|Overclocking the NVIDIA GeForce Video Card|
|Articles - Featured Guides|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Saturday, 06 September 2008|
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Planning the Project
Like any project, there are a number of different items that need consideration before you begin. Not everyone wants their hardware modifications to become permanent, and others are forced to make them temporary because of manufacturer warranty or store return policy concerns. In this section, I will cover the different directions that can be taken with this video card overclocking project. Before I begin though, there are a few common understandings that should be committed to memory.
The first is that SLI sets should not be overclocked or tested together as a team. It is best to remove one video card from the set while overclocking and testing on the other, and then vice-versa. This allows each video card to be stress-tested for faults and instability before they are joined into a mulit-card array. The next thing to consider is the limitation of your product. Most manufacturers are already "factory-overclocking" their graphic cards, so often times these products have very little head-room for additional performance. Lastly, consider the side-effects of overclocking on the rest of your computer system. Overclocked video cards generate much more heat than normal, and adjacent components suffer a reduced stability without additional cooling.
To begin my project, I decided to exeriment with both temporary and permanent overclocking. There's a short list of free software needed to complete these tasks:
Once I have all of the tool's needed for this project, I am ready to begin work... almost. Before I begin to overclock any video card, I ensure that my results are not somehow skewed by an outside source. One particular concern is drivers, because having the latest developers alpha or testers beta driver can often cause stability problems that make lead you to think there's something wrong with the hardware when it's really a software (driver) issue. It's a smart idea to use only the most commonly accepted stable version of the graphics driver available. Driver Cleaner Pro is also a good tool for making sure you have no previous driver remnants attached to the Operating System.
Next up is cooling. Heat is never friendly towards electronics, and there are times when you'll want to use this to your advantage. Keeping in mind that the cooling fan(s) found on most modern video cards can have their speed modified, I usually stress test with a reduced fan output (thus increasing test temperatures) and later increase the full-time fan output. Doing this allows me to test stability in my video card at the most grueling temperature acceptable, and once my experiments are complete the added fan power ensures that heat never ruins my game. Testing the stability of a video card with the fan turned up on full power only removes the opportunity to discover overclock instability. RivaTuner is a great tool for adjusting fan speeds from within the system settings (both standard and low-level).
With the fan set to low, I am now ready to begin the overclocking. The next section covers a temporary overclocking solution, which may be as far as some people are comfortable in going. I usually dislike the extra software running in the background, as it only leaches away system resources from the real focus of my attention. Nevertheless, the steps I will cover in the next section are critical and required before any permanent changes can safely be made.