Overclocking Techniques - Acoustic PC Resources

Overclocking by defenition is the process of forcing a computer component to run at a higher clock rate than it was designed for or was designated
by the manufacturer, usually practiced by personal computer enthusiasts in order to increase the performance of their computers. Some of them
purchase low-end computer components which they then overclock to higher speeds, or overclock high-end components to attain levels of
performance beyond their factory defaults. Others overclock outdated components to keep pace with new system requirements, rather than
purchasing new hardware products as expected by the computer industry.

Users who overclock their components mainly focus their efforts on processors, video cards, motherboard chipsets, and Random Access Memory
(RAM). It is done through manipulating the CPU multiplier and the motherboard's front side bus (FSB) speed until a maximum stable operating
frequency is reached. While the idea is simple, variation in the electrical and physical characteristics of computing systems complicates the
process. CPU multipliers, bus dividers, voltages, thermal loads, cooling techniques and several other factors can affect it. CPU Cooling has become
a science. The art of "Oveclocking" is mosly widely used by Gamers.Hiwever the practice of Overclocking has become mso wide stream in recent
times that most motherboard manufacture such as ASUS, ABIT, Gigabyte, DFI to name a few come with an automatic overclocking sofware that
does it all for you by just the click of a mouse.

Hardcore Overclocking enthusiast prefer the olf fashion way because they have this science down packed and they know what there doing so they
can achive better results by tweaking it themselves. If you are not experienced in this area do not try it right away. If this is something that is of interest
to you than learn it first to avoid damaging your CPU processor and other components such as video cards Etc.

Also keep in mind for overclocking aditional cooling is needed such as the use of
Arctic Silver thermal paste, a better CPU heatsink like a
Thermalright CPU cooler as well as a more power full CPU fan. Such as a panaflow High speed or Ultra high speed fan and for the extreme
overclocker a
Mechtronics 175 Plus CFM fan.  


Here is an Excellent step by step process that will welcome you into the world of Overclocking fro beginers to Hard core experienced users.

CPU Overclocking Basics

[Note: There are inherent risks when performing any overclocking exercise, such as long term CPU degradation, serious heat issues and a chance
that peripheral cards can be damaged. Also, many manufacturer's warranties may be voided if you attempt to overclock your system. Users need to
understand and accept the risks before attempting this procedure to avoid damage to your PC and its components.


Introduction
Over the past few years, the practice of CPU overclocking has become more and more popular and what was once the domain of the
technically adept has graduated to a more mainstream audience. Overclocking your CPU brings inherent risks, as many users will attempt to
overclock their processors without the proper information and techniques necessary to do the job safely and proficiently.

CPU overclocking is actually a very simple concept, and is basically an attempt to get a higher level of performance from the CPU than was
originally intended. Just like finding a nice suit on sale for half price, overclocking a Celeron 566 to 850 MHz offers a whole lot more bang for
your buck. Since the CPU speed affects all aspects of computer performance, this added performance can drastically improve game
framerates as well as application speeds.

By perusing the many CPU overclocking articles, it is not difficult to pick out the prime CPU contenders. Knowing which CPU to buy is only half
of the
equation, with the actual implementation and procedure being the integral step to CPU overclocking.

To that end, this guide will explain the basic information regarding processor and motherboard features, as well as examining the basic process
and techniques of overclocking. Since individual systems can be very different not only in terms of features, but also how these features are
presented, hard and fast overclocking steps are difficult to set. Instead, this guide will present a basic overview of CPU overclocking, consistent with
different platforms and processors, and is intended for the novice or intermediate user.


Know Your Motherboard
The first step to overclocking success is getting to know the features and capabilities of your motherboard. The easiest way to do this is to
read the motherboard manual and see if the board supports overclocking, and if so, which method it employs. To make sure the feature list is
up to date, check the manufacturer's website for any new manual or BIOS revisions. If in doubt, spend some time in some of the USENET
overclocking newsgroups, or those areas specific to your motherboard manufacturer. Even reading a product review may shed some light on
motherboard features you may be unfamiliar with. Here is a list of the basic motherboard features that need to be identified:


1. Front-side bus speed manipulation:
This feature allows the user to increase or decrease the FSB (front-side bus) speed from the CPU default. Many ABIT, ASUS and MSI
motherboards offer FSB increases in 1 MHz increments, while standard boards may only offer a small selection of speeds. Some
motherboards may not even allow any type of FSB tweaking, and even for those that do, the number of available FSB speeds can differ
dramatically between models. The FSB speeds may be selectable through the system BIOS, or physical jumpers may need to be changed to
enable the higher speeds. Some manufacturers, such as Gigabyte, offer a software overclocking program that allows FSB manipulation
through Windows. If in doubt check the manufacturer's website for any specific software applications.


2. AGP and PCI Ratio or Dividers:
This option can be described many different ways, but it all boils down to the setting of the AGP and PCI dividers. When using a 66 MHz CPU like
the Celeron 500, the AGP and PCI dividers are quite different than with a 133 MHz CPU like the Pentium III 833. Also, the available FSB speeds
may be limited only to those that apply to a specific AGP/PCI divider setting. Like the FSB speeds, these AGP/PCI divider settings may be
present in the system BIOS or through a set of on-board jumpers. The following images represent the most common formats, from jumpered
designs to a full BIOS setup.

By using basic math, you can see that at each of the default FSB speeds, the dividers each arrive at a speed of 66 MHz for the AGP bus and 33
MHz for the PCI bus. When using FSB speeds between the 66, 100 and 133 MHz settings, simply multiply the appropriate divider against the
new FSB speed and the AGP and PCI speeds can be determined.

With motherboards based on newer chipsets such as the Intel 815, 810, 820 or VIA Apollo Pro 133A, there should be options for 66, 100 and
133 MHz operation, though the actual user manual may refer to them using different terminology. Older chipsets like the Intel BX only support
the 66 and 100 MHz divider settings. Traditionally, AMD motherboards have only used the 100 MHz setting, though upcoming chipsets such as
the KT133A will add the 133 MHz option. Some basic motherboards opt for a pure CPU Detect operation (thereby deriving the FSB from the CPU
itself), and not even allow users to set these options manually.


4. CPU Multiplier Adjustment
Other than extremely old Intel CPUs, the clock multiplier can only be adjusted on AMD processors. The multiplier can be changed using select
AMD Thunderbird/Duron motherboards or with an Athlon Goldfinger overclocking device. This useful feature allows the default CPU multiplier to
be overridden and is one of the best methods of getting the highest core speed from an AMD Athlon, Duron or Thunderbird processors.


5. Halted System Procedure
When trying a particularly difficult overclock, sometimes the system may halt and refuse to start up. This is especially true when using the FSB
selections in the system BIOS. Look in the motherboard manual for any reference to resetting an overclocked PC and write it down for future
reference. Usually this safety feature will consist of a keyboard button being depressed while the system boots.

Motherboard Analysis
After the above information has been compiled, it should be quite easy to rate the ability of your motherboard to handle the overclocking job
ahead. The best scenario is having a motherboard that allows a full complement of voltage tweaks, along with a wide selection of FSB speeds.
Even if the FSB options aren't as robust as you would like, the voltage control is the key element. Motherboards that do not offer any form of
voltage tweaking at all are likely to offer the lowest overclocking return. The only way around this limitation is by using a Socket CPU/Slocket
adapter combo with a Slot 1 motherboard, or an Athlon with a Goldfinger overclocking device. Socketed processors will always require some
form of multiplier and voltage control directly from the motherboard itself.

The above analysis is important both in terms of knowing the motherboard's capabilities as well as having realistic overclocking expectations.
If you own, or intend to purchase, a motherboard offering full core voltage control and FSB increases in 1 MHz increments then you will have an
excellent chance of reaching the CPU's maximum speed. On the other hand, a motherboard with little or no voltage control and a small set of
FSB options will have less overclocking success, and the target should be lowered to a more realistic level. Regardless of the overclocking
potential of the CPU, the actual overclocked results will either be limited or enhanced by the motherboard itself. The only exception to this is
with the AMD Athlon, where the use of an external Goldfinger overclocking device is the key element.


The FSB Riddle
When increasing the FSB beyond the CPU's default speed, it is important to understand how this can affect your system. Depending on the
motherboard chipset, some or all of the 66, 100 or 133 MHz settings will be available using standard AGP and PCI dividers. With the Intel 815E
or Apollo Pro 133A, this would mean that when running a CPU on the 66, 100 or 133 MHz FSB, that the system would maintain standard 66 MHz
AGP and 33 MHz PCI speeds. On older chipsets such as the Intel BX, AMD 750/751 or VIA KX/KT133, this would mean the 100 MHz FSB would be
the maximum speed where AGP and PCI speeds would remain standard.

Where this really comes into play is when using a FSB that results in non-standard AGP and PCI speeds. Overclocking most 66 MHz Celerons to
the 75 or 83 MHz FSB is usually pretty easy, but it can result in some other system problems. When running on an 83 MHz FSB, the AGP speed
is also 83 MHz and the PCI speed is over 41 MHz. These speeds can result in problems with some AGP and PCI cards, and many IDE hard drives
will display errors when using a high PCI speed. As a basic rule, speeds of 66-99, 100-132 and 133+ MHz FSB will use the AGP and PCI divider of
the lowest default FSB speed in the range. There are exceptions to this rule, and certain motherboards offer higher AGP/PCI dividers at FSB
speeds such as 90-99 MHz or 124-132 MHz, which will result in a lower than standard AGP and PCI speed. Running on a 60 MHz AGP and 30
MHz PCI speed may slow your overall system performance just a bit, but it is preferable to running seriously over spec.

The overclocked FSB also has an effect on your system memory, and depending on its quality, may contribute to system instability. Your
system FSB is also by default, the speed of your system memory as well. This means is that when using PC100 memory on an overclocked 120
MHz FSB, the memory may not be able to keep up to the higher 120 MHz memory speed. Some motherboard chipsets, such as the VIA
products, may allow memory speed to be increased or decreased relative to the system FSB. This can come in handy when overclocking, but
those with older chipsets and memory should keep an eye out for memory speed issues, and possibly lower the RAS and CAS BIOS settings
accordingly.

The CPU Multiplier and its Impact
In order to determine an overclocking path, it is advised that you become very familiar with your CPU and its capabilities. The first step is
figuring out the CPU multiplier and how it will be affected by increases to the FSB. For example, a Pentium III 500 has a 5X multiplier, which
means that when used on the default 100 MHz FSB, it performs at a 500 MHz core speed (5X100). Conversely, a Celeron 700 has a default FSB
of 66 MHz, and therefore has a higher 10.5X multiplier. When overclocking the Celeron 700, each FSB increase would be multiplied by 10.5X,
while the Pentium III 550 would only experience an increase of 5X. To put this in a proper perspective, overclocking the FSB by only 10 MHz
would translate into a 105 MHz jump for the Celeron 700, but only 50 MHz for the Pentium III 500. The higher the CPU multiplier, the more difficult
it is to move to a much higher FSB. Knowing your own CPU multiplier can allow you to calculate what the new core speed will be at each new
FSB, as well as identifying FSB speeds
that may well be out of reach.

This CPU multiplier has been locked on Intel CPUs for a long time now, but the AMD Athlon does allow multiplier changes through the use of a
Goldfinger overclocking device, and a few Thunderbird/Duron motherboards also include options to override the default CPU multiplier.


CPU Analysis
This is the research phase of any overclocking exercise, and involves reading up on your current CPU, or one that you may potentially
purchase.
Recommended reading includes CPU overclocking articles, product reviews and even online opinions. USENET newsgroups are also a
good place to gather information about your particular CPU. This research is intended to outline the potential overclocking speed of your processor
model and to determine a realistic baseline for the core speed. While it is certainly true that each CPU may not all overclock to the exact same
speed, look for overall trends or high success rates. If you read several reviews of the Celeron 566 and find that all of the tested units were able to
easily reach the 850 MHz overclock, then this is a trend you can possibly use.


Let's Overclock!
At this point you should have a good working knowledge of your motherboard and its features, along with a pretty good idea on the overclocked core
speed that your processor may potentially handle. With this information in hand, it is now time to move on to the basic steps and techniques of CPU
overclocking.

Increase the Core Voltage
The first area that needs to be addressed is the CPU core voltage (Vcore). Increasing the CPU voltage can allow higher CPU clock speeds and at
greater stability compared to using the default setting. The core voltage needs to be adjusted before any FSB tweaking is performed and should only
be raised by approximately 5-10% at the start. The level of voltage required varies between processors, with some able to make huge overclocking
jumps with minimal voltage tweaks, while others may need a larger voltage increase.

Depending on the motherboard design, adjusting the voltage could be as easy as changing a setting in the system BIOS or as difficult as having to
open up the PC to adjust an on-board jumper. If your motherboard does not allow core voltage increases, then prospects of overclocking success
may be severely limited. Many Athlon Goldfinger devices and Intel Slocket adapters will have options to increase the CPU core voltage as well.


Set AGP and PCI Dividers
The next step is to determine if the AGP/PCI divider needs to be changed to support the desired core speed. Although the KX133A chipset is right on
the horizon, current AMD systems use only the 100 MHz speed and this step is not required. Intel owners seeking only a small core speed increase,
say from 66 to 75 MHz or from 100 to 110 MHz, can also skip onto the next section. Some Intel motherboards do not allow direct manipulation of the
AGP/PCI settings, and use a CPU Detect option for all CPUs. These CPU Detect motherboards can be troublesome to overclock, and while Slot 1
motherboards may be overridden using a Slocket adapter, Socketed PPGA/FCPGA motherboards will simply not allow processors to jump from the
66 to 100, or 100 to 133 MHz FSB.

When looking to overclock your Intel CPU into the next default FSB setting, such as from 66 to 100 MHz, or 100 to 133 MHz, adjusting the AGP/PCI
divider is a requirement. Consult the motherboard manual and make the necessary changes, either through the system BIOS or via a jumper
setting. If you are using a Slocket adapter, you can usually leave the motherboard set as "CPU Detect" and just change the default FSB on the
adapter card itself. For safety reasons, many motherboards also limit the available FSB speeds to only those matching the current AGP and PCI
divider settings.

If the divider settings need to be changed, then the PC will need to rebooted with the new settings. On some older BX motherboards, moving from 66
to 100 MHz was a seamless process, but it is a bit more difficult on boards using the newer Intel and VIA chipsets. These boards usually feature a
set of hardware jumpers, and if the CPU cannot reach that setting's minimum default speed (66, 100 or 133), then the system will refuse to boot.

If this happens, then resetting the jumpers to CPU Detect will usually allow the PC to be restarted. Then use small increases to the CPU core
voltage until the PC finally responds to the new setting. If the PC refuses to boot with the core voltage at a 10-15% increase, then it may be time to
lower your overclocking expectations. Some CPUs will simply refuse to make that large a FSB jump and further voltages increases may finally jolt
the CPU into action, there are some risks involved. Be very careful when raising the core voltage, as the CPU temperature can also rise
precipitously, and heat buildup may damage the CPU or degrade it over the longer term.

Increasing the FSB
Since Intel processors have a locked clock multiplier, and those from AMD require additional hardware or motherboard features to override
the multiplier, increasing the FSB is by far the most popular form of overclocking. It involves changing the system bus speed from the CPU
default, and thereby increasing the overall core speed of the processor. A Celeron at 566 MHz runs on the 66 MHz FSB by default (8.5x66), but
by simply increasing the FSB speed to 100 MHz, the Celeron would then be overclocked to an 850 MHz core speed (8.5x100). The Celeron 566
remains at the 8.5X multiplier, and the FSB increase would be the sole driver of the higher 850 MHz clock speed.

The FSB options will be accessed either in the system BIOS, jumpers on the motherboard itself, or through the use of a software overclocking
utility. There are many different FSB overclocking formats so this is where your intimate knowledge of the motherboard really helps out. Use
the information presented earlier in the article and select the appropriate FSB speed and reboot/restart. If the required FSB speeds do not
show up in the BIOS, confirm that the correct AGP/PCI divider has been enabled and confirm in the user manual that the board does in fact
support this speed.

Also, keep an eye on the memory, AGP and PCI speeds that may result from using a non-standard FSB. While the CPU may easily handle a 83
MHz or 124 MHz overclock, some of the other components may not be as forgiving.

Front-side bus overclocking is one area where Intel CPUs have the advantage over similar AMD models. Due to the DDR design of the AMD
processors, any increase to the FSB actually doubles its effect through the CPU and system bus, so do not expect more than a 110-115 MHz
FSB overclock.

AMD Overclocking
With their seemingly-locked multipliers and minimal FSB returns, the AMD Athlon, Thunderbird and Duron processors may look like
overclocking chumps next to their Intel competition. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you simply need to explore other options to get
the most out of your AMD processor. The most important is the potential to raise the CPU multiplier, which can be a very effective method of
overclocking. By increasing a 600 MHz CPU (6X multiplier) up to a 7X multiplier, you will have effectively raised its core speed to 700 MHz, but
with none of the stability issues of using a non-standard, >100 MHz FSB.

For owners of older Slot 1 Athlons, the solution is to use a Goldfinger overclocking device that fits right onto the processor itself. The outer
shell of the CPU will need to be removed, but once attached it will offer total control over the CPU multiplier and voltage settings. This is a
powerful tool, and
even inexperienced users will find it extremely easy to move the clock up one or two levels and achieve noticeable performance
increases.

With the Thunderbird Athlon and Duron processors, overclocking success is almost entirely a factor of the motherboard design. The Socketed Duron
and Thunderbird processors do not support external Goldfinger devices, but certain motherboards such as the MSI K7T Pro2, ABIT KT7, ASUS A7V
and Soyo K7VTA do have on-board voltage and multiplier controls. Like the Goldfinger devices, these on-board features are easy to use and can
yield some significant overclocking gains, especially with some of the lower speed Duron models.

Troubleshooting
When the PC experiences boot or stability problems, troubleshooting the issue is a very important and time-consuming part of any CPU overclock.
Here are a few of the common problems you may encounter after finally getting the overclocked PC to boot, as well as some tips as to what could be
causing it, and some possible solutions:

1. PC Will Boot but Halts before OS Load
This is a very common overclocking scenario, where the PC boots up perfectly at the higher core speed, but then halts before or during the
operating system load. This is usually a problem associated with CPU stability and it may be alleviated with further core voltage increases. If
the voltage is already set very high, or the PC refuses to respond after further voltage tweaking, then choosing a lower FSB speed may be
required.

2. Error Loading OS
This is very similar to the above example, except it displays a specific error when loading the operating system. Increasing the CPU core
voltage, or lowering the FSB can usually alleviate this problem. In some cases, the system memory is at fault, especially when using non-
standard FSB speeds that increase the memory speed far beyond its rated spec. Check to make sure the FSB is not above the memory's rated
speed, and if so, try lowering the RAS and CAS memory settings to see if this solves the problem.

3. Hard Drive Errors
This type of error occurs because the PCI speeds are out of spec and unsupported by your current hard drive. Older Maxtor drives are
notorious for not working on >33 MHz PCI bus speeds and few models will run perfectly when using a FSB such as 83 or 124 MHz. Unless you
plan on replacing your current hard drive, lowering the FSB is really your only option.

4. Registry Errors
This is a common occurrence when trying to push the overclocking envelope and exhibits itself by the system halting with an “Error in the
Registry” message. The display will then ask you to reboot, which usually creates an endless loop. By far the most common reason for this
error is when running your system memory beyond its rated speed. As with other memory issues, try lowering the RAS and CAS BIOS settings
and reboot. There can also be other causes, such as CPU or chipset instability, and adding a bit of juice to the Vcore (CPU) or VIO (chipset)
voltages may alleviate the problem.

5. OS Crash While Performing Tasks
This type of crash occurs when using a seemingly stable system, and the OS does a hard lock. In select instances the application or game may
terminate with an error, while still allowing you access to the OS. This is also one of the toughest problems to troubleshoot, since it may be
caused by a multitude of factors. Processor heat buildup is the most common culprit, so keep an eye on the CPU temperature using a
diagnostic program such as SiSoft Sandra or by consulting the system BIOS. If the CPU temperature rises dramatically and only then exhibits
problems, then adding in a better CPU cooler or enhancing existing system cooling are both options worth exploring.

If the CPU will allow a significant level of activity before crashing, then it is likely not due to the core voltage supplied and it is likely heat related.
The shorter the time before a crash, the higher the possibility that overall CPU stability is the issue. Do not discount the impact a non-standard
FSB can have on system memory, and AGP and PCI peripherals. Some games can really put your whole system to the test and illuminate
problems with a out of spec memory, AGP or PCI speed that may have previously gone unnoticed.

Finding the Perfect Speed
Finding the optimum overclocked speed of a given CPU is a process of trial and error, spiced with a touch of compromise between speed and
stability. There are basically two schools of thought in achieving the optimal overclocked speed.

The first is to decide on a specific overclocked speed and then put all your energy into hitting that target. Perhaps you read all about Celeron or
Duron overclocking and purchased a model for the express purpose of getting an XXX MHz overclocked processor. In this case, reaching that
speed would be deemed a success and going higher is not an important consideration. The system should be configured expressly for the
desired overclock speed, with only small adjustments to the core voltage to determine the safest and most stable operating environment. In
the event of the processor not reaching the intended speed, then the process starts again from a slightly lower FSB target.

The other method is to not have any overclocking preconceptions and to simply throw all the FSB speeds and voltages at the processor and
see what sticks. This involves a slow and steady progression up the FSB ladder, with stops to increase core voltage or change AGP/PCI
dividers as required. At some point you will reach a happy medium of overclocked performance, stability and core voltage. What the final speed
ends up being is dependant on the hardware and cooling, and exactly where your risk tolerance lays.

Please remember there are inherent risks to any overclocking exercise, such as long term CPU degradation and serious heat issues. One
area you should be extremely careful is when increasing the CPU core voltage above the 5-10% level, as this is the easiest way to damage your
processor when overclocking. Using non-standard FSB speeds can also yield AGP and PCI speeds that are far out of spec, and there is a
chance that peripheral cards can be damaged.

Of course, some overclockers upgrade their processors on a regular basis and feel that the risk is minimal considering the performance
returns and the short amount of time they intend to own the processor. Others are more careful and only overclock to a speed that can be
maintained using minimal voltage tweaks and stays within reasonable AGP and PCI bus speeds. Tailor your own overclocking to the amount of
risk you are willing to take, as compared to the potential performance benefits.


Test the Overclock
After the optimal overclocking speed has been determined and any system errors properly diagnosed, it is time to put the CPU to the test.
Running programs such as Prime 95 for extended periods can illuminate most stability problems, and will give your CPU a good burn-in period.
If you do not have that sort of time, then we suggest simply using the system as you normally would, and playing extended sessions of Unreal
Tournament and Quake 3 if possible. Those two games, especially UT, will put some serious strain on the CPU and will outline any chinks in the
overclocking armor. Another good test is to use a compression program such as PKZip and then select several extremely large files and add
them to an archive. Use the highest compression setting available and then run through a few rounds of compress/decompress and watch for
any errors.

While testing the overclocked CPU, it is important to take breaks to check the current system, motherboard and CPU temperatures. Different
games and applications can tax the system in different ways and watching how the processor reacts to each test can illustrate possible
cooling issues. The amount of heat an individual processor can handle can be very different, but as a basic rule, aim for a temperature in the
mid 30's ( C) or lower. You may want to explore additional cooling options if the CPU temperature increases rapidly and moves well above 40
degrees C. Again, these are not strict rules, and overall system stability can be a better gauge of the specific CPU's heat tolerance.

Additional Cooling
The prospect of adding additional cooling to your CPU is an inviting one, but first make sure that it will actually do some good. Many times a CPU
will not even post at the overclocked speed, and the canned advice may be to “add more cooling”, when in fact, this will probably not help in the
least. If the CPU will not even initialize at a given speed, then you will gain nothing by slapping on an expensive CPU cooler. There are
exceptions to this rule, and they involve specialized devices such as Peltiers or liquid cooling. The technical expertise required to install these
goes far beyond the scope of this article, which deals solely with standard air-cooled devices.

Where adding better CPU cooling really comes into play is when the processor will post and load the OS, but then becomes unstable after a
short period of time. This is usually indicative of an overheated processor and increasing the cooling effect can in turn increase the stability of
the overclocked CPU. The heatsink compound (the material used to link the heatsink to the CPU) is also important, and different types can yield
greater heat transfer. The standard silicon-based compound will work best for most overclocking, but those wanting an extra boost should
investigate compounds using aluminum, silver or gold elements. Just keep in mind that these metallic substances can conduct electricity as
well as heat, so special care should be taken in their use.

No CPU cooler will work at peak efficiency if the computer case is filled with very hot air. Keep an eye on the system temperature as well, and if
the system starts to overheat, it will have a detrimental effect on the CPU temperature. Adding a couple of case fans may do more for overall
cooling and stability than installing a monstrous CPU cooler.
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