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Athlon II Overclocking Guide (beginner friendly)

post #1 of 309
Thread Starter 
I have noticed that the only OC guide for the K10.5 is labeled "Phenom II OC guide", which leads all of the Athlon users to opening new threads, asking for guidance. So I've compiled this simple guide for one of those threads and decided to convert it to a


BeginnerFriendly
Athlon II Overclocking Guide



I hope it doesn't get deleted, because it seems to be really complicated for the OC newbies to follow the (otherwise wondefully written) PhII guide.
Now, on topic...


Hi and welcome to OCN! smile.gif
This guide will lead you through overclocing your Athlon II CPU.
This guide is applicable to Athlon II x2 (Regor), x3 (Rana) and x4 (Propus).

If you don't know what CPU you have, or are not very familiar with Overclocking, click below to open the FAQ:
FAQ for beginners, click HERE! (Click to show)

What is my CPU?
Download and install CPUz, it will give you most detailed information about your CPU.
Including exact frequencies, voltages, core count, name, revision number and much much more.
Otherwise you can see you CPU by pressing the Windows key + Pause.
This opens System Properties and you can see your CPU model and stock frequency.

Do I want to Overclock?
Most often- yes. Overclocking is what makes a 60$ CPU perform like a 120$ CPU. In most systems you will notice faster loading, less waiting, better responsiveness, better FPS in games.

You do NOT want to Overclock if:
-Your system is new and expensive - it will probably handle any load without the need of overclocking.
-Your system is used for important work - overclocking is a risk, which should not be taken on business-critical systems.
-You just recently learned how to use a mouse to play Counter Strike - Overclocking is for advanced users only, preferably with technical background.
-You are using another person's system - Overclocking sometimes voids the warranty, and is plain illegal to perform on machines you do not own.

How much will I benefit from overclocking?
- On gaming systems - Athlon CPUs are usually used for budget gaming solutions, where the CPU is often the weakest (cheapest) link. Overclocking on such systems can go as far as doubling your FPS rates in CPU intensive games, especially on low resolutions (1024x768)
- On systems used for other intensive CPU tasts - audio/video editing, compiling large blocks of code and so on, benefit goes proportional to the raise in frequency - for 20% faster CPU, you'll get 20% faster operation.
- On systems used for web browsing, playing music and videos and so on - you will not notice any benefit.
- With x3 and x4 Athlons, the benefit of OCing is usually greater than with dual cores, simply due to the core count.

***!!!make sure you have an aftermarket cooler!!!***
***use CPUz to monitor all frequencies***
***use HWMonitor to monitor all temps***


What you need (Software):
-CPUz - used to monitor frequencies of every component in the PC and voltage of the CPU
-HWMonitor - used to monitor various temperature sensors and voltages
-LinX - used to test the system for stability. (I recommend LinX, because it's easier to use than Prime95, orthos and so on).

What you need (Hardware):
- AMD Athlon II CPU
- Motherboard that can handle the overclock (how to find out- click) (!!!IMPORTANT!!!)
- Solid Aftermarket cooling.

Things that help:
- Reputable RAM (Kingston, Corsair, and so on famous brands.)
- North Bridge cooling (depends on motherboard)
- MOSFET cooling (depends on motherboard)
- Solid Power Supply Unit (PSU) (read here and here for what is good and what is not)
(general rule - if the PSU is not "heavy" and expensive, it is (in 80% of the cases) bad)

Common terms:
CPU - your processor
VCore - the voltage of the CPU
NB - North Bridge (in older boards - the chipset. In newer boards - the integrated memory controller)
HT - hyperTransport - the link between CPU and RAM
Multi - multiplier
Ref.clock - Reference clock
Freq - frequency


How to OC:
OCing is acheived by changing options in your BIOS. Most of those options are grouped under the same category (Overclock options/CPU settings/JumperFree configuration- names may vary).

You will recognize them by the names: Reference Clock/CPU Frequency/CPU overclock; DDR Frequency/RAM clock; CPU voltage/VCore and so on.

The Athlon II CPUs can be overclocked by raising reference clock.
The reference clock (sometimes *inaccurately* reffered to as FSB) has a value of 200 in BIOS before the OC.
From that ref.clock, all frequencies in the PC are calculated;

Example:
Ref.clock: 200
CPU multi: 16
Final CPU frequency by core: 16*200 = 3200Mhz (3.2Ghz)
NB multi: 10
Final NB freq.: 10*200 = 2000Mhz (2Ghz)
RAM multiplier: 667
Final RAM freq: (666/100)*200 = 1333Mhz


Now, most of those multipliers (16x CPU, 10x NB, and so on) are already set on Max by default in BIOS. Unless you have a Black Edition CPU (you don't), you can't raise the CPU multiplier.

So, Overclock is achieved by raising the reference clock.
As you saw, reference clock is used to calculate all other frequencies too, so by OCing your CPU, you'll be automatically OCing the rest of the system too.
As good as this may sound, it causes a few problems.

Say the sample CPU from above can safely reach 4000Mhz (4Ghz). To get to this frequency, you'd have to set ref clock at 250, because 16*250 = 4000.
However, this will set the RAM to (666/100)*250 = 1665.
Some 1333 DDR3 sticks will not operate stable at that frequency.
It will also set the NB to 10*250 = 2500.
Some NB chips might not operate stable, or even safe, at those freqs.

Meaning - raising the ref clock overclocks everything at once, but not everything overclocks the same, or can overclock the same.
Therefore, as you raise the reference clock, you should monitor all the frequencies and use the respective multipliers to keep the freqs around stock values.
Always Overclock only 1 component at a time!

In order to overclock the CPU, raise ref clock by 10Mhz.
This will give you (in our sample system)
16*210 = 3360 Mhz CPU freq.
10*210 = 2100 Mhz NB
6.66*210 = 1399 Mhz RAM

This is a very mild overclock. Raise by another 10 Mhz to get 3520/2200/1465. Now these are better frequencies, but they may cause instability.
So we need to drop a few multipliers.

Drop NB multiplier to 9 (from 10). Will give 9*220 = 1980Mhz (which is very close to the stock 2000)
HT multiplier drops automatically as NB multiplier is lowered.
Drop RAM multiplier to 533 (from 666). Will give 5.33*220 = 1172.

Keep raising the reference clock by 10 until you can't log into WIndows.
On EVERY step check the NB and RAM frequencies - if they exceed the stock values by more than 100-300Mhz, drop the multiplier.
By the time you can't boot into windows, raise the CPU voltage by a little (for example, from 1.35 to 1.40, or from 1.40 to 1.45. Do NOT increase by larger steps)
After the increase in voltage, check if you can boot into Windows.
If you can, increase ref clock by another 10.
If you can't, start lowering the ref clock by 1 or 2 until you can.

After you have succesfully logged into Windows, start testing for stability with LinX. 10 runs with RAM set to 2048 are enough to prove basic stability, but if you don't have enough RAM, 1024 will also do.

LinX will most probably crash. When it does, reboot and lower the ref clock by another 1 or 2. Test again, until it stops crashing.

***During testing ALWAYS monitor your CPU temp using HWMonitor or similar***
***If temps get over 70C, reboot and reset voltage to Auto, lower Ref Clock by 5 or 10 and test again***

After all this is done, CPU keeps normal temp and LinX doesn't crash, you have found the max freq of your CPU. Congrats.

Now it's time to fix the rest.
Open CPUz, go to the SPD tab and write down on paper the values for different clocks.

Get back in BIOS and raise/lower the NB multi until NB reaches ~2500-2800Mhz max. (if your BIOS has a setting for CPU/NB voltage, you may want to increase it by one step. Warning, this is not the "Chipset voltage". Never increase "Chipset voltage". If your BIOS doesn't have a setting for CPU/NB voltage, do not increase NB frequency over 2400Mhz.)
Do not raise the HT multi to those freqs - HT works fastest at exactly 2000Mhz, so be careful to keep it there using the HT multi.
Now go to the RAM section and raise/lower the multiplier until you get to stock clock (or close to that).
Then open the Timing/Latencies setting and *manually* enter the respective values from the paper.

***Do NOT enter the values for the shown in BIOS DDR setting (be it 533/667 or other)***
Instead, calculate your REAL frequency with ((DDR setting)/100)*RefClock and enter the values for *THE PREVIOUS SPD FREQ*. (Frequencies in CPUz SPD section are halved - meaning 533=1066 real, 667=1333 real and so on)

For example, if your SPD tab contained (533: 7-7-7-20-27), (610:8-8-8-22-30) and (685:9-9-9-25-34)
and your frequency is (666/100)*250 = 1665Mhz (= 833*2), enter 9-9-9-25 (because 685 is the largest prior to 833).
If your frequency is (533/100)*250 = 1333Mhz (=666*2), enter 8-8-8-22, or if you wish to try- 7-7-7-20 (because 610 is the largest prior to 666, but is also almost equal, so 533 timings might also work).
This will give you a nice RAM timings near stock frequency, which are usually always stable, even with the cheapest RAM, and increase performance.
In case they are not stable (LinX crashes, you get BSOD or such), then enter the next larger values (like 8-8-8-22 instead of 7-7-7-20)

If you wish to experiment further with timings, try to lower all values, but increase TRAS (the fourth one). It provides no performance gain, but causes instability if set too low.
So isntead of 8-8-8-22-30, you can try 7-7-7-27-27.

Performance gains from overclocking goes as follows:
CPU (better performance is gained fastest as the the CPU freq raises)
NB (better performance is gained fast as the NB freq raises)
RAM freq (better performance is gained slower with RAM freq increases)
RAM timings/latencies (better performance is slowly gained as RAM timings decrease)
RAM TRAS latency (better performance is not gained by decreasing TRAS)
HT freq (performance drops as HT freq raises)

Aaand that's about it smile.gif

Hope this guide has been helpful. Feel free to add comments and fixes wink.gif
Edited by ronnin426850 - 4/4/12 at 12:21pm
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post #2 of 309
Looks like a good guide, will have a read through. Most beginner overclockers are unlikely to have an after market heatsink, I know I didn't.
Edited by Willhemmens - 4/29/11 at 3:18am
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post #3 of 309
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willhemmens;13316928 
Looks like a good guide, will have a read through.

Thanks. Always open for improvements and suggestions smile.gif
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post #4 of 309
I'm pretty sure it is FSB not reference clock.
Also, are you going to add anything about CPU-NB overclocking?
Edited by Willhemmens - 4/29/11 at 5:38am
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post #5 of 309
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willhemmens;13316959 
How much will I benefit from overclocking?
- On gaming systems - Athlon CPUs are usually used for budget gaming solutions, where the CPU is often the weakest (cheapest) link. Overcloking on such systems can go as far as doubling your FPS rates in CPU intensive games, especially on low resolutions (1024x768)
- On systems used for other intensive CPU tasts - audio/video editing, compiling large blocks of code and so on, benefit goes proportional to the raise in frequency - for 20% faster CPU, you'll get 20% faster operation.
- On systems used for web browsing, playing music and videos and so on - you will not notice any benefit.
- With x3 and x4 Athlons, the benefit of OCing is usually greater than with dual cores, simply due to the core count.



After you have succesfully logged into WIndows, start testing for stability with LinX. 10 runs with RAM set to 2048 are enough to prove basic stability, but if you don't have enough RAM, 1024 will also do.



RAM timings/latencies (better performance is slowly gained as RAM timigs decrease

I'l edit this post once you know about them.

I'm pretty sure it is FSB not reference clock.
Also, are you going to add anything about CPU-NB overclocking?

Thanks, fixed smile.gif

And about the NB - there is huge confusion and misconception spread by BIOS makers, that I just recently learned about.
Turns out NB multiplier and NB volts reffer to CPU's IMC, and not the NorthBridge, which is called "Chipset Voltage" on some boards, and not even NB..

So what is refered to in the guide as "North Bridge" is actually the IMC.
I didn't change it, because it seems this is the way mobo manufacturers want it. (especially Asus)

My guess is that they're trying to make us stop calling the chip under the NB sink "North Bridge" and call it "Chipset" (which is technically wrong, since it's only 1 chip, and not a "set"), and start calling the IMC "North Bridge", which is also somewhat confusing and.. wrong.
confused.gif
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post #6 of 309
Hey, Even though I don't own any of these chips, I found this to be an interesting read.

+rep
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post #7 of 309
Quote:
Originally Posted by ronnin426850;13317004 
Thanks, fixed smile.gif

And about the NB - there is huge confusion and misconception spread by BIOS makers, that I just recently learned about.
Turns out NB multiplier and NB volts reffer to CPU's IMC, and not the NorthBridge, which is called "Chipset Voltage" on some boards, and not even NB..

So what is refered to in the guide as "North Bridge" is actually the IMC.
I didn't change it, because it seems this is the way mobo manufacturers want it. (especially Asus)

My guess is that they're trying to make us stop calling the chip under the NB sink "North Bridge" and call it "Chipset" (which is technically wrong, since it's only 1 chip, and not a "set"), and start calling the IMC "North Bridge", which is also somewhat confusing and.. wrong.
confused.gif

I thought it was quite clear in bios'. In mine it is anyway. The CPU-NB (Thats the easiest thing to call it) multiplier overclocks the IMC and I've heard controls the L3 cache too.

My bios has voltage adjustments for:

Ram
Southbridge
Northbridge
CPU-NB
CPU

In that order.

So if your wanting to overclock you CPU-NB you overclock the NB and overvolt the nb, not Chipset voltage, as you know.

When they say chipset they mean both the motherboards Northbridge and Southbridge. Upping those voltages often will not help anything and on some Asus boards kills them instantly, I killed 3 Asus boards that way.

I'm sure you know this but I thought I'd just make sure you clear, the IMC is inside the CPU and stands for Integrated memory controller. On Intel setups, the Memory controller is on the motherboard, not in the CPU. The Northbridge is connected to the CPU via HT (Hyper tansport, not hyper threading which is what Intel uses) and is what runs all the PCIe devies such as your graphics cards. The Southbridge connects to the Northbridge and normally runs PCI devices and has a built in Sata/Pata drive and USB controller, also the BIOS is normally connected to the Southbridge.

Hopefully some of thats helpful. smile.gif

Edit: I'm going to do some testing when it comes to the HT stuff since I was original one of the people to say HT should be left at 2000MHz but I've never seen any hard facts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Atomfix;13317649 
Hey, Even though I don't own any of these chips, I found this to be an interesting read.

+rep
This guide will probably be fairly relivent to you since you dont have an unlocked CPU, always good to read though.
Edited by Willhemmens - 4/29/11 at 6:27am
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post #8 of 309
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willhemmens;13317710 
Edit: I'm going to do some testing when it comes to the HT stuff since I was original one of the people to say HT should be left at 2000MHz but I've never seen any hard facts.

About half a year ago I found benches here on OCN, with graphs, showing the slowdown past 2000Mhz, but I can't find the thread now, I don't remember how it was called either.
2 days ago in another thread someone also mentioned that with HT@2500 scores lower in benchmarks.

EDIT:
About the info on NB, yes, that was what I meant too, but I only recently dicovered it.
Until then I thought that OCing the NB raises the clocks of the chip situated under the CPU - the one that handles the PCI-E comm. So it was bugging me for a while "Why in god's name, I get a raise in GFlops when I OC the NB if all the CPU-RAM comm goes through the HT instead??" biggrin.gif
But I didn't dig further into that.

Now, of course, it all makes sense, that when the NB (IMC) freq is raised, the entire CPU-RAM link would perform faster.

HT still puzzles me, though, but when benches speak even the gods remain silent.. smile.gif
Edited by ronnin426850 - 4/29/11 at 8:39am
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Athlon 750K 4.0Ghz Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 Sapphire R9 270 Dual-X OC Geil Dragon 2x4 2133 
Hard DriveOptical DriveCoolingOS
WD Scorpio Blue 250Gb LiteOn DVD-RW CoolerMaster Hyper Z600 Win 8.1 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
LG E2240S DeLUX SuperFlower SF-550K12XP MS-Tech CA-0130 Black 
Mouse
DeLUX 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Athlon 760K 4.0Ghz AsRock FM2A88M Extreme4+ Sapphire HD7770 Vapor-X OC 2x4 1600 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
WD Blue 320Gb 2.5" Scythe Ninja3 Windows 7 Pro x64 Toshiba 32" FullHD TV 
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Logitech FSP Hexa 550 DeLUX Logitech 
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TV integrated 
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post #9 of 309
Quote:
Originally Posted by ronnin426850;13319043 
About half a year ago I found benches here on OCN, with graphs, showing the slowdown past 2000Mhz, but I can't find the thread now, I don't remember how it was called either.
2 days ago in another thread someone also mentioned that with HT@2500 scores lower in benchmarks.

Yeah, I'm still going to do some testing.
The daily driver
(13 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7 3770K @ 4.8GHz Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 Zotac GTX680 AVEXIR Core 16GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Crucial M500 240GB  Custom Watercooling loop Windows 8 64Bit Dell 24" WLED 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair Vengeance K90 Seasonic P-1000 Corsair 900D Roccat Kone + 
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EVO-G MP2 
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The daily driver
(13 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Intel Core i7 3770K @ 4.8GHz Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 Zotac GTX680 AVEXIR Core 16GB 2400MHz 
Hard DriveCoolingOSMonitor
Crucial M500 240GB  Custom Watercooling loop Windows 8 64Bit Dell 24" WLED 
KeyboardPowerCaseMouse
Corsair Vengeance K90 Seasonic P-1000 Corsair 900D Roccat Kone + 
Mouse Pad
EVO-G MP2 
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post #10 of 309
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willhemmens;13316959 
I'm pretty sure it is FSB not reference clock.
Also, are you going to add anything about CPU-NB overclocking?

Reference clock, ratio clock, HTT, just not FSB thumb.gif HT link replaced FSB.
One gear, GO!
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CPUMotherboardRAMHard Drive
FX8150 Crosshair V Formula G.Skill PIS 2200 cl7 Acard ans9010 raid 0+Corsair Force 3 
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OCN Marksman 
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One gear, GO!
(14 items)
 
  
CPUMotherboardRAMHard Drive
FX8150 Crosshair V Formula G.Skill PIS 2200 cl7 Acard ans9010 raid 0+Corsair Force 3 
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OCN Marksman 
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