Any hardcore PC gamer will tell you that the speed you see on your processor, graphics processing unit and RAM is really nothing more than a guide. The real potential of these components can be found when you overclocking them.

When you think of overclocking however, you wouldn’t be wrong to imagine scenes of exposed hardware and tall towers slowly being filled with liquid nitrogen, or dry ice or in some instances liquid hydrogen. This doesn’t always have to be the case – in fact these extreme instances aren’t really useful for gamers because they aren’t sustainable for long gaming sessions and they cost the earth.

Thankfully though, there is a better solution because while you might not be able to squeeze say, 7.0GHz out of a 3.5GHz CPU you could overclock that 3.5GHz CPU closer to 4.0GHz and get a better experience.

How does one do that? Well if you find yourself at rAge this weekend you can chat to Neo “ShockG” Sibeko and his crew at the NAG OC Workshop. We had a chance to tear Sibeko away from the crazy clock speeds for a few minutes to ask him some questions about overclocking and just how to do it.

htxt: For the person who has no idea what overclocking is can you give us a simple explanation?

Sibeko: Overclocking is like drag racing for computers. Obviously you aren’t moving the computer but you’re trying to get it to go as fast as possible to get the highest scores you can in benchmarks such as 3DMark FireStrike or Intel XTU. Overclocking is basically like trying to get your CPU to perform above the speed that it was designed to run at. This gives you a more performance that you didn’t have to pay for.

htxt: What sort of dangers are there to overclocking your CPU?

Sibeko: What vendors like AMD and Intel have started doing is unlocking certain processors so that they can be overclocked – for example the Extreme brand of processors from Intel and FX processors from AMD. There’s no real danger in overclocking your CPU these days provided you don’t put too much voltage through the CPU. Doing that would fry your CPU and void your warranty.

The Overclocker himself, Neo "ShockG" Sibeko.
The Overclocker himself, Neo “ShockG” Sibeko.

htxt: What made you want to explore overclocking?

Sibeko: Like most competitive overclockers I started out as a gamer and when new games came out I wasn’t able to play them. This makes you want to push your CPU to the limits so that you are able to play those games without having to spend money on a new CPU, RAM and graphics cards. That’s basically how I got into overclocking by just wanting to make the games I wanted to play run faster.

htxt: What would I need to start overclocking my PC?

Sibeko: I don’t recommend using the stock CPU cooler so you will probably need an all-in-one water cooling system like the Corsair Hydro series or the Coolermaster Seidon all-in-one water coolers. The reason you need this is because a stock air cooler is not good enough at getting rid of the heat that your CPU generates when its overclocked. If you want to overclock a CPU from 3.5GHz, for example, to 3.6GHz or 3.7GHz your stock cooler might be able to handle it.

Your goal is to improve your scores in benchmarks like Intel XTU.
Your goal is to improve your scores in benchmarks like Intel XTU.

htxt: Before people run off and try overclock their PC’s where can they find some more information about the practice and just inform themselves a bit more?

Sibeko: The first stop for everybody should be opening a Google search and typing “How do I overclock my CPU”, that’s a good start. For more in depth and verified information you can head to sites like HWOT or TheOverclocker where we have done step-by-step tutorials of how to overclock system components. Local and international forums also almost always have overclocking sections where you can ask questions or read tutorials.

htxt: At the workshop and competition you are running identical rigs for people to compete on and try their hand at overclocking. What is inside those rigs?

Sibeko: So our processor is the latest 6th generation Intel Core i7 5700K running at 4.0GHz, we have G-skill Ripjaw 5 series 2400MHz RAM and everything is connected to the new MSI z170  Gaming M7 motherboard which is one below the highest end motherboard. For graphics we have MSI NVIDIA GTX 950 Gaming graphics cards. Cooling the CPU is a Corsair H80i.

One of many rigs that overclockers will be practicing and competing on.
One of many rigs that overclockers will be practicing and competing on. Oh and if you win the competition, you get the rig you overclocked.

htxt: How do the new Intel Skylake processors cope with overclocking.

Sibeko: The 5700K is actually really simple to overclock, we’ve been getting stable speeds of 4.5GHz all day with little to no issues. Overclocking RAM is also a lot easier thanks to the great memory controller on the chip.

It’s all good and well to talk about this but if you really want to try out, or just find out how to overclock your PC and get a free performance upgrade from your components then you need to visit the NAG OC Workshop at stand 80 at rAge this weekend. If you compete and win you will be the owner of the machine that you actually overclocked.