Can You Overclock a LOCKED CPU?

- If you're a computer hardware enthusiast,

you probably know that if you want to overclock your CPU,

meaning run it at a higher speed,

then it would be best to buy an unlocked processor.

Now, as we explained in this video,

an unlocked processor

means that it has an unlocked multiplier.

That is an adjustable number

that the base clock of your processor gets multiplied by

to determine the actual frequency it runs at.

Now, all of AMD's modern desktop CPU offerings are unlocked,

and so is Intel's K and X series.

But team blue actually sells many CPUs

that have locked multipliers,

meaning that the user cannot adjust them.

And the only way to overclock manually

is to adjust the base clock, which can be quite tricky.

You see, there isn't really any way to hack an Intel chip

to unlock it.

Unlocking a chip is a physical process

that occurs at the factory on the die itself.

So there's no code to try to break through

on a non-K series chip.

You can't unlock the multiplier, end of story.

But it turns out that there are still other ways

that motherboard manufacturers

have used to boost performance on locked chips.

To find out more,

we reached out to Nick Shih at ASRock,

and we'd like to thank him for his contributions.

Intel chips contain something called microcode,

which you can think of as being similar to firmware.

The microcode is what is fundamentally responsible

for controlling the CPU's behavior,

including what clock speeds it'll run at.

Previously, there was a loophole in the microcode

where it wouldn't check the processors base clock

against a hardware clock governor,

allowing ASRock to come out with a feature

called SkyOC that would allow users

to crank up the base clocks really high

for significant performance boosts.

Talking 30% in some cases.

Now, SkyOC worked with original non-K Skylake CPUs,

and users seemed to enjoy the feature,

but Intel more aggressively locked down the ability

for a user

to make base clock adjustments shortly thereafter,

meaning the feature basically died

before it had much of a chance to see widespread adoption.

However, a newer method has since appeared on the scene.

ASRock calls it base frequency boost, or BFB,

while Asus calls it Asus Performance Enhancement.

Even though Intel has placed restrictions

on base clock overclocking on locked CPUs,

what they didn't lock down is the chip's power limits.

This means that your system

will simply raise the power limit to 125 Watts from 65.

The CPU will detect this,

understand that it has more thermal and power headroom

to work with, and raise its own clock speeds accordingly.

Now, ASRock claims this method can bump your frequencies up

by a gigahertz or even more,

depending on what chip you're using.

However, there are some important caveats.

One is that since you're raising the power limit,

you'll generate significantly more heat.

So as with overclocking an unlocked CPU,

you'll want to make sure

that you have a good cooler on hand.

Another is that overall,

you shouldn't expect to get the same caliber of results

as you would with a CPU that has an unlocked multiplier

from the factory.

Although raising the power level

will obviously make your chip faster

than it would otherwise be,

unlocked CPUs typically are the top of the range ones

and are a better option

for those who are chasing the ultimate in performance.

The thing is, Intel typically uses better quality Silicon

in these unlocked chips

so that overclockers will have an easier time

raising their speeds and setting records.

So even though some of the cores in a locked chip

might be amenable to having their rates adjusted,

there might be others that simply aren't able to do it.

So at the end of the day,

solutions like BFB are more for people

who want to get more performance out of a locked chip

that they already own, or they got for a super great deal,

as opposed to people who are looking to make a decision

about what to buy.

Besides, who knows what Intel's gonna pull the rug

out from under us yet again.

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