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Newbie's Guide To Overclocking
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Newbie's Guide To Overclocking

Overclocking is not so mysterious as it sounds. To the average layman, however, the process of overclocking can sound as arcane as witchcraft. In this series we examine the basis and rationale of overclocking, the methods, the pitfalls and the benefits.


Why Overclock?

The first question that comes to the mind of any newbie is likely - why overclock? There are many reasons.

Some people overclock because they want more performance from their personal computers. Some people overclock for the thrill of it. It's like climbing a mountain or jumping out of a plane with a parachute. It's not anything anyone absolutely has to do, but if you can get some extra performance out of it and have some fun in the bargain, then well, why not?

Now, some say that those who don't know what they're doing shouldn't overclock. And they're right. The purpose of this article is to turn you from someone who doesn't know what he (or she) is doing, to someone who does.

In our opinion, there's no magic or mystery about overclocking. It's purely logical. It's not as if anyone needs a degree in overclocking or anything like that. Anyone (and we mean anyone) can overclock, and do so fairly safely. It's just a matter of knowing what to do, how to do and when to do it.


What's A MHz Or GHz?

If we're going to be overclocking, we're going to have to deal with MHz and GHz a lot. So, it pays to know what they are.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, for whom
the hertz unit was named.

Hertz (usually abbreviated as Hz) is a measure of frequency. In the computer world, it denotes how many clock cycles occur in a single second. For example, a frequency of 100 clock cycles in a second is called 100 hertz (or 100 Hz), and a frequency of 1,000 clock cycles in a second is called 1,000 Hz.

As the frequency numbers get higher, they become quite tedious to write. Therefore, 1,000 Hz can be abbreviated as 1 kilohertz or 1 kHz. Not only is this easier on the writer, it's also easier on your eyes!

In that sense, you can easily deduce that a MHz is nothing more than a megahertz or one million hertz or a million clock cycles per second. A GHz, on the other hand, is a thousand million clock cycles per second or a thousand MHz. As you can see, it's easier to just write that as a gigahertz or 1 GHz.

Although the amount of work any processor can do in a single clock cycle varies in different processor models, the higher its frequency, the more work it can do in a single second. Therefore, the frequency at which a processor runs at is frequently used as a measure of its speed.

It might be simpler to equate a processor's MHz and GHz with the speed of a car. When it really comes down to it, a hertz isn't much different from the mph (miles per hour) or km/h (kilometers per hour) values we use to determine a car's speed. Just as a car at 100 mph is likely to reach its destination at half the time of a car at 50 mph, a processor running at 600 MHz is likely to complete a task at half the time of a processor at 300 MHz.

So, when you see people talking about MHz or GHz, all you need to remember is that they are merely the number of clock cycles a processor or chip or circuit goes through every second. The higher the value, the faster the processor/chip/circuit.


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