How to Overclock Your Computer’s RAM

Installing RAM on a computer.Georgii Shipin / Shutterstock.com

RAM often comes from the factory with a speed lower than that of silicon. With a few minutes in your BIOS and some tests, you can run your memory faster than the manufacturer's specifications.

What you need to know before you start

RAM is a bit more complex than CPU or Overclocking the GPUWhen you simply turn a dial and pray, your all-in-one water cooler does not turn your system into a space heater. With RAM, there are many buttons to turn, but it is also much safer because they do not produce much heat.

This has real benefits. Each program you use stores its job data in RAM before loading it into the CPU's internal cache, and programs that use a lot of it can use RAM in the same way. In games, improving the overall latency of your RAM can dramatically reduce playback times. This can improve the overall frame rate and (more importantly) reduce stuttering in CPU intensive areas, where new data needs to be loaded from cache RAM or VRAM.

The speed of RAM is usually measured in megahertz (Mhz). DDR4 The stock speed is usually 2133 Mhz or 2400 Mhz, although the actual speed is actually half of it since it is the Double Data Rate (DDR). On top of that, your memory has over twenty different timings that control the latency and speed at which you can read and write. These are measured in terms of clock cycles and often grouped together under the abbreviation "CAS Latency (CL)". For example, a mid-range DDR4 kit can be rated at 3200 Mhz CL16. Improved speed or timing improves latency and throughput.

The memory communicates with the rest of the computer with the help of a system called Serial Presence Detection. With this, it gives the BIOS a set of main frequencies and timings on which it can operate, called the JEDEC specification. This is the speed of stock and it is integrated with all DDR4 sticks ever made.

JEDEC timings for RAM

But Intel has found a way to trick the system. By proposing another profile above JEDEC, called XMP (Extreme Memory Profile), they could use a RAM higher than the standard speed. If you buy a RAM greater than 2400 MHz, you will probably get a kit with an XMP profile that you can activate. This is sanctioned, overclocking of the factory.

However, here's the bottom line: Due to several factors, this overclocking is usually not the best and you can push it further than the manufacturer intended.

On the one hand, manufacturers do not put everything 100%. They must increase the price of expensive kits. It is therefore common that the XMP profile of your memory comes from the segmentation of the product. Your kit also works at a certain voltage level, typically 1,350 volts for midrange DDR4s, but you can increase that a little bit yourself, which manufacturers are doing for higher speed kits.

But the main problem is that the SPD does not expose all the moments. According to a representative in Kingston, they "only adjust the" main "timings (CL, RCD, RP, RAS)", and since the SPD system used to store the XMP profiles has a limited number of entries, the rest belongs to the motherboard to decide, which is not always the right choice. In my case, the "auto" settings of my ASUS motherboard set strange values ​​for some timings. My RAM kit refused to work with the XMP profile out of the box until I corrected the timing myself.

How to determine perfect RAM schedules

The overclocking of the RAM is relatively safe, but it is also a bit more complicated than simply pressing the dial. If you are using an AMD Ryzen system, you are lucky because there is a tool called "Ryzen DRAM Calculator"That makes this whole process easier. The calculator will save you trouble from trial and error and you will not have to leave the RAM in the "AUTO" settings of your motherboard.

For Intel systems, this tool is still useful as a guide for master synchronizations, and the built-in memory tester will also work in the same way. You will also want to download it even if you are not installed on an AMD system.

Open the tool and enter the version of Ryzen used (simply insert Ryzen 2 Gen if you are using Intel) and the type of memory you have. If you do not know it, you can find it online with a Google search for the part number of your RAM kit.

Ryzen DRAM Calculator

Press the purple "R – XMP" button at the bottom to load the XMP profile of your kit. Enter your version of Ryzen and your type of memory, then press "Calculate SAFE" to calculate your timing. You can use the "Compare Timings" button to display a comparison with your XMP settings. You will find that a lot of time is tight.

DRAM Calculator

SAFE settings will almost always work; I had no problem with them at multiple stock voltage frequencies. FAST times will probably work, but may not be stable at the stock voltage.

To use it, you may want to save a screenshot (a button at the bottom left) and send it to another device so you can view it in the BIOS.

How to overclock your RAM in your BIOS

Make sure you have a screenshot of the calculator saved on a separate device (or written somewhere) because the rest of the steps will be in the BIOS without access to your computer.

Turn off your PC and restart it in the BIOS or UEFI firmware configuration screen. You will often have to press a key such as "Delete" on PC startup several times to access this screen. A screen similar to this one will be presented to you:

ASUS BIOS DRAM settings

Find the memory section and load your XMP profile to get started. Make sure the frequency is what you want. If you do not even want to touch the timing, you can probably increase the frequency while keeping the same timing (especially on Intel platforms).

There should be another section for time control. Open this:

Timing control of ASUS DRAM BIOS

Now open the screenshot on your phone and start entering numbers. In my case, the order is the calculator, but you will want to check and check everything.

In my case, the ASUS BIOS displays the full names of most main timings. Here is a list of the main timings and their associated jargon:

tCL – Primary CAS Latency
tRCDRD – RAS Reading Delay at CAS
tRCDWR – RAS write delay to CAS. This is sometimes grouped with read, although not always.
tRP – RAS Preload Time (PRE)
tRAS – Active RAS Time (ACT)

The rest should match exactly.

For Intel, you'll want to at least enter the main timings and leave the rest in auto. If you wish, you can try to enter the sub-definitions given by the calculator. I do not see any reason why it would not work, but I can not check on my Ryzen system. If you have problems with automatic settings, try entering them manually.

After the timers are complete, find the section on Voltage Control. You will want to enter the recommended DRAM voltage (the calculator displays potentially dangerous voltages in red, anything below 1.450v is probably satisfactory). If you are on Ryzen, you will want to enter the recommended SOC voltage, which powers the memory controller on the CPU.

Save the settings and exit the BIOS (on my PC, I have to press F10 for that). Your computer must restart and if it starts on Windows, you can proceed to the next step.

What if it does not happen?

If it does not start, your motherboard has probably failed its power-on self-test (POST). You will probably have to wait about thirty seconds for the BIOS to boot into safe mode and restore the last operational settings. You can try to increase the memory voltage in increments of 25 millivolts (0.025 V) before reaching the maximum recommended voltage. You can also try to slightly increase the SOC voltage on the Ryzen systems, since the 1st and 2nd generation Ryzen are particularly fussy with memory overclocking. Intel does not have the same SOC as Ryzen and will probably not have this problem anyway.

If your computer does not start in safe mode, do not worry, you have not turned it into a clipboard. Your BIOS probably does not have this feature and you will have to manually clear CMOS. This is usually a motherboard battery that you can remove and reinstall or a pin at the front panel headers. Consult the manual of your motherboard. You will need to take a screwdriver or a pair of scissors (ideally, they make jumpers and switches for this, but you probably do not have those lying around) and touch the two pins together to create an electrical connection. Do not worry it will not shock you. The PC will return to normal.

Make sure the overclock is stable

Once you're back in Windows, the entertainment does not stop for now. You will want to check that the overclock is stable. The calculator has a tab called "MEMbench" that can be used for this purpose. Set the mode to "Custom" and the scope of the task to 400%. Click "Max RAM" at the bottom to allocate all your remaining RAM. This will test your RAM for errors four times.

MEMbench dialog

Click "Run" when you're ready to start and leave it a few minutes. In my case, testing 32GB of RAM at a 400% task scope took less than ten minutes.

If there is no error, you can try pushing the clocks further, or test the "FAST" settings. This is all overclocking of memory; just trial and error, delete spam and wait for the end of MEMbench. Some people find this kind of routine soothing.

Once you've used your keypad and are happy with your results, you'll want to run an overnight test to make sure your overclock is absolutely stable. Set the scope of the task to a high level (100,000% should be enough) and return to it once you've woken up. If there is no error, you can enjoy your overclock. The worst that will happen if you skip this night step is that you sometimes risk getting a blue screen or a random crash (which happens occasionally with any speed of RAM, unless you do not have ECC memory).

Analyze your RAM to check your performance

If you are particularly competitive and want to see how your RAM compares to the competition, you can download UserBenchmark to evaluate all your PC, including your RAM. This will give you an overview of the performance of your system. You can also use a game specific marker, such as Overlay UnigineHowever, you will probably have to run several tests because the margin of error is quite high with cue points like these.

My results were particularly impressive. I've bought a 32GB kit of Micron E-die (known to be cheap and good for overclocking) valued at 3200 @ CL16, for $ 130. UserBenchmark gave it a storage rate of 90% compared to the average RAM, but even tightening the timing to 3200 @ CL14 gave it a score of 113%, an increase of 23%.

RAM measured at 94th percentile, 113% speed

That puts the E-die kit at $ 130 Micron at par with the 3200 @ CL14 kits that sell for more than $ 250, which represents a considerable saving. It's simply my results and your mileage will vary depending on how much memory you overclock and how your processor handles it.

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