Sunday, January 7, 2007

Overclocking a PCI-E nVidia card on Vista

Warning: Overclocking any hardware is risky and can ultimately damage the hardware. It is seriously lame to blame the author if you decided to overclock and something goes wrong!! So please don't be lame!)

The Goal: Increase Vista Base score from 2.6 to 3.0.
This weekend I managed to increase my PC's Vista Base Score from 2.6 to 3.0. Here's my system spec:
AMD Athlon Dual-Core X2 4600+
nVidia PCI-E 7300 LE

Finding out your Base Score:
You can view your system's base score by going to the Performance Information and Tools Panel (Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> Performance Information and Tools). It seems that the intent behind this panel is provide your Hardware with an unambiguous "score" that will allow you to know whether a given piece of software is likely to run optimally on your PC.

Interpretting your Base Score:
Based on the reading I did, I understood that currently Microsoft have definitions for scores between 1 and 5 and Windows Vista will run acceptably, with all of its features activated, on systems with a base score of 3.0. I have a fairly good PC however, the base score is not an average; your base score is determined by your lowest scoring hardware. In my case this was my graphics card. I wasn't sure whether Vista was designed to automatically switch off certain features depending on this base score and therefore I wanted to increase it to 3.0. This meant I was going to have to overclock my Graphics Card.

Necessary Tooling and the "you're not an Admin problem":
I've done a little overclocking in the past using RivaTuner or nVidia's Control Panel. However, I quickly found that these tools did not seem to work as expected in Windows Vista. In my case I got an error every time I tried to start RivaTuner (something to do with a missing driver or insufficient privileges .. I disregarded the latter because my user belongs to the Admin Group)and the nVidia Control Panel did not contain any Overclocking options (Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> NVIDIA Control Panel).

At some point I came across a tool called nTune by nVidia. This tool is supposed to be Vista compatible and apparently makes overclocking controls available. Once installed, I started the nVidia Control Panel again and immediately got errors. In short this Control Panel was telling me I didn't have Admin rights. Ultimately the panel opened but there were no Overclocking Tools to be found.

By now I was getting the distinct impression that Vista thought I wasn't an Administrator even though I belong to the Administrator Group ...

Getting permission to Overclock
To save time I decided to see if I could get Vista to relax about the whole Administrator business ... at least temporarily. A better solution would be to figure out how to get Vista to understand I'm an Administrator or run the Control Panel as an Administrator (Something you can do with executables via something.exe->Right Click -> Run as administrator)
UPDATE Jan 12 2007:
Turns out all I had to do was right click on the nTune Performance ICON and select "Run as Administrator" and the Panel appears with various overclocking and stability monitoring options.

I ultimately found what I was looking for under "User Account Control" (Control Panel -> Security Center -> Other Security Settings -> User Account Control) In short, I found that if I switched User Account Control I was able to access to run the nVidia Control Panel without any errors and ultimately access the Overclocking controls for my Graphics Card.

I made some adjustments to my GPU settings via the nVidia Control Panel and re-ran the base score assessment tool. My score went up from a 2.6 to a 3.0. I switched User Account Control back on and re-ran the test, I still scored 3.0.

Hope this helps anyone who's trying to do the same thing. I didn't check to see if RivaTuner worked with User Account Control siwtched on and I haven't looked into solving the Admin problem; it seems like something Vista has been designed to do so there should be something in the help section on this.

Additional Info / Useful Links:


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

hey man cheers have the same card as u but it was giving me a score of 3.0 now its giving me 3.2 :P haha cheers