Overclocking is simply improving your computer’s performance beyond its rated specifications by tweaking its settings. An example would be overclocking a $280 2.66-gigahertz CPU to 3.33 gigahertz. Normally a 3.33-gigahertz chip would cost you $1,000.
So overclocking sounds great, until you consider the risks involved. Doing it can void your warranty, corrupt your data, or even damage the CPU. So is it worth it? It really depends on how cheap you are and how much you like taking risks. Chip makers artificially limit many chips to meet their sales demands—even if 80 percent of the CPUs they make can run at 3.33 gigahertz, most people are only willing to pay for a 2.66-gigahertz version, so the company locks most of the chips at the lower speed. It’s this extra overhead that most overclockers try to exploit. As long as you have reasonable expectations—say, a 10 to 20 percent performance boost—it is very safe. And if you’re working with Photoshop or encoding videos all day, you’d benefit from the extra clock speed.
Every chip is different, and the forums on www.xtremesystems.org can tell you which are best for overclocking. If you decide to give it a try, enthusiast sites such as MaximumPC.com, Anandtech.com and Tomshardware.com can guide you through the process.