Tweaking Part 4 - The Hardware
Now comes the fun part! By far the highest performance gains come via overclocking the core and/or RAM on your video card. This is because most to today's games take full advantage of the available 3D acceleration to the point that the GPU (even with the latest improvements) is the limiting factor. In order to maximise frame rates we can make the core and memory run at faster than their rated speeds, which of course is not supported by your product warranty. Before we can do this, your actual card might need some attention. Many (especially cheaper) video cards will not come with adequate enough cooling to overclock much or even at all. This is particularly evident with GeForce2 MX and Geforce4 MX cards that cater the budget market, which can often have passive stuck on heatsinks which don't suit our purpose at all.
There are, however, plenty of products that can help us tweakers out. Getting an effective cooling solution like the Thermaltake Crystal Orb will increase the overclockability of your card. If your GeForce already has a good heatsink and fan combo like the MSI one pictured below, then you need to remove it. Only temporarily of course, because although thermal paste has already been applied to the GPU (and RAM in this case), it is best to remove it and replace with some trusty Arctic Silver II for optimum heat transfer between the GPU and the heatsink. The new paste provides maximum contact area between the two items, as well as the best heat transfer you can get.
The other area that could use additional heat dissipation is the RAM chips. The MSI board's stock heatsink already covers the DDR chips, but yours may not. Memory bandwidth is almost always the limiting factor in gaming performance at higher resolutions; the effect can be reduced by overclocking the RAM. To do so requires some better cooling, we can apply passive heatsinks with frag tape due to the lack of mounting holes, like these from Thermaltake.
Click through to the next page to begin the overclocking fun!