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The Computer Corner


By Charles Miller

This week I fielded, or rather fended off, a question about overclocking. For those not acquainted with the term, overclocking is the practice of super-charging the performance of a computer as is done by computer gamers who try to squeeze every last kilohertz of speed from their hardware. I have to start off my answer by attempting to correct some mistaken beliefs concerning the nature of computer hardware.

A widely-held misconception is that because solid-state components such as Rapid Access Memory (RAM) chips, Solid-State Hard Drives (SSD), and Central Processing Unit (CPU) chips have no moving parts, they will never wear out. That is not true and never has been, but rather than explaining how a solid piece of silicon fails, I will try to impart some idea of what manufacturers are doing about it. Knowing that failure of solid state components is inevitable, what the designers have done is to plan strategies to cope with it.

The heart of any computer is its CPU chip, and most of them today have dual-core, quad-core, or designs utilizing higher numbers of cores. In simple terms what this means is that a quad-core system actually is four computers in one. The Operating System software, Windows or OS-X, breaks up some computing jobs giving part of the job to each core so that the job gets done much faster. That is what is already happening right under your nose, er fingertips.

CPU chips typically contain twice as many cores as advertised, so when one core fails, it is automatically replaced with one of the extras. This permits chips to continue performing at their advertised speed for their anticipated lifespan. This is also where overclocking comes in. Users who want to hotrod their computers know there are ways to activate those extra cores for super high performance. A dual-core system with two cores on the CPU chip might actually contain two cores and two extras, so turning on all four should theoretically double the speed of the computer. The latest Intel® Core™ i7-6700K Processor is advertised as having 8 cores but probably has 16. In Windows a simple configuration change could turn on all 16 to make the computer blazingly fast.

And no, absolutely not! I am not telling how to do this! No way! Blazingly fast means a lot more heat. I do not want to have this column appear this week, and next week start receiving calls from people whose computers have already burned to a crisp, not to mention complaints I could get from the fire department.

Still there are serious computer gamers who know they can overclock so long as they also install super-efficient cooling systems. Some have even gone so far as to immerse their motherboards in aquariums filled with refrigerated mineral oil. Believe it or not, computer motherboards are okay to run fully submerged in a tank full of oil.

I, for one, am willing to forgo overclocking and leave that to the serious gamers.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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