How to overclock non-K In­tel CPUs

Phil Iwa­niuk shows how you can still boost the speed of older In­tel CPUs.

APC Australia - - » How To Overclock Non-k Intel Cpus -

Once upon a time, ASRock did some­thing won­der­ful for own­ers of In­tel’s non-K Sky­lake CPUs. For years pre­vi­ously, the ben­e­fit of buy­ing a pricier K chip was that it was fully un­locked for over­clock­ing, but in 2016, the rule­book was ripped up when a par­tic­u­lar fea­ture in ASRock’s Z170A boards al­lowed base clock mul­ti­plier tweak­ing on those erst­while locked K CPUs. Be­fore long, MSI, ASUS, Gi­ga­byte and the whole gang were of­fer­ing the same BIOS fea­ture, which dis­abled in­te­grated graph­ics and turbo boost­ing in order to en­able over-clock­ing. In­tel was un­der­stand­ably less than pleased about this — the com­pany’s en­tire prod­uct hi­er­ar­chy was sud­denly jum­bled up like a fallen Jenga tower — and just a cou­ple of months af­ter­ward, over­clock­ing fea­tures dis­ap­peared from Z170A boards.

In terms of out­ward ap­pear­ances, the story pretty much ended there. Non-K chips re­turned to their pre­vi­ous sta­tion as staunchly locked cheaper chips, and the tech uni­verse’s nat­u­ral order was re­stored. But those old BIOS files still ex­ist, and are still avail­able to down­load, so if you’re cur­rently run­ning a non-K Sky­lake chip on a Z170A board, you can ab­so­lutely still make use of that old fea­ture, and pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant per­for­mance boost for ab­so­lutely zero out­lay and min­i­mal time in­vest­ment. Here’s how.


The first order of busi­ness is to fig­ure out whether your CPU and moth­er­board can hack this, er, hack. Es­sen­tially, the full gamut of non-K Sky­lake CPUs are fair game for this, start­ing at the en­try level with the Pen­tium G4400, and ex­tend­ing right the way up to the Core i7-6700. T chips are com­pat­i­ble, too. It’s worth bear­ing in mind that the over­clock­ing po­ten­tial of a $90 Pen­tium CPU is go­ing to be much lower than a Core i7, and this BIOS hack isn’t go­ing to turn one into the other. It’s free ad­di­tional per­for­mance what­ever the chip, though [ Im­age A].

As for motherboards, check this handy web page for a full list of the ASUS, Asrock, MSI and Gi­ga­byte boards: http://over­clock­ in­tel-sky­lake-non-k-over­clock­ing-bios-list. If it’s a Z170A moth­er­board, it’s ex­tremely likely that you have the hard­ware to pull this off.


In order to en­able over­clock­ing, you need to flash your moth­er­board to an older BIOS that pre­dates In­tel clamp­ing down on the prac­tice. Do­ing so has pros and cons: Older firmware might pro­duce hard­ware con­flicts or cause any prob­lems your moth­er­board model had at launch to re-emerge, be­cause you’re ef­fec­tively rolling back all man­u­fac­turer sup­port to late 2016. In our ex­pe­ri­ence, though, this is un­likely. If the worst comes to the worst, and you have a USB port that Win­dows keeps dis­cov­er­ing and

for­get­ting ev­ery 10 sec­onds af­ter flash­ing your BIOS, you can al­ways in­stall the newer ver­sion again to re­move the issue. To start the ball rolling, head to the site we’ve linked to in step one. You’ll see a list of motherboards, each with a BIOS file to down­load. Sim­ply lo­cate your own moth­er­board model and down­load the BIOS file [ Im­age B].


There was a time when flash­ing your BIOS was a scary process. One power out­age or er­ro­neously placed file, and it was good­night Irene for your moth­er­board. These UEFI BIOSen­abled days, it’s a rea­son­ably sim­ple process, so there’s no need to read your hard­ware its rights, or call in any pre­cau­tion­ary priests. Sim­ply copy the BIOS file you down­loaded in step two to a USB drive — the root di­rec­tory is fine. Now re­boot your PC, and press Del when the prompt ap­pears. Wel­come to the BIOS. Here, you’ll see a flash util­ity within the main op­tions that en­ables you to se­lect a new — or old — BIOS file, and in­stall it. Sim­ple.


Af­ter the faintly ter­ri­fy­ing BIOS in­stal­la­tion bar has been filled and the ma­chine restarts, re-en­ter the BIOS and head to the over­clock­ing op­tions. The ex­act op­tions vary de­pend­ing on your moth­er­board, but the im­por­tant one is ‘SKY OC’. This is the fea­ture that dis­ables turbo and in­te­grated graph­ics, and al­lows big BCLK over­clock­ing. On MSI boards, you need to en­able ‘Expert mode’ in the over­clock­ing screen first, then en­able SKY OC. Your non-K chip is now ready to be buffed up [ Im­age C].


Any BCLK value above 100 boosts the CPU’s base clock — our Core i5-6500 can han­dle 135 with liq­uid cool­ing, for ref­er­ence, but we rec­om­mend start­ing with 110, and in­creas­ing by 10 af­ter ev­ery sta­ble test. In­creas­ing the BCLK also in­creases RAM fre­quency au­to­mat­i­cally, so you need to mod­ify that RAM value to speeds you know your sticks can han­dle next. When you’re set­ting the first sta­ble overclock, don’t go more than 100MHz above your RAM’s ad­ver­tised fre­quency. Our DDR4 mod­ules can hack up to 3,200MHz, which al­lows plenty of head­room. The only other value to worry about is core clock volt­age. You can crank this up to 1.35V with­out fry­ing any­thing, and may be able to lower it again af­ter set­ting sta­ble val­ues else­where.


If you set and saved your over­clocked val­ues, and your ma­chine booted to Win­dows, that’s a good sign. It doesn’t mean you’ve achieved a sta­ble overclock, though. You need to stress test your ma­chine by run­ning a syn­thetic bench­mark in order to fig­ure out whether your val­ues are sta­ble, so load up Cinebench R15 and run 5–10 CPU tests. Af­ter that work­out, you’ll ei­ther see a blue screen or know your num­bers are solid [ Im­age D].


So you’ve got a sta­ble per­for­mance boost for free, on a chip that was never in­tended to pro­vide it. Hooray! What’s next? Try­ing to squeeze still more per­for­mance out of it [ Im­age E]. Ob­vi­ously. Steady in­cre­men­tal in­creases of the BCLK value back in the BIOS is the next item on the agenda, then, al­though we can’t stress enough that go­ing beyond 1.35V is a risk/ re­ward equa­tion that sim­ply isn’t worth it. Limit your­self to that volt­age, and then see what your CPU and RAM can han­dle by re­peat­ing step six. Even­tu­ally, you’ll hit the ceil­ing and, at that point, you can en­joy the sat­is­fac­tion of hav­ing per­formed a hard­ware up­grade for ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

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