Overclocking RAM is a great method to boost your computer performance way beyond its original capabilities. You can overclock the processor and GPU, but the most common practice is RAM overclocking. The core process of overclocking is the same for all systems, with little modifications for each. In this article, we’re going to discuss how to overclock RAM, both DDR3 and DDR4, and boosting up their frequency.
What is Overclocking
Overclocking is a popular choice for enthusiasts to get the best performance their systems can offer. It generally involves increasing the frequency (for RAM) or clock speed (for CPUs and GPUs) and decreasing latency, while increasing voltage to ensure stability. The result is a greater performance with higher frame rates and less stuttering, but the drawback is more power consumption leading to heating issues.
Despite these, overclocking RAM is worth taking the initiative because it can deliver much better performance while gaming or doing heavy multitasking, and if done properly, there are no significant risks at all.
Steps for Overclocking RAM
Although the overclocking process can differ among various systems, these are the common steps on how to overclock RAM. Before doing so, check RAM issues if any.
- Note general information
- Going to the BIOS
- Load XMP profile and exit, or choose manual overclocking
- Turning up RAM frequency
- Increasing the operating voltage as needed
- Changing the latency timings
- Testing the system stability
How to Overclock DDR4 RAM
As overclocking involves tinkering with the frequency and voltage, it is good to know the default values of DDR4 RAM while overclocking. In general, DDR4 memory operates from 2133 to 2400 MHz with an operating voltage of 1.05-1.2V.
Step 1: Note General Information
To get memory and timing info easily, you can use the free CPU-Z app. Here in the “Memory” tab, you have your latency timings and current DRAM frequency (actual frequency is 2x the currently shown one. If you have 1197 MHz, your frequency is 2394 MHz).
Then go to the “SPD” tab. In the “Timings Table” you have your in-detailed JEDEC timings that are the advertised specifications.
Take pictures of these tabs on your phone or note them down.
Step 2: Going to The BIOS
BIOS settings launch differently in each system. Many systems show a brief prompt to pause startup and going to internal settings. At these prompts, you can pause startup and then launch BIOS. If there are no prompts, in general, you can turn on your computer and repeatedly press the “Del” or “Delete” key until BIOS loads. BIOS is the firmware on which your operating system runs.
For each motherboard companies, the BIOS menu looks different, with different options to choose from. So, the next steps may not appear the same in every system. Even there may not be any options for overclocking in your BIOS. In these cases, you have to exit BIOS and continue with your existing settings.
Step 3: Load XMP Profile
XMP (Extreme memory profile) is a custom profile created by the manufacturer to do an easy one-step overclocking. It comes with its own set of frequency and voltage settings. If you have this and load the XMP profile, your system will be overclocked to an extent, giving you a boost over your current performance without needing to tinker with internal settings.
Load the XMP profile and reboot your system, then do a stress-test with tools like the “Memtest86” or any other, to check if the system is stable in this profile. If it passes, you can choose to perform manual overclock, if not, go to BIOS and unload XMP by selecting the default profile.
Step 4: Turning Up The RAM Frequency
Turning up frequency is the most effective step of overclocking that gives you a quick performance boost. DDR4 RAM operates within 2133-2400MHz. From the BIOS, you can select higher frequency values beyond 2400MHz. Don’t jump to a very high value at first, instead, gradually increase your frequency and increase voltage, then test your settings. Overclocking is greatly dependent on trial and error. It also depends on the quality of your hardware, and not every RAM sticks can handle the same amount of speed.
Step 5: Increasing The Operating Voltage as Needed
After increasing frequency, you have to increase the operating voltage just a little bit to ensure that your system stays stable with the upper values. However, increasing voltage recklessly can burn your modules so go with a low increment. A common 1.35V stock voltage can be increased to 1.365-1.38V range safely. For aggressive overclocking, you can go up to 1.4V but no more. These values vary for all systems so for your case, start with 0.2-0.5V increment and test your systems.
Step 6: Changing The Latency Timings
Types of Latency Timings
Modern-day RAM comes with various types of timings showing latency at different tasks. To decrease latency, we should know the significance of each 4 “Primary timings” offered by the RAM. These timings are shown like this: (Unit: clock cycles)
Here, 14 is the CAS (Column access strobe) Latency. This is the time required to start responding to given commands.
15 is the “Row address to column address delay” (tRCD) which means the latency between reading the row number to the column number. The computer reads information by searching its coordinates within rows and columns.
16 is the “Row pre-charge time” (tRP) which is the delay of opening a new row.
36 is the “Row active time” (tRAS) which is the minimum clock cycles a row stays open to ensure successful data writing.
Changing Timing for Overclocking
Changing latency values differs for each system. In some cases, your latency might even need to be increased in order to perform better. To convert the clock cycle to time, you can use this formula:
CAS Latency x 2000 / RAM clock speed= Actual latency time in nanoseconds.
Configure which direction you need to go, increase or decrease. Slower clock RAMs operate better at lower CAS latency. A DDR4-1866 memory with CL 13 is better than a DDR4-2400 memory with CL 17 because using the above formula, the DDR4-1866 has 13.93 nanoseconds of true latency, while the DDR4-2400 memory has 14.17 nanoseconds.
To decrease latency for overclocking, you should start by changing (decrease or increase) the first 3 values (14-15-16) by 1 (Like this: 15-16-17-36) accompanied by voltage increase and check system stability. If the system runs stable, you can then adjust the tRAS value (Here 36).
After changing these primary timings, you should leave the various other timings to default. Then reboot your computer and check if it operates properly. If you encounter bluescreen or sudden crashes, you can opt to turn up the voltage a bit more, or rollback to the last safe settings from your BIOS.
Step 7: Testing The System Stability
After changing each value, be it frequency, voltage, or timings, you should run a test to see how it affects your system, and whether the new settings are stable or not. You can run memory tests with the “Memtest86” application. Another useful application is the “Ryzen DRAM Calculator” which is very effective in Ryzen computers with accurate results but also works fine on Intel computers. It can show the primary timings accurately.
If your system operates correctly, you can opt to go a bit further in overclocking or stay with your current settings. But if you face problems like crashing, overheating, or anything else, choose the last safe values and set them as the overclock values.
How to Overclock DDR3 RAM
The process of overclocking DDR3 RAM is almost the same as the DDR4 ones. You have to follow all the steps while keeping in mind that the frequency and voltage values of DDR3 memory differ greatly from DDR4. DDR3 operates at 1.5/1.35V, within 1600-1800MHz with the highest peak of 2133MHz. So, you have to start from these base values and change them accordingly. Start by turning up the frequency to 2400MHz and voltage to 1.37-1.4V, test your stability, and go on. The rest of the processes are the same.
In this article, we’ve discussed briefly how to overclock RAM on your computer. Modern-day hardware is pretty safe to handle overclocking. But while overclocking gives you a great boost over your performance, changing the values responsively is important as too much change at a time can even damage your memory sticks. It is also important to buy better quality RAM too, as they handle overclocking better.