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Monday, June 3, 2002

Overclocking is a specialist's job
Vipul Verma

Change is a part of life and when it comes to technology then change means a phenomenon, under which the older things get obsolete. The change in technology of computers makes the older ones a thing of past and virtually obsolete. However, despite becoming obsolete the older technology does not become redundant. At some point of time, you would be required to upgrade some of its components with the more recent ones.

There is a debate raging on this issue. Confusion prevails in the minds of a majority of the computer users whether they should upgrade the system or replace it with a new one. Though the choice is tough yet the answer varies from case to case. If a person has a Celeron 300 MHz computer, what are the other options available? Practically, not much and by choosing to upgrade, he may eventually land up as a loser. Because then he may have to sacrifice virtually all components of his computer barring add ons like CD ROM, floppy drive, hard disk etc. Since the motherboard would not be compatible with the recent technologies, therefore he will have to change the motherboard, processor, RAM as most likely it will have chips of 16 or 32 MB RAM and in some cases it could be EDO RAM, which is hard to find these days. So practically, upgradation is not advisable.


In another case, where the user has slot motherboard, processors also limit the options of upgradation as nowadays socket motherboards and processors are being used. Practically, the option of upgradation is most practical in cases where the user is using the 810, 810E, 815-chipset motherboard.

In this case, depending upon the need, the user can upgrade the processor to higher version as Pentium III is supported on this motherboard. The best option of upgradation lies in getting the processor upgraded. It is also worth mentioning that the Celeron processors based computers also use the Intel 810, 810E etc. chipset motherboard. So it is a viable idea for the old Celeron users like 550 MHz, 600 MHz onwards to upgrade to Pentium III processors though there could be some limitations due to architecture and features of the motherboard. But by spending a little extra, the users can really have a lot of worth. In this case also, the users will need to upgrade the processors.

It is worth mentioning here that the older Celeron processors have low bus speed of 66 MHz whereas the Pentium III has double front side bus speed of 133 MHz, which makes a big difference in performance. Secondly, the Celeron processors do not have L1 Cache. This was a big limitation with the Celeron processors that can be overcome by upgrading to Pentium III. However, the option of upgradation should be exercised only for changing the processor, as the whole exercise of changing all components like motherboard, processor RAM makes it unviable for upgradation and in that case it sounds better to go for a new computer rather than upgradation.

The best options of upgradation lies in the case of Cyrix processors, as the Cyrix M-III processors use 810, 810 E chipset motherboard. So you can easily upgrade the Cyrix processor to Pentium III system. However, with the older Cyrix processors i.e. with Cyrix M-II, the upgradation options are limited and one should continue using them without any major upgradations.

The choice of upgradation in case of Athlon and Duron processors is also there despite the fact that the Athlon and Duron processors have different processor architecture that does not run on the same common 810 chipset motherboard. But since these processors have good upgradation option on the same motherboard and above all, these processors are relatively cheaper than Intel processor, so upgradation in case of Athlon and Duron processors is also a viable idea.

Another option, which could be a substitute for upgradation is overclocking. Overclocking in its simplest sense means increasing the speed of the processor. Thus by increasing the speed of the processor, you make it run at a speed higher than its rating. Since a majority of processors are rated below their maximum capacity, so running it at higher speed should not pose any problem in general. However, some care is required in this case, which includes using the required thermal compound on the processor and proper cooling of the processor by using an oversize CPU cooling fan and system fans. Thus if you have a 233 MHz processor and if you are able to derive the performance of say 300 MHz, then it is also a viable substitute for upgradation, which is available at virtually just a little extra cost.

It is worth mentioning here that overclocking is a specialist's job and should not be done carelessly as it may cause extensive damage to the processor and could render it useless if not done properly.

The best method of overclocking is to read the motherboard manual well and refer some notes on overclocking. Principally there is nothing wrong with overclocking but since it generates more heat than usual, therefore the overall life of the processor gets reduced. This does not matter because on an average, the life of a processor is roughly 10 years. After 3 years the processor becomes redundant due to change in technology.

Therefore, overclocking provides better options for more practical usage of the processor. Also it is worth mentioning here that overclocking procedures are different in different types of motherboards and processors. In previous versions of motherboards, jumper settings and dipswitches were being adjusted for increasing the core voltage and adjusting the clock multiplier. But now in recent computers overclocking can be done from inside the BIOS set-up utility only.