It's official: Intel shuts down the cheap overclocking party by closing Skylake loophole

The cheap overclocking party is over. An upcoming microcode update from Intel will close the door on a loophole that let users goose Skylake CPUs that weren't meant to be overclocked. 

The company confirmed to PCWorld on Monday that an update would “align” the CPUs in question.

”Intel regularly issues updates for our processors which our partners voluntarily incorporate into their BIOS,” an Intel spokesman said. “The latest update provided to partners includes, among other things, code that aligns with the position that we do not recommend overclocking processors that have not been designed to do so. Additionally, Intel does not warranty the operation of the processor beyond its specifications.”

That’s basically a kinder way of saying: You shouldn’t be overclocking these CPUs, so stop it.

Why this matters: Since December, overclockers have been able to run lower-priced CPUs above their rated speeds by cranking up the bclock setting on a chip. Intel normally charges more for such capability, so budget-minded overclockers were overjoyed. That party, though, is about to end.

Such a move by Intel shouldn’t come as a shocker, nor is it unprecedented. The company previously shut the door on overclocking with cheaper H-series and B-series chipsets, which pushed people to pricier Z-series chipset motherboards.

Overclocking of Intel chips has always been a gray area. Even on “K” chips that feature overclocking, the official Intel warranty doesn’t cover it. And yes, even if you buy Intel’s replacement policy to cover nuking an overclocked chip, the company still doesn't encourage you to overclock. Just read Intel’s FAQ to see for yourself.

I imagine there’s a fear within Intel that overclocking cheaper chips could lead to abuse of Intel’s warranties. Most honorable overclockers, however, know the risks and accept that they could eat the cost of a nuked chip. 

Intel’s microcode update apparently hasn’t been issued yet, but it’ll likely be given out to motherboard vendors who will integrate the update into BIOS updates. That probably means those who are using the exploit now could keep rolling it—if they never update the BIOS.

However, most new motherboards would likely incorporate the update, so buying a cheap chip with the intent to overclock it on a new motherboard isn’t guaranteed.


Gordon Mah Ung

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