PC overclocking is passé, at least for practical purposes. You can buy faster and faster graphics cards to compensate for almost any eventuality, so most overclocking is done for show. Hardly any recent PC overclocking hack, either of a CPU or graphics card, can make a nonplayable game playable or a superjerky game supersmooth. Maybe I'm just a console snob--overclocking is sometimes a very cool thing on the PC--but I really
dig console overclocking.
From speeding up your Sega Genesis to previously untenable speeds to making your Nintendo 64 run in overdrive, you can sometimes achieve major frame-rate hikes via overclocking. Sure, sometimes you'll have glitches and crashes, too, but pioneers and trailblazers can't have everything. The following sections demonstrate a few console overclocking tips. Overclocking your Nintendo 64
There's one main font of knowledge in the West regarding overclocking: Robert Ivy
. Though he mentions the excellent GameSX.com Web site as another good source of information, start with his site. Be aware, though, that overclocking an N64 requires very precise soldering. This is fun to contemplate, but it's for advanced users only to do.
Robert's site warns you of the obvious: if the game already ran at a full frame rate, overclocking won't make any difference. Because the developers intended their N64 games to run only on the N64, most games already had sufficient optimizations to produce good frame rates. Only particularly complicated 3D games such as Perfect Dark that sometimes chug a little or a lot, even when using the extra RAM in the N64 expansion packs, will see much effect.
However, Perfect Dark is a crucial title, so what the heck! Here are his tips:
Sega Genesis overclocking
- Start with a transparent N64. According to multiple practitioners, earlier revisions of the Nintendo 64 motherboard (such as those found in the all-black consoles) are much less resilient to attempts to make the main chip go faster, crashing after a few minutes of enhanced play.
- Resolder the CPU pins. To perform the mod, you'll need to lift up a couple of pins on the N64's CPU and reconnect them to other parts of the circuit board.
Although Robert's site has rudimentary hand-drawn pictures, the GameSX site has a much better procedure with actual photos on its instruction page.
Look for pins 112 and 116 along the bottom side of the CPU. Heat the base of the CPU with a soldering iron, then very carefully lift up its legs. Then solder a wire to each pin. Connect pin 112 to GND and pin 116 to +3.3v for 2x speed. You're actually changing the chip's clock multiplier, normally set to 1.5 times the speed (giving a 93.75MHz speed chip), to two or even three times the clock speed. A 2X speed isn't twice the normal N64 clock rate, because the standard multiplier is 1.5X. The GameSX page has more details, including a recommendation for a good capacitor to use.
- Beware of extra heat. Because the CPU runs faster, you may run into heat-related problems. Robert put a heat sink from an old stereo amplifier in his overclocked N64 to help with the heat buildup from playing for hours at a time.
While the N64 is a somewhat newer system to try to speed up, the Sega Genesis is a much older, more disposable system. It's easy to find ridiculously cheap hardware to test. The end result overclocks the stock 7.6MHz CPU to anywhere up to 16MHz, meaning smoother scrolling and less slowdown, especially with lots of sprites onscreen in 2D games.
Although Robert Ivy also mentions this procedure
, the Epic Gaming site
has a full explanation, including photos of the mod and much more detailed explanations. Epic Gaming seems to be the originator, though a group of Japanese enthusiasts apparently have reached the same results independently. I'm just passing along their findings, but I'll try to describe it as succinctly as possible:
- Disconnect a trace. For the 13.4MHz overclocking hack, open the machine, and remove the RF shielding. Find pin 15 on the CPU and cut its trace so that the system won't boot. This is a little scary. Then connect together pin 15 on the CPU and pin 19 on the cartridge slot to make the system boot again.
- Build a switch. You'll need two switches, an on-on clock switch to switch the frequency and an on-off switch to halt the machine. Connect pins 15 and 19 on the cartridge slot to pin 15 on the CPU through the on-on switch. Connect the on-off switch with one terminal to GND and the other to pin 17 on the CPU. Without the halt switch, the Genesis will crash when you switch speeds.
- Reboot and flip switches. Everything's now ready to do the magic overclock! Boot your Genesis, hit the Halt switch, flip the Overclock switch, then flip the Halt switch back again so that your Genesis continues in super-souped-up mode.
According to the Epic Gaming page, you can coax more speed from the machine if you use crystal oscillators, so refer to that page if this isn't enough. The end result is the removal of almost all slowdown in classic Genesis games. The CPU doesn't run that much hotter, and although there are some minor sound/music issues, it's a fun, worthwhile hack. Further console overclocking fun
Although I've covered two of the most interesting overclocking hacks for consoles, there are a few other possibilities worth looking into. Allegedly, you can overclock your PlayStation or PSOne
, leading to an alleged decrease in loading time and better video playback. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
It's also possible to overclock the NES from 1.79MHz all the way up to 2.3MHz, although it's difficult to find these instructions online. Onward and upward, I say. How about overclocking the Xbox 360? I don't care if it's not out yet: someone will find a way.