Pros and Cons of Overclocking RAM


For heavy computer users playing RAM and CPU demanding games, overclocking is a big deal. In order to optimally use the hardware components on your computer, you must consider overclocking your RAM, CPU, and even the GPU. However, overclocking if not

Author: Collins Okoth
Category: Hardware
Author: Collins Okoth
Category: Hardware



Have you ever heard of the term overclocking? Well, if not, I am sure you can take a good guess at what it means. Overclocking can be defined as the act of resetting your computer's Memory or central processing unit (CPU), to operate at a much higher speed in comparison to their original and official rates. From the description above, you can quickly notice that both CPU and Memory can be overclocked.  In essence, these two parts of your computer are intricately interconnected. This means that for you to significantly increase the performance of your machine, you'll probably need to perform some tweaking to both the CPU and Memory. For instance, when you highly invest in RAM speed, and then you neglect your CPU speed, you may not realize your desired level of performance improvements with your computer. 

Most, if not all, computer processors ship with some kind of processor speed rating. For example, I run an Intel Processor; Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-6200U with a standard speed of 2.30GHz. If you need to check your speed on Windows 10, just pull up the Run Program and type in "dxdiag" and press Enter. This command will open up the DirectX Diagnostic Tool window. The window will pop up with detailed system information about your computer. Here is the information about my processor's speed, as shown by the "dxdiag" command.

Pros and Cons of Overclocking RAM

Overclocking a computer processor can be an immense boost to your computers overall performance.  It is normal for modern processors to maintain stability when overclocked because, in today's CPUs, the indicated speed ratings represent the speed that every computer processor in the manufacturing cycle can comfortably support. This implies that the specified processor speeds are significantly lower than the highest speed that your processor can operate. This is fundamentally true because the mathematical and statistical distribution used in the manufacturing process is usually skewed toward higher quality processor chips. Meaning, most of the computer processors are more powerful than they are rated. Therefore, this gives room for overclocking without dire consequences. 

What about RAM Overclocking? 

Well, as I mentioned earlier, overclocking means pushing your computer components to work at a slightly, moderately, or extremely higher performance rate than it originally was designed. Similarly, for RAM, it means altering a few things to increase the speed and performance of your RAM. Most computer enthusiasts argue that overclocking your RAM is extremely important for heavy computer users like gamers. The argument is, you can never really exhaust the power of your expensive RAM chip unless you opt to overclock it. So let’s see about that!

Whenever you overclock your memory modules, you will potentially cause a substantial positive change in your computer’s overall performance. Currently, RAM chips are sold separately and at different frequencies/ speeds. However, it is not usually possible to achieve the stated RAM speed with the default configurations of your PC. RAM chips are always clocked at a specific speed. When you overclock your RAM, you are bypassing default computer configurations by commanding your RAM to run at higher speeds than the clocked frequency. Notice that, in this case, I use speed and frequency interchangeably since they refer to the same thing. 

Should I go for More RAM or Faster RAM.?

Until today, this is a controversial question in the computing world. Most people tend not to agree. Maybe it is because there is no straight and direct answer to this. Why? Well, a simple answer is our computer needs are different, and our budgets are unique as well. A general answer considering the two factors above would be; go for RAM chips with more speed, however, these are usually expensive. If your budget doesn't match, you are better off to opt for less frequency RAM with more Memory. 

Recently, motherboards come with more than one memory slot for RAM chips.  Questions always arise the perfect combination of two RAM chips. Although two different RAM chips can work together just fine, there are a few things to consider before getting your second RAM chip. Most importantly, you should know that RAM with different form factors i.e., DDR3, DDR4 cannot work together. When overclocking the memory modules of the different brands and speeds, you need to choose the RAM speeds with the least rated frequency of the two.

For instance, if you run a machine with 8GB RAM like mine, your computer should be able to perform regular computer tasks with ease. Running programs such as Microsoft Office software, internet browsers, and other considerably light programs won't and shouldn't be a problem. If you consider playing some hardcore games use multiple internet browsers with several tabs open, your best bet is with a 16GB RAM chip. Usually, RAM speed trumps RAM. However, this is dependent on other factors. There are scenarios where more RAM will be preferred over faster RAM.

How do I check my computer’s RAM Speed?

Before you overclock RAM, it is important to know the speeds of your current RAM chip. In just a few steps, you will be able to see the memory frequency of your computer. In Windows 10, move your cursor to the Taskbar and right-click on it. Select on the Task Manager Option. Alternatively, you can always hold down the CTRL+ALT+DEL Key on your keypad in that order and Click on the Task Manager option. Windows will then bring up the Task Manager window with the Processes tab active. To Check on your RAM speeds, you need to select the Performance Tab, which will automatically display how different chips are performing on your machine. By default, this window shows the performance of the CPU. You have to click on Memory on the left sidebar to see the performance of your RAM. You should see something like this:

Pros and Cons of Overclocking RAM

 

Identifying the Optimal Speeds/Frequency for Overclocking

One of the challenging aspects of overclocking is knowing the limits. When overclocking, usually you’ll be undecided when it comes to knowing the best configurations for rates to avoid under-utilizing the chip or pushing the limits. Luckily, there are standards today to help you figure out to what extent you should go. All DDR4 RAM chips are usually clocked at 2133 Megahertz (MHz) – which is practically one million cycles per second. However, several RAM chips these days can be bought at different frequencies, such as 4000 MHz, 3200 MHz, 3000 MHz, 2666 MHz, among others. Usually, the rated speed on the RAM chip is the company's highest recommended stable speed; however, it has been proven before that most of these RAM chips can operate at higher speeds. It is common practice to overclock your RAM to speeds relatively closer to the rated speed on the RAM chip.

 

What are the benefits and demerits of Overclocking RAM?

Pros:

  • Overclocking RAM can result in a significant boost in system performance.
  • When professionally done, RAM can potentially be overclocked to surpass the manufacturer's recommended speeds without consequences.
  • Overclocking allows for the maximization of RAMs' potential. It is hence exhausting the money invested.
  • It can result in improved overall frame rates and decrease stuttering when running CPU-intensive programs.
  • Overclocking RAM can increase overall latency, which in turn decreases frame times significantly. 

Cons

  • If overclocking is done incorrectly, RAM can melt up/fried, resulting in a significant loss.
  • If the heat sinks in RAM are not good enough, the life span of the memory modules can be reduced significantly.
  • Sometimes overclocking of RAM is not beneficial if you have a low-end machine with relatively good RAM.

The speed of RAM is always measured in megahertz (MHz). DDR4 RAM will always show speeds of 2400MHz or 2133 MHz because they are Double Data Rate (DDR). Again, your computers RAM has about 20 unique timings which are mandated to regulate latency. In addition, these different timings also control how fast your machine can write and read and are measured in units called clock cycles. These numbers can be found under the CAS Latency (CL) abbreviation in the timings table. To check these settings for your computer, I recommend that you download the CPU-Z tool and run it on your computer. Notably, CPU-Z and GPU-Z are well known for analyzing computer components. However, this rather tiny software can also be used to overclock some PC components. Unfortunately, RAM is not one of these components. Here is the detailed information about my computer's RAM, as shown by CPU-Z when I run it on my machine.

Pros and Cons of Overclocking RAM

 

Some of the Best (and Free) Overclocking Software for RAM

There are several solutions offered in the market to make overclocking a little less painful than it already is. However, some of these tools and software are not free. I decided to compile a list of reasonably effective tools offered for free, that can assist you in overclocking either your RAM, GPU or/and CPU. 

  1. MSI Afterburner

This completely free software comes with amazing abilities to allow you to play around with some of the key components of your computer. With this tool, you can tweak your core voltage, core clock, fan speed, memory clock, and even the power limit of your computer. It is also compatible with not only the MSI graphics card but also with other popular ones such as NVidia.

  1. AMD Overdrive

This tool is only for those running an AMD processor. It has an extremely detailed appearance with lots of options. It is a relatively advanced tool recommended for advanced users. This tool is offered for free to use and download.

  1. Intel XTU- Intel Extreme Tuning Utility

This is another great tool for overclocking Windows computer components. This tool is only compatible with computers using an Intel processor chip. It also has a dark theme like the AMD overdrive, which is quite appealing. With this tool, you can overclock your computer’s RAM, GPU, and Intel Processor as well.

Conclusion

For heavy computer users playing RAM and CPU demanding games, overclocking is a big deal. To optimally use the hardware components on your computer, you must consider overclocking your RAM, CPU, and even the GPU. However, overclocking is not necessary to the average computer user since most computers are well-equipped to handle such light tasks. So if you possess one of those high-end gaming machines, you should definitely consider overclocking it. For the rest of us, let’s keep on enjoying the recommended performance of the RAM.