What is Overclocking?

Overclocking is when you attempt to make your computer’s processor run at a faster speed than the manufacturer intended. All processors run at a specific frequency measured in megahertz, mhz. Usually there is a setting on the chip or on the board the chip is attached to which controls this speed. Manufacturers usually set this cautiously since the results of running it to fast can destroy the chip and nearby components. That said manufacturers don’t know your individual situation so it’s possible to make your computer run faster by overclocking the processor to run at a higher speed.

Why Overclock?
The main reason to overclock would be to make your system run faster. This would result ideally in programs running faster, games dropping less frames, saving time during time consuming tasks such as encoding video, or running complex filters in Photoshop. Typically even with overclocking however the results will likely be minimal.

What are the risks of overclocking?
You could destroy your processor
You could destroy other components in your computer
You could affect components that store sensitive data, or cause data loss which would require hard drive data recovery
You could cause problems with your logic board settings that are difficult to fix if not impossible
You could make your system unstable resulting in problems like frequent crashing, or errors when starting up
You could cause excess electromagnetic radiation to build up inside your case which eventually would affect other electromagnetic radiation sensitive components in your system
All that said it is at least possible that you will simply end up with a system that’s a bit snappier

Here are some programs that will automatically overclock your system:
EVGA Precision; GPU Overclocking Software
Freeclock; Open Source Over/Underclocking Software
ATITool; Software to Overclock ATI Graphics Cards
RivaTuner; Tool for Overclocking NVidia Graphics Cards
CPUSpeedy; tool for Overclocking You Computer Processor

Here are some tutorials on overclocking specific systems:
Overclocking Your Graphics Card
Overclock the Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
Overclock the Mac Pro
Overclocking Intel Core 2 Duo Quad Processors
Overclocking the AMD Athlon

Links to additional resources:
Overclock.Net – Overclocking tutorials, resources, and forums
CPU Reviews and Related Articles – Site with massive information on CPU upgrades
Extreme Overclock – Resources & Links to Programs for overclocking
Data Recovery - For use if data loss is experienced while overclocking
Raid Data Recovery - For use if you experience a raid failure due to overclocking
XLR8YourMac - Site dedicated to speeding up you Mac, and overclocking
Overclocking Information – Overclocking Section of PC Upgrade Tips Page