“Overclocking the E5200 proved to be a piece of cake. Literally, I achieved a 2GHz overclock, reached a speed of 4.5GHz and simply put, it was a walk into the park.”

I wish.

If overclocking was this easy, everyone and their mother would be doing it. You would see people selling a large inventory of “pre-overclocked” computers on Ebay, with warranties. Oh wait, the latter one is actually a reality. Somehow today, people believe that overclocking can be done by anyone, that it’s just a matter of changing a few numbers in the BIOS and rebooting afterward. It’s that easy!

Well, that’s not accurate. While overclocking got easier in the last few years, with crash-free bios which reset themselves if they don’t successfully boot for example, it still remains a domain where knowledge and previous experience makes a huge experience. Being able to trouble shoot your computer when it won’t start proves to be priceless when you overclock.

Why people believe that overclocking is easy then?

I think that what made people wrongly believe that overclocking is so easy is due to the latest cpus from Intel and AMD, which will both overclock by a large margin easily, if you know what you’re doing and with the right hardware.

I’m not complaining, but prior to those cpus, it was a matter of skill and efficient cooling. Don’t get me wrong, it still is today, but not as much in my opinion. With a Core 2 Duo, even with the first introduced models (E6300, E6400, E6600 and E6700) you could achieve an overclock of 500MHz , 800MHz or even more than 1,000 MHz sometimes. Unlike previous generations of cpus, such overclocking was achievable only with air cooling.

Today, it’s feels more like a lottery. If you’re lucky enough, you will receive the right cpu, which will overclock by 1,000 MHz, if not even more. Of course, you will need the hardware to cope with that overclock, such as a good reliable motherboard, stable ram and a rock solid power supply. Let’s not forget cooling obviously.

But first, let me tell you how it was a few years ago and I’m sure that some of you can testify on this:

Back to the days where Prescott cpus were generating more heat per square inch than a shuttle rocket, cooling was the thing that could make a huge difference in your overclocking. It was per cooling that you would be considered plus or less extreme and it was how people would predict how far you could overclocking your cpu. Basically, overclocking was a matter of cooling and skill back then.

From the least to most extreme, you had and still have today, improved: 24/7 solutions: Air-cooling, water-cooling, chilled water-cooling, Peltier cooling(usually combined with water-cooling), multiple stage cooling and cooling with a compressor. For record overclocking speed breaking attempts, not for the faint of heart, it goes as far as CO2 dry ice or LN2 cooling. Yes, cooling with liquid nitrogen, which at atmospheric pressure, boils at −196.5 °C.

If you were to overclock a Prescott cpu, especially with the dual core models, you needed at least a good water-cooling setup to hold a chance against that burning hot cpu. Air cooling was barely enough to keep it cool at stock speed, imagine when you would overclock it, especially if you were raising the core voltage…

Back to recent days:

What about today? Stick a decent heatsink and fan on your Core 2 Duo, bonus points if it’s a Wolfdale core and watch it fly. Seriously, 1GHz + overclock on Wolfdale core cpus are almost a joke today because it is so easy. Some report being able to do that, with the stock heatsink from Intel. Wow.

It’s a bit in that spite that I decided to pick up the E5200. Having some previous experience with overclocking with two different platforms(Celeron 2.0GHz overclocked to 2.7GHz on a socket 478 platform and a Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86GHz overclocked to 2.8GHz on a socket 775 platform) for years, I wanted to see how far I could go.

Here’s the system that I used:
-Pictures are clickable for higher resolution-

  • Intel E5200 lapped
  • Asus P5B-E vdroop-modded
  • Ballistix 2 x 1GB DDR2 800MHz
  • Sapphire Radeon 1950 Pro
  • Sound Blaster X-fi Killed, onboard sound
  • Antec Neo HE 550 Watts power supply
  • LG 18X Dvd Burner
  • LG 16X DVD-ROM

As you will see in the following pictures, I also added several “ram” sinks for my motherboard. My Northbridge is cooled with a Zalman ZM-NBF47

Here’s a picture of the computer, with the radiator/fans in the back, which barely fits under my desk. I didn’t use your regular, out of the mill, air cooling here. Here’s the cooling system used:

Intel E5200 lappedWater-cooling radiator
Case: All of this is hosted in an Antec 900 case, left open 24/7 as I play in it some often. 2 x 120mm fans in the front for intake, 1 x 200mm on top for exhaust. Everything is set on low as I appreciate silence or on high when I’m overclocking further more.

Water-cooling: Excuse me for all the links; I simply want you to see all the parts with your own eyes, as they are not that common. Swiftech Apogee GT as my cpu waterblock, Swiftech MCW60-R as my gpu waterblock, Swiftech MCP350 pump modded with a Petra’sTech DDCT-01s Custom Acetal DDC Pump Top as my pump, Swiftech MCR-320 as my radiator, with 6 120mm Yate Loon D12SL-12 Case Fan – Black (47 CFM, 28 dBA) to cool it down. I’m using a Swiftech MCRES-MICRO reservoir and the whole loop is using 3/8″ ID tubing.

Modded Antec 900cpu waterblock

Alright, enough teasing, let’s get to the results. As I told you on Friday, I got my hands on an Intel Core 2 Duo E5200. During the weekend, I sanded it to a near mirror finish, to make as flat as possible, to ensure optimal thermal transfer between the water-block and the heatspreader of the cpu.

After that, I did put a tiny line of Arctic Silver 5 thermal grease, then I installed the water-block and I took the precaution to rotate it a bit to the left and a bit to the right, to spread the thermal grease. I started the system, installed a fresh copy on Tiny XP then proceeded to overclock the cpu.

I started with a 1.3625v vcore, to see how far this chip would go within Intel’s recommended guideline. I started having problems at 280 FSB or 3500 MHz. That’s right, I was already at 3.5GHz, a 1GHz overclock, before I encountered any problems!

I then raised the vcore to 1.400v and reached 3.875GHz. Even under load, the chip was just reaching 47-48C, so I knew that I had a lot of overhead and that I could push the vcore even more, for your pleasure of seeing how far this chip could go 😉

E5200 overclocking1.525v vcore and after an hour of test under OCCT. 4.06GHz is the maximum stable overclock. 4.00GHz will probably be my 24/7 setting later on, so I can lower the voltage to a safer setting. Temperatures were reaching 61C under full load, which is at the limit of what most overclockers are comfortable with a Wolfdale core.E5200 overclockingGoing for the maximum overclock, I had to boot into safe mode to make it into Windows and not get a beautiful BSOD haha. 4.12GHz is certainly nothing to laugh at, I’m proud of myself for reaching it.

Was it that hard to get there? Well, considering that I already had experience with overclocking prior to this, it wasn’t that bad. Of course, if you were new to overclocking, you would have probably wondered what to do if you were faced with this pretty weird bug:

As I raised the FSB, the cpu frequency would increase as well, which would show as I booted up on the BIOS screen. At 200FSB, the stock setting, I was at 2.5GHz At 300 FSB, I was at 3.76GHZ(BIOS rounded up). So I kept raising the FSB, by 10 MHz notches. 310, 320, 330, 340…Then I realized that despite that setting, my cpu was still booting and showing up in the BIOS at 3.76GHz, when it should have been beyond 4.0GHz.

Oddly enough, the computer was still booting fine, even at 400 FSB(which should be 5.0GHz!!). I eventually figured that my motherboard was locked at 300 FSB and that no matter what I would put as FSB, even if I lowered to multiplier, it would stay stuck there. So I simply cleared the BIOS and started again from scratch. Everything was fine afterward. Needless to say, it was weird.

So in conclusion, is overclocking a matter of skill?

I think that motherboard manufacturers, with crash-free bios features and a ton of tweaking options in the BIOS, along with Intel who are making chips with much lower thermal dissipation, are making the game of overclocking easier than it was before.

However, I also think that it’s not skill, but experience that will make the difference between a nice overclock and an outstanding one. While anyone can change settings in the BIOS, it’s knowing the correlation between all those settings and being able to quickly troubleshoot a problem that will separate a newbie from an expert.

I also think that anyone with a little help from an overclocking forum or a person with overclocking experience, should be able to achieve a decent overclock. 1GHz overclock? Perhaps, with the right hardware and a bit of luck too 😉

Tell me, what are your experiences with overclocking? If you did start overclocking, how did it go? What are your results? If you never overclocked, why is that? Is it the fear of damaging your computer? Your lack of experience? Or perhaps you just don’t want the extra speed?

What’s your take on this? Do you think that you need skill to overclock? If not, what do you need?

P.S. Expect the review of the Conroe core(E6300) vs. the Wolfdale core(E5200), comparing the two at 1.86GHz(E6300 stock speed), 2.5GHz(E5200 stock speed), 2.8GHz(E6300 maximum overclocked speed) and 4.06GHz(E5200 maximum overclocked speed) tomorrow 😉

As both have the same amount of cache, I can tell you that this will be a very interesting comparison that you don’t want to miss. Make sure to subscribe to our RSS feed or by e-mail, at the top right of this page, if you don’t want to miss it!