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Overclock Everything, part three

Feature: Day three - overclock your 3D card

HOW TO MAKE THE TINY IMPS INSIDE YOUR PC PAINT FASTER

Now for the good news. That noisy slab of plastic and silicon that pumps scenes of such deliciously vivid violence to your monitor is both the easiest component to overclock and the one that usually yields the most gallons of tasty gamejuice.

Built-in disaster sensors on more recent cards means they'll also automatically shut down in the event that they're overheating.

So, on the plus side, it's unlikely that you'll write off a couple of hundred quids' worth of technology. On the down side, you don't get to say "Dude, I've just totally slagged my graphics card", which sounds kind of rock 'n' roll.

Indeed, 3D card overclocking is now so much a part of a hardcore gamer's furniture that manufacturers build the tools to do it into their own drivers. Often, too, they'll knowingly leave some headroom in their cards for faster speeds, which means pretty much any board from the last couple of years can have at least a few more frames per second squeezed out of them.

As with overclocking any component, resist the urge to immediately ramp speeds all the way up to 11, or whatever the equivalent is in megahertz. Advance in small increments. Yes, the card should cut out if it gets too hot, but there's a chance it'll overheat so rapidly it won't get a chance to, plus crashing your PC is rarely good for it.

There are two things you're overclocking with a graphics card - its GPU, which is essentially a highly specialised processor, and the speed of its memory. The two aren't linked, so in some cases you'll be able to overclock one by a much higher factor than another, but you can end up with bottle-necking in the memory if it can't keep up with the GPU. This could mean your world-record overclock of the GPU actually achieves nothing, so you'll need to test to find out.

3D Mark 06 (www.futuremark.com) isn't wholly reliable when it comes to comparing rival graphics cards, but it is an effective benchmark of what effect your changes have had on the same card. So, grit your teeth at the time it takes and run it before and after your overclocks, paying particular attention to the framerate in the first couple of tests, and see if your tinkering has been worth it. The built-in benchmark test in Company of Heroes is also a goodie if you have it.

One final note - check for new drivers on at least a monthly basis. They usually contain optimisations for big games that sometimes can improve performance more than any overclock can.

Giddy-up your GeForce
Coaxing your nVidia card out of its shell

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1. nVidia have overclocking tools in their drivers, but they hide them, like pixel-boosting truffles. Coolbits 2.0 (downloads.guru3d.com/download.php?det=815)
will dig them up if you double click it.


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2. Right click on your desktop and select nVidia Control Panel. Click on the button marked Standard View and it should switch to Advanced view. Next, click the great big button labelled 3D Settings.


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3. If you've enabled Coolbits, you'll see a link called Change Overclocking configuration under 'Performance' at the bottom. Select My Own Custom Frequencies and agree to the laughably long-winded warning screen.


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