So far, we have covered the art of overclocking in a very broad scope. While the concepts are solid, not every system was created equal. This section will give you some ideas as to how to create a more stable environment for your stressed system components. And remember, overclocking is a matter of trial and error. Sometimes the settings you use will work like a champ and sometimes they will just make you look like a chump. Never be afraid to experiment, but be prepared for the possible consequences if it fails. And make sure that you are intimately familiar with one setting in particular...CMOS Reset! If you don't know how to reset the default CMOS values, then stop right now and find out. This will save you a world of trouble when you finally lock down the entire system. And rest assured, if you do any real pushing of your system, you WILL lock down the system. By knowing how to reset the CMOS values up front, you won't be caught by surprise when you hit the reset button and the system just gives you a blank screen and no hardware activity.
Special note: Since this is where you are likely to start playing with settings, I will remind you of the disclaimer located on Page 1 of this guide. Though slight, there is a risk of doing irreparable damage to your components. You are now entering an area that enthusiasts willingly travel, but please understand that you may be shopping later on for replacement components.
We'll start right off with one of the most important facets of the enthusiast system; cooling. Though not a tweak per se, it is vital that you have sufficient cooling in place for the entire system. Without this element at the beginning, you are doomed for failure in regards to the best possible performance of your system as a whole. Three main areas need mention and they include processor cooling, case cooling and video card cooling.
- Processor Cooling
If you have frequented TweakTown for any length of time, then you will certainly have seen numerous reviews for Heatsink/Fan (HSF) units. This is the component that attaches directly to the processor to aid in the removal of heat. This heat is produced naturally while the processor is busy crunching those numbers and churning that data, but it produces even more heat when overclocked. A quality HSF is essential in an overclocked system. There are many varieties from a huge amount of manufacturers to choose from. And while the debate is still ongoing about which is the best, the bottom line is that as long as your choice is able to remove the heat produced, then it is working as well as can be expected.
Just for reference sake, I will list some of the higher echelon coolers to give you a starting place for your search. Some of these coolers include the Alpha PAL8045, Swiftech MCX462, Thermalright SLK-800 and Thermaltake Volcano 7+. This isn't an all-inclusive list by any means, but it should give you a starting place for your cooling research.
Something else to consider is Thermal Interface Material (TIM), also referred to as goop by many. This is the stuff that goes between the processor and the heatsink to fill in any irregularities between the two metal surfaces. Without getting into a discussion on the concepts of cooling, let's just say that it is suicide to install a heatsink without any TIM. I can almost assure you that you'll be in the market for a new processor in the very near future. Good compounds to consider are Arctic Silver III and Evergreen Technologies TherMagic.
- Case Cooling
I have had several people ask me why they get poor temperature readings after they went out and bought a top of the line heatsink. Nearly every time that I have been asked about this, the reasoning was inadequate case cooling. After all, the world's best heatsink can't do squat if all it has to work with is hot air!
This is where case cooling comes into play. The best results are usually seen when you allow for the natural rising of heated air. If you have intake fans placed toward the lower/front portion of the case and exhausts placed in the upper/rear portions, then you allow for nature to do part of the work for you. It is also a good idea to have the same general amount of exhaust as you have intake. It doesn't have to be exactly the same, but should be at least close. This gives the HSF on the processor plenty of nice, cool air to work with while dispelling the heat.
- Video Card Cooling
Now why in the world would I mention video card cooling in an overclocking guide? Because the video card is likely the second highest heat producer in your system (particularly the nVidia based cards). Since heat is our sworn enemy, we need to try to eliminate as much of this element as possible to get the best results we can.
Most modern video cards will already have some sort of active cooling installed when you purchase it. By active cooling, I refer to the use of electrical fans and not just the use of a metal heatsink device. Many of these cooling solutions will work just fine, but if you decide that an upgrade is in order, then you'll find several around. Thermaltake seems to have most of the market cornered where video card cooling is concerned, so you won't go wrong with either a Crystal Orb or the G4-VGA coolers.
One point to remember is that the GeForce3 series and GeForce4 series video boards have different pin layouts for the fans. Double check the video card cooler you're looking at and make sure it is for your particular video card.