Beyond the CPU: The Uncharted Territory of SATA SSD Overclocking

When discussing the overclocking of computer hardware, our focus typically centers on CPUs, graphics cards, or RAM. However, recently, YouTube creator @Gabriel Ferraz ventured into the realm of SSD overclocking, successfully enhancing its performance, albeit ultimately leading to the device’s failure after extensive testing.

The SSD Gabriel chose for his overclocking experiment was not the widely used NVMe SSD, which already boasts formidable performance rendering marginal gains from overclocking. Instead, he opted for a SATA SSD, considered a more suitable subject for experimentation. Specifically, he selected an RZX Pro 240GB DRAM-Less SATA SSD as the protagonist of this overclocking endeavor.

Gabriel’s approach to SSD overclocking primarily involved adjusting the clock frequencies of the controller chip and flash memory. The controller of this particular SATA SSD, the Silicon Motion SM2259XT2, features a single-core ARC 32-bit CPU capable of reaching up to 550 MHz, though manufacturers have limited it to 425 MHz. The flash memory, a Kioxia 96-layer TLC BiCS4 256Gb NAND, has a rated frequency of 400 MHz but operates at a mere 193.75 MHz in practice. Thus, theoretically, there was significant headroom for overclocking this SATA SSD.

After a series of complex firmware reprogramming and fine-tuning, Gabriel successfully increased the operational frequencies of the controller chip and NAND flash to a relatively stable 500 MHz and 400 MHz, respectively. This adjustment resulted in a 27% and 10% increase in random read and write speeds, along with various degrees of improvement across different benchmark scores. However, in practical application tests, the overclocked SSD did not deliver substantial performance enhancements. Moreover, overclocking led to increases in temperature and power consumption, with power usage nearly doubling and overall energy efficiency significantly decreasing.

During the final stages of testing, the SSD was damaged due to sustained high loads from overclocking, rendering it inoperable—a result Gabriel anticipated. After all, manufacturers’ settings for chip frequencies are meticulously calibrated to ensure efficiency and durability. Although this experiment did not yield satisfactory outcomes, it did confirm that SSDs could indeed be overclocked.