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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I am a newb to this overclocking stuff and looking for some advice ot tips to overclock my P4 3.4Ghz procesor (socket 478). I have an Abit IC7-MAX3 motherboard.

Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!!!

Premium Member
31,807 Posts
General Advice for Benchmarking/Stress Testing/Tuning/Tweaking (XP)

Enter BIOS; check voltage, fan speed and temperatures in "Hardware Monitor" (usually under "Power")

Make notes as needed about chipset options, memory timings, Vcore voltage, FSB speed, as well as notes about current CPU and RAM speeds, Boot Order, Drive configuration and ID. In the event of a future lock-up or CMOS reset these notes will allow you to re-configure your system back to it's original condition. Without notes you will have to determine this by trial and error.

Boot into your Desktop and go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/System Information (send a shortcut to Desktop if desired)--also in the same menu Disk Clean and Disk Defragmenter (ditto)--run and investigate each option of all of these utilities--System Information will allow you to investigate your hardware specifications and also give a baseline to reference any changes. You can save the .nfo file or make a screenshot.

Run Disk Clean Up. Run Disk Defragmenter and only defrag as needed.

Go to My Computer and open Properties/Hardware/Device Manager and look for any problems (yellow triangle w/ ! ) Sort out any problems with hardware or drivers before proceeding.

Open My Computer and open the properties menu for the main Hard Drive go to tools/Error Checking and run the utility (requires restart)

After rebooting go to Start/Run and type MSCONFIG in command box, click OK. In the System Configuration Utility check Selective Startup/Click Startup Tab/Disable All and then check and boxes for applications that you want to launch upon start (AntiVirus, Etc.) and click Apply/ OK--You will have to restart.

After Restart the System Configuration Utility will launch. Check the appropriate box on the pop up to supress this annoyance.

Ctrl + Alt+ Del to pop up the Task Manager and tab to Performance. CPU usage should be 0% and PF Usage should be about 280 MB or thereabouts. Close Task Manager.

Install SpyBot Search and Destroy and update it online. Run SpyBot and "Fix Problems" if needed.

Install any driver Updates for the Video Card or Chipset if needed. Install any Benchmarking/ Stress Testing/Tuning or Tweaking Applications you might need and run the Disk Clean Up before restarting.

You are now ready to benchmark your PC!

Begin by getting specifications and performance ratings of the system through benchmarks you have chosen for a battery of tests before altering current settings to achieve a baseline. Save these either as files or screenshots for reference. PCMark04 provides fairly detailed information about hardware and software as does Sandra SiSoft (lite). Everest Home Edition can rank your RAM Read, Write, and Latency against various current RAM/Chipset/CPU combinations to offer clues as to how to improve that area of performance. CPU ID will reveal details of Memory timings and settings as well as FSB speed, CPU speed and the multiplier.

Initially it is probably better to focus on one area at a time when striving to improve performance and System Memory is a good place to start. System Information details the type and amount of RAM. CPU ID will give further detail about settings and clock speed. Sandra SiSoft (Lite) and Everest Home Edition will provide more detailed information about Memory performance. The questions to ask are: "is it fast enough and is there enough of it?" Most motherboards support at leat 2 Gigabytes of RAM and most support Dual Channel Memory for matched pairs of memory. For any intense rendering or gaming 2 gig of RAM in Dual Channel would be ideal. The speed of RAM is not just a factor of clock speed but also of timing. Only 4 timings need concern us here, and the key is CAS. The latency of memory is related to the CAS; low latency (2) is better.

Memory settings in BIOS are by default set to autodetect the Speed and Timings of the RAM--The most important change would be to the CAS, the first of 4 critical timings--without going into great technical detail about what all these timings do--the lower the better, within reason. In BIOS small changes are the prudent approach--this of course requires some patience as each change should be tested at least by allowing Windows to load to desktop. Typically you will only be able to tighten the RAM settings one "notch" if depending on the quality of the RAM. After tightening the settings be sure to run a stress test and/or memory benchmark for a prolonged period of time (at least 20 minutes) to ensure the new settings have not affected system stability.

Another easy gain in system speed is to enable any chipset options in BIOS that enhance or increase transfer speeds between RAM and Processor such as PAE or PAT (Intel) or Hyper Transport (AMD). This usually only works for medium over clocks, higher FSB speeds often disable such options in BIOS.

FSB (Front Side Bus) Speed settings in BIOS control the overall clock speed of the CPU and the RAM. Increasing it can dramatically improve overall system performance--a warning applies here: speed margining your equipment (or OverClocking) will likely void any warranties on the components, need extreme cooling measures to prevent shortening component life, require a stout PSU (Power Supply Unit), and, in some cases, render certain chipset options inoperable. Overclocking is a dark art and should only be entered into by persons possessed of tenacity and patience--positive results are generally acheived in little steps. That said, a mild overclock to your system is a safe and "free" way to boost PC performance.

Different motherboard manufacturers use different BIOS menus and not all options are always available. Different chipsets add to the profusion of options: SATA RAID Arrays, enable or disable "Memory Boost" along with advanced Graphic Card and RAM settings. Overclocking potential varies from system to system so the following steps are general in nature. Enter BIOS and navigate to the menu offering adjustments to FSB clock speed. Note the current speed and if possible calculate the multiplier and discover the divider for Memory Clock Speed in order to know in advance what each increase in FSB will yield at the CPU/RAM. Determine what a 10% increase in CPU speed will require (some BIOS have a % option) and set the FSB to that. Conversely you may increase the FSB about 3% of its root value if unsure of the multiplier or divider. Upon Saving and Exit BIOS (F10) and observe the POST screen to find the CPU speed. If there is no POST screen "Quick Boot" might be enabled in the BIOS. Allow the OS (Operating System) to load your desktop. Run CPUID and take a screenshot and save it (right click New/BMP/right click on Paint/paste/Save File. You have officiated your overclock!

This might seem like overkill, but the only real world test of system stability is to run your OS and check its stability by engaging your system with demanding applications. For a 10% Overclock this may seem overly cautious but stressing the system is the only way to uncover weak points. If everything is running well and further performance gains are desired, reboot and go into BIOS to make some more changes.

Unless using overly fast or Premium Grade RAM, the memory speed divider in BIOS will need to be altered to avoid clocking your RAM too far beyond it's specification. Some BIOS have fixed dividers, but still offer different speed options; selecting the next lower speed option effectively lowers the divider and will allow a higher CPU speed without running the RAM outside its limit. Typical Value RAM by reputable manufacturers will respond well to slight timing adjustments but will only tolerate a 6-10% overclock. Using RAM rated faster than you would needed for stock FSB speed is a good way to allow for stable Sysytem Memory at extreme FSB speed.

Adequate cooling and power for the CPU, RAM and Northbridge and Chipsets will prevent quirky instabilities. Aircooled systems will require after market heatsink/fan arrangements and probably larger or additional case fans. The demands may overload the PSU provided with most cases. As temperatures increase a typical PSU will only provide 40% of its rated power. Surges in the rails can effect the Vcore and destabilize the processor directly. Low or sagging rails can lead to boot errors as the motherboard chipsets struggle with every device firing up at once. Top performance requires reliable voltage and plenty of amperage--preferable in two seperate rails for Fans and Drives and MotherBoard, Video Card.

Adequate cooling will keep the CPU near ambient temperatures at idle and within safe operating limits at the desired overclock. Likewise,adequate power will provide flat, fat rails of clean juice that keep the system stable at outer limits of performance.

Assuming the system is adequately prepared, here is the next set of general instructions for overclocking: set a goal (this will help you stay focused during the numerous reboots) and be prepared to abandon that goal at the first sign of trouble! A 30% overclock of any given system is probably the limit of what can be achieved; approaching that without damage is the goal. Realistically, 20% is a more likely outcome without taking extreme measures. After 15% instabilities may arise causing System Crashes, Memory Errors or Boot Failure. These are often easy to overcome by disabling chipset options that enhance memory (such as "Turbo Boost" "Hyper Transport" or "Memory Performance Enhancement") or by re-enabling SPD RAM timings in the BIOS Memory settings.

Setting the RAM to SPD or lower settings (underclocking) can often cure instability at extreme overclocks. Some fiddling with the Memory divider or Speed options can stabilize the system so that it loads the desktop and will run applications flawlessly. Further attempts to squeeze a little more performance may yield little more than bragging rights. Higher duty cycles inevitably shorten component life. If you are going for a maximum overclock then you should view your equipment as disposable. If your reason for overclocking is to wring maximum performance from your system then expect to reduce your actual 24/7 overclock from maximum to match the capacities of your cooling and power as well as the potential of your RAM and onboard chipsets to keep up with the processor.

A reasonable approach is to over clock in successive increments until the system becomes unstable in Windows or running applications; then reduce the speed incrementally until the system is stable; then stress test the stable overclock for a prolonged period of time while monitoring temperatures and voltages (Mother Board Monitor is ideal). If unattended, Hardware and/or Software should be used to enable an automatic shutdown should certain parameters be met (such as excessive temperature, low voltage, low fan RPM). Successfully enduring the stress test establishes a maximum safe operating speed.

For daily use, keeping the overclock conservative is a good way to ensure the longevity of your components. Monitoring the system from the taskbar with audible alarms set is a good way to run an overclocked PC. Considering the inevitable build up of dust and crud in the typical case after only a few weeks, when an aircooled PC overheats clean the inside with a can of compressed air. Chronic dust can usually be cured with (maintained) filters on intakes and tidy case interiors. Use of good thermal paste (such as Arctic Silver 5) when mounting heatsinks is key. Some BIOS offer "on demand" overclocking, allowing the option to clock or not without all the tedious resetting.

Having established a good overclock complete and run the desired benchmarks, an increase in performance should be obvious even in mundane browsing and PC tasks. The real proof (for Gamers especially) is increased FPS (Frames Per Second) in 3D games with all the settings on high. To achieve this not only should the CPU/RAM be speed margined and tweaked, the VPU and Graphics Card Memory should receive the same attentions. ATI Tool and NV Tweak (from Guru3D.com or the Manufacturers) will allow clock speed adjustments as well as automatic maximum speed tests. A warning before overclocking your (expensive) video card: maximum overclockers should treat their equipment as disposable. A 10% over clock is reasonable with stock cooling. Video Cards run hotter than most Processors and GPU cooling improvements over stock can allow higher overclocks. Improvements diminish as the processor/RAM are pushed outside their safe operating limits, a fact which can be established by rigorously benchmarking each overclock and saving documentation for further reference.

Another easy gain in overall system performance is to set up the fastest storage the motherboard chipsets will support. Even older motherboards can take advantage of the latest fastest hard drive technology by using PCI card Host Bus Adapters for SCSI or SATA RAID 0, 1, 0 + 1 arrays. The fastest drives spin at 15,000 RPM and transfer data at 300 MBs or more. The WD Raptor 10,000 RPM SATA II Hardrives are supported by the latest common chipsets, and when configured in a RAID 0 array offer bus-busting transfer rates. The absolute fastest configuration is 4 Seagate Cheetah U320 15K RPM SCSI Hard Drives in RAID 0 Array. However, 2 SATA 150 Hard Drives configured as a RAID 0 array (common for last generation motherboard chipsets) are an economical alternative to the slow IDE ATA 100 Hard Drives most systems use.

Overclocking can be a way to keep slightly out of date equipment on par with a next generation system. By carefully choosing reliable and easy to over clock components and proven technology, a great deal of performance can be had for a fraction of the cost of a bleeding edge system.

Often an afterthought, the PSU is really the foundation of any system; without reliable clean power it is impossible to push the edge. A cooling strategy will often dictate which PC case to use--number of drives will be a factor. Noise is often overlooked until that magic moment when the finger meets the start button. By selecting a case designed for air-flow and choosing the largest, quietest fans for the job, only part of the equation for silence has been factored. The Power Supply is usually the loudest single component followed by the CPU cooler. Top of the line Graphics Cards can be loud as well. There are numerous cooling solutions for all of these hot parts and by factoring these into the total equation, near silence can be acheived without sacrificing performance.

Hope that helps...
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