This is an archive site only. It is no longer maintained. You can not post comments. You can not make an account. Your email will not be read. Please read this page if you have questions.
Many of us Americans enjoy tinkering with things. We customize our vehicles. We remodel our houses. Some of us even modify our bodies. Americans are always looking to improve our lot. To squeeze out that extra bit of value from what we have. Whether it be adding a nice set of 18" OZ wheels to our Honda Civic, adding a conservatory at the back of the house, or improving our sex lives with interesting body modifications We always feel we can make improvements.
The world of the humble personal computer is no different. In this article I will explain how any reasonably competent DIY enthusiast can modify his or her PC and extract that extra bit of longevity, saving money and helping the environment at the same time.
If you have read this far, it is safe to assume you are the kind of person who feels comfortable tinkering with things. What I am going to describe is not exactly rocket science, but it involves a fair amount of technical fiddling about so please bear with me.
It is the same with PCs. For some time now guys in the office where I work have been tweaking their PCs, making all sorts of modifications (in nerdspeak: "Overclocking their CPUs") in the name of performance. They are hell bent on squeezing every last MHz from their PC investment. This is to be admired. It is, in fact, the American way. They even have their own websites dedicated to extracting every last ounce of performance from their machines. However, like those guys with the customized Civics and Accords, we have to wonder what is the environmental impact of these modifications, and even more importantly how will it affect the lifespan of the PC ?
Before I explain how you can improve the longevity of your PC I need to explain what overclocking is, and the negative effects it can have. We can then see how my solution adresses these issues.
Overclocking in a nutshell is the illegal act of running a computer's CPU at a higher clock speed than that mandated by the manufacturer. By altering the settings on the BIOS of your motherboard, it is possible to fool your computer into running faster than the manufacturer's permitted speed limit. This results in a short term gain for the overclocker, but it is not without risk to the wallet, or the environment.
To quote the US Dept of Energy and the EPA: "Staying within the speed limit is not only a matter of safety and obeying the law, it can also save you money."
The sound advice above applies equally to Personal Computers as it does to automobiles, which is hardly surprising, since both are complex pieces of machinery requiring their users to behave in a responsible manner.
Anyway enough preaching, its time to get down to the technical nitty-gritty. For the purposes of this article, it is useful to draw an analogy between PCs and Automobiles. If you tune up an auto by adding a turbocharger, or remapping the fuel injection and timing, you may well get a small increase in performance. However it will be at the expense of wear and tear on your engine, more greenhouse gas emissions, increased insurance premiums, and ultimately the lifespan of your vehicle will be shortened. So it is with PCs.
The overclocked PC consumes more electricity than the unmodified PC (due to the higher clock speeds, and the additional cooling that is required). This causes higher running costs (just take a look at your electric bill if you don't believe me), more damage to the enviroment, due to the emission of more poisonous greenhouse gasses, and worst of all, reducing the lifespan of your CPU.
A CPU is a delicate piece of electronics. Illegally increasing the clock speed by just 2MHz can remove 6 months from its working lifespan.
Modify your PC to improve its longevity
Basically there are three steps to underclocking your CPU. The first step is to get into the computer's BIOS. This can normally be done by pressing DEL as the machine boots up.
The second step is to locate the CPU clock multiplier in the BIOS menus, and modify it. Suppose you want to increase the lifespan of your CPU by a factor of two. The thing to do is to halve the clock multiplier in the BIOS.
The third step is to save your changes to the BIOS and reboot. VOILA - you are now the proud owner of a longer-lasting, greener, cheaper to run PC.
Now you might be wondering what the downside is to all this ? Good news. As it turns out, there is no downside. For years and years PC manufacturers have been telling us we needed faster and faster CPUS. This is simply not the case. I run Microsoft Word just as easily on my underclocked Dell machine, with the bonus of knowing my PC will probably outlast that of all my friends, and is saving me money to boot.
For any reasonably competent DIY enthusiast, underclocking is a no-brainer, and the sooner you do it, the sooner you can start saving money and join the ranks of those who are doing their bit to reduce global warming.
There is some evidence to suggest that if just 5% of America's PC-owning population underclocked their PCs by a miniscule 5% then the Californian power crisis would have been averted, and we would be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a significant amount.
We have to start protecting our environment somewhere, so what better place to start protecting it than at home ?