Tweak your PC

If you want to get the most from your games without spending extra cash, read on as Windows shows you how to push your CPU and GPU to their very limits...

  • E-Mail
By  Cleona Godinho Published  June 1, 2006

CPU|~|foxconn-w-shop.jpg|~||~|Your PC’s CPU (Central Processing Unit) is responsible for supplying data to your graphics card and other components. Both AMD and Intel offer a variety of processors for different budgets, but regardless of which you own you can ring out more gaming performance by overclocking (squeezing more performance from your CPU by running it at a higher frequency). Faster clock speeds can contribute towards a better gaming experience as they lead to faster frame rates. Before you overclock it’s a good idea to upgrade your CPU’s cooling system. ||**||Add coolant|~|product-10.jpg|~||~|Thermal paste can help increase the transfer of heat between the processor and the heatsink because it ensures full contact between the CPU and the heatsink. In order for it to work properly however, the amount of paste applied must be just right (a fine 1mm layer is perfect). If you put too much, the paste becomes counter-productive. To apply thermal paste to your CPU you first have to remove the heatsink. Regardless of which processor you have, removing this is fairly straightforward. (If you want to know how to remove your heatsink, read the next step.) Once you’ve removed the heatsink, clean off any existing thermal paste you see with a tissue or cloth. Now apply the new thermal paste evenly and in a fine layer (we recommend Arctic Silver). Next, refit the heatsink as you first found it. ||**||Step2: Change the heat sink|~|workshop.jpg|~||~|If you want to overclock your CPU safely, invest in a strong cooling system because the more you overclock your processor, the more heat it will produce (excessive heat can eventually damage your CPU if left unchecked). Read the Quick Round-up in our February 2006 issue for cooling kit recommendations (or check If you have an Intel LGA775 processor-based PC, you’ll have to unlock the four twist locks holding the heat sink in place (see pic above). With a flathead screwdriver, twist the four locks individually to their unlock position (indicated on the locks). Once they’re unlocked, pull away the heat sink. If you have an Intel Socket 478 processor, just move both levers on the heatsink in opposite directions and remove the heatsink. With an AMD Socket 939, lift the lock lever on the heatsink, slide the metal brackets off the notches and pull the heat sink away. Depending on the heatsink, refer to its manual.||**|| Overclock your CPU|~|bios.jpg|~||~|The two factors that determine your CPU’s clock speed are the multiplier and the front side bus speed (front side bus speed x multiplier = clock speed). In most cases, the multiplier is locked on the CPU, which means you have to overclock via the front side bus. However, high-end CPUs such as Intel’s Pentium 4 Extreme Edition line and AMD’s Athlon 64 FX series feature unlocked multipliers. First, enter your motherboard's BIOS to begin overclocking (press ‘F1’ or ‘Delete’ when your PC prompts you on startup). Once there, locate the menu that features settings for your bus speed and multipliers. Note: the menu name will vary depending on your board. On a MSI board, this is called ‘Cell Menu’. Navigate to the front side bus setting (sometimes referred to as ‘CPU Frequency’ or ‘Bus speed’) and begin increasing the front side bus speed. Overclock with 5MHz increments to be safe. After increasing the bus speed, save and exit the BIOS. ||**||GPU|~|GPU.jpg|~||~|A GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) - like a CPU - is a dedicated processor. The GPU is designed to draw or render 3D graphics and takes the load off the CPU during gameplay. It also handles lighting effects, object transformations and 3D motion. You can enjoy better gaming performance by overclocking your GPU. If done properly, this should lead to higher frame rates, which translate into sharper images and smoother transitions, resulting in a more immersive gaming experience. If you want a more in-depth guide to overclocking your GPU, check out our March 06 issue, which is also online at||**||Update your drivers|~|DRIVEUPDATE.jpg|~||~|Up-to-date drivers can improve performance and stability, so make sure you’re using the latest drivers for your particular graphics card. Regardless of which brand of card you own, if it makes use of a ATi or nVidia chipset, you’ll find the latest drivers on the manufacturer’s official website (and on this month's Windows CD). Before you install these, uninstall the old ones to avoid problems such as error notes or crashing. Go to Start/Settings/ Control Panel/Add or Remove Programs. Select your drivers and uninstall them. Once this is done, reboot your PC. (Note: don’t delete the older driver’s installation file as you made need this if the newer drivers appear to be unstable). Next, install the new drivers and reboot to finalise their installation. ||**||Tweak your drivers|~|overclockinGPU1258.jpg|~||~|Once you’ve updated your drivers, tweak them for better gaming performance. (Note: menu names of driver performance settings vary depending on your graphics card). Here, we’ll walk you through using a graphics card from nVidia’s GeForce FX line. First, right-click on your desktop and click on Properties/Settings tab. Double-click ‘Advanced’ and select the tab that includes the name of your graphics card. Next, double-click on ‘Performance and Quality’ option in the menu on the left. Set the Performance slider to ‘Balanced’, as this offers a good mix of performance and quality. If you have a mid-range PC and want games to look smoother, shift the Antialiasing slider to ‘2x’ or at the most ‘4x’. Also, activate the Anisotropic filtering option by moving the slide to ‘2x’. Anisotropic filtering improves image quality by reducing image blur and thus preserves detail. Now select the ‘Texture Sharpening’ check box to improve image quality. ||**|||~|step3memoryclock.jpg|~||~|For this, we suggest use PowerStrip, available on this month’s Windows CD and (from This app lets you tweak your card’s GPU core speed and memory, and is compatible with almost every type of graphics card on the market. Once installed, reboot your system to let PowerStrip interface with your card and its drivers. To begin, right-click the PowerStrip icon and navigate to Performance Profiles/Configure. You’ll now see a screen with two sliders on the left side. The left slider (above the processor icon) controls the GPU frequency, while the right slider (above the memory chip) regulates memory frequency. Increase the frequency 5MHz at a time to stay safe. Do this by selecting the GPU slider and moving it up five notches. Next, hit Apply. Run your a game or bench-marking app and look closely for signs of distortion. Now tweak the memory by selecting the memory slider and repeating the same process.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code