Sunday, 28 August 2011

Hard drive choices

Hard Drives
Choosing your hard drive;
What differentiates one hard drive from another? if we take a couple of screen shots from a computer store, I will explain the varying factors that should help you make the correct 

capacity: 500GB - This is simply your capacity (the amount of data you can store), so the more the merrier right ?
16MB Cache - The cache is a seperate memory chip on the controller board of the hard drive. Hard drives (the magnetic type) are by their nature quite slow when you consider the speed at which SATA  controllers can handle - 600MB/s (6Gb/s). You would be lucky to get 150MB/s with a regular magnetic hard drive - this is where the solid state hard drives come in which we will cover later. If the hard drive had to feed the processor data on the fly it would be a terrible experience.  So basically - more cache means more performance.
SATA III (6Gb/s) - as mentioned above - not to be mistaken with GB/s 6 Giga bits per second! I did chuckle when I was speaking to a friend and they referred to it as 6 Giga Bytes per second - that really would be some epic data rates. To be honest you would have to run a number of these drives in a RAID 0 configuration to capitalise on the 6Gb/s bandwidth capacity. If you are unsure of RAID then Google it. I am not going to explain how to set up a RAID in a beginners guide.

7200RPM - The speed at which the disk spins. The faster the disk spins, the less time that the armature has to wait for the data to come back around after a full revolution presuming that it just missed the data as it span round. - The higher the RPM - the better the data rates, however you will find that with faster RPM drives, more gains are to be had when reading smaller files.
you will be able to get 10kRPM hard drives on the SATA interface (Western Digital's Velociraptor's).  Anything above that, you start looking at the SCSI drives intended for $erver$.
Well that about covers the 'standard' hard drives. At the time of writing this blog, solid state hard drives are relatively new technology in this form in the tech market.
A solid state drive is basically like RAM. Silicon chips on a board which store data. This is a much faster form of accessing and storing data however at this moment in time, there are still teething problems such as people losing all their data. Not only are there serious problems covering a whole array of drives (currently the finger is pointing at the SandForce controller chip). Hopefully for those who have spent some serious cash on these drives, there will be a simple work around such as a firmware update. Having said all that, the fact that you can pick up a hard drive for around £30 for 500GB -  I personally will wait until all the problems have been ironed out before joining on the SSD bandwagon.

There are yet another type of drive known as hybrid drives, as you would expect by the name, are an amalgamation of the aforementioned disk types - magnetic and solid state.
These drives combine the relatively cheap storage option of the magnetic disk and also add some high speed SSD into the works, which in turn offers a reasonably priced high speed option. Once again though, I would personally not touch this type of storage option due to its new place in the market, as with any new technology there are usually teething problems which need sorting, however what you choose is entirely up to you, just make sure that you do some research beforehand to find all the pros and cons.

You also need to be aware that SATA and IDE are two different types of hard drives - molex power + IDE cable as opposed to SATA data cable and SATA power. SATA being the only sensible choice for a new build.
Speaking simplisticly, the IDE will have an IDE cable (looks like a flat cable, quite wide however very thin; the SATA uses a very narrow and thin cable. Other than just looking much tidier in the case, the SATA hard drives come with higher speed drives, more data bandwidth - basically just a step in the right direction with new technology. 
Unless your motherboard does not support SATA (which it should do) I would steer clear from IDE drives. - You will also need to make sure that your power supply comes with SATA power plugs.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


Intel vs AMD

Start by choosing which processor that you want:
Both Intel and AMD make quality processors, both of which are completely capable for gaming spec PC's and upwards. There are a number of different factors that you have to be aware of.

At  the time of writing this guide, Intel have without a doubt the best processors. Their 1155 socket
type also known as Sandybridge are incredible processors, they are divided into 3 groups. The i3, i5 and i7. The i3 are aimed at light processing power (value range), the i5 are performance processors, coping very well in all areas of processing, especially gaming. And finally the i7, this range is.
AMD's current processors are the Phenom ii, which are also very good, however do not stand up nearly as well against the Intel. They range from dual core to hex core (6) which are much better suited to multi tasking, or applications which utilise multi core processors, which in my opinion will be a lot more common in the following years with the release of AMD's new processor due to be launched known by its codename "Bulldozer" is shaping up to be a great competitor. The Bulldozer sports 8 physical cores!! 
AMD processors for as long as I can recall have had a lower heat threshold than intel, this is fine if you are just using them at stock speeds however, when it comes to overclocking it leaves you with less room to play with on the temperature front. I am expecting the same with this new processor type however I would love to be proven wrong - If the processor has a higher roof on the temperature limits, then I will be very excited to see how far the overclocking potential can be pushed.
I do not really want to get too deep into different processor types, as by the time you read this, there may well be brand new processor types out and this whole area of the article will be outdated.

A term that you will hear a lot when discussing PC's is "Bang for Buck" - simply put, how much performance you get for your money. Would you spend an extra £100 on a processor for a 5% increase in performance?  This brings me on to my next point.... Cost
AMD and Intel processors come in a range of prices - generally the most expensive are the Intel i7 range. They are the fastest processors, great for those who require a fast PC to do number crunching, encoding, graphical design etc, or just for those who can afford the price tag and simply want a computer that does everything, but just that bit faster than the rest.

Socket Types
Processors are divided into sub groups - socket types. For instance, the latest Intel processors are using the LGA1155 socket type and the latest AMD socket type is the AM3+.
Each processor has to be paired up with a motherboard sporting the same socket type as the processor, this is just something to bear in mind when choosing your computer components.

Once again, when chosing a mother board there area  few factors to bear in mind,
1) Cost
2) Performance
3) Brand
4) Socket type
5) Usage

You can pick up a motherboard on the (intel) 1155 socket type for as little as £60, whereas you can pick up a motherboard on the (AMD) AM3 socket type from £35. Not only are the motherboards cheaper on this socket type, but the processors can also be picked up at a great price (from under £30)!
As you might expect, the faster the processor / motherboard, the higher the price tag, although a recent article I read which was comparing different motherboards in the same 1155 range found that the difference in performance was negligible from board to board!
When choosing a motherboard, brand names are usually down to personal preference, I personally prefer the ASUS brands of motherboard as I have never had a problem with them. I do suggest that you stick to the well known brands such as ASUS, MSI, GIGABYTE as they are all well manufactured.
When choosing a motherboard, in the description it will let you know what type of RAM is supported, here is an example (just part of the list):

It is always best to refer to this list (found on the manufacturers website) before purchasing any memory modules for your new PC to ensure a perfect match.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Building your own PC

 Please do not be offended, I am not trying to teach you to "suck eggs" rather explaining things in such a way so that everybody can understand! 

When I began writing this thread regarding building your own PC, I didn't think it would take me long at all. I started writing and keep finding myself having to elaborate on different areas, it's amazing what things that you know that you just take for granted. With this in mind, I will be posting this entire article in a number of posts, that way you will be able to digest the information in easy to manage sections (and give me more time to complete the write up).

With all that being said, lets start off with the basics.

Building your own PC very easy, once you have built one you will never forget how to do it and your skills will continually get better.

Firstly you need to know exactly what components are required, the list is purely skimming over the necessary components and not going in depth into different types and speeds etc, this will be covered later on in the guide.

The motherboard is the main circuit board in your computer. All of the components that you use all connect either directly or indirectly to this.

This is the brain of the computer, all the information that is being processed goes through this.
Processor speed is measured in GHz (Giga Hertz) - another important factor when choosing a CPU is cache - we will go into more detail later in this guide.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
Your RAM is where data is cached for fast access by the processor. When playing games  or using other applications, the bulk of the data is stored on your RAM to enable much faster access - resulting in good PC performance.
Memory is measured in Gigabytes.



The noticeable difference between these sticks of ram is that the top ones come with a metal shrouding, designed to dissipate the heat (Heat sink or Heat Spreader). Beneath the metal shroud, you will find that the memory modules themselves look pretty much identical.

Graphics card. (optional)
Every computer needs a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) however I said optional, as many motherboards have them built into them. Even some processors are being launched by AMD with built in GPU however we will not expand on this as this is simply a beginners guide.

(optional) Sound Card.
Once again, many motherboards come with these built in however with separate bought sound cards, depending on the model the quality is usually but not always far superior.

Power Supply.
The power supply unit is what converts your 230V AC into a DC power source usable by the computer circuitry. These are rated in Watts - we will cover this in more detail later on in the guide.

Hard Drive.
This is where all of your data is stored, from letters, games, programs even down to the operating system it's self. The units that these are measured in are Gigabytes, and even Terabytes.

DVD / CD / BD Drive
Another essential item for your computer, this will enable you to install programs, listen to music, watch DVD / BD movies (depending on the drive) etc..

Computer Case.
This will house all of the above components. They come in a range of different shapes and sizes, choosing one is all about personal preference and cost.

The above list is the items that are needed to make a working PC. The only other essentials that you would require are: Monitor, Keyboard, Mouse, Speakers, And obviously an operating system.

Now that you know the basics that are required, we will now go a little more in depth into the items themselves and the choices that you will have to make when choosing your components.

There are now a few factors that will help your decision making, firstly and foremost is cost! 

How much can you afford to put into your new computer?
The fact is, that you can build a computer as cheaply or as expensive as you want - If you gave me £10,000 I could build you a PC and spend every penny, and if you gave me £200 I could also build you a completely different computer.

What will the computer be used for?
If you are very much into computer gaming, then your computer requirements would be totally different from those to somebody looking for a computer to browse the Internet, read emails and constantly play spider solitaire, and moan at their son for playing Bad Company 2 when he should be doing more with his life... whoops where was I going with that (Hey mum).

Just like cars, computers come with brands of components synonymous with quality and others renowned for bad quality, so chose your parts wisely and you should end up with a nice reliable piece of kit!

Stay tuned for the next installment - Which components to choose and why

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Next blog

Okay guys and girls, i'm giving you a choice as to what my next blog should be about.

1) How to build your own PC
2) How to install water cooling
3) See how far I can push an i5 2500k with a cheap (£20) cooler.
4) Something else (I want your input and ideas) So leave ideas in comments.

Cheers peeps

Monday, 18 July 2011

Windows 7 "God Mode"

So I take it that most of us here migrated either from vista or windows XP.
Wasn't it a bit of a nightmare finding all the settings again after learning the whereabouts from XP.
Well, a neat little trick you can try to enable "god mode" on your windows 7 / Vista machine is as follows.

Create a new folder on your desktop.

Now rename it:

Voila! All your settings, tweaks and system adjustments in one easy managable place.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

MSI ATI HD6970 Overclocking Guide and Review

Since upgrading from my GTX460 Hawk (fantastic card) - I decided to switch to the red camp and get myself a 6970. After being totally impressed by the MSI GTX 460, I decided to go with MSI again, and so far I have not been disappointed.
Only since buying this card have I heard about the MSI R6970 Lightning and definitely regret not doing my homework!

Out of the box, the 6970 performs pretty well but, as many of you out there can empathise, I do enjoy pushing the boundaries pf my hardware to get the best performance possible!

Standard MSI HD6970 Specs: 

Manufacturing Process: 40 nm
Cores: 1536
Core Clock: 880Mhz
Memory: 2GB
Memory Bit Rate: 256 Bit
Memory Type: GDDR5
Memory Clock: 1375MHz
Cooling: Fan
Interface: PCI-E 2.1 (x16)

 Test Rig:

Motherboard : ASUS P8P67
CPU : Intel i7 2600k - running at 4600Mhz
Hard Drive: 2xWD Velociraptor SATAII RAID0 (Striped)
Memory: Corsair Vengeance (Blue) - 1866Mhz    9-10-9-27  @ 1.5v
OS: Windows 7 x64 Pro (SP1)
Driver version: Catalyst 11.6
DirectX Version: DX11

Programs Used:

Overclocking utility: MSI Afterburner
Stability / Benchmarking :3D Mark 11
                                             Eunigine Heaven
Monitoring Software: GPUZ - Monitors all GPU settings, including GPU clock speed, Memory clock speed, voltages etc... MSI Afterburner OSD - This will display the FPS and core temperatures of the card during the tests, so that in the event of a drastically high temperature, the test can be aborted to avoid damage to the card.
FRAPS - A games benchmarking program and FPS monitor.
Games to test stability and additional benchmark: Battlefield Bad Company II + Dirt 3


 The card does look nice, they have payed a lot of attention to detail, there is parallel red piping that runs the length of the card on the top which looks nice when looking through the case window.
The card has a totally covered PCB which I like as it protects all of the circuitry from clumsy installations.
The fan! When idle the card is relatively quiet however when the fan is pushed to 100% it sounds like a jet engine is cranking up in your case - personally I play with a headset on, and can barely hear it over the game sounds but for those of you using speakers, this may be a defining factor when choosing a graphics card. Also I have noticed that when in games, using standard fan speed setting (and overclocked settings) the card can heat up to the point of failure however I believe this to be a driver issue and not specifically card related.
The card supports eyefinity (see my other blog about this) which is definitely a tick in positives!
The card is very long so requires a large case to fit it into!

Custom Fan Configuration

Afterburner provides a custom fan configuration with it's software to enable you to keep your GPU cool under above average stress.
 Load up afterburner, and click settings, click on the fan tab and check the box "enable user defined software automatic fan control"
You will now see a chart. The horizontal readings relate to temperature, and the vertical readings are your fan speeds.
By clicking on the line, you can create a new anchor point and move it to the appropriate place. In this picture you can see how I have set my fan speeds up.


Disclaimer: Overclocking has its risks, and if you are not confident in tinkering with any settings that I am going to explain, then I urge you not to do so as you could end up ruining your components. The second that you overclock your GPU, your warranty will be null and void! I will not held responsible for any damages or losses incurred!

How to unlock MSI AfterBurner to enable "unofficial overclocking" levels:


Navigate to your afterburner install folder (usually in program files / program files x86). Find the MSIAfterburner.cfg file and open it up in notepad.

Firstly find the following value:
UnofficialOverclockingEULA    =

after the = sign, copy and paste the following.

I confirm that I am aware of unofficial overclocking limitations and fully understand that MSI will not provide me any support on it

remembering to leave a space after the =

Now find the following value:
UnofficialOverclockingMode    = 0
Simply change the 0 to a 1

Now run MSI Afterburner and you should have a greater range to play with!

This particular card, in comparison to my previous GTX460 does not overclock as well, however I did have fun pushing it to its limits and will now outline the following sequence of tests that I did to establish these boundaries and how to verify the GPU's stability.

Overclocking and Stability Testing Method

As you can see in the image of afterburner above, there are 3 settings that we can change that will affect performance:

The Core Voltage (mV) - This increases the amount of voltage that is pushed into your GPU core, the more voltage = more heat but also increases the frequency that the processor will be able to reach.

Core Clock (Mhz) - Increases the frequency that the GPU runs at, increasing performance and heat.

Memory Clock (Mhz) - Increases the frequency that the graphics card's memory runs at, increasing the heat to the memory modules, and increasing performance.

It is best to test one of these at a time to see exactly where the limits are for that particular setting, however I decided to push the settings to the original (locked) maximums to see how it performed with the intention of using this as a starting block.

After the initial overclock, I would increase the GPUGPU frequency in it's overclocked state, the memory frequency will now be increased in small stages, again until 3DMark 11 failed to complete a single pass.

I only used a single pass of 3DMark11 at this early stage, as I know it to be good stress testing software. This is not proving stability at this point, simply showing me that 3DMark11 would run (which is a good indicator). To prove stability later on in the testing phase, I will be running a number of different testing programs and also couple of games (listed above).

GPU Frequency Overclocking

In this section, we will, as stated above me raising the GPU Core Clock setting by small increasments in order to find where the GPU's limits are.


Core Clock: 950MHz
Memory Clock: 1450
Core Voltage: 1300
Result: PASS 6088 3DMarks

Pleased with the result, already with above averages for my particular set up according to the chart, I decided to push the Core Clock up gradually to see exactly how much the graphics card could take.

Core Clock: 965MHz
Memory Clock: 1450MHz
Core Voltage: 1300mV
Result: PASS 6141 3DMarks

Very promising results so far, an increase of 53 3DMarks!

Core Clock975MHz
Memory clock: 1450MHz
GPU Voltage: 1300mV
Result: PASS - 6181 3DMarks

Another healthy increase of 40 3DMarks this time round!

Core Clock: 980MHz
Memory clock: 1450MHz
GPU Voltage: 1300mV
Result: PASS - 6214 3DMarks

Still going strong! and now pushing into the 62xx range, very promising indeed, all this with still only 1450Mhz memory clock. As you can see in the chart, this system is pushing well above average compared to similar systems.

Core Clock: 985MHz
Memory clock: 1450MHz
GPU Voltage: 1300mV
Result:      FAIL

Well to be honest, I was expecting this around now, considering the above average scores already. I can conclude at this moment in time that the maximum GPU Core Clock is around the 980Mhz mark (on this specific card), you may have better or worse luck with yours, every card is different!

I will now leave the GPU frequency at 980Mhz along with the GPU Voltage at 1300mV (1.3V) and start pushing the memory frequency up from 1450Mhz!

Memory Frequency Overclocking

In this section, we will, as stated above me raising the GPU Memory Clock setting by small increasments in order to find where the GPU's limits are in relation to the current Core Clock settings.

Core Clock: 980 mhz
Memory Clock: 1455MHz
GPU Voltage: 1300mV
Result: PASS  6258 3DMarks !!!

In the words of Charlie Sheen "WINNING"!

Core Clock: 980 MHz
Memory Clock: 1460MHZ
GPU Voltage: 1300mV
Result:     FAIL

Well it looks like we may have hit our limit ladies and gentlemen!
Without the inclusion of a voltage tweak for the memory, I conclude that this is about as far as the memory can be pushed which is slightly disappointing although not really that surprising.
The Lightning version of the MSI 6970 does include the "triple over volt" feature (as did my GTX460) which would be great to play about with but not to worry.
I will now revert back to the "winning" settings (Test 6) and run a few more tests to ensure that we have a stable overclock.

Stability Testing

Best 3DMark 11 - 6258 3DMarks best of 3
Best Unigene Heaven - Score of 1164 best of 3

I will not go into as much detail with the following benchmarks, as it follows the exact same procedure as above. I will say though that during the series of stability test that followed the above set of tests, I found the card to become slightly unstable and freezing on occasion, lowering the clock speed to 975MHz seemed to suit the card more so than the higher setting of 980.

Battlefield Bad Company 2:

In game graphics settings:

Resolution : 1920x1080

Frames per Second:
Minimum : 83 FPS
Maximum: 125 FPS
Average:     93.458 FPS

Dirt 3:

in game graphics settings:

Frames per Second:
Minimum:  90 FPS
Maximum: 111 FPS
Average:     98.608 FPS

Please note, in the above screenshot, the refresh rate setting only matters when VSYNC is active. VSYNC matches the refresh rate of your visuals with that of your monitor - this reduces the tearing effect that you see in games on occasion when VSYNC is disabled.

For those of you scratching your head at this, the best way I can describe tearing is:
If you can imagine that the image displayed on your screen has one or more horizontal lines drawn diagonally from left to right (varying angles) across the screen. When the picture is moving on your display, it appears that both above and below that line, the images either side slightly shift out of alignment very quickly, and then allign back, going back and forth. It is not a continual visual effect, it is only a problem when the refresh rates of the monitor and the display adapter are at conflicting rates.
Take a look at the image below for a better idea.

Both of the above games were benchmarked using FRAPS. I ran a random level in each game for a period of 3 minutes, running around switching views and generally playing the game. This is the typical in-game performance that you will be experiencing with an overclock of this amount.

Fine Tuning the Voltage

After finding your optimal settings for your card, I suggest that you stard decreasing the GPU voltage until you reach the point of failure, and then just raise it until you alleviate any issues. 1.3V or 1300mV is a safe voltage for this graphics card although you must be aware that running any component above the recommended settings for any period of time will affect the longevity, hence why it is important to find the "perfect" overclocked settings.

I did not do the above step on this occasion due to time constraints however I definitely will do in the near future

Temperature & Noise solutions:

(Thanks to Sacred Bob for informing me that I had left this out of the review).

There are a number of options available to you if you are finding the stock cooler on the GPU either too ineffective or far too noisy.
If you are not adventurous enough or lack the confidence to dismantle your card then your options are somewhat limited, otherwise there are a couple of avenues that you could go down.

i Water Cooling
ii Aftermarket Coolers

No matter which you decide to go for (if any) if you remember to treat the card with respect and try to hold the PCB around the edges when all the circuitry is exposed you reduce the risks of damaging your card.

i) Water Cooling - If you do not already have a water cooling set up in your case, then the initial outlay far exceeds the benefits for you, as not only would you have to buy the water block, which would set you back around £70.00, you would also need the rest of the kit including, water pump, radiator, reservoir, tubing etc which would set you back a tidy sum.
More information on watercooling can be found here:

ii) Aftermarket Coolers - There are a number to choose from, none of which I have had first had experience with, so unfortunately I can not advise on the best option to choose from, however there are a couple that caught my eye.
Firstly the Shaman by Thermalright. Toms Hardware have done a write up on this :,2797-2.html
And also the Accelero Xtreme Plus II, which has good reports of low noise and good gains in temperature management which is sold for around the £50.00 mark.

If you already own the MSI HD6970 and are looking for means of cooling / quieting it, then the above choices are going to be helpful to you, however if you are looking to buy this particular card and then adapt it afterwards, I would advise you to look at the MSI 6970 Lightning as it not only comes equipped with the Twin Frozr III - which is a fantastic cooler, it also comes out the box with the triple over voltage capability !

At the time of writing this blog, you can pick up the MSI HD6970 for around £250, and the MSI HD6970 Lightning for around £330.00. I know what I would do if I had the choice.


The MSI ATI HD6970 is a powerful card from stock speeds alone, and when you start to push the boundaries, you can achieve pretty good results.

I will be lowering my GPU speeds for day to day use however, now that I know where the limits are I have eliminated the need to experiment, and I can now just change any settings and just into any game with relative confidence that graphics card will perform well under stress. Of course, things don't always work that way with PC's and when running components at the edge of their ability, you do occasionally get "hiccups".

Would I recommend this card to you?
I have two answers to this question really, yes and no.

If you are the kind of person who will buy a graphics card and run it at stock speeds and not that interested in overclocking then this card should suit you well, however the fact that you are reading this blog suggests otherwise.

The required fan speeds to keep this card under full load at overclocked speeds is truly shocking - I will be looking at water cooling (setup guide to follow) soon however whether I keep this card or put it on eBay and pay the extra for the lightning is another question entirely and almost a certainty!

Thank you for reading this article, once again I hope you have learned something and found it interesting.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below and I will very much appreciate the feed back and will reply as soon as possible.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Manually Overclocking the new Sandybridge

Over the past week I have been forced to buy a new gaming rig as my dog managed to urinate though the side panel of my case, straight onto the motherboard, memory, graphics card and power supply unit, leaving me completely without both a gaming machine and any web browsing capabilities; which in my book is like having one of your appendages removed.
So I found myself facing a decision...
i) Replace the bits that had been ruined for similar / identical parts, or
ii) To upgrade from the 1366 socket type completely. Well seeing as I am writing this blog, I am sure that you have already guessed what I decided to do!
Well after some deliberation I decided that it would be best to upgrade to the latest chipset from Intel rather than pump my money into a [soon to be] obsolete socket type. I aquired:
 ASUS P8P67 Deluxe,
8GB DDR3 1866 9-10-9-27 Corsair Vengance (blue),
and the intel i7 2600K processor.

Agreed, the performance increase is not as noticeable as if I were to upgrade from the LGA775 socket type for example but none the less there are still great gains to be had when you wake the chip up out of its factory settings and start pushing the boundaries with overclocking!
I have always enjoyed overclocking, my memory, GPU, Processor and totally love seeing how far I can push my system and what gains are attainable. On a side note, my previous graphics card (MSI GTX 460 HAWK) Was the best card I have ever owned - the overclocking potential was phenomenal.

Disclaimer: Overclocking has its risks, and if you are not confident in tinkering with any settings that I am going to explain, then I urge you not to do so as you could end up ruining your components. The second that you overclock your processor, your warranty will be null and void! I will not held responsible for any damages or losses incurred!

This guide is aimed at the beginner, as I will try to explain as best as I can 

Okay first off you will need a few applications, both to monitor your components and to test their stability with their new settings.

CoreTemp - this application will tell you the temperature on each core of your processor.

CPUZ - This tool shows you every detail about your processor and the clock speeds that are set.

Prime95 - This is a stress test program that utilises 100% of your processor usage to establish how stable your overclock is.

OCCT - Again this is another stress test program like prime95 but I have found that on occasions, this program will find a weakness in the overclock where prime95 runs smoothly all night!
I will try to keep this as simple as possible so that everyone can follow it easily.

(VCC)when overclocking your processor, to enable it to perform faster you may be required to increase the voltage to the processor  - This also depends on how much you overclock by. You may find that you can increase the speed of the processor by a moderate amount without having to touch the voltage. I will go more into the maximum safe voltages in a moment.

What voltages can you expect to set the VCC to when overclocking?
Here is a guide, and I say guide as every CPU is different; some may require more and others may run perfectly on a lower voltage!
4.0-4.3GHz 1.300v-1.325v
4.3-4.5GHz 1.325v-1.375v
4.5-4.8GHz 1.375v-1.450v

(BCLK)This is the frequency that the processor runs at, unlike overclocking with other processors where you would be expected to change the frequency and multiplier; With the Sandybridge I urge you not to change this from the default 100.0 unless you know what you are doing, as it affects a number of different settings which can bring about not only instability but possible damage to other hardware. Being at a set 100 makes overclocking pretty simple, if the multiplier is at 45 for example and the BCLK is at 100 then that would equal a  total clock speed of (100x45) 4500Mhz or 4.5Ghz. This clock speed is easily attainable with air cooling and as I'm sure you will agree is a great deal more performance than the stock speed of 3.4Ghz.

This is multiplied by the BCLK to give you your total clock speed. This is the main setting that we will be tinkering about with to get the most out of the processor.

A very important factor where overclocking is concerned is the temperature! The more voltage that you put into your chip, the hotter it is going to get under load. You need to keep an eye on the temperatures to enable a safe overclock!
Ideally you do not want your temperatures raising above 72C as this will likely reduce the longevity of your processor and could possibly cause damage.

Air Flow:
It is important that you have adequate air flow in your case to expel the hotter than usual air produced during the stress testing phase. for more information on case air flow, please do some googling on cable management and case fan configuration.

CPU Cooling:
I recommend that you upgrade your CPU cooler to a more efficient type than the stock cooler provided by intel. Don't get me wrong, the cooler that the retail version comes with is adequate for stock speeds, however when overclocking you will find that this becomes your limiting factor as far as temperatures are concerned. A great cooler that I can personally recommend is the Megahalems Rev B using a push/pull configuration with 2 x 120mm fans. However for the more extravagant of you, water cooling is always an option.

Thermal Paste:
Please follow this link if you need any information about thermal paste :
Okay, this guide is really geared around my motherboard (the P8P67) However many of the settings may be similar to those that I am outlining in this guide. If you are at all unsure then please check your motherboard manual for more information on the settings.

How much will you be able to overclock by?
1. Approximately 50% of CPUs can go up to 4.4~4.5 GHz
2. Approximately 40% of CPUs can go up to 4.6~4.7 GHz
3. Approximately 10% of CPUs can go up to 4.8~5 GHz (50+ multipliers are about 2% of this group)
The above was a statement by ASUS regarding overclocking on the P67 chipset.
Every processor is different. You could have 2 identical processors with the same batch numbers and one may be able to clock easily to 4.8-5.0 and the other may struggle to get past 4.5, it is simply the luck of the draw!
I do not advise in attempting a 4.7Ghz+ overclock on air cooling as I do not believe that the temperatures will be viable, but it is entirely up to you what you do with your system and you may find that your processor runs cooler!
Right then, let's get to it!
Firstly uninstall the EPU software (if you installed it in the first place). This software over and underclocks your system and lowers / raises voltages for a small overclock or underclock to save power.

BIOS Settings:
C1E and EIST = enabled

 The 3 settings below can be changed to increase the overclocking range above what we are trying to achieve, so just leave them as Auto for this tutorial.

Duty Control = Auto
Phase Control = Auto
VRM Frequency = Auto


Speedstep = Disabled.
LLC or Load Line Calibration = Auto.

Asus reccomend setting LLC to HIGH, however this may increase your temperatures and push a little too much voltage through your processor than you want, normally leaving this on Auto will be fine unless you experience terrible stability with the outlined voltages.
Downclock your memory frequency to 1333Mhz if you have faster modules installed - This will ensure that you are testing the stability of your processor and not your memory.
I am not going to go into detail for these settings, as this is not meant to be an advanced guide. If you wish to know more about these settings, then google it!

If you wish just to get a gain out of your processor without pushing it to its limits, then choose a clock speed that you are happy with and set the multiplier accordingly. Next set the VCC to the lower end of the voltage guideline, save and reboot your computer.
4.0-4.3GHz 1.300v-1.325v
4.3-4.5GHz 1.325v-1.375v
4.5-4.8GHz 1.375v-1.450v
If your computer fails to boot into windows (BSOD), then go to the next paragraph below otherwise go to the "System stability" heading.

If your processor does not have the required voltage it needs to boot, then the chances are that you will receive a BSOD with the error code (x000000124).
If this is the case, then do not worry it is simply a case of upping the voltage. Upping the voltage by 0.025V should remedy this (you may wish to raise it by a smaller amount).
If your computer fails to boot after a BSOD then you may need to clear the cmos (on the P6970 there is a pin hole on the rear panel with "cmos" written above it). Just press this in and hold for 1-2 seconds then reboot. Please note that when you clear the cmos, your motherboard will lose its saved settings and you will need to manually reconfigure them again. Just remember what voltage you set it at previously and increase as necessary.

System Stability
Okay, so you booted up into windows without a problem... good!
Load up CoreTemp or HWMonitor and make sure that your ambient temperatures are acceptable. If with a mediocre overclock you are experiencing high temperatures at idle, then this could be an issue with your CPU cooler not being seated properly or the thermal paste not being applied correctly. It may also be an issue with your air flow in your case. If at this point you are seeing temperatures above 50C then I suggest that you forget about overclocking until you remedy this problem.
If all is good with your temperatures, you need to run CPUZ to check that the settings you put into the BIOS are correct and that the CPU is overclocked as desired.
Okay now for the stress testing.
Leave CoreTemp or HWMonitor running so that you can monitor the temperature whilst running the stress test. I recommend HWMonitor just to keep an eye on the VCC to ensure it does not stray above safe limits.
Load up Prime95 and select the top choice (Small FFTs). Number of threads to run should match the number of threads on your processor - for i7 2600k (with hyper threading enabled) should be set to 8.
Press OK and the workers will start, you will notice in any CPU monitoring gadget or task manager under performance that every thread on your processor will be running at 100%.
Keep a diligent eye on your temperatures at this stage for the next 20 minutes or so and this will give you a good indication of your max temps. As Prime95 continues to run different algorithms, you will find that your temperature will deviate. You ideally do not want to see your temperatures going over 70C at this stage, as it may push up to 75-80 later on in the test which is outside of your desired temperature range.
If your Prime95 runs without a hitch for a few hours without your temperatures going over your threshold then I would say it was safe to leave it running over night. This will prove a stable overclock!
If your system fails during the stress test with a BSOD then refer to the "BSOD" heading above.
If your computer fails with an instant shut down then this points to different issues that will need investigating further (usually PSU from my experience) however it could be a magnitude of other issues (like dogs urinating in your case) lol. 

Experiment with your settings, try to lower your voltage on the VCC to the point where stability becomes a slight issue, then crank it back up just a little to ensure that you are not pushing too much voltage through the CPU than is required. Likewise if you are still having issues with stability regardless, then try altering the other bios settings (although refer to another more detailed guide for this to ensure you understand exactly what the settings should be).

After this reasonably short and relativley easy to follow write up, I hope that you are now more clued up with the basics of overclocking with Sandybridge on this particular motherboard, however the settings between different motherboard models are pretty much the same.