The Plum Foolishness of High Overclocking
Overclocking is the process of changing the basic operating settings of a personal computer component to run at a faster clock rate than it was originally specified by the manufacturer. This is a practice that is usually implemented by personal computer enthusiasts in order to maximize the performance of their PCs. Although some overclockers utilize lower-end PC components which they then proceed to overclock to faster speeds in order to achieve similar performance to more expensive parts, most overclockers are engaged in the speeding up of higher-end computer components to reach levels of performance that lie well beyond the recommended factory settings.
Overclocking is essentially implemented through a manipulation of the CPU multiplier and the motherboard's front side bus (FSB) settings until the maximum operating frequency is reached and the computer remains bootable, stable, and fully operational. While at first this process seems quite akin to automotive hotrodding, computer overclocking varies significantly from hopping up a car engine. There are a plethora of electrical and physical characteristics of computing systems to take into consideration and the balancing of these various factors significantly complicates the process of maximizing performance. The multiple and complex characteristics that must be juggled to achieve high overclocks include manipulation of CPU multipliers, bus dividers, voltages, thermal loads, cooling techniques and various other odds and ends.
The net advantages of high overclocking are effectively quite minimal. The vast majority of everyday office type applications are not computationally-intense, thus will see very little if any noticeable benefit from an overclocked CPU. For example, adding another 1GB of RAM to a 1GB Vista PC will speed up most functions in an Office Suite to a far greater degree than overclocking the CPU to its limits. In huge resource hogs such as image manipulation software, RAM is also usually more critical than maximum CPU speed.
Gamers are usually inclined to overclock but even in those environments the increase in performance is difficult to discern. Most people will not be able to tell the difference when the frames per second rate is increased by 10%, and that task requires the processor to be significantly overclocked.
The disadvantages of high overclocking are countless. Overclockers not only void their warranties, but increase voltages and heat to such an extent that the lifespan of the part can be reduced by 90% or more. Excessive voltage can also cause immediate failure of the component and can even lead to the system igniting!
Even some experienced overclockers are not directly aware that increasing the operating frequency of a part will increase its heat output in a linear fashion while increasing its voltage increases thermal output quadratically! To compensate for this excessive heat output, expensive liquid or phase cooling systems have to be provided and unless meticulously installed and maintained, these systems can fail and fry the CPU. Negative impact on a computer system is not limited to maximized settings, as instability can crop up and cause irrecoverable data corruption and loss even when implementing lighter overclocking settings.
Overclocking finds its only real validity in street cred boasting. It is generally a juvenile and sophomoric activity which damages valuable electronic components to derive no clear, practical benefit.