tried messing with all of the NB and chipset related voltages yet? That is where I would start, and honestly, I can't remember if you have done that yet... sorry I havn't been around as much lately, these guides + life have kept me pretty busy.P.S. I am looking for a screenshot of AOD 3 (can't run it myself, need a new mobo first). It is the chart that shows how the NB and HT communicate with everything else. I think it would be useful for the readers, and would help break up the wall of text that is this guide. I'd be greatful if someone could help me find that screeny.
well i'm a bit of htt and multi oc. the only nb related voltage i can tweak is the nb volts itself. there's also an ht link volts but i dont thing that's it though.
Quote:Originally Posted by logan;6475729 
It sounds like you might have a sensor issue like you say. I don't know if you checked out all the links in the guide yet, but this one is really interesting.SourceAnd as for the voltage question, try looking HERE, as that is one of the better explanations that I have seen. Look at post #5.My understanding is that the IMC voltage is for the few cases when the IMC is the cause of the ram instability, rather than the ram itself. The NB voltage should be for helping stabilize the NB under heavy OC'sJimi-My experience overclocking the NB is actually fairly low compaired to some. So that number of 2.4-2.8GHz is actually an average of what I have seen on the review sites (looking for the link right now, but I remember reading one that said that each PhII sample they had received had been able to hit 2.8GHz). I mentioned that extra voltage would likely be required for those speeds, but neglected to effected to mention that the NB and chipset cooling would effect the max NB OC they got. I will add a qualifier to the OP to explicitly state that.Thanks for the tipI have studied this in depth as well. Like Our members show, the majority use much lower than 2400 on the NB. Raising the NB with aftermarket chipset cooling will absolutely getcha a higher OC but as far as stock chipset cooling, Lower NB will definitely keep you cooler and stable. Pushing it is what gets a nice overclock. I have gotten over 2600 on NB and once 2800.... You may be onto something... I will increase NB voltage and see what I can get my NB up to just to see. Once I get a nice NB setting, I will go for another overclock.Logan.. you need to get a life and so do I...LOL... Kidding. I need you for this question. My bios has 2 Nortbridge voltages. NB/CPU and NB. I mess with NB and really get nowhere. The NB/CPU is where I get places but really could use some recommendations for settings. I can get over 2600 on NB with 1.30 NB/CPU voltage.
double post sorry!
Quote:Originally Posted by jimibgood;6478691 
I have studied this in depth as well. Like Our members show, the majority use much lower than 2400 on the NB. Raising the NB with aftermarket chipset cooling will absolutely getcha a higher OC but as far as stock chipset cooling, Lower NB will definitely keep you cooler and stable. Pushing it is what gets a nice overclock. I have gotten over 2600 on NB and once 2800.... You may be onto something... I will increase NB voltage and see what I can get my NB up to just to see. Once I get a nice NB setting, I will go for another overclock.Logan.. you need to get a life and so do I...LOL... Kidding. I need you for this question. My bios has 2 Nortbridge voltages. NB/CPU and NB. I mess with NB and really get nowhere. The NB/CPU is where I get places but really could use some recommendations for settings. I can get over 2600 on NB with 1.30 NB/CPU voltage.The NB voltage should be the chipset voltage. That is the voltage that you would increase to help with higher reference clock speeds (useful for OCin non-Black Edition processors). The NB/CPU voltage should be the actual NB voltage, which is what you will need to increase to get a large NB OC.It seems like most high OC's will use around 1.4v for the NB/CPU voltage, so you might try that out and see how that goes. Also note though, that since the NB is in the CPU, that that will also effect the CPU temp.From the link that I posted before.Quote:Memory controller clock speed also has a huge impact on system speed. Default on the 955 is 2GHX...there is just no sense in running this way...if you see reviewers doing this they are NOT getting the best from the system.with 955 the multiplier for the memory controller (CPU-NB) is totally unlocked, this means default multi is 10...but you can push this UP and well as DOWN.Try to consider the memory controller as just another processor and overclock it the same way...increase voltage to gain higher clocks but be aware that doing so injects heat into the system.AndQuote:Adding more CPU-NB voltage can add a lot of heat to the CPU...add voltage in tiny steps..not big jumpsAnd actually, it took me so long to get this done because ironically, life was in the way. I haven't been near as active lately, you should have seen me last summer when being at work didn't directly correlate with actually working... Now that I actually have to work at work, its really put a damper on things...Good luck, and make sure to let us know how the NB OC goes.
Thread is now stickied
Quote:Originally Posted by jimibgood;6478691 
I have studied this in depth as well. Like Our members show, the majority use much lower than 2400 on the NB. Raising the NB with aftermarket chipset cooling will absolutely getcha a higher OC but as far as stock chipset cooling, Lower NB will definitely keep you cooler and stable. Pushing it is what gets a nice overclock. I have gotten over 2600 on NB and once 2800.... You may be onto something... I will increase NB voltage and see what I can get my NB up to just to see. Once I get a nice NB setting, I will go for another overclock.Logan.. you need to get a life and so do I...LOL... Kidding. I need you for this question. My bios has 2 Nortbridge voltages. NB/CPU and NB. I mess with NB and really get nowhere. The NB/CPU is where I get places but really could use some recommendations for settings. I can get over 2600 on NB with 1.30 NB/CPU voltage.i already bought an aftermarket for it. and i've already set nb volts to 1.5. i even tried 1.6 lol but i just can't boot windows. nb/cpu i believe is for ht link.
Wouldn't the HT link be affected by the HT voltage? or am I missing something completely (not trying to be rude, just making sure the guide is accurate).And thanks for the sticky thlnk3r, hopefully people will start to use this like durches... kinda the one stop spot for helping new users figure out whats going on.
Yep. And i can actually adjust the ht voltage. I did try a 0.06 increase though. And i want to push it further but i can't till i buy an aftermarket for my southbridge. I just want it to be safe. I just want to buy all my stuff before I continue experimenting with this thing.
Quote:Originally Posted by logan;6478908 
The NB voltage should be the chipset voltage. That is the voltage that you would increase to help with higher reference clock speeds (useful for OCin non-Black Edition processors). The NB/CPU voltage should be the actual NB voltage, which is what you will need to increase to get a large NB OC.It seems like most high OC's will use around 1.4v for the NB/CPU voltage, so you might try that out and see how that goes. Also note though, that since the NB is in the CPU, that that will also effect the CPU temp.From the link that I posted before.AndAnd actually, it took me so long to get this done because ironically, life was in the way. I haven't been near as active lately, you should have seen me last summer when being at work didn't directly correlate with actually working... Now that I actually have to work at work, its really put a damper on things...Good luck, and make sure to let us know how the NB OC goes.When I increase my NB voltage I crash. The CPU/NB v are what I only get results with.I understand that but voltages are can be different with the same motherboard. Chipsets are different... there are lucky and unlucky ones.... But back to the topic/////// I got over 2800 MHz stable at 3.67GHz but still cannot go further. It seems to be more unstable and crashes quicker in the 3.7GHz + range
Logan, you made a comment that the Phenom II's are much faster than the original Phenoms. They are only 9% faster core for core.
Quote:Originally Posted by jimibgood;6505089 
Logan, you made a comment that the Phenom II's are much faster than the original Phenoms. They are only 9% faster core for core.Jimibgood, that is some interesting info. Do you have links to reviews/benchmarks that discuss this?Good luck
jimibgood thanks for the info but would like a source to cite for future reference please. thanks bud!**edit: lol think3r!
Quote:Originally Posted by wuttz;6505174 
jimibgood thanks for the info but would like a source to cite for future reference please. thanks bud!**edit: lol think3r!Wuttz, hey great minds think alike
Quote:Originally Posted by thlnk3r;6505186 
Wuttz, hey great minds think alike thank you sir, but i am not so bold to say my mind is as great as yours! :Djimibgood,
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