Intel Core 2 Overclocking Basics
Author: Frank Stroupe
Editor: Shawn Knight
Date: 09-08-2008

Intel's LGA 775 Core 2 series has been an extremely successful line of desktop processors. Most models are somewhat overclockable, and some are real overclocking monsters. Both Intel and nVidia have recently produced motherboard chipsets really conducive to overclocking. In the past, it was obvious that all but a handful of motherboard manufacturers considered overclocking as an annoyance, but today, nearly all motherboard manufacturers incorporate overclock-specific features into their motherboards and BIOS, and advertise their motherboards as overclock-friendly.

Depending on the BIOS, overall, the Core 2 is an easy overclocker. Gains are easily seen by merely raising the FSB to increase the CPU speed. There are certain models, or particular steppings of models, that aren't great overclockers, but if the CPU happens not to be a great overclocker, gains can also be seen by lowering the CPU multiplier to keep the processor running at or near stock speed, and just increasing the FSB, or Front Side Bus, though usually a better motherboard is required for significant performance increases using that method.

Even though overclocking has come a long way from hacked BIOS, pencil tracing, etc, it still isn't for the squeamish. You can still fry your CPU or motherboard, though it is much harder due to safety measures built into Intel processors and most motherboards. But with a little preparation and forethought, nearly anyone can successfully give their rig some extra oomph by a mild overclock, or make it really scream with a serious overclock. Read on to find out how!

This primer is directed towards the beginning overclocker, or for the enthusiast recently introduced to LGA 775 Intel processors. It will cover the bare basics, and is in no way intended to teach someone to be an extreme overclocker, nor will the seasoned Core 2 overclocker likely learn much if at all from this article.


Though most current motherboards have some kind of software enabling overclocking in the Windows environment, overclocking is best done in the BIOS. In my personal experience, most current overclocking software will add instability to the system, something that you don't need while overclocking. I suppose that the software can serve as an introduction to the overclocking world for the beginner, but at this point in time I don't feel that it can be taken as a serious method of overclocking.

Nearly every motherboard's BIOS is a little different, some are very different, but the basics are the same: you increase the frequency of the front side bus to raise the operating frequency of the processor.

The two most common BIOS are the American Megatrends BIOS and the Phoenix Award BIOS (Phoenix Technologies and Award Software, both makers of BIOS, merged in 1998). The primary differences between the two are in the navigation; the American Megatrends BIOS has tabbed menu pages, and the Award BIOS has a main menu page with submenus. Asus and ASRock, among others, use the American Megatrends, Gigabyte, Abit, and many others use the Award BIOS. If I'm not mistaken, I had an Asus LGA775 board that used an Award BIOS.

But again, be aware that every BIOS, even two from the same motherboard manufacturer can be totally different. Some BIOS have so many tweaks that your head will spin from just seeing all of them. But all enthusiast boards have one thing in common, the ability to raise the FSB. That may not be true for motherboards in “store-bought” rigs, like HP, Dell, Gateway, etc.

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