RAM overclocking 101 class with professor batboy
I see so many questions about overclocking the memory. It is a bit mystifying and complex. Until recently with this current build, I had avoided doing any manual RAM overclocking. I too tried finding a guide to get me started, but there is so many different variables involved. How you OC memory and how much you can depend on the motherboard, the RAM modules, and even cooling. I do not claim to be a memory expert. Most of my meager knowledge was personally acquired by utilizing the scientific method of repeatedly conducting trial and error experiments and measuring the results. In other words, I just randomly poked around until I found somethings that worked and somethings that didn't.
Enough jibber-jabber! Let's get on with this, shall we?
Before we start, pull up CPU-Z. If you do not have CPU-Z, it's a free download and a valuable overclocking tool. Open CPU-Z and go to the memory tab. Make note of the DRAM frequency and timings. Go to the SDP tab and look at the timing tables. These are essentially the XMP settings the BIOS will use. The far right profile is usually the advertised specs. Write down that list of timings. Please note, to calculate the RAM speed, you have to double the DRAM frequency. If DRAM freq. is 1800, that means your RAM clock speed is 3600 MHz (1800 X 2 = 3600).
There are basically three ways to deal with memory settings in the current crop of platforms. (1) Auto, (2) XMP, and (3) manual; however, there is another hybrid way that I use which is a combination of all three (a little auto, a little preset XMP, and a little manual).
I'll assume you know a little about the BIOS and that you've been overclocking the CPU already and probably the graphics card too. If you haven't, stop reading and go do that stuff first. I like to save memory clocking for last. It's like holding onto your fork after dinner, because you know there will be pie.
Go into the BIOS and navigate to the page where you do most of your overclocking. I have an Asus TUF X299 Mark 2 motherboard and the BIOS screen for me is called Ai Tweaker. I know ROG boards call it something else. Go to the advanced mode (it usually boots into EZ mode). Look at the menu in the advanced mode, there should an "exit" on the top far right and if you look to the left you'll see "boot" and maybe "tools." Then farther left will be "main" and "advanced." My Ai Tweaker is in between those two.
Go to that page of the BIOS (again where you do most overclocking) and towards the top is a setting called Ai Overclock Tuner (again, different MBs and/or BIOS might call it by a slightly different name). There will be a drop down menu for that setting with these choices: auto, XMP, manual. Default is probably auto. This setting is the first step in overclocking the RAM. If you want to take the lazy way out, leave it on auto. My system did not even run at what the RAM was rated for, it used super "safe" settings. I would try auto at first just to make sure your RAM is not defective.
Here is a shot of the BIOS in advanced mode (ignore all the red lines). This is the BIOS screen you want. This is where all the overclocking action will take place.
The next thing to do (if you have a stable CPU overclock), is to use XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) to clock your RAM at a certified profile that is usually the advertised specs. For example, my RAM is rated at DDR4-3600 with timings of 15-15-15-35 using 1.35v. Set the Ai Overclock Tuner to XMP. It will automatically change other BIOS settings. I recommend NOT changing any other BIOS setting at this point. Now, you need to test XMP. There is a ever so slight of a chance it might not work. So, save the BIOS settings and exit. Hold your breath and cross your fingers. If the system boots, then give it some stress test and then take a screenshot of CPU-Z on the memory tab to admire your RAM speed and timings. Here is what mine looks like using the XMP settings (on auto my DRAM freq. was 1200 MHz or DDR4-2400, after using XMP my DRAM freq. is 1800 MHz, big difference).
If you can run the XMP settings, that's usually pretty darn good and might be perfectly fine for some people. The RAM manufacturer spent a lot of time in research into determining the optimal speed, timings, and voltage to use for those particular sticks of RAM. It will certainly take a lot of the guess work out of the process and generally gives excellent results if you are clueless. I used the XMP settings myself for a while as I learned about my system.
Next up... manual RAM tuning... [to be continued]