Intel has announced that its most recent BIOS updates for Skylake processors will close a loophole that previously existed. Up until now, multiple motherboard vendors have offered BIOS’ that allowed for extensive overclocking of non-K processors.
Ever since Sandy Bridge, Intel has limited overclocking to specific products with a “K” in the name — the Core i7-2700K, or the Core i7-6700K, to name the first and most recent examples. Non-K processors also sometimes have different features than their K-class brethren, though this actually varies between product lines. Skylake, however, opened a gateway — the Z170 chipset allowed non-K processors to hit much higher clock speeds, with manufacturers claiming BCLCK (base clock) overclocks of 20-30%.
In a statement to PCWorld, Intel confirmed that they’re going to shut the practice down. “Intel regularly issues updates for our processors which our partners voluntarily incorporate into their BIOS,” an Intel spokesman said. “The latest update provided to partners includes, among other things, code that aligns with the position that we do not recommend overclocking processors that have not been designed to do so. Additionally, Intel does not warranty the operation of the processor beyond its specifications.”
Is overclocking risky?
Intel has never liked overclocking very much, and has taken various technical steps to disable or limit it across the years. It’s absolutely true that overclocking your processor can damage it or shorten its lifespan. One could argue that this last point actually matters more than it used to, since desktops are typically used for longer and longer periods. No one cared about killing chips when the average desktop was replaced every 2-3 years, but if you plan on using a system for 5-7 years, it could matter more.
Both the P4 “Northwood” core and LGA 1156 processors had known problems when asked to run at extreme voltages and frequencies for significant periods of time. So yes — overclocking can burn out a core.
There is, however, an important caveat to this. The scenarios that typically damage a CPU are high-voltage / high power scenarios that result from pushing a core well beyond safe thresholds. If you’re trying to squeeze another few hundred MHz out of your CPU and you make a few small voltage tweaks to accomplish it, you probably aren’t going to harm anything.
It’s unfortunate to see Intel closing this particular loophole, since enthusiasts have had little enough to get excited about in years. AMD still offers some low-end chips with unlocked multipliers, but Intel doesn’t (with the exception of the 20th Anniversary Pentium released a few years back). After this update, overclocking will be confined to a handful of the more-expensive SKUs in Intel’s product lineup.
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