Over-clocking your gaming PC with Intel® Core™ i7-6700K

The best thing about K series processors like the Intel® Core™ i7-6700K is that they feature unlocked multiplers, allowing you to churn out maximum gaming performance by overclocking.

Now, overclocking does carry inherent risks and doing so will void your warranty, but you will be able to extract that much more power out of our K-series processor, with little to no effort. Before we start with the overclocking guide, let’s get back to the basics.

What’s the clock rate?

If anyone’s made the connect between the Hz/MHz/GHz describing processor clock rate and the Hz describing audio pitch and frequency, you’re right on track. The frequency at which a processor operates, the number of cycles it can complete per second, is called the clock rate, and this is determined by a little thing called a crystal oscillator. Just as musical instruments oscillate at different frequencies to hit various notes, the crystal oscillator’s oscillations decide how many cycles per second the processor can complete, which goes most of the way towards determining how fast the processor is. Another factor—instructions per cycle—can change things up when comparing different processor architectures, but we’ll leave that out of the picture for the time being.

Because of the vagaries of the CPU manufacturing process, every CPU has its own maximum safe clock rate. If you take a magnifying glass to it (or electron microscope more likely), each individual CPU is unique. This means that some CPUs out there are capable of hitting much higher clock rates than others. This is where overclocking comes in: By slowly nudging the clock rate up, you’ll be able to find your CPU’s maximum clock rate. Even with a regular, air-cooled system, performance gains of 10-20 percent are not uncommon. If you have a more budget-oriented processor, overclocking can bring your performance in line with that of flagship offerings. And if you own a flagship CPU like the 6700K or 6600K, overclocking can give you otherwise unattainable levels of performance. With that in mind, let’s get started on the overclocking guide.

Step 1: Check if you have the prerequisites:

Not all systems support CPU overclocking. How well you can or overclock your CPU, or whether you can overclock at all is dependent on a variety of factors. Most importantly, if you’re running an Intel processor, you’ll need to ensure that you have aa K-series CPU. Secondly, you’ll need to ensure that you have a Z series motherboard, like the Asus Z170 Pro Gaming. Many budget-oriented H series motherboards don’t support CPU overclocking at a BIOS level, although some, including most of Asus’ budget line, actually can with the latest BIOS updates. Also, even if you do have an OC-compatible motherboard, keep in mind that higher-end boards that were built with overclocking in mind, like the Gigabyte Z170 Gaming G1, tend to yield good results.

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Step 2: Ensure that you have an adequate cooling solution

Overclocking generates heat! When running your CPU OC’ed, you will hit substantially higher temps than when running at stock clocks. If your PC cabinet’s cooling system isn’t all that great to start off with, you’ll want to consider outfitting additional fans for better airflow. Replacing the stock cooler of the CPU itself with an aftermarket solution is a very effective option, but we’ll not delve into the specifics of that in this guide. As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to keep your temps well below 90 degrees Celsius, preferably 85 degrees or lower. At higher temperatures, wear and tear will be accelerated and your CPU’s lifespan will likely be shortened. Before you even consider overclocking, use CPU Thermometer, available here, to check how hot your CPU is running. If you’re hitting high temps at stock clocks, you will need to set up a better cooling solution.

Step 2: Enter the BIOS

You’ll need to access the BIOS settings to configure your overclock. Before booting into Windows, you’ll need to press a particular key, usually one of the function keys, to get in. BIOS settings can vary dramatically from OEM to OEM. Settings may be named differently so you may want to consult for your specific motherboard if you’re not sure what to do. We’re using settings applicable specifically to the Gigabyte H85M-D3H. We’ll not be looking at overvolting here. Tinkering with voltage settings can permanently damage your system and, unless you’re competing in an overclocking competition, the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Step 3: Advanced Frequency Settings

In the first tab, labeled M.I.T, drop down to the second option, “Advanced Frequency Setting.” Once here, select “Advanced CPU Core Settings.”

Step 4: Increase the CPU Clock Ratio in SMALL increments

As you’ll notice, the Clock Ratio is tied to the actual clock frequency. Note that the Clock Ratio may also be referred to as the Clock Multiplier. Incrementing the Clock Ratio by 1 will bump up your clock frequency by 100 MHz. To start off with, increment the Clock Ratio by 1 or 2.

Step 5: Stability Testing

You’ll need to ensure that your CPU remains stable and rock-solid at a particular overclock before going back and incrementing the Clock Ratio. If you’re not able to boot up at all, bluescreen, or encounter lockups, you’re overclock is too high. If you’re able to boot to operating system, run an intensive stability/burn-in test like Prime95 for at least 15 minutes. Measure your temps using CPU Thermometer. If you’re temps exceed 85 degrees, you may want to tone down the overclock or invest in a better cooling solution.

Step 6: Repeat Step 4 and 5 until
you attain your maximum stable OC

If your system throughout stability testing, you can bump up the Clock Ratio by further increments. Remember to do stability testing any time you increase your overclock. Eventually, you will run into lockups or outright boot failure. At this point, you’ll want to go back to the last stable overclock. Run further stability testing at this stable frequency and assess your temperatures. If your system gets through stability testing with acceptable temps, you can safely use this overclock.

While it’s not without risks, overclocking is a great way to get even more performance out of your processor. Overclocking K series CPUs like the 6700K and 6600K will bring you a substantial amount of extra CPU grunt with little to no effort. What do you think about CPU overclocking? Let us know.

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