Is PC Overclocking really worth it?

Overclocking appears to be the “in” thing to do in the computer world nowadays, it seems. Computer fans are searching for better ways to overclock their PC’s and expect to see phenomenal changes afterward with regards to speed. Before we find out if it’s possible, let’s see what overclocking is.

PC Overclocking

Overclocking is a technique, not recommended by the manufacturer, used to speed up your computer’s components (motherboard, CPU, memory, graphics card, and other internal hardware). It means that after this process your computer’s parts will supposedly run faster. For example, a 300MHz PII CPU might be overclocked up to 350 or even 400MHz.  The interesting thing is that the P4 processors claim to be clock-locked, but you can speed it up too, by using the FSB (front side bus).

But is it worth overclocking your PC? Will it really meet your expectations? Hmm, don’t be too keen about it, until you have tried it or at least found out a little more about it.

Like it is in the fashion world, not everything which is “in” is practical and worth doing. This is the case with overclocking, you can do it, and then you can say you are well proud of yourself: “I overclocked my computer and it’s working like a rocket” – but will it be true? Most of the pro-overclocking lobby highly exaggerate the advantages of this process.

Let’s have a look a little further into this, shall we?

The manufacturer, by creating the CPU, checks all components in respect of what is critical for their chips. They check them at a maximum speed range. The competitive computer market makes developers release chips at the highest speed they can handle. It’s already the maximum for them to work properly but it seems the market always wants more. And then to increase the speed of a product, you add overclocking into the mix. What happens to your processor? It starts trying to work harder and stronger which leads to overheating and soon it’s wearing out. Compared to how much this unessential strain due to overclocking puts on the processor, it accomplishes only very little.

The problem is that you might not notice malfunctions straight away. It will keep building up and appear only later when you have already forgotten about the process of overclocking, you did months ago. You will hardly realize that it was the speeding up, which caused the problems. Most people will blame the manufacturer and the age of their PC if it’s older than two years instead of turning back in time and remembering that you changed the system’s workflow.

It’s important to keep this overclocking in mind if your PC starts “acting weird” because fear not, there is a way to change it …to bring it back to normal. All you will need to do is to reverse the over-clock. Then you will notice that all of these newly appeared malfunctions will just disappear.

It’s fair to mention though, that a small over-clock won’t do any harm and cause endless problems, but only if it is a small one! If it’s worth messing about for speeding up how your computer works which, you might not even notice (5-10%), you can go ahead! But remember that bad overclocking might cost you all of your digital belongings.

There are countless forums on the internet where extreme overclockers compete against each other for bragging rights, of who got which CPU up to what outrageous speed. There are no formal prizes or financial rewards in this pursuit; it’s just a form of extreme sport which breaks CPUs instead of bones. It’s also a very expensive sport as the chase of the ultimate speed leaves behind a trail of sizzled and unusable CPUs.

It’s not a sport that I would recommend to the faint-hearted or anyone with limited disposable income!

This is a guest post by Andy Groaning, who offers free driver downloads on BravoFiles.com.

Check these posts too:

  1. Free overclocking software for Windows PC
  2. Intel Extreme Tuning Utility for Windows lets you overclock CPU, Memory & Bus speeds
  3. OverClock Checking Tool will benchmark your CPU and system components
  4. Linpack Xtreme is an aggressive benchmarking & stress testing software
  5. Fusion Utility for AMD Desktops helps optimize your PC for Gaming.
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15 Comments

  1. PCdozer

    I was interested in your article, one, because I fix computers for a living and of course after 14 years have seen my share of issues. I can tell you from first hand experience, a lot of newer systems that crashed, had issues, or fried components were typically overclocked but by people who “thought” they knew how to overclock. Just as with many other things, there are those who KNOW what they are doing and those who PRETEND to.

    Is it bad to overclock? That’s up to the user of course. One snippet I would like to address is this..

    “Overclocking appears to be the “in” thing to do in the computer world nowadays”

    Well actually, it’s been the “in” thing to do for a long time, it’s more the fact with newer processors coming out, quad and higher, faster “everything” it’s gaining more of the same, but new interest in overclocking and pushing even more limits. Let’s face it, pushing the 32’s got a bit old but even at the time, there were numerous overclockers.

    That said, most technicians or even those with minor knowledge in the technical workings know heat is the #1 killer of electronic components. So it only makes sense, overclocking causes more work, more juice flowing, more heat to deal with and faster breakdowns BUT you have to look at the cooling factors as well. If you overclock, you better get something to keep things cool, the cooler the better. I found with decent cooling systems, some overclockers can run it that way for years and not have an issue.

    Most companies, when you purchase your motherboard or processor, have an overclocking utility software included that gives you a “safe” overclocking range. For those who are extreme overclockers, the “safe” means little and push is everything but that is still their choice and they do know what they are doing and what the consequences are.

    The problem comes in when you have someone who doesn’t know what they are doing and fries the system, hence the reason to stick to the safe overclocking if at all possible or at least talk to overclockers, they are very intelligent when it comes to what they do and can be very helpful if you find you must overclock.

    So is it worth it? My system is fast enough, if I use the safe OC utility, I gain a bit more but not enough to say WOW. In the technical field, we are taught overclocking is a big NO-NO, there is no way around it but things change and obviously extreme overclockers or even just overclockers must feel it’s worth it else they wouldn’t bother. I think the best thing anyone can do is research, learn, don’t jump into it without knowing what you can do to OC and keep things from breaking down.

  2. Rickz80

    I agree with Andy.
    OC is just a kind of competition, but a very expensive one.

  3. PCdozer

    @Rickz80

    There is no need to overclock if you have a system that can handle what you throw at it and many times, an upgrade is in favor instead of an OC. I don’t dispute that fact. I do however disagree, it’s not JUST a competition, that is completely false. There are numerous people who overclock due to needing a performance boost who can’t afford an immediate upgrade or a more expensive upgrade.

    I am an example of such. I purchased an ATI radeon HD2600 512, it was a good card and I got it dirt cheap, couldn’t afford more at the time, so I bought it, kept it running cool, OC’d it. I got far better performance out of it and ran it without issue until I got a better card.

    There are those who overclock just to see if they can, to see what it’s about and if they can improve performance, many times on systems they figure will be getting replaced anyway and sure, to some it’s a competition.

    However, saying OCing is just for competition is like saying everyone buys ketchup to put only on burgers, simply not true.

  4. PCdozer

    Had to ask why my comments were removed. I posted no derogatory comments, no insults or anything of the sort, no flaming, nothing. So once again, I have to ask, what was the reason for the comment removal so I understand? All I disagreed with was that it’s not just a competition and it’s done for other reasons as well. The only one left is the one that says, “I agree with Andy”.

  5. Dwight Stegall

    I have never over-clocked any of my computers. I always felt that it was better left alone. I didn’t want my computers to wear out faster because of over-heating. After reading your article I’m glad I never did that. I have Asus computers that have an interface for over-clocking up to 15%. I wonder if over-clocking would be ok if only done during game play and then reset afterward? Swapping out 5400 rpm drives with 7200 rpm drives will greatly increase game speed. When you do this cars in Microsoft Midtown Madness 2 run so fast you can barely control them.

  6. Hi PCdozer, No comments are removed. They sometimes just get held up for moderation. Plus the time difference when you posted and when I got to moderate them could also be responsible for the delay in their being visible. 🙂

  7. PCdozer

    @Windows Club:

    I wondered due to my first post. It was in moderation then it was visible and no longer in moderation but after I posted my second one, they both disappeared completely. I thought I had posted something against rules or something so thank you for clearing that up. 🙂

  8. PCdozer

    @Dwight Stegall:

    Many people overclock especially for game play and I would say probably the number one reason or right up there. Many overclockers are high end gamers as well. I have auto overclock functions on my Asus but I don’t use it, my PC is fast enough. I have used it to see how it works and only noticed a slight performance boost, nothing to even make me keep it on.

    If you are playing MMM2 and put in 7200 drives in, I would wonder just how old your PC is. Here are the specs for MMM2..

    Windows 95/98/ME/XP
    Multimedia PC with a 266-MHz Pentium II or higher processor or a 233-MHz Pentium II or higher processor with 8 MB 3D video hardware acceleration
    32 MB RAM; 64 MB RAM for Windows 2000
    250 MB of available hard-disk space (400 MB recommended)
    Quad speed or faster CD-ROM drive
    Super VGA monitor supporting 800 x 600 resolution; Direct X 7.0 API

    If your 5400 drive was running this game slow, it was likely bad. I could run MMM2 on my Ipod nano and still have plenty of resources left. 7200 access times are faster but not enough to make a game speed up to those proportions. Most standard users can’t tell the difference between 5400 and 7200 and even the age old arguments required more advanced users to run tests to see access time percentages.(SSD is a different matter)

    There is once again, a difference but just not THAT large. Not even my PC would make the cars go at super speed, the game has limitations, any game does. I play older games on my PC and they go no faster than they did on my old 256 machine, smoother yes, faster, no.

    OCing the processor will give a ‘slight’ game boost (depending on the system and game) but the best thing you can do if you must improve game play is to adjust the graphics settings, get up to date drivers, shut off running programs you don’t need, things of that nature if worst comes to worst you may have to get a better graphics card and perhaps ram but it’s hard to say,every system is different for the most part.

    Last, I cannot see where you would have to overclock for MMM2 unless you have higher end games you mean.

  9. NomNom

    Question: Is PC Overclocking really worth it?

    Answer: No.

  10. ben

    Question: Is PC Overclocking really worth it?

    Answer: yes!

    just for the fact you can buy a $200 sandybridge 2600k that can have the same performance as $700+ 980x cpu.. now tell me is it worth the upgrade or just the simple Oc?

  11. Vomit

    Question: Is PC Overclocking really worth it

    Most definitely yes!

    I have had my q6600 with a default clock of 2400 running at 3337,its been running fine at these speeds for 3 years now. The original price of the chip was about £160 at the time, its overclocked performance is equal to some vastly more expensive chips. It was not quick nor was it easy to get the thing stable and cool, it took many hours of tweaking and testing to make sure it was fairly happy at its new speeds. I did buy it with the intention of overclocking it.

    when I moved from single to dual core, I found the dual to be a poor performer on any applications that were not optimised for multi core cpu’s so i overclocked that a little past my old single. Again when i moved from dual to quad the same thing, maximise its performance for older software (mostly games) and of course I also get the speed boost on all the multi-threaded software I use.

    The risk of damage by overclcoking is real, it has to be done very carefully and with a lot of patience, frustration, countless crashes and bios resets. Good monitoring software is essential for temperatures, an idea of what the cpu will do if pushed to far, will it fail to boot, fail to post or will it ignore everything and allow itself to fry in seconds?

    Shortening the life of it, yes it probably does, but if your a pc enthusiast then the longevity of your cpu will be irrelevant as long as lasts until your next upgrade. Someone once compared the life reduction by overclcocking to snow men and skin cancer, not going to be around long enough to worry about it.

    Interesting replies to a questionable article, keep it up 🙂

  12. PCdozer

    @Vomit

    You bring up many good points and great examples as well. Not all of this reply is directed at you btw, just going off your good points here.

    One, yep, 32 bit apps do not typically run faster on X64, as a matter of fact, if you have a 32 bit system, it will seem speedier than a 64 bit system outright. However, run a 64 bit application that will utilize the cores and you will then see how much faster it truly is. I use Blender and when I went to Blender X64, the render difference was amazing. I mention this due to the overclocking, many people overclock their dual or quads thinking it’s slow when in reality, you need to find X64 software. The reason companies have not produced more X64 bit software? A few, one, because if 32 bit works, they figure why bother? Some may simply not be able to for numerous other reasons.

    Life shortening is definitely a factor and those who have not seen shorter life are usually those who have good cooling systems. If you can keep an overclocked pc at a cool temperature, your risk is much less.

    Another great point you make is if you are a pc enthusiast, the longevity will be irrelevant. Computers don’t last long if you are overclocking or not. I have helped people find new systems or upgrade and replace parts constantly. Most store bought systems are not expected to go over a few years, yes, some do, some only last until after the warranty is expired. It’s cheaper for people to replace than to repair in many cases. Let’s not forget, most OEM systems are near impossible to OC anyway or don’t have many options to do so, nor would they be worth it. That said, a lot of overclockers do have custom self built computers and as you stated, you had every intention to do so and so do they.

    Years back, I was buying OEM systems, Emachine, burned out in two years from numerous reasons, no OCing involved in any OEM I had. HPpavillion, burned out in 3 years and numerous other OEMs that I had. I owned up to 5 on any given year. I began building my own and for my family and we have had our systems for years, upgrading when necessary. The point is, all these NON OC’d systems have come and gone, yet the two of our OC’d home builts are still going albeit not maxed out or anything but still OC’d. So even if not a PC enthusiast, much of the longevity issue is irrelevant as standard systems are not expected to last long anyway. As the old saying goes, they don’t make em like they used to.

    This is why I cannot disagree more with tagging overclocking as bad or good, there are a lot of reasons and factors not mentioned about OCing a computer or component.

  13. Kaye

    I just read this and downloaded so I can’t elaborate any further.

  14. Spank

    The odds are you won’t damage the CPU as these days they are well manufactured and modern coolers can easily keep them within their temperature limits.

    Motherboards however are far more prone to failure as they are harder to cool and often won’t have the same quality of components as the cpu. Even relatively mild overclocks can damage the board in a short time.

    Budget for a new motherboard every 12 months if overclocking to the limit on anything cheap. I’m speaking from experience and run an Asus Sabretooth now which has held up so far with fairly extreme overclocking.

  15. MrBrzydul

    Win 1000$ and Gigabyte Motherboards !

    To celebrate its new custom made skin on the Catzilla 720P benchmark, GIGABYTE is inviting the overclocking community to participate in GIGABYTE CATZILLA OC Contest. Open to all HWBOT members from June 23rd 2014 until July 21st 2014, GIGABYTE invites all Overclockers to suit up for one epic cat fight!

    http://hwbot.org/competition/gbt_z97_catzilla

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