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Intel Core 2 Duo basic overclocking guide for beginners

by David Marshall on 16 October 2007, 08:54

Tags: Intel (NASDAQ:INTC)

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In its original incarnation as a HEXUS.community forum thread, this beginners guide to overclocking Intel Core 2 Duo processors written by David Marshall (aka Clunk) has already had over a quarter of a million reads - so we thought it time to turn it into a proper article.

This guide is intended to offer a quick and easy way for beginners to start overclocking their Intel Core 2 Duo processors.

The guide is not aimed at experienced, hardcore enthusiasts but at ordinary people who would like to benefit from the extra bump in speed that can be had by overclocking their Core 2 Duo CPUs.

So, we're going to keep things as simple as possible.

However, it's necessary for us to make certain basic assumptions about your PC being suitable for overclocking - so if these are not true for you, make sure to get your PC ready for overclocking before you start out.

Our first assumption is that your PC is stable at stock speeds. For your own peace of mind, run the Orthos stress tester overnight before you start making any changes.

That way, you'll know if there are any issues with your system that need to be sorted out before you continue down the overclocking path.

We're also assuming that you have the system housed in a well-vented case with decent air-flow within - and that you are using some kind of third-party cooler for the CPU.

Intel's stock coolers are fine for running at stock speeds but they aren't necessarily up to the job of keeping down the temperature when a CPU is overclocked.

To find our more about third-party coolers, check out our LGA 775 CPU cooler mega test.

As well as Orthos, you'll need to download a few other pieces of free software:

Core Temp
Intel TAT (Thermal Analysis Tool)

Overclocking - all things aren't equal

Every piece of hardware is unique. You might have a friend with all the same gear as you whose PC can be overclocked quite a bit higher than yours (or lower). Well, sometimes this is just down to luck - no two CPUs, sets of RAM or motherboards will give exactly the same results.

But, if you follow our advice, get to know your hardware and are patient, you're on your way to getting the best results that your particular combination of hardware is able to deliver.

Don't scrimp on the power supply unit (PSU)

One of the most important parts of the computer is the power supply. This is often overlooked when budgeting for a new PC, so people end up with the generic PSUs that come with cheap cases or buy unbranded PSUs.

You might be lucky and find that these cheapies work okay, giving years of trouble-free service. However, when a PSU does break down it can take other components with it. Imagine spending a grand or more on a new PC, only for the cheapo PSU to blow, taking your £300 graphics card, your CPU and your RAM with it.

So don't scrimp on the PSU. Get a decent brand from a maker such as Corsair, Seasonic, Enermax, Silverstone or Tagan. If you are unsure of your individual power requirements, please ask on the HEXUS.community forums. You may find that you need much less than you think.

Don't scrimp on RAM, either

The type of RAM you're able to use will of course be totally dependent on the motherboard in your system but there are some rough and ready rules to understand.

For overclocking, we'd suggest that, as a minimum, you use PC2-6400 RAM and avoid cheap, unbranded, generic RAM. Currently, prices for modern RAM modules are cheap and, from experience, the small saving made on generic RAM can be more trouble than it's worth.

PC2-6400 RAM will give you a theoretical CPU overclock of 3.6GHz on an E6600/E4300; 3.2GHz on an E6400; and 2.8GHz on an E6300. These figures represent the maximum CPU overclock without even overclocking the RAM. More on the ins-and-outs of that later on.

What's a good CPU for overclocking?

If you are starting off and haven't yet bought a system, then the CPU you choose will depend on your budget. The great thing about Core 2 Duo CPUs is that most of them will overclock well. So, with very little skill and effort, you could take your £99, 1.8GHz CPU to 3.0GHz and beyond.

One other critical bit of advice

Read this guide thoroughly before making any changes and don't forget to print it out, too. If anything goes wrong, you don't want to have to visit a friend or an internet cafe to find out how to recover the situation!