How do you Overclock RAM (and why do you need it)?.
The overall performance of a computer is the result of various components working together. If one component is too slow, a bottleneck occurs. On any computer, one component will be a major performance bottleneck unless you have a truly balanced build.
This is not a problem in itself, but you can improve the speed of your GPU, CPU, and RAM. Allow other components of the system to reach their true potential. While GPU and CPU overclocking is (relatively) easy, RAM can be a little more intimidating. Fortunately, at least on modern computers, overclocking RAM is much easier and safer than it used to be.
The benefits of overclocking your RAM can also be substantial. Especially if you are also overclocking other system components, which makes it difficult for your RAM to work.
What Is “Overclocking”?
While you probably have a reasonable idea of what overclocking is, let’s just make sure we’re all on the same page. The “clock speed” of a component such as a GPU, CPU, or RAM is a measure of how often that component goes through its entire duty cycle. Thus, a 1 GHz processor performs one billion cycles every second. If you double its frequency to 2 GHz, it will run twice as fast, at least in theory.
The RAM is the same. It has a clock speed that affects its base performance. Add more megahertz to that and your RAM is faster.
Why Would You Overclock Your RAM?
Increasing the speed of your RAM has an overall performance benefit for your entire system. This means the CPU can get information into RAM faster and spend less time waiting for RAM to process its requests. It will benefit a wide variety of applications, although you probably won’t notice much of a difference when browsing the web or writing a report in Word.
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Video games and other complex memory-intensive workloads where the CPU must constantly access RAM to perform computations will be faster if your RAM gets a good boost.
More Than Just Megaherz
The reason so many people are wary of overclocking RAM is that there is more to it than just increasing the clock speed until the RAM fails and then lowering it slightly. RAM must perform several different types of complex operations to search, read, and write to memory locations.
They are usually expressed as ram ‘timings’. For example, you will see RAM specifications followed by a string of numbers, such as “10-10-10-30”. Each of these numbers represents the number of clock cycles that certain operations take. Smaller numbers mean higher speeds. Here is a short explanation of each primary time number:
- CL: Cas Latency – how many ticks between a request to RAM and a response from it.
- tRCS: RAS to CAS Delay – delay between activation of a row and then a column of a memory cell.
- tRP: RAS Precharge – the time between the deactivation of one memory line and the activation of the next.
- tRAS: Active to Precharge Delay – time to wait between each memory access operation.
These four main timings are what most people tweak when overclocking their RAM. There are many sub-timings as well, but they are for absolute experts who know exactly what they are doing. Tweaking these basic timings is more than enough for any user looking to boost performance a bit.
You want these timings to be as low as possible without causing stability or performance issues. The point is, the higher you increase the frequency, the higher these numbers must be in order for everything to work. This can lead to a situation where higher speeds but lower times result in an overall degradation of performance.
Official Versus Supported Speeds
A funny incident happened with the setting of the speed standards for DDR memory. They don’t reach the height that real memory chips can handle. As such, these high-speed memory kits that you can buy often advertise at speeds that are completely outside the official standard for DDR memory.
However, since RAM is rated for these numbers, and motherboard manufacturers also design motherboards to support these speeds, this means little in practice.
It is now fairly easy to overclock these RAM modules to their maximum rated speed. They have memory profiles that tell the computer exactly which settings to use. SPD profiles are one example, but there are also Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profiles) that tell the motherboard the fastest official “overclocking” for your RAM.
Going Beyond Profiles
Memory profiles that are out of specification are actually overclocking RAM, and they are completely safe! You might want to stop here. Just select the fastest memory profile listed in BIOS settings and enjoy the maximum rated performance.
From now on, however, we’re going to go beyond the profiles. Play the silicone lottery to see if your memory chips have more potential.
Using CPU-Z for Settings
We recommend downloading a copy of the CPU-Z utility. Here you can see both your current memory settings and all approved profiles for your memory modules.
Write them down! This is a good guide to approved safe settings. Additionally, if your motherboard does not support memory profiles, you can also use the official profile settings for manual overclocking. Pay particular attention to the RAM voltages listed here. If you want to accelerate safely, never exceed these voltages. Leave that to the experts who want to burn their memory in the pursuit of efficiency.
Getting a Baseline
Before tinkering with RAM, you need to measure baseline performance. It helps you see if it improves or degrades your acceleration. We do not recommend using tests for specific memory. Ultimately, we are looking for system-wide improvements that will impact real-world use cases. Therefore, use a test that reflects the actual workloads you are using.
Run them again after every stable overclocking. Are the results better or worse? This will tell you if the overclocking is doing its job.
How To Overclock Your RAM in the BIOS
So now we are ready to play the BIOS to overclock your RAM. Each BIOS is different and these are very general instructions. See the BIOS manual for details. Also note that not all motherboards can manually overclock RAM. Your motherboard may not even support high-performance profiles. Unfortunately, the only solution is to buy a motherboard with such overclocking features. With that said, let’s get down to business:
- Restart your computer and press the keyboard shortcut to enter BIOS (usually the Del key).
- Go to memory settings. page in parameters.
- Look for advanced settings, you may have to switch from “auto” to “manual” to see them.
- Find the selected memory profile. If XMP profiles are available and you just want the fastest safe overclocking possible, select the highest, then save and exit. This is all done. If you want to go further, keep reading.
- Find the memory frequency page and manually set the memory multiplier and timings.
- Increase the clock speed multiplier one notch from the maximum certified speed for your RAM.
- Set the times to the same times as in the fastest memory profile. You may need to do this for each memory channel. In this case, channels A and B, since this is a dual channel motherboard. Save and reboot.
- If your computer restarts successfully, run a memory stress test to make sure it is stable.
- If your memory fails the stress test, try decreasing the timings until it works. passed.
- Repeat from step 6 until you reach your memory limit, and then bring it back to where the stress test passed.
Once again, do not set the memory voltage higher than the highest officially registered voltage!
After your memory reaches its maximum, run the tests again and see if the results improve. If it doesn’t, gradually return to overclocking until you see improvement.
NOTE. If the RAM clock multiplier is not high enough to bring the RAM to the certified speed or higher, then the only option is to increase the base clock (BCLK). Many motherboards do not allow this. Additionally, any increase in base frequency will also affect your processor and other components.
Therefore, if you increase the base frequency, you may need to decrease the multiplier of your processor to compensate. Since this is a safe overclocking guide, we will not cover modifying the base frequency. This is a more complex process requiring complex balancing of the various components.
In Case of Emergency Reset Your BIOS
What if everything goes wrong and your computer won’t boot at all? Panic? No!
You will need to perform a BIOS reset to restore default RAM settings and start them up again. Please refer to your motherboard manual for how to do this, but generally one of the following should work:
- Restart your computer 3-4 times. Some motherboards reset to their default values after several failed boot attempts.
- Press the BIOS reset button on your motherboard, if applicable.
- Install the BIOS reset jumper on the motherboard, if applicable.
- Remove the CMOS battery, wait a few minutes and replace it.
After resetting BIOS settings, everything should be back to normal. However, you will have to go through all the settings to make sure they are as they should be. If you have a UEFI motherboard, you can save the BIOS profile to your hard drive before you start changing anything. Then you can restore it from your saved profile. Happy overclocking!