BIOS Overclocking (The How-To)
I had an internal debate (yes, I talk to myself) as to whether to demonstrate overclocking using a Windows-based utility (such as ClockGen) or the BIOS. While the overwhelming majority of users do in fact use some variant of Microsoft Windows, I decided on demystifying the settings in the BIOS that pertain to overclocking instead. Relying on a software utility to overclock a CPU might work today, and possibly even tomorrow, but who’s to say that a patch or new Windows release won’t break the overclocking software altogether?
Once this decision was made, a question arose: which motherboard’s BIOS would I analyze? I could choose to break down the BIOS on an extreme high-end motherboard such as the ASUS Crosshair which gives control of every setting to the user, and in the process, alienate all those who don’t own this $200+ motherboard. Another choice was to analyze the BIOS on a value motherboard such as the ECS GeForce6100SM-M; however, doing so likely wouldn’t reveal enough information about how to overclock for most of us.
In the end, I settled on breaking down the BIOS on the ASUS M2N32-SLI. I based my decision on the overclocking prowess of the board, and its popularity within the community. The M2N32-SLI is an admittedly pricey motherboard, however, it is available in several configurations, and can often be spotted at a discounted price at leading online retailers.
- The ASUS M2N32-SLI is based on the popular Phoenix BIOS interface. Though the appearance of your BIOS may vary slightly from the pictures below, the features and concepts should be similar.
Accessing the BIOS
Depending on your motherboard, getting to the BIOS setup will involve pressing a designated key immediately after the system completes the POST (power-on self-test) routine (completion of POST is signaled by one short beep from the PC speaker).
The most common keys assigned to enter BIOS setup are “DEL,” “F1,” and “F2.” If pressing these keys does not take you to BIOS setup, reference the manual for your motherboard to find what key is supposed to be pressed.
- ENSURE YOUR SYSTEM IS STABLE BEFORE YOU BEGIN OVERCLOCKING!
- Don’t take a greedy approach to overclocking. Change the fewest number of settings at one time, save the changes, check for stability, then continue adjusting further if necessary.
Breaking Down the BIOS
Main BIOS Screen (Courtesy ASUS)
This is the screen that we are greeted with when entering the BIOS on ASUS’ M2N32-SLI motherboard. There really isn’t much on the main page as far as overclocking is concerned, however, it is important to ensure that the “Installed Memory” field correctly reports the amount of memory you have in your system. If there is any discrepancy, make sure that you’ve properly installed your RAM. Moving on…
Advanced BIOS Screen (Courtesy ASUS)
The “Advanced” menu is an overclocker’s haven. This is where we’ll find the settings we need to overclock our system. Let’s start with the “JumperFree Configuration” page…
Advanced > JumperFree Configuration Page (Courtesy ASUS)
Let’s take a look at what each of these settings does: