Overclocking one’s computer is often the cheapest and most fiscally sound way to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to PC hardware. In the computer world, retrofitting things, engineering new ways of doing things, these are often encouraged, however, when it comes to overclocking to get a small amount of extra speed out of an aging PC, you probably would be better off just saving for a few years and getting a newer model of CPU, RAM and even Graphics card. On legacy hardware, it is sometimes impossible to even find the settings in the BIOS to do it. Often times, to overclock a PC, custom BIOS are used to achieve this. Overclocking the hardware is normally done in small increments and is usually stopped when the right balance is found between hardware overclocking and throttling is found. Usually the one overclocking the machine knows what he/she is doing and they realize that overclocking could not only void their warranty, but also could reduce hardware life.
Another problem with overclocking, the person who maintains the machine that is overclocked has to know what temperatures are acceptable for their hardware. It’s often not a good idea to run certain AM2 chip CPU’s over the 70’s or 80’s range of temperatures, each CPU is different in this regard. Therefore, knowing exactly the right temperature is a must. Certain temperatures at or above this range depending upon your CPU can cause throttling or even cause a safety protocol put in place by say AMD to shutdown the system. This is the system trying to save itself. Many such protocols have to be taken into account and have to be more or less ignored to successfully overclock a PC. Overclocking can be reckless and even stupid if you don’t know what you’re doing. Assuming that you get your BIOS flashed with a custom BIOS, you’re more or less aware of what overclocking is or are about to either upgrade your hardware or overclock it. If you’re overclocking, an absolute must is to at least use water cooling. Water cooling is actually a rather expensive way to cool a CPU down way better than stock. This in itself can often give you better performance, but it is costly and it does require a lot of hands on maintenance.
A final point is the amount of power. Power consumption increases considerably when using a CPU or several sticks of RAM to its fullest capacity. When overclocking a PC, one has to be mindful of the voltage running to each component of his/her computer. This can get messy and tricky if you’re new. This is why I would never do it myself, nor would I ever recommend someone doing this to save a few bucks at the current time. Find lighter solutions for your problem. Often is the case that these days, computers are being over worked. Windows and some of her backdoor programs often can take 100% CPU in the background when you’re not even using the computer, not to mention malware and viruses. Add to this overclocking and you have a computer that wastes and ages before its time.
RAM is often a cheaper option when it comes to upgrading a PC and I highly recommend someone to do this first before overclocking. Check your current RAM and follow the same or similar clock speed in MHz. Often in DDR2 and DDR3 and others, there are numerous clock speeds for new RAM modules. Just using any piece of RAM lying around that has the same number of pins might not always be best. If your computer’s RAM says 533MHz, I’d stick with that. However, upgrading from 2 GB to 4 or even 6 if your motherboard allows, can address many slow down issues you might have had. Also, some CPU’s for legacy hardware may not be as expensive as they once were brand new on Amazon. I don’t recommend just anything on Ebay because without testing, you really don’t know what you’re getting.
One more piece of advice, when money is hard to come by and you can’t readily afford either of these options, switching many of the programs you are using, possibly switching to Linux would be your best bet. If you’re already on Linux, using a lighter desktop environment or changing office suites to something lighter, even changing Chrome with a lighter browser can make all the difference. PC manufacturers put the numbers and clock speeds on different hardware because they know it will work at this number. They do that because they have tested it to run at these minimums. Even if your hardware could handle more heavier loads for longer periods of time, it is best to be left to do what it does best for you on its default settings. Computer hardware changes almost as often as the software does. This usually takes place every two to four years. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to run out and pay a lot of money on a new machine already built. Certain computer repair shops and thrift stores can sell you a descent machine for cheap and a four to five year upgrade cycle isn’t such a hard thing to do. Merely changing out a fan or adding a couple of RAM modules can do so much. Also, SSD’s aren’t a terrible investment.