Why You Should Overclock Your RAM (It’s Easy!)

RAM memory.7heaven / Shutterstock.com

Every program on your PC goes through RAM as it works. Your RAM runs at a certain speed set by the manufacturer, but a few minutes in the BIOS can exceed it well beyond its nominal specifications.

Yes, RAM Speed ​​Matters

All the programs you run are loaded into RAM from your SSD or hard drive, which are comparatively much slower. Once loaded, it usually stays for a while, with the CPU accessing it whenever it needs it.

Improving the execution speed of your RAM can directly improve the performance of your processor in certain situations, although it is possible that the performance may decrease when the processor simply can not have more memory fast enough. In daily tasks, having a faster RAM of a few nanoseconds may not be important, but if you actually reduce the numbers, a small performance improvement can help you.

However, in games, the speed of RAM can have a noticeable effect. Each frame can take only a few milliseconds to process a large amount of data. Therefore, if the game you are playing is processor-related (like CSGO), faster RAM can improve the pace. Take a look at this reference of Linus Technical Tips:

graph showing framerate scaling with memory speed

The average frame rate is usually increased by a few percentage points with faster RAM when the processor does most of the work. Where the speed of RAM really shines is at a minimum. For example, when you load a new zone or new objects in a game, if everything should be in a single image, it may take longer than usual if it waits for memory to load. This is called micro-stuttering, and games can seem jerky even when the average frame rate is high.

Overclocking RAM is not scary

Overclocking RAM is not as scary or as dangerous as overclocking a processor or graphics processor. When overclocking a processor, you have to wonder if your cooling will handle the fastest clocks. An overclocked processor or graphics processor can be much stronger than one running with stock settings.

With memory, they do not produce a lot of heat, so that's pretty safe. Even on unstable overclocks, the worst that will happen is that you will get an error during the stability test and you will be sent back to the drawing board. However, if you try this on a laptop, you will want to check that you can clear the CMOS (to reset the BIOS default settings) if there is a problem.

CAS Speed, Schedules, and Latency

The speed of the RAM is usually measured in megahertz, usually abbreviated as "Mhz". This is a measure of the clock speed (how many times per second the RAM can access its memory) and corresponds in the same way as the speed of the processor. The "current" speed for DDR4 (the most recent type of memory) is usually 2133 Mhz or 2400 MHz. Although this is actually a bit of a marketing lie; DDR stands for "Double Data Rate", which means that RAM reads and writes twice for each clock cycle. So really, the speed is 1200 MHz, or 2400 mega ticks per second.

But most DDR4 RAMs are typically 3000Mhz, 3200Mhz or higher. This is due to XMP (Extreme Memory Profile). XMP is basically the RAM that says to the system: "Hey, I know that DDR4 is only supposed to support speeds of up to 2666 MHz, but why not go ahead and overclock me at the speed of the box? ? " This is an overclock factory, already pre-set, tested and ready for use. It accomplishes that at the hardware level with a chip on the RAM itself called a serial presence detection chipThere is only one XMP profile per stick:

Serial presence detection chip

Each RAM kit actually has multiple speeds. stock speeds use the same presence detection system and are called JEDEC. Anything that is higher than the original JEDEC speeds is an overclock, which means that XMP is simply a JEDEC profile that has been overclocked by the factory.

JEDEC timings for RAM

RAM timing and CAS latency are a different measure of speed. They are a measure of latency (the speed with which your RAM responds). CAS latency is a measure of the number of clock cycles between sending the READ command to the USB key and returning the CPU. It is usually called "CL" after the speed of the RAM, for example "3200 Mhz CL16".

This is usually related to the speed of RAM: higher speed, higher CAS latency. But CAS latency is just one of the many timings and clocks that make RAM work; the others are usually simply called "RAM timings". The shorter and tighter the timings, the faster your RAM will be. If you want to know more about the real meaning of each timing, you can read this guide to Gamers Nexus.

XMP will not do everything for you

You can buy your RAM from G.Skill, Crucial or Corsair, but these companies do not manufacture the DDR4 memory chips that make your RAM work. They buy these from semiconductor foundries, which means that all the RAM available on the market comes from a few major countries: Samsung, Micron and Hynix.

In addition, flashy memory kits with a nominal capacity greater than 4000 MHz at low CAS latencies are identical to those of "slow" memory, which costs half the price. They both use Samsung B-die DDR4 memory chips, except that one has a gold-colored heat diffuser, RGB lights and ayes it's a real thing that you can buy).

When the chips come from the factory, they are tested in a process called binning. Not all RAMs work the best. Some RAMs work very well at over 4000 Mhz with low CAS latency, and some can not overclock above 3000 MHz. It's called silicon lottery and that's what makes high-speed kits expensive.

But the speed of the box does not always match the real potential of your RAM. The XMP speed is simply a note that ensures that the memory key will operate at rated speed 100% of the time. It's more about marketing and product segmentation than the boundaries of AMR; nothing prevents your RAM from operating outside of the manufacturer's specifications, except that enabling XMP is easier than overclocking yourself.

XMP is also limited to a few specific timings. 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 extremely strange values ​​for some of the synchronizations. My RAM kit refused to work with the XMP profile out of the box until I corrected the timing myself.

In addition, the factory sorting process will have a defined voltage range in which it wishes to operate. For example, they can group their RAM kits at 1.35 volts, do not perform extended tests if they fail and place them in the "3200" Mid-Thirds "in most memory kits. But what if you ran the memory at 1,375 volts? What about 1,390 volts? Both are still not close to the dangerous voltages for the DDR4, and even a little extra voltage can help the memory of much higher.

How to overclock your RAM

The hardest part of overclocking RAM is determining the speed and timing to use because the BIOS has more than 30 different settings that you can change. Fortunately, only four of them are considered "main" synchronizations and you can calculate them with a tool calledRyzen DRAM Calculator. "It is suitable for AMD systems, but it will still work for Intel users because it largely affects the timing of the memory, not the processor.

Download the tool and indicate your RAM speed and type (if you do not know, a quick Google search on the reference number of your RAM should yield results). Press the purple "R – XMP" button to load the nominal specifications of your kit, then press "Calculate SAFE" or "Calculate FAST" to view your new schedules.

DRAM Calculator

You can compare these timings with the nominal specifications using the "compare timings" button. You will find that everything is somewhat strengthened in the SAFE settings and that the primary CAS latency is reduced in the FAST settings. It depends on whether the FAST settings work for you, as it depends on the kit that comes with a tray that is not supplied from the factory, but you can probably operate it over a safe voltage range.

You will want to send a screenshot of this image to another device because you will need to enter these times into the BIOS. Then, once everything is working properly, you need to check that the overclock is stable using the calculator's built-in memory tester. It's a bit long, so you can read our guide to overclock your RAM to know more.

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