PC enthusiasts have been overclocking their hardware since before I owned a PC. At the risk of sounding like an old person, I had to move jumpers around on my Shuttle HOT-555A to get that Socket 7’s motherboard to run its front-side bus at 83 MHz instead of 66. That took my Pentium MMX 166 MHz up to 207 MHz. The prevailing thought among enthusiasts seemed to be “why not overclock? It’s free performance.” The process was a little intimidating to me at first, and many average PC users either didn’t know about it or were afraid to mess with the default settings.
Fast forward a few years and motherboards started to make things easier. Abit’s KT7 was the first motherboard I can think of that had a jumper-free overclocking experience. You could press a hotkey at boot time and mess around with voltages and bus timings right on your PC monitor. While those interfaces have improved over the years, tweakers still get their hands dirty in the firmware interface to tune their gear to the bleeding edge of stability. Who among us didn’t buy a Northwood Pentium 4C 2.4 GHz or a Barton Athlon XP 2500+ and crank that sucker up? Whoa. I just felt a wave of nostalgia.
What’s the next step in overclocking, though? These days you can control those same manual switches and knobs in Windows-based tools, but the methods are still the same. Are we destined to live lives of endless toil, tweaking voltages and multipliers? Should we carry on perfecting our AVX offsets and obsessing over stability with Prime 95?
Many motherboards these days have some degree of automatic overclocking, but those features tend to be somewhat coarse and overly conservative. Motherboard one-click overclocking tools often have higher-than-necessary voltages and lower-than-optimal boost clocks to accommodate the largest portion of hardware without doing a lot of strenuous testing. What if you could run a utility that would automatically run tests, tweak speeds and voltages, and come up with the perfect overclock? If I were to climb up on Santa’s knee when I first started tinkering with PC hardware, that might be what I’d ask of him.
Intel Claus recently dropped a gift down the chimney of all the good owners of the company’s unlocked 9th-generation CPUs: Performance Maximizer. This utility brings official overclocking to the masses with a single click, or so the pitch goes. There’s quite a bit more to it than that, but we’ll get to that. First off, we’ll ruin the fun of some gerbils early on: sorry, non-9th-gen owners, this isn’t for you. To use Performance Maximizer, you need to have not only one of the six CPU models on the list below, but also a Z390 motherboard running Windows 10 version 1809 or later.
|Processor Model||# Cores||# Threads||Integrated GPU||Base||Max Turbo|
|Core i5-9600K||6||6||Yes||3.7 GHz||4.6 GHz|
|Core i5-9600KF||6||6||No||3.7 GHz||4.6 GHz|
|Core i7-9700K||8||8||Yes||3.6 GHz||4.9 GHz|
|Core i7-9700KF||8||8||No||3.6 GHz||4.9 GHz|
|Core i9-9900K||8||16||Yes||3.6 GHz||5 GHz|
|Core i9-9900KF||8||16||No||3.6 GHz||5 GHz|
Recently, I was in the market for a new gaming PC. While I think Ryzen is great (cue the “My other PC has a Ryzen 5 2400G” bumper sticker), I elected to go for raw gaming power over a robust multi-tasking system. Despite AMD’s progress on the single-threaded performance front, Intel still wins those battles more often than not. So for that reason, I selected a Core i5-9600K. It’s rather fortuitous that Performance Maximizer dropped a few days later. I had just dialed in what I thought was the perfect overclock, but I figured I’d take Intel’s tool for a spin.
There are two versions of Performance Maximizer, so be sure to get the right one. One is for Core i9 processors and the other is for any supported CPU without Hyper-Threading. Regardless of whether you download the version for the Core i9-9900K or the one for non-HyperThreaded CPUs, the installer will weigh in at a whopping 1.5 GB. If that sounds like a lot of space for an auto-overclock tool, just wait until you run it.