Disclaimer: Overclocking your CPU technically voids your warranty. However, if you want to overclock and still be covered, Intel does provide an aftermarket overclocking warranty for about $20-$30 located here. The overclocking warranty is only provided on the 6600K and 6700K, and I would think future K series SKUs. Overclocking can also damage your CPU, especially if done incorrectly.
This guide is about how to overclock, and you are responsible for anything that might go wrong. I don't want to scare anyone, and be assured that if your CPU does die (very hard to cause damage if you stay within voltage and temperature limits), it won't do so in dramatic fashion (sorry, no fireworks). To be frank with you, the only times I have killed a CPU from overclocking have been under long LN2 sessions, and I have yet to kill a Haswell or Skylake CPU.
Have you Overclocked Before?
If you have overclocked before and understand hardware selection and the basics of overclocking, you should skip to the next page. I have listed the components used in this guide below. The first part of this guide is for those who want to know what to do before overclocking.
Where do I start?
Skylake Overclocking Guide Systems
- Motherboard:ASRock Z170 OC Formula (used for memory scaling testing), ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme (used for CPU/Cache/Memory scaling testing), EVGA Z170 Classified 4-way (used for CPU delid testing), GIGABYTE Z170X-SOC Force (used for CPU clock, power, and voltage testing), MSI Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION (used for stability testing)-Buy from Amazon
- CPU:2x Intel Core i7 6700K, 2x 6600K-Buy from Amazon/Read our review
- Cooler:Corsair H110i GT, Noctua NH-D15-Buy from Amazon
- Memory:Corsair Vengeance LPX 8GB (2x4GB) 4000MHzC19, G.Skill TridentZ 8GB (2x4GB) 3733MHzC17-Buy from Amazon
- Video Card:NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980-Buy from Amazon/Read our review
- Storage - SATA6G Drive:Corsair Force LS 240GB-Buy from Amazon/Read our review
- Storage - USB Drive:Corsair Voyager GS 64GB-Buy from Amazon/Read our review
- Case:Corsair Obsidian 900D-Buy from Amazon/Read our review
- Power Supply:Corsair AX1200i-Buy from Amazon/Read our review
- OS:Microsoft Windows 10 Pro-Buy from Amazon
- BIOS:ASRock: P1.13 & 1.19, ASUS:1101 & 1202, EVGA: 1.05, GIGABYTE: F5a & F5, MSI: 1.2
- Drivers:Intel INF: 10.1.1.9, Intel ME: 220.127.116.112, Intel USB 3.0 Adaptation Driver: 10.0.0.42, NVIDIA Graphics: 353.82, Audio: 18.104.22.16860, ASMedia USB 3.1: 3.1.6.0000, Intel LAN: 20.2
The first place you should start is determining what hardware you have and the limits that hardware can take. Rough estimations are better than nothing.
Step #1 - Determine Hardware Requirements: This part is crucial since your hardware is the ultimate limiter of your overclock (well in some cases maybe the guy sitting in the chair could be considered the bottleneck). Intel's K-series SKUs such as the 6700K and 6600K have unlocked multipliers that make overclocking much simpler. Motherboard selection is also important, and there are many features that can help speed things up such as a POST code display.
Motherboard quality (VRM, PCB, etc.), load line calibration, and general overclocking settings are also important to long term overclocking. Memory is also important, and you should pick a motherboard, then look at the motherboard's memory compatibility list and pick a kit, or just buy a kit and hope it works fine (a higher-end board will be compatible with more kits that aren't on its list). Many Z170 motherboards utilizing DDR4 will have to go through a training routine at cold boots where they might start and shutdown multiple times to calibrate things. Training behavior is widespread across all brands and models, but to different extents depending on specific setups.
A note about non-K SKUs: It also seems that non-K SKUs can now be overclocked on some boards with newer BIOSes through a BIOS hack. For the non-K CPUs, you will need to push the BCLK to overclock, and I would think the margins might be lower.
Step #2 - Determine Cooling: Cooling is very important for overclocking. I do recommend you buy a good cooler. The lowest I would go in terms of cooling for a decent overclock (like ~4.5GHz for Skylake) is something like a Hyper 212 EVO, but you might find yourself strapping on very powerful (and loud) fans to improve cooling for a higher clock speed. Coolers on the other side of the spectrum (around $80-120), such as high-end all-in-one water cooling units like Corsair's H110i GT or massive air towers like Noctua's NH-D15 will offer very good cooling performance for Skylake and not create too much noise.
Obviously, there are many tiers of cooling, and ultimately many enthusiasts end up with custom water-cooling. If you want real gains from cooling apart from less noise and a few more megahertz, there are subzero options. These options include TECs/Peltier blocks, chillers, phase change units, cold boxes, and of course, LN2 or dry ice for momentary subzero cooling. As you go up in cooling performance the price tag grows, your temperatures drop, and your overclock scales upwards.
Step #3 - Estimate Targets and Tactics: You should choose a target you would like to hit. Most people initially aim for 4.5GHz with Skylake, and all the CPUs I have come across can do 4.5GHz stable. Getting to 4.8GHz is much harder, and I would say only 10-15% of CPUs can actually do it without being de-lidded. I have seen some guys online say they can't get 4.5GHz stable, and if you look at the math, 4.5Ghz stable is 0.3GHz away from the top Turbo bin of the 6700K, but it's 0.6GHz away from the top Turbo bin of the 6600K.
However, I would start by aiming for a solid 4.5GHz overclock, see how hot the CPU gets, and then move forward. Temperature will be your ultimate speed limit. I have listed target voltages for CPU boot up at 4.5-4.8GHz+ in the flow chart. Your tactics will be to boot, test for stability, and then tweak voltage to attain maximum stability at the lowest temperature.
Step #4 - Enter the UEFI/BIOS and Change Settings: From what I hear, there is a lot of stigma around entering the BIOS (or UEFI) of the motherboard and changing settings. Honestly, when I was first getting into computers at a younger age, I didn't know what the BIOS was, and when I figured it out, and I went inside, I didn't touch anything out of fear. I am here to tell you it is okay, peek. I am here to help you get over your fear. I am here to show you exactly what to change, and I cover five popular overclocking motherboards from five different brands that tend to keep settings consistent within their product lines. So do not worry, be happy. As a bonus, all motherboards have either a jumper or a button to clear the CMOS memory. The CMOS memory stores changes made to the UEFI/BIOS, and clearing it will remove all your changes and always restore default values.
To enter the BIOS/UEFI, you will need to tap/smash delete or F2 (on most boards) during boot up right before and during the first image comes on the screen. For most boards you have basic and advanced modes, I always skip to the advanced mode and tend to navigate with the keyboard. To enter a setting you either type (or delete and then type), use +/- keys, or you click and scroll. Then you have to "Save & Exit" the BIOS/UEFI for the settings to apply.
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- Page 1 [Introduction to Skylake Overclocking]
- Page 2 [Disclaimer and Before You Begin Overclocking]
- Page 3 [Overclocking Flow Chart, Non-K SKUs, BCLK, and Multipliers]
- Page 4 [BCLK, Core, Cache, Memory, and FCLK Scaling]
- Page 5 [Skylake Overclocking Voltages]
- Page 6 [Power Savings and Voltage/Power Analysis]
- Page 7 [The Durability of Intel's 14nm Node]
- Page 8 [Skylake Memory Overclocking: Corsair and Frequency Scaling]
- Page 9 [Skylake Memory Overclocking: G.Skill and Memory Timings]
- Page 10 [ASRock Z170 Overclocking: Z170 OC Formula]
- Page 11 [ASUS Z170 Overclocking: Maximus VIII Extreme]
- Page 12 [EVGA Z170 Overclocking: Z170 Classified 4-Way]
- Page 13 [GIGABYTE Z170 Overclocking: Z170X-SOC Force]
- Page 14 [MSI Z170 Overclocking: Z170A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM EDITION]
- Page 15 [Stability Testing, Delidding, Crashing, and Throttling]
- We at TweakTown openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion of our content. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here.
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