Section 1: Introduction
This is by no means a full or complete guide to what
is commonly known as 'overclocking', but rather a general guide, that will hopefully have something of interest
to everyone who is keen on getting the most out of their processor, whatever their technical level.
A basic level of electrical understanding, and PC knowledge, is assumed. So, if you don't know what a jumper or
DIP switch looks like, it might be best to read a more beginner-based guide before attempting what is described
The whole process of overclocking will invalidate your warranty and, at extreme levels of overclocking, each
time you power up your computer you risk a fireball.
Don't assume that because anything works for somebody else, it will work as planned for you. It won't. Well, not
if you're me! Also, this guide is aimed at Intel-based systems, but owners of other systems should still find most
of it useful.
Right. Now we have that sorted, take a look at the yellow box on the right and see what is going to be covered
in this guide.
What is Overclocking?
Before we answer the big question, we need to
try and understand how the chip manufacturers work. A very large proportion of the money you pay for your processor
is to cover Research and Design costs, rather than the production of the processor. A huge amount, in fact. Therefore
it is much more cost effective for a company to design just one processor, namely the fastest, and use the units
that fail to meet specification for the slower, less profitable processors. For example, an Intel Pentium 3 550
has the same core, or brains, as a Pentium 3 800. That's right, your friend's brand new Pentium 3 800 has the same
chip as your Pentium 3 550. All that is needed is a little tweaking, and you'll be shooting off into the sunset,
having just saved yourself the cost of a serious system upgrade.
"But", I hear you say, "I thought the slower chips were fast chip rejects. If Intel can't make them
at those kind of speeds, what chance do I have?"
Okay, there are a couple of things to mention here. To cut things short, as this is a guide to
overclocking, not Intel's life story, it will be far briefer than what actually happened. Basically, a
rival company called AMD started aiming at the low end market with good, cheap chips. The quickest, and most cost
effective way for Intel to respond, was to take chips off the production line (chips originally destined for high
end systems) and sell them at a slower speed. This way, Intel can keep the lower end of the market happy, with
a sufficient supply of slower, budget processors, and keep the high end market happy too.
Intel also brought out some new processors, which were high end chips but with less cache, or in the case of the
original Celerons, no cache whatsoever. The original chips were sold as 266/300MHz chips, but were pretty much
PII 450 cast-offs. The second generation of Celerons, starting with the 300a ("a" is to identify that
the chip has 128KB of on-board cache) were much better, right from the start. These were basically the next generation
of PII cores, but with half the cache on the actual chip. In some instances, these budget processors can actually
outperform the high end counterparts! As the core was originally destined for the PII processors, it was designed
to cope with speeds of around the 550/600MHz area.
So there you have it. The budget processors from Intel were, in fact, about as close to the top of the
line in terms of specification as you could get!