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Is Overclocking Dangerous?

Hardware


Overclocking occurs when you push a component or computer to perform faster and more powerfully than it was originally designed for. The overall goal of overclocking typically is to increase the operating speed of the given hardware. Off the bat, overclocking sounds awesome. You can buy a less powerful (and less expensive) component, and then overclock to match the speeds of a more powerful (and more expensive) component. But, of course, there are dangers that come along with something as magical as overclocking. Increased heat, permanent damage to the component, voiding warranties, etc.

Before we get too deep into the dangers, let’s take a look at what exactly overclocking is…

Overclocking occurs when you set your CPU and memory to run at a speed that is higher than their official speed grade. As an example, an Intel Core i7 860 has a speed of 2.80GHz. If one were to overclock an Intel Core i7 860 it would then be running at a speed higher than 2.80GHz. A CPU’s speed rating states the speed of all processors in the same manufacturing batch can run, basically meaning the speed listed is more than likely lower than the actual abilities of the CPU.

When overclocking, especially extreme overclocking, heat can be a huge issue. Pushing your components to the limit uses A LOT of energy, and since energy causes heat, you are looking at A LOT of heat. Having a strong fan or even better, a liquid cooled cooling system, is important. It is also important to keep your machine in a nicely air conditioned room and minimal direct sunlight. It is also important to ensure the component is being supplied with the appropriate amount of power at a voltage strong enough to operate at the new clock rate. If the components are forced to run at extreme speeds with inadequate power, permanent damage is likely to result.

Other concerns at large when dealing with overclocking are incorrect functioning or “silent data corruption”. Studies have showed overclocked computers have a four to 20 times higher chance of crashing due to CPU failure (http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/144888/eurosys84-nightingale.pdf).

On the hand, overclocking can result in a higher performance in games, encoding, video editing applications and system tasks. This give you, the user, the advantage in whatever task you may be doing. It allows you to game that much harder or longer, or edit that much faster and cleaner. Overclocking can also extend the useful life of older equipment, saving you money in the long run. Here at AVADirect we offer overclocking when you order a computer from us.

In talking with consumers and the PC community world, we have found a similar trend of users overclocking simply for the sake of overclocking. The pleasure and self-reward from pushing a component to speeds and rates without knowing if the component will be successful or if it will blow up in flames (literally and figuratively) is the fun in it all.

So, whatever your reason for overclocking, be sure you are taking the right precautions. Manage the component’s heat levels, watch for computer functionality and stability, and most importantly, have fun!


I'm a marketing professional who loves to get down to the geeky details. When I'm not studying the latest components or industry news, I can be found biking, hiking or gaming.