This weekend I was investigating the capabilities of the two NVIDIA graphics cards in my laptop and a password cracking application called oclHashcat. The oclHashcat application uses OpenCL, the Open Computing Language, to utilize the processing power of your graphics cards GPU’s to crack passwords. My laptop is a Dell Studio XPS 1340 which utilizes Hybrid SLI technology to offer a good amount of graphics power while using the least amount of battery life possible. The laptop accomplishes this by mostly using an NVIDIA graphics card, which is a NVIDIA 9400G M, that is installed on the motherboard and only calling the second graphics card, which is a NVIDIA G210M, when it needs to render something in say 3D or higher quality than the 9400G M is equipped to handle. One thing I happened upon during my research was an NVIDIA utility that will easily allow you to overclock your NVIDIA graphics cards which I describe in more detail below.
**NOTE** Please note that it is not recommended to overclock your NVIDIA graphics cards unless you know what you are doing. I personally set my NVIDIA cards settings back to the default once I had done some research because I did not want to cause any issues with them. Laptop graphics cards are configured very precisely as to not overheat or cause other issues within the laptop/notebook itself. So please be very careful modifying any of the settings that can be modified with your NVIDIA graphics cards.
Overclock NVIDIA Graphics Cards Using The NVIDIA System Tools Application:
- Download NVIDIA System Tools: First visit this web site to download the NVIDIA System Tools application. I recommend verifying that NVIDIA System Tools 6.06 is the latest version available before installing it. I first happened upon NVIDIA System Tools 6.02 but after searching around the NVIDIA web site I noticed that NVIDIA System Tools 6.06 was available for download.
- Install NVIDIA System Tools: Now install the NVIDIA System Tools application by double clicking on the application executable which is called 6.06_nvidia_system_tools.exe for NVIDIA System Tools 6.06. Follow the directions for the installer and select all of the default options to complete the installation.
- NVIDIA Control Panel: Now launch the NVIDIA Control Panel which can be done on Windows 7 by right clicking the desktop or by typing “nvidia control panel” in the start menu “search programs and files” window. Once the application is launched it will look similar to the below example image.
- NVIDIA Device Settings: Once the NVIDIA Control Panel is open as shown above you will notice a couple new sections to the left menu which are Performance and System Update. To overclock your NVIDIA device or devices click underneath Performance on Device Settings. This will open the Device Settings window in the NVIDIA Control Panel as shown below.
Once you click on Device Settings in the left navigation underneath the Performance sub menu the CPU will be highlighted. Click on the GPU icon which will provide the settings you can modify for your GPU or GPU’s. The below image displays the three items that can be modified to overclock your GPU which are the Graphics clock, the Memory clock, and the Processor clock. The example below displays all of the factory default settings in the Dell Studio XPS 1340 for the onboard NVIDIA 9400G M.
If you have more that one GPU you can select it via the drop down. If Hybrid SLI was enabled on this Dell 1340 laptop then the drop down would also display a NVIDIA G210M. I saw a recommendation for settings on each of the cards installed in this laptop which I list below the article and provided big improvements in the amount of combinations per second I was able to get from the NVIDIA G210M and the NVIDIA 9400G M. After you make the changes click the Apply button at the bottom of the NVIDIA Control Panel for the changes to take effect immediately. If you want the changes to be permanent then make a backup of the current profile and then save the modifications to the active NVIDIA profile.
- Verify NVIDIA Changes: In my case I was able to verify the difference in clock settings by testing using the oclHashcat application. I assume the need for overclocking was brought on by a specific need which will also hopefully allow you to test the new settings. I would again be very careful with how hot the GPU’s are getting after you make changes.
**NOTE** Please make sure to be careful of any settings outside of the default NVIDIA/Dell settings. Below are only loose recommendations that I was able to get working however they were not used long term.
NVIDIA 9400G M Overclock Settings:
- Core Clock: 606 MHz
- Memory Clock: 790 MHz
- Shader Clock: 1468 MHz
NVIDIA G210M Overclock Settings:
- Core Clock: 750 MHz
- Memory Clock: 935 MHz
- Shader Clock: 1655 MHz
I was able to squeeze over 25% more power out of my NVIDIA 9400G M video card when testing with oclHashcat. For instance running a simple brute force on NTLM hashes I was able to initially get 42.0 million combinations/second and after overclocking my NVIDIA 9400G M video card I was able to get 55.2 million combinations/second. As you can see it is definitely possible to squeeze more power from your GPU’s however it is not recommended if you do not know what you are doing.