Sandy Bridge, the Complete Overclocking Guide

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January 14, 2011

Sandy Bridge Overclocking Concept

No, don’t be discouraged, you’re not going to encounter complicated formulas and a myriad of unintelligible variables. Sandy Bridge overclocking is (very) EASY. In fact, Sandy Bridge processors are so much easier to overclock compared to their predecessors, you can forget all the complications about the Turbo Boost, Uncore, QPI Clock, etc. With the Sandy Bridge, there are only five important variables. They are:

a) Base Clock(BCLK)

Sandy Bridge’s default reference clock is 100Mhz. This value isadjustable, but only by a very small margin. On average, the range of BCLK adjustment measures at a mere 4-5%. A BCLK of 106-108 MHz can be considered pretty high for a Sandy Bridge CPU!

b) CPU Multiplier

Also known as the CPU Ratio. This variable determines the clock speed of a processor and is often used to create products of different type numbers based on the different frequencies generated by it. Sandy Bridge processors depend very much on this variable for overclocking. Naturally, a Sandy Bridge CPU with a locked multiplier (“Non-K” series) will not overclock as high as other models with an unlocked multiplier (the “K” series).

c) CPU Core Frequency

Commonly referred to as the CPU Clockspeed/CPU Clock, it is the operating frequency of your processor. The CPU Core Frequency is determined by the multiplication result between BCLK frequency and the CPU Multiplier (CPU Clock = BCLK * CPU Multiplier)..

For example, with a Core i7-2600K, you will have the following variables:

BCLK : 100Mhz( Default)

CPU Multiplier : 34.

Your CPU Clock will be: 34 x 100Mhz = 3400Mhz.

If you increase the multiplier value to 40, your CPU Clock will also be raised to 4000Mhz and so on.

d) DRAM Frequency

This variable denotes the operating frequency of your DRAM modules. On Sandy Bridge motherboards, you can select between 1333Mhz, 1600Mhz, 1866Mhz, and 2133Mhz.

Remember that the frequencies above are not constant values. They modify the DRAM speed by this equation:

(DRAM Clock = BCLK * DRAM Multiplier)

***note : Different motherboards use different names to refer to this variable in their BIOS menus, but most will likely have DRAM Multiplier listed as the DRAM Frequency. See our note on the BIOS section of this article for further details***

Any slight adjustment to the BCLK value will directly affect DRAM frequency. For example:

With default BCK value of 100Mhz, you can select a DRAM frequency of 2133Mhz (or, in other words, you can opt for a DRAM multiplier of 21.33x , because 2133Mhz = 100Mhz x 21.33 ), and your DRAM will run asDDR3-2133Mhz. However, if you increase the BCLK value to 104Mhz and then select DRAM frequency of 2133Mhz, your DRAM will instead run as DDR3-2218Mhz. (2218Mhz = 104Mhz x 21.33).

Confused already? Take it easy, if you have no plan to apply any change to the BCLK value, you will not have to think about all the complicated equations. You can simply allow the DRAM to run at 1333, 1600, 1866, or 2133Mhz, whichever is closest to its actual rated speed.

Simple enough isn’t it? Let’s take a deep breath before continuing to the next variable.

e) Voltage

As in any other overclocking attempts, we would sometimes need to increase the amount of power flowing to certain components of our system to increase stability. This is the picture of Sandy Bridge’s em>die map :

sandybridge die map1

Below are some of the most important voltage parameters on a Sandy Bridge system:

1) CPU Voltage

Sometimes called the VCore or Vcc. On the Sandy Bridge die map above, this parameter corresponds to the amount of power supplied to the CPU Core region and will influence your overclocking results the most.

2) CPU I/O Voltage

Also known as the I/O Voltage or VccIO, this parameter determines the amount of voltage supplied to the Memory Controller I/O section on a Sandy Bridge processor. Modifying this voltage could help you achieve more stability when running your DRAM modules at high speed . If the RAM is running at DDR3-1866 or 2133Mhz, it is recommended that you also increase this voltage.

3) System Agent Voltage

The SA Voltage or VccSA regulates the System Agent voltage, which means that it also controls the voltages of the Memory Controller, DMI, PCie Controller and the display Engine.

If one or more of the situations described below is present in your system, you will need to increase SA voltage to increase CPU stability during overclocking :

  • Hi-density RAM modules (for example, each module has 4 GB capacity or more) are being used
  • One memory channel is occupied by more than one RAM module, or the memory slots are all occupied (for example : 4x 1GB modules are installed on all available slots)
  • More than one graphics card are being used in Multi-GPU configuration, such as strong>nVIDIA SLI/ATi CrossFireX
  • DRAM is running at 2133 MHz or higher

Conversely, systems with just 1 RAM module per channel (or 2 modules in dual-channel mode running at a speed below DDR3-2133) and a single graphics card usually do not require an increase on the System Agent voltage.

4) DRAM Voltage

The memory voltage, or VDimm, indicates the amount of voltage supplied to your RAM modules and directly affects how much RAM frequency you can achieve. It is worth remembering that the memory clock is determined by several other factors as well, such as the compatibility between the modules and the motherboard, and also the quality of the memory controller. . Adjust the VDimm according to your memory’s rated voltage.

Aside from the four voltages mentioned above, there are actually some other, similar parameters, such as CPU PLL Voltage and PCH Voltage, but both these voltages have little influence over your system’s stability.

The following table describes the default value of voltage parameters found on a Sandy Bridge system, along with the increment we recommend for each:

sandybridge oc voltages

WARNING : Excessive voltage could destabilize your system and may inflict permanent damage to your hardwares. Increase the voltage ONLY if necessary. JagatReview holds no responsibility over any damage caused by wrong voltage settings.

Okay, take another deep breath, and let’s continue to the most interesting part : THE PRACTICE!

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