What Are the Drawbacks of Overclocking (If Any)?
There tend to be several widely-held notions regarding the drawbacks of overclocking in the PC community. I will make note of these drawbacks and offer my personal opinion on each drawback in this section.
Argument 1: “Overclocking Reduces the Life of a CPU”
This is a particularly touchy topic of debate amongst those who overclock their CPUs and those who staunchly oppose any sort of overclocking.
I am not convinced that it is sufficient for detractors of overclocking to simply say that overclocking will kill your CPU sooner. For one, “sooner” than when? And second, under what conditions?
I have yet to see any scientific research conducted in the real-world demonstrating (all other variables, particularly cooling, being equal) one CPU from a particular batch, running at its suggested speed, outlives another CPU from the same batch, running at a one percent overclock.
Now, you’re probably thinking “who in the world would run a CPU with a one percent overclock?” The truth is many of us likely are running our CPUs at a one percent overclock thanks to inherent variances in the clock generator of the motherboard we own. If my motherboard reports a 200MHz FSB operation, and is in fact, operating at 201MHz, this means my CPU too, will be running slightly over its suggested clock frequency (i.e. overclocked).
Does this mean that my Athlon 64 X2 will be dying three years before somebody else’s Athlon 64 X2, since his/her motherboard was able to maintain a steady 200MHz FSB frequency? Logic would probably lead us to say no, but there’s no way to say for sure until a concrete study is conducted demonstrating one way or the other the affect (if any) overclocking has on CPU life.
Some particularly keen readers may immediately note that such a “one percent overclock” would fall within the operating tolerance of a CPU, and wouldn’t constitute an overclock in any case. Though such an argument runs contrary to the definition of “overclocking” I offered above (running over the specified clock frequency is by extension, an overclock), I will entertain the argument nonetheless.
If it is suggested that a certain clock frequency must be exceeded (above the normal operating tolerance) in order to a) be dubbed an overclock and b) negatively impact the CPU’s life expectancy, the question this spawns is: what is this threshold frequency and how does one find it?
The problem again, is that no long-term real-world study has been conducted that establishes any such “killing threshold” and the negative impact crossing such a threshold would have on a CPU’s life expectancy.
So, this all adds up to suggest that I don’t believe there’s any harm at all in overclocking? Awesome, let’s crank that 1GHz CPU up to 3GHz and… overheat the CPU? CRAP!
The VALID Argument: CPU Overclocking Increases Heat Output
I hope that it has become clear that I don’t believe that overclocking, in and of itself, is the necessary ingredient for early CPU death. What could lead to a host of problems however, is mismanagement of the increased heat output of an overclocked CPU.
By dramatically increasing the core frequency of a CPU, the switching that takes place within the CPU package is also increased. As a direct result, heat output is increased as well (relative to the heat output of the CPU at its stated or “stock” speed).
The increased heat output resulting from a bump in core frequency can be abetted by over-volting of the CPU core. By exposing a CPU to additional voltage, its power draw will expectedly increase (see figure below). A negative consequence of this increased power draw is an additional increase in the power output of the CPU (as heat).
CTho9305‘s simplified power-voltage-frequency relationship
Heat is a major problem area in computing in general, and the problem only becomes amplified when overclocking. If you own a PC, you should make an effort to ensure that it is properly cooled. If you plan on overclocking that PC, you should go a bit further and invest in a premium cooling solution (as discussed earlier) to offset the increased heat output of your overclocked CPU.
Bottom line: overclocking your CPU will increase its heat output above and beyond that of its factory-rated frequency. You MUST account for this increased heat by pairing your CPU with an efficient cooling solution. If you are unable to dispel the added heat of your overclocked CPU, then you run the risk of overheating and possibly damaging your CPU.
Let’s face it: overclocking can be a difficult task, particularly if you’re just getting started. No one guide or tutorial is going to be able to cover every single aspect of overclocking from A-to-Z. We’ve come to the conclusion of this guide, and I sincerely hope that my attempt to help you in your overclocking quest has been of some assistance.
I would urge you once more to take advantage of the numerous overclocking resources available on the internet. Take the time to read forum threads, search through overclocking databases, read hardware reviews and participate in chat rooms. Try to read up on the various settings available in your BIOS to find out what they do and how to set them for maximum performance.
Remember: if you can’t find an answer to a question that you have, don’t be afraid to ask somebody for an answer. Chances are your motherboard, RAM, and videocard manufacturer have an official support forum where you can post technical questions, not to mention AMD’s own official support forum.
Here’s a list of websites I’ve compiled that can help get you started on your way. This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should serve as a good start. May Peace and Blessings be Upon You.
AMD Forums (Official)
Xtreme Systems AMD Forum
The following individuals aided in reviewing early drafts of the guide, providing honest (and occasionally brutal) criticism. Thank you for your assistance:
Disclaimer of Liability
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this document, I make no guarantees/promises/assurances/inferences about the content and suitability of this information for any purpose. The contents of this document are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranty.
In no event shall I be held liable for any direct or indirect, real or perceived, consequential or inconsequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of income or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other action arising in connection with the use of this information.
Further, I have provided “hypertext links” to a number of sites as a service to readers. This should not be taken as implying any link between myself and those various organizations or individuals, nor can I be responsible for the content on these web sites.
Copyright © 2007 Atif Kalim Butt. All Rights Reserved.
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