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Is overclocking your CPU and GPU classified as being legal ? If so, why don't manufacturers make overclocking easier so that just about anyone is able to play around with it ? - at own risk of course.

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closed as off topic by Daniel Beck, grawity, techie007, dmckee, DragonLord Nov 19 '11 at 2:04

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It's your property, man! You can shoot it, drown it in genuine maple syrup, try to jamb it into the socket backwards, or anything else you care to do. You own it. The folks you bought it from do not own it. They can take their opinions on the matter, fold them until they are all corners, and stick them someone uncomfortable. –  dmckee Nov 18 '11 at 16:26
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Some research would have revealed that some hardware is specifically aimed at people who want to overclock (e.g. Intel i5 2500K). Also some manufacturers provide tools specifically for that purpose, e.g. AMD Overdrive lostintechnology.com/how-to/…. –  James Nov 18 '11 at 16:27
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It's legal. It is easy. You used to have to unsolder surface mount capacitors from processors and replace them with other ones. Legality aside, this is like asking why don't all cars come with some nitrous oxide system. They don't because you'll hurt yourself or the machine and then they might be seen as responsible for encouraging that, possibly for profits when you must replace broken machines. –  dlamblin Nov 18 '11 at 19:57
    
Intel's Turbo Boost is essentially intended, dynamic, automatic over-clocking. –  techie007 Nov 18 '11 at 21:31
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@dmckee One would think so, but Apple would severely object to that. –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay Nov 18 '11 at 21:33
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7 Answers

up vote 45 down vote accepted

Manufacturers are not obliged to make easy any course of action just because it happens to not be illegal. I don't know what jurisdiction you are in, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find any language in any law that states that overclocking is illegal.

I think the key is the "at own risk" - if you make overclocking too easy, people will start playing with voltages, timings and frequencies without having any idea about how they interact and what the consequences may be. At best, then, you get an unstable system, and at worst, you can destroy the hardware. For which the manufacturer almost certainly will get the blame. What company wants to make it very easy for the customer to put the company in that position?

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They also have this habit of wanting people to pay more for their performance :) –  user606723 Nov 18 '11 at 16:23
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@user606723 that is their prerogative. If you don't like that, try AMD, which currently has a habit of leaving all their procs completely unlocked. Or start your own company and do things your way. –  music2myear Nov 18 '11 at 16:27
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@music2myear, I in no way implied that I disagreed with their actions or believed that they shouldn't be able to do so. –  user606723 Nov 18 '11 at 16:29
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Great answer. To expand, some motherboards and processors mostly targeting the "Enthusiast" crowd do make it relatively easily, but most don't because such tools can be dangerous in the hands of people that don't know what they are doing exactly as you say. –  TimothyAWiseman Nov 18 '11 at 17:25
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@music2myear: Even very smart people occasionally screw up and burn a CPU or put too much voltage on the RAM, or both. Heh. I guess I am just saying that dangerous tools are still dangerous even when you know how to use them. –  Zan Lynx Nov 18 '11 at 19:04
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It's legal but risky - hence why manufacturers make it difficult.

It used to be the case that chips were tested and those that failed to meet the highest specification were "downgraded" to a lower spec. (I'm not 100% sure of the process). This means that a CPU rated at 2GHz (say) is functionally identical to one rated at 3GHz. Therefore you could try to operate the 2GHz chip at the higher speed.

However, there's a good chance that the chip will fail when operated in this mode for any length of time. What the manufacturer doesn't want is you then complaining that overclocking melted your motherboard and demanding a replacement.

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+1 this is the reason. Manufacturers often under clock components, either because that specific part failed QA for at higher clock speeds, or simply because it is cheaper to build a higher-end component in bulk than it is to build both lower- and higher-end versions of it. But they don't want people buying the 2GHz chip and overclocking it to 3GHz, knowing it is physically equivalent to the 3GHz chip; they want people to buy the more expensive 3GHz version. –  BlueRaja Nov 18 '11 at 18:36
    
Actually, it's not because it's cheaper to make the higher-end component in bulk.. it's because it's impossible not to. What's the difference between the lower clocked and higher clocked? The design is the same. The chip is the same; how would they go about making it slower without changing the design(expensive)? Heck if I know. –  user606723 Nov 18 '11 at 19:50
    
@user606723: That's exactly what I said - it's cheaper to build the high-end version in bulk and simply disable/limit some parts for the lower-end version, than it is to design and build two+ separate chips. –  BlueRaja Nov 18 '11 at 21:17
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Of course it's legal. You can do whatever you want to your equipment.

And (in some cases) they do make it easy. The software that comes with ATI graphics cards (Catalyst Control Center) has an overclocking section built right in. As does the software that comes with Asus motherboards. To name a couple.

That said, since you can damage the gear with overclocking, manufacturers are naturally going to be a bit nervous about giving you the power. There are people who don't read warnings. And there are people who will blame the manufacturer for their own stupidity. So even if they can avoid having to replace gear damaged by overclocking because it voids the waranty, they may still prefer to avoid ill-will by giving tools to fools, so to speak.

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The first part of the first paragraph is correct. The second part isn't so much, even though it should be. For instance, Sony considers it illegal for people who have purchased (and thus own) their PS3 to modify it in any way. While this is stupid and silly on their part, stupidity and silliness are not stopping them from suing the pants of PS3 hackers and modders. –  music2myear Nov 18 '11 at 15:45
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@music2myear What Sony considers is not relevant. What the law says is. I would really see Sony going to court in a country other then the USA and argue that you can't do what you want with a piece of hardware you bought. If I want to use it as a book holder or I empty it to store candies is my problem not theirs. –  Matteo Nov 18 '11 at 16:22
    
I think the main reason they dont want you moddifying a PS3, is so that you dont play pirated software on it, not the moddifing itself. If you mod your PS3 to play pirated games, they are losing Lots of money (Or maybe not - If you werent going to buy the game anyway.. ), So they arnt happy and hence try to prevent it. –  Doomsknight Nov 18 '11 at 16:27
    
Sony also has a pressing desire to control how you play on their network, and they'll try to use the various IP laws that apply to software to manage that, but they still have no traction on matters of hardware. A sale is a sale, and once they've sold it they have no further rights in the matter. –  dmckee Nov 18 '11 at 16:37
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@music: Not specifically relevant to this case, but your argument has some merit. The waters are murky. If piracy, infringement of IP rights, or breach of an EULA are involved, there can be legal ramifications. However Sony's legal action against Geroge Hotz amounted to little more than harrassment. Unfortunately any large company can make the life of an individual hell without ever proving any wrong-doing; that's the wonderful system of law practiced in the US and other countries. But sony came down on Hotz not because he hacked the PS3, but because published his methods. –  Igby Largeman Nov 18 '11 at 16:50
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The simple answer is that it's legal and can void warranty. However, the CPU warranty is usually really short.

Why do it: manufacturers sometimes establish pricing based on market and not the product quality. so a 3.0GHz chip justifies the extra $100 for 3.2GHz but in fact, they could be from the same batch just marked differently.

Draw backs: An over-clocked cpu is more noisy (electrical noise) which could lead to errors essentially due to misreading or data not being ready in time. It also runs hotter (more electricity consumed due to higher cycles). The consumer chips aren't designed to be run very hot so you run the risk of chip failure.

typical mitigation: Successful overclocking usually comes by slightly increasing the voltage (more kick) and increasing the cooling to take away the additional heat. A cool CPU is a happy CPU. Some old big mainframes used to run near -40 degrees.

finally, is it worth it?

Typically, no. The CPU is in most cases choked and waiting for data from RAM, Hard drive, or other IO. unless you're doing some low IO stuff (like math) the faster CPU doesn't translate into much faster PC. You're better off with a larger cache and focusing on the speed and streaming of the external bus, ram, and IO.

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It's legal on the action of overclocking, and it's illegal to use an unstable system for anything important, such as engineering and medical ... –  Antony Lee Apr 27 '13 at 14:28
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It is not illegal, it voids warranties. You are pushing the device beyond it's manufacturer support limits. If you destroy your GPU or CPU, the manufacturer won't replace it because you did something to the device that is unsupported.

It's like buying tires, but sanding the tires down to make them slicks, then your tires blow out. The tire manufacturer will not replace your tires because your did something that was unsupported.

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People who build their own computers are overlooking a major reason for anti-overclocking technology: Fraud on the part of small-scale computer building companies. When the local hole-in-the-wall PC parts place sells a computer as a "2.4GHz Intel CPU" when it's really an overclocked 2GHz part, the buyer unknowingly assumes all of the risks and cons outlined in the other answers. They did not get to make an informed decision. If that PC experiences trouble due to overclocking they're not going to realize they were cheated by the builder. It can be difficult even with the physical evidence to tell how the CPU was originally sold (since as others have mentioned the parts are often physically the same and differentiated only by testing).

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Some manufacturers bundle software tools that make overclocking easier for the inexperienced yet curious customer, e.g. Gigabyte's Easytune or Smart QuickBoost.

You usually get a higher overclock by adjusting everything yourself (the FSB speed, core voltage, memory timings etc) as you can push the limits of stability in finer detail but you need to know what you're doing.

A 486 from around the mid 90s required moving jumpers to set the FSB, so making overclocking "easy" is a relative term; Using the BIOS you don't even have to open the case!

enter image description here

The easiest overclock I've ever used was on a PC XT that at the press of the turbo button mounted on the case more than doubled the CPU clock speed (from 4.77Mhz to 10Mhz). Whether the turbo button actually underclocked the machine when not in turbo mode is a matter of semantics, in any case it was easy.

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+1 for the infographic. –  kinokijuf Jan 25 '12 at 14:56
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