How To 

How to overclock your DDR2 RAM and is it worth it?

One commonly overlooked aspect of computer tweaking and tuning is RAM overclocking. Most people are content to allow the settings to remain at stock or below stock so they can get the most out of their processor and gpu. In this tutorial I will show you how to find the max frequency and tighten the timings safely so that you have a stable and reliable system.

The first thing you will want to do is download CPU-Z and go over to the SPD settings.

Take note of the rightmost column. Take note of the frequency, timings, and voltage.

Typically most DDR2 modules work at 400mhz (800mhz Dual Data Rate) with timings of 4-4-4-8-16. and a voltage of somewhere between 1.8-2.2v

Another typical set-up is 533mhz (1066mhz Dual Data Rate) with timings of 5-5-5-15-30 with a voltage of 2.0-2.3.

Now that you have noted the highest stock frequency, timings, and voltage of your RAM modules you are ready to overclock. We will do this in the BIOS. We will start by entering in all of the timings and the voltage manually because if they are on auto then the BIOS may change something we don't want it to. Make sure that you aren't overclocking your cpu further than you want by doing the following steps. You will want to up your base clock or front side bus by very small increments (3-5mhz) at a time. This will make a much larger change in your RAM frequency than 3-5 mhz though because the RAM is on a ratio. For example: If you have a FSB of 200 and then your RAM runs at a frequency of 400mhz then you are running a FSB : DRAM ratio of 1:2. Hence when you increase the FSB by 5mhz you will actually change the ram timings by 10mhz and it will show as a 20mhz difference because of the dual data rate. Your 800mhz ram just turned into 820 mhz RAM.

Make the small incremental change and then run memtest86+ http://www.memtest.org/ Run your ram through one of the tests to check for stability. Keep upping the Base Clock or Front Side Bus until it gives you errors. Then lower the clock a bit until it stops showing errors.


Now what you will want to do is go into the timings and see if you can knock any numbers down even if just by 1 and run memtest to check for stability. DO NOT RUN ANY RAM SETTING THAT YIELD ERRORS IN WINDOWS. IT WILL DAMAGE YOUR WINDOWS INSTALL

If you would really like to tweak out your RAM the most possible you can try upping the voltage a tiny hair (.1-.2) and seeing if you can get a higher frequency or lower timings, but I don't really recommend it. The returns are diminishing after that point and there is no need to run the extra voltage through them. It will shorten the rams life and void your warranty.

You can benchmark your system and see which configuration works best. You can try high frequency and loose timings or lower frequency and tighter timings or somewhere in between. I recommend sisoft sandra http://www.sisoftware.net/.

Now the big question is "is it worth it to overclock your ram?"

For most people it truly isn't. You won't notice a huge difference in gaming performance or everyday use because you simply can't overclock DDR2 very far. If you do a lot of video or photo editing then it may be in the slightest bit noticeable and worth your time, but generally this level of fine tuning can be relegated to benchmarking pro's. It is fun to see where you can get your RAM to though.
 
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