3 Step Overclocking Guide – Clarkdale (Miahallen)

April 22, 2013 in CPU, Featured, Gaming, Guides, Intel, Motherboards & Chipsets, Overclocking, PC

Important Voltages when Overclocking

There a few important voltages which you will need to manipulate while overclocking, below are the main ones. Not every motherboard BIOS is identical, but all enthusiast level motherboards should provide control of the voltages as shown below.

CPU Vcore – Directly related to the CPU frequency. As you increase the CPU frequency you would need incrementally increase the v-core as well. Everyone continues to ask what is “safe”, and I’ll continue my previous suggestion that a safe voltage for you system should be determined by your LOADED CPU core temperatures. So, while you are stress testing, monitor your CPU core temperatures with Real Temp and if the temperature is under control, you can SAFELY increase the voltage. So, the next logical question is what is a safe temperature, and Intel says 105C is the maximum safe temperature, and that’s what I go by.

Nothing I’ve ever used my computer for come close to generating heat like IntelBurnTest configured to use all threads. Because it generates so much heat, it has become my favorite stress testing application. As long as I can keep my CPU cores below 100C while running IntelBurnTest, then for me that’s safe. If you are more conservative/cautious than me that’s perfectly OK. IntelBurnTest at default will only spawn one thread for each physical core, so if you have HyperThreading support enabled on your CPU, please manuall select the number of threads in the drop-down box corrosponding to your CPUs thread count. From this point forward I will use the terminology IntelBurnTest (maximum) to remind you to manually configure the thread count if your CPU has HyperThreading enabled.

QPI/VTT voltage – This controls the voltage being supplied to the MCP link, the memory controller, and the PCIe controller. It will have a direct impact primarily on the bclock frequency, the IMC, and the MCP (QPI) link frequency. I do not recommend exceeding 1.4V.

DRAM voltage – This is directly related to your RAM modules and increases will allow increase in MEM speeds. There has been a lot of debate as to the limitation 1.65V limitation Intel has published. For quite a while users have been running much higher DRAM voltage without ill effect. The justification has always been that the default VTT is 1.15V and the DRAM voltage has to stay within 0.5V of the VTT. I have always played by that rule, although many power users have questioned whether it’s needed or not. In any case, 1.4V seems to be more than enough for most Clarkdale based systems, and even abiding by the rule would allow for up to 1.85V DRAM, which should be plenty for most memory modules on the market these days.

Whether or not it’s necessary I’m not going to debate here, but it’s an easy rule to follow, and it’s stood the test of time that you can safely run your DRAM voltage up to VTT +0.5V


iGPU voltage

This is only important for users who are utilizing the iGPU in their Clarkdale CPU. If you have a discrete (PCIe) graphics card, you can skip past this section.

The iGPU voltage can be useful when overclocking the iGPU itself (see the last portion of the guide for more details). I would recommend that you do not exceed 1.4V for the iGPU voltage.

Sample overclocking goals to use as a reference

I keep going back and forth with this guide trying to make it easy to read for everyone, and yet still relevant to anyone’s personal goal. Sometimes as I’m typing away, I feel like I’m over explaining things over and over and that it’ll cause more confusion than clarity. So, for clarity, as you read the guide, I’ll be referring to the following thee sample goals and hopefully that’ll allow my explanations to be a little more concise.

  1. 1. Sample #1 – Easy/budget OC – Intel Core i3 530, DDR3-1066 CAS7
    1. Bclock freq goal = 180MHz
    2. CPU freq goal = 3960MHz
    3. Memory speed goal = DDR3-1080 ( MCP @ 3960MHz)

***This OC should be possible with the stock Intel cooler and minimal voltage increases***

  1. 2. Sample #2 – Moderate/midrange OC – Intel Core i3 530, DDR3-1600 CAS8
    1. Bclock freq goal = 200MHz
    2. CPU freq goal = 4400MHz
    3. Memory speed goal = DDR3-1600 (MCP @ 4400MHz)

***This OC will require high end air cooling at a minimum and moderate voltage increases***

  1. 3. Sample #3 – Hardcore/high end OC – Intel Core i3 550, DDR3-2000 CAS9
    1. Bclock freq goal = 200MHz
    2. CPU freq goal = 4800MHz
    3. Memory speed goal = DDR3-2000 (MCP @ 4400MHz)

***This OC may require water cooling or better and moderate to high voltage increases***

Step 1) Maximize Bclock Frequency

I would start by entering the BIOS and select “load optimized defaults”, then save and exit. After the reboot, go back into the BIOS and turn off the start-up slash screen, so that you can view your system’s post behavior. Also, feel free to disable any “integrated peripherals” that will not be used (i.e. NICs, extra PATA/SATA controllers, legacy devices, etc). All other overclocking settings you can leave on auto for now.

If you are looking for your maximum overclock, and you’re not concerned with power consumption, disable all power saving features. These include, but are not limited to; EIST, C1E, and all other C-states.


Isolate the bclock from the CPU

First you need to isolate the bclock, because all other major devices derive their frequencies from the bclock, it’s the logical starting point. In order to isolate the bclock from the other components, the first thing you need to do is manually force a low clock ratio for the CPU.

  • Sample #1, #2, and #3 – set the CPU clock ratio to x14

Isolate the bclock from the memory

Just like the CPU, the memory receives its clock from the bclock via a clock ratio, in this case the default is x4 (133×4=533MHz or DDR3-1066). This is expressed in the BIOS as “2:8″. For now, we want to drop that down a bit.

  • Sample #1, #2, and #3 – set the memory ratio to 2:6

In all sample system, the IMC is the limiting factor, and we don’t want to push it up yet, that is the reason for all three to be set at 2:6 for this step, don’t worry it won’t be there for long.


Isolate the bclock from the iGPU

If you are using an H55 or H57 based motherboard and the iGPU is enabled, please pay close attention to this section. If you are using a P55 based motherboard or if you are using a discrete (PCIe) graphics card, you can skip past this section.

For now, it’s important to isolate the iGPU from our overclocking process. So you need to do some reverse math based on your bclock overclocking goal. Take 100,000 and divide it by your bclock goal, this will give you the value you should set the iGPU freq at in the BIOS, for example:

  • Sample #1 – (100,000/180=555) set the iGPU freq to 555MHz
  • Sample #2 – (100,000/200=500) set the iGPU freq to 500MHz
  • Sample #3 – (100,000/200=500) set the iGPU freq to 500MHz

The reason for this is that when we increase the bclock (assuming you’re able to reach your goal) your iGPU will be approximately at its default frequency of 733MHz. This prevents it from becoming a hidden limiting factor during the process of overclocking the bclock.


bclock voltages

For this step, there is really only one voltageadjustment to play with; VTT.

Proper VTT voltage tuning is crucial for achieving high bclock stability. Default QPI/VTT is 1.15V and to reach 200MHz bclock you’ll likely need to increase this to at least 1.2V, many CPUs will require 1.3V or more. The only way to know is to follow the instructions here and find out.

For all three sample systems, start by setting the QPI/VTT voltage to 1.2V.

First overclock!

Go back into the BIOS and set the CPU, QPI (set to x44 for all sample systems), and memory multipliers, go to the voltages section and adjust your your QPI/VTT voltage. Then restart your machine and go back into the BIOS, if your system fails to post, start a new thread in the forums and ask for some specific help. Please be sure to include as many details as possible when posting in the forums, and post a picture of the specific problem if possible.

After you’ve restarted your system with your manually configured voltages and returned to the BIOS, adjust the bclock speed from 133MHz to 150MHz. Then save and exit and allow the system to reboot. This time, allow the system to boot fully into the operating system.


Testing for highest stable bclock frequency

Once the operating system has fully loaded, start up RealTemp. RealTemp should always be running while checking for stability of an overclocked system to ensure you do not overheat your CPU. RealTemp shows your CPU’s core temperatures real-time. Now start up CPU-Z, this utility will allow you to ensure that your overclocked settings have been properly applied, and that you are running at your desired speed. Check both the CPU tab for the expected CPU frequency, and check the memory tab to ensure your memory and uncore are both running at the appropriate speed. At this point the sample systems should each show up in CPU-Z with the following speeds.

  • Sample #1 – CPU = 2100MHz, QPI = 3300MHz, memory = 450MHz
  • Sample #2 – CPU = 2100MHz, QPI = 3300MHz, memory = 450MHz
  • Sample #3 – CPU = 2100MHz, QPI = 3300MHz, memory = 450MHz

***Note***, if you have SpeedStep (“EIST”) enabled, the CPU speed will fluctuate in CPU-Z when the load changes, please verify values given above WHILE RUNNING YOUR STRESS TEST.

Now start up your selected test program, for example OCCT (mix) or IntelBurnTest (maximum). Run the test for just a short amount of time, I usually try to run 3 loops with IntelBurnTest (maximum). Then reboot the system and return to the BIOS.

  1. If the test ran without error, raise the bclock by 10MHz, reboot into your OS and run the test again.
  2. If the test failed, raise the QPI/VTT voltage by 0.025V, reboot into your OS and run the test again.

Continue to repeat this testing following the two procedures above, until you meet one of the following three criteria:

  • You reach the same bclock speed you identified in step one and successfully pass your stability test.
  • You reach your maximum safe QPI/VTT voltage (as identified above)
  • Raising the QPI/VTT voltage is ineffective in stabilizing the system.

* Note – there is a phenomena known as “bclock holes” that may create confusion and frustration during this process. But if you appear to have found your limit at a much lower speed than anticipated, please consider trying a step or two higher before continuing on. A bclock hole cause’s system instability within particular bclock ranges, and going past them may allow you to regain stability.


Fine tuning

After you have met one of the criteria above, you should have a rough idea of your bclock limit, now it’s time to get a little more fine tuned. So, revert back to the highest speed THAT PASSED the stress test. Then continue the same procedure as before, but instead of 10MHz bclock changes, shift to 2MHz changes until you meet one of the three criteria again. Also, ensure you check my note about “bclock holes” above, the same concept can be applied to this fine tuning step as well.

After you have found your highest stable speed to within 2MHz accuracy, lower the bclock by 2MHz and run your test again. This time let the test run for a full hour. If it passes the test – Congratulations! – you have found your highest reasonably stable bclock frequency. If it does not pass, drop the bclock 2MHz and attempt the full hour long test again, continue to lower the bclock in 2MHz increments until the one hour test will pass.

For the purpose of this guide, I’m going to assume you met the goal as provided in one of the 3 sample systems listed above.

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