Understanding The Lingo
Many new overclockers leave our user forums never to return when they ask "How do I overclock?" and receive “Raise the FSB or HT clock” as an answer. But once you're armed with the lingo, the principles are fairly easy to understand. Let's cover a couple of the basics.
A processor is made up of a complicated series of microscopic electronic switches (transistors) on a pulsating power circuit. The number of pulses (power cycles) per second is called the circuit's “frequency.” It takes at least one cycle for the transistor to change state between on (1) or off (0), and the ones and zeros become part of a data stream.
Modern central processors run at thousands of millions (billions) of cycles per second, or gigahertz. This is the same range of frequencies at which microwaves and mobile phones operate, so that a relatively short piece of wire can become a fairly good radio antenna. Preventing cross-communication between circuits, where one circuit acts as a transmitter an the other an unintended receiver, is extremely important.
The conductors on motherboards, called traces, are much longer than those of an integrated circuit, such as a central processor (CPU) or graphics processor (GPU). In order to reduce noise, signal loss and cross-talk, the pathways that connect various processors must run at slower frequencies.
The CPU Multiplier
As the need for increased data speed outstripped the ability of various busses to support it, companies developed a variety of methods to send more than one bit of data per conductor, per cycle. These methods include double data rate used in memory modules, quad data rate used by Intel’s front side bus (FSB), AMD’s HyperTransport (HT) interconnect, and Intel’s recent QuickPath Interconnect (QPI).
Because Intel’s most recent FSB uses quad data rate technology, its clock frequency is a quarter of its data frequency. That is to say, the clock rate of FSB-1333 is 333 MHz (megahertz, or millions of cycles per second). The CPU itself relies on an actual electrical frequency (the clock rate) to set its internal speed, so a CPU multiplier of 10x on an FSB clock rate of 333 MHz (FSB-1333) results in a CPU frequency of 3,333 MHz, or 3.33 GHz.
AMD’s internal HT link uses a 200 MHz clock speed with data rates of five to ten times clock speed, resulting in 1,000 to 2,000 transfers per second. But since HyperTransport supports full bandwidth in both directions at the same time, AMD doubles its name to HT 2,000 (1,000 MHz data rate, 200 MHz clock rate) and HT 4,000 (2,000 MHz data rate, 200 MHz clock rate). The most important thing to remember when overclocking is that both HT 4,000 and HT 2,000 use a clock rate of 200 MHz, so that a CPU multiplier of 10x would provide a CPU clock speed of 2,000 MHz, or 2.0 GHz.
Though we won’t use an Intel QPI-based system today, users should know that it operates in a similar fashion to AMD’s HT link, but at a slower 133 MHz base clock frequency.
Frequent overclockers will discuss BIOS settings such as VCore (voltage of the CPU core), VDIMM (memory voltage), and various data pathway/memory controller voltage settings under a variety of different initializations. Some of these will be discussed in detail as we encounter them in BIOS screen shots.