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How To Overclock Your Computer's Memory

  Install RAM in a computer.
Georgii Shipin / Shutterstock.com

RAM is often shipped from the factory at a slower speed than silicon can. With a few minutes in your BIOS and a little testing, you can make sure that your memory runs faster than specified by the manufacturer.

What You Need to Know Before You Start

RAM is a bit more complex than CPU or GPU overclocking, in which you turn just one dial and pray your failed all-in-one watercooler does not turn your system into one space heating. With RAM, many buttons have to be turned, but it is also much safer because they do not generate much heat.

This has advantages for the practice. Each program you use saves its work data in RAM before it is loaded into the CPU's internal cache, and programs that use a lot of RAM can rummage around in RAM like butter. In games, general RAM latency improvements can significantly shorten the frame rate. This can improve overall frame rates and (most importantly) reduce jerking in CPU-intensive areas where new data must be loaded from RAM into the cache or VRAM.

The RAM speed is usually measured in megahertz (Mhz). The speed of DDR4 media is usually 21

33 Mhz or 2400 Mhz, although the actual speed is half of that because it is Double Data Rate (DDR). In addition, your memory has over twenty different timings that control latency and how fast you can read and write. These are measured in clock cycles and often summarized under the abbreviation "CAS Latency (CL)". For example, a DDR4 midrange kit may be designed for 3200 MHz CL16. Improving speed or timing improves latency and throughput.

The memory communicates with the rest of the computer through a system called Serial Presence Detect. This gives the BIOS a set of frequencies and primary timings that it can work with, known as the JEDEC specification. This is the storage speed burned into every DDR4 stick ever made.

 JEDEC Timings for RAM

However, Intel has found a way to trick the system. By offering another profile on JEDEC, called XMP (Extreme Memory Profile), the memory can run at a rate greater than the standard speeds. If you buy more than 2400 MHz of memory, you probably will get a kit with an XMP profile that you can enable. This is a sanctioned overclocking in the factory.

However, that's the thing – overclocking is not usually the best way to do it, and you can push it further than the manufacturer intended.

For one thing, manufacturers do not do everything 100%. The expensive kits have to be more expensive. As a result of your product segmentation, your store has often been shipped with the XMP profile that it used. Your kit also works with a certain voltage, typically 1,350 volts for DDR4 midrange. However, you can also make this setting yourself, which the manufacturers do for kits with higher speed.

The main problem, however, is that SPD does not uncover any temporal coordination. According to a Kingston representative, "they only tune the primary time settings (CL, RCD, RP, RAS)," and since the SPD system for storing XMP profiles contains only a limited number of entries, the rest is up to the motherboard decide what does not always make the right choice. In my case, the "auto" settings on my ASUS motherboard set some strange values ​​for some of the timings. My RAM kit refused to use the XMP profile immediately, until I set the timings myself.

How to Determine the Perfect RAM Timings

Although overclocking RAM is fairly safe, it's also a bit more complicated than just turning the dial up. If you're using an AMD Ryzen system, you're in luck because there's a tool called "Ryzen DRAM Calculator" that simplifies the whole process. The calculator will give you some trouble trying it out and you will not have to leave the RAM in the "AUTO" settings on your motherboard.

For Intel systems, this tool is still handy as a guide for the primary computer, and the built-in memory tester works the same way. You should also download this if you are not working on an AMD system.

Open the tool and enter the Ryzen version (just enter Ryzen 2 Gen if you are working with Intel) and what kind of memory you have. If you do not know, you can find it online through a Google search for the part number of your RAM kit.

 Ryzen DRAM calculator

Press the purple button "R – XMP" below to load the XMP profile of your kit. Enter your Ryzen version and storage type and click "Calculate SAFE" to calculate your timings. Use the Compare Timings button to see a comparison with your XMP settings. You will find that many of the timings are aggravated.

 DRAM Calculator

The SAFE settings are almost always working. I had no problems with them at several frequencies at stock voltage. The FAST timings will probably work, but may not be stable at standard voltage.

To use this, you need to save a screenshot (bottom left is a button) and send it to a separate device You can view it in the BIOS.

Overclocking Memory in Your BIOS

Make sure you have a screenshot of the machine stored on a separate device (or somewhere written down), as the rest of the steps are executed in the BIOS without access to your desktop ,

Turn off your PC and restart it in its BIOS or UEFI firmware setup screen. You often need to repeatedly press a key such as "Delete" while the PC is starting up to access this screen. You will see a screen similar to the following:


Locate the section for the memory and then load your XMP profile first. Make sure the frequency matches your needs. If you do not even want to touch the timings, you can probably increase the frequency while maintaining the same timings (especially on Intel platforms).

There should be another section for timing control. Open the following:

 ASUS BIOS DRAM Time Control

Now open the screenshot on your phone and enter numbers. In my case, the order was the same as the calculator, but you should check and verify everything again.

In my case, the ASUS BIOS displayed the full names for many of the primary timings, so here's a list of the primary timing and associated jargon:

  • tCL – Primary CAS latency
  • tRCDRD – RAS to CAS Read Delay
  • tRCDWR – RAS to CAS Write Delay. This is sometimes grouped with reading, but not always.
  • tRP – RAS Precharge Time (PRE)
  • tRAS – RAS Active Time (ACT)

The rest should be exactly the same. [19659006] For Intel, you want to enter at least the primary timings and leave the rest to auto. If you want, you can try to enter the subtimings that the calculator issues. I see no reason why this should not work, but I can not verify it on my Ryzen system. If you have problems with the automatic settings, try to enter them manually.

When you have finished with the timings, locate the voltage control section. You want to enter the recommended DRAM voltage (the calculator indicates potentially unsafe voltages in red, anything under 1450V is probably okay). If you are on Ryzen, you want to enter the recommended SOC voltage that powers the memory controller in the CPU.

Save the settings and exit the BIOS (on my PC I have to press F10 for that)). The computer should be restarted. When Windows starts, you can proceed to the next step.

What to do if POST is not performed

If the boot process does not start, your motherboard might have lost power. On-Self-Test (POST) You probably need to wait about thirty seconds for the BIOS to boot into safe mode and the last work settings restored. You can try increasing the memory voltage in increments of 25 millivolt (0.025V) before reaching the maximum recommended voltage. You can also try to slightly increase the SOC voltage on Ryzen systems, as 1st and 2nd generation Ryzen are particularly sensitive in overclocking the memory. Intel does not have the same SOC as Ryzen and probably will not have this problem either.

If your computer does not start in safe mode, do not worry, you have not turned it into a paperweight. Your BIOS probably does not have this feature and you must clear the CMOS manually. This is usually either a battery on the motherboard that you can remove and reinsert, or a pin on the front panel. Consult your motherboard manual. You will need to use a screwdriver or a pair of scissors (ideally make jumpers and switches, but they probably will not lie around) and touch the two pins together to make an electrical connection. Do not worry; it will not shock you The PC will be reset to normal.

Make sure the overclocking is stable.

Once you're back in Windows, the fun does not stop. You want to make sure the overclocking is stable. The calculator has a tab called "MEMbench" that can be used. Set the mode to "Custom" and the task pane to 400%. Click "Max. RAM" below to allocate all of the remaining RAM. This will check your RAM four times for errors.

 MEMbench Dialog Box

Click "Run" when you are ready and give it a few minutes. In my case, testing 32 GB of RAM with 400% workload took less than ten minutes.

If no errors occur, you can try to move the clocks further or test the settings for "FAST". That's all that is overclocking memory; Just try it, delete spam and wait for MEMbench to finish. Some people find this kind of routine reassuring.

Once you have worn your Numpad and are satisfied with your results, you should run a test overnight to make sure your overclocking is 100% stable. Set the scope to something crazy (100,000% should do it) and return as soon as you wake up. If there are no errors, you can enjoy your overclocking. The worst thing that happens if you skip this step overnight is that at some point down the line, you'll get a blue screen or a random crash (which is the case at any RAM speed from time to time, unless you have ECC memory).

Benchmark Your RAM to Check Your Performance

If you're particularly competitive and want to see how your RAM stands out from the competition, you can download UserBenchmark to benchmark your entire PC, including your RAM. This will give you an overview of the performance of your system. You can also use a game-specific benchmark such as "Unigine Superposition", although you will probably need to run multiple tests because the error rate is quite high for benchmarks like these.

My results were particularly impressive. I bought a 32 GB Micron E-Die kit (known for being cheap and good to overclock) with a value of 3200 @ CL16 for $ 130. UserBenchmark achieved a stock rating of 90% speed over average RAM, but even if the timelines were tightened to 3200 @ CL14, the result was 113%, an increase of 23%.

 RAM measured at 94th percentile, 113% speed

This makes the 130 micron E-Die kit comparable to 3200 @ CL14 kits sold for over $ 250 become. This is a significant cost savings. These were just my results, and their mileage depends on how well your memory is overcrowded and how your CPU handles it.

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