What is Overclocking?
Simply put, overclocking is taking the Processor (or CPU) and running it at a clock frequency that is higher than the standard frequency for that model of CPU.
The advantage of this is better performance at little or no cost. The disadvantage is that it generates more heat and may require extra cooling to keep the system stable.
Wired2Fire will only ever overclock your system to a 24/7 safe level. This will not reduce the expected operational lifetime of a Wired2Fire performance PC so it is considered perfectly safe.
Not all CPUs from AMD and Intel have the facility to be overclocked. You also need a motherboard that supports overclocking. However, if you have the correct type of CPU and a motherboard that supports overclocking you really can get some significant improvements in performance.
The amount a CPU can be overclocked varies quite a lot and depends on several factors. The following items will affect the maximum stable overclock achievable:
The model of CPU will usually be the biggest single factor in the amount it can be overclocked. However, even between identical CPU models there can be significant variability in the overclock achieved simply because of tiny variations in manufacturing process.
The motherboard is very important in achieving the best possible overclock, the most important factor is the power delivery components and the cooling of these components. They are usually referred to as VRMs (Voltage Regulator Modules). Motherboard manufacturers will state the number of phases the power is supplied in e.g. 4 phase or 8 phase. Essentially, the more phases the better. However, it also how these phases are implemented that can make a big difference. Crudely put a better VRM will deliver power to the CPU more consistently.
Cooling is very important as the extra frequency and voltages generate more heat. Heat alters the properties of the transistors on the CPU directly leading to instability. Excessive localised heat can damage the CPU permanently. Therefore, it is important to choose a good cooling method. The degree of extra cooling required will depend on the number of CPU cores and desired amount of overclocking.
The power supply can influence overclocking, a poor quality PSU will deliver the power inconsistently under load conditions which will reduce the maximum possible overclock. In general, you need to have a PSU that not only provides enough power, but also delivers it as cleanly as possible.
Finally, the memory can also influence the maximum CPU overclock speed. The more higher end memory tends to allow slightly higher clock speeds, but the single biggest effect of memory is the total number of memory modules. For overclocking 2 sticks of RAM is always better than 4! You need to strike a balance though because some high end motherboards require multiple sticks to provide higher memory bandwidths. So for day to day use it may sometimes be better to have more memory sticks at the expense of a few MHz of CPU speed.
If you want to know more about overclocking there are plenty of detailed guides online.