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Monday,  July 7 12:01 AM EDT

Underclocking Becomes Latest Computer Craze

By Brian Briggs

Eastwick, NH - Overclocking, where a computer user increases the clock cycles on their CPUs past the manufacturer's recommendations to squeeze out even more performance, has been popular for many years. Now, a new technique has taken intrepid computer extremists in another direction - underclocking.

Underclockers purposely slow down their machines by various means, even to the point of making the machine unusable. Their professed motto is "How slow can you go?"

Alex Rakoczy explained what he did to slow down his computer system, "Yeah, I turn down the FSB [front side bus] as low as it will allow me, and then crank down the clock multiplier. I set the memory settings really slow too. It's insane. Anybody can make a 486 go slow, but it takes real skill to make a 2.4 GHz machine with 1 GB of RAM unbearable to use."

Many in the small but growing underclocking community were previously overclockers, but claimed they were tired of the macho oneupsmanship among the speed demons. "I was getting tired of all the bragging about one more megahertz being pumped out," confessed underclocker Trey Shin. "There's not much of that of that in underclocking circles. Probably, because it would take hours to open up an IRC client."

Other underclockers remarked that the "need for speed" was costing them too much money. Sarah Estrada from Reno, Nevada said, "I've saved a bunch on electricity and not having to replace my burnt out CPUs. Not to mention that my room is no longer a sauna."

Of course, several websites have popped up to help explain underclocking techniques to newbie underclockers, so they can get the least out of their systems, from slowing down video cards to lowering refresh rates on monitors.

One website, SoftPDQ, specializes in equipment for underclockers including a mod chip that will slow down a hard drive from 7200 RPMs to 500 RPMs. The site does advise that mod chips like this are only for underclockers "willing to replace their hard drive in case they screw up soldering."

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One gaming clan of underclockers, The TurTle Posse, claims to have never won a match. Founding member Kyle Harding said "No wins and 457 losses. We're proud of that and our 'dial-up only' requirement. Here's how our games usually go: the other team kills us and like five minutes later we find out we're dead. I get like ten frames per minute. That's frustrating as all hell, but that's what underclocking is all about."

Dedicated underclocking requires a lot of patience as even the simplest programs load painfully slow. Some underclockers reported boot up times in the several hour range, but do mention finding new enjoyment in the clock dependent games of old like Wheel of Fortune.

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