In addition to overclocking, there is one more (potentially risky) measure
that may be taken to increase a video card's performance: flashing the BIOS of
the video card with that of another type.
Before an operating system like Windows XP loads and the software drivers
take control of the video card's functions, the video BIOS initializes the card.
As soon as it receives power from the motherboard, the BIOS activates the card
and identifies itself to the motherboard BIOS.
At this point, the graphic processor and video memory clock speeds are also
set by the BIOS, though these may be overridden by the drivers or other
utilities once the operating system has loaded.
In the current age of the unified video driver, where manufacturers like ATI
and Nvidia provide a single set of drivers for all their video products, the way
the video drivers interact with a card also depends on how the card is
identified by the BIOS. Thus, 'new' features can be activated by using a
different BIOS on the same graphics processor.
It's important to note that not every video card can use or gain any benefit
from this procedure. The most common reason to flash the video BIOS of a given
card is created by the artificial product divisions that ATI and nVidia often
build into their GPU cores. Different 'tiers' of either company's products often
use the exact same GPU, but use different BIOS settings to inform the drivers as
to what core and memory clock speeds to use. The BIOS/driver combination can
also disable or enable certain features of the graphics processor.
A great example of this practice is found in some of ATI's 9800 series
graphics cards. Certain 9800 Pro cards, especially those with 256MB of onboard
memory, actually use the faster 9800 XT GPU but are software limited to the 9800
Pro's slower stock speeds. Flashing one of these cards with the BIOS image of a
9800 XT would not only increase its default speed but also unlock certain driver
features such as thermal monitoring as well.
If you are interested in the idea of flashing their video
card's BIOS and want to explore the topic further, read over PCstats' guide on the topic.
Be sure to view the companion guide to CPU, memory and
motherboard overclocking for an equally easy and free way to
boost a computer system's gaming performance!
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