How To Overclock Your Gaming PC

Do you want your PC to get that extra power that’ll let it run games and other applications better? Well, then it’s very likely that you’ve started looking into overclocking your gaming PC. While the internet might have you believe that overclocking is a sort of dark art that only the most tech-loving individuals can master, that isn’t the case at all.


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Of course, overclocking still comes with risks like overheating and system instability. Additionally, there’s also the fact that you can overclock both your GPU and CPU, something most beginners don’t know. To ensure you’re able to safely overclock your gaming PC, here’s with an easy-to-follow guide that includes everything you need to know about it.

If done incorrectly, overclocking can cause damage to your PC. Please make sure you understand the procedure fully before overclocking.


What Is Overclocking?

MS Afterburner, a software used to overclock PCs

Overclocking refers to running your GPU, CPU, or both at higher clock speeds than their default settings. By default, both of these components run at conservative and stable clock speeds that are determined by the manufacturers. However, by overclocking these components, it’s possible to force them to operate faster and handle more processing.

The core idea behind overclocking is bringing out more power from GPUs and CPUs. After all, the default clock speeds of both components leave some extra frequency wiggle room that goes unused. It’s that wiggle room that overclocking takes advantage of to avail multiple benefits.

The Benefits Of Overclocking

Some of the most popular advantages of overclocking your PC are:

Reason Explanation
Improved Performance Overclocking can result in higher frame rates, smoother gameplay, and reduced load times in games.
Cost-Effective Upgrade Instead of buying a newer and more powerful GPU or CPU, you can stretch the performance of your older components by overclocking them.
Personalization You can fine-tune your system to match your specific gaming needs. For example, you can adjust settings to optimize performance for the games you play most often.
Future-Proof Overclocking your PC can help it keep up with demanding games and software updates instead of you having to buy newer components.
Competitive Advantage The increased FPS can give you better responsiveness in online games, which can give you a significant competitive advantage.

Understanding The Risks

While there are indeed a bunch of benefits to overclocking your gaming PC, there are also many risks involved with it.

Reason

Explanation

Thermal Throttling

Overclocking generates more heat. If you don’t manage this by installing coolers then the higher temperature can damage your GPU and CPU.

Component Stress

By overclocking your PC, you’re pushing your components past their set limits. This can potentially lead to a shorter lifespan for those said components.

Warranty Voiding

Many manufacturers void the warranty if they find out that a component has been overclocked. This is important to consider before deciding whether to overclock your PC.

Before You Begin

nvidia drivers update

If you went through both the advantages and potential risks of overclocking your PC and still want to go through with it then that’s great. However, there are a couple of steps you should take first to ensure the overclocking process is as safe as possible.

The one thing you should do regardless of whether you’re overclocking your GPU or CPU is to benchmark your components at completely stock settings. Note the average clock speeds and temperature, writing them down somewhere to use them as a baseline for comparing overclocking gains.

Steps To Take Before Overclocking Your GPU

Before overclocking your GPU, it’s always a good idea to open up your PC case and do some spring cleaning. Ensure that the cables are routed properly and there’s enough airflow to manage the higher temperature that’ll be produced as a result of the extra power consumption.

Speaking of power consumption, you should also make sure that your power supply is powerful enough to handle the extra load. If you’re barely scraping by with the wiggle room of around 100 watts then it might be a good idea to get a better-rated PSU.

Aside from that, it’s always recommended that you keep your GPU updated. Update the drivers and make sure all the latest bug fixes and stability enhancements are in place.

Steps To Take Before Overclocking Your CPU

Similar to your GPU, you also want to ensure that your CPU has enough airflow to manage the incoming higher temperatures. It’s always a good idea to install an air cooler on your CPU to give it that extra cooling factor, or even water cooling if you’re feeling confident.

You should also make sure that your CPU and motherboard both support overclocking. While most modern components support overclocking, you should definitely check your hardware’s specifications if you aren’t sure.

Related: A Beginner’s Guide To PC Case Sizes

Overclocking Your GPU

nvidia control panel

Now that you know everything you need to know about the lead-up to overclocking your gaming PC, it’s time to go through how you can overclock your GPU.

There are multiple ways to overclock your GPU, but the fastest and most beginner-friendly way is through software utilities.

Using MSI Afterburner

MSI Afterburner is what most PC gamers believe is the easiest software to use if you want to overclock your gaming GPU. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it works for both NVIDIA and AMD GPUs.

To overclock your GPU using MSI Afterburner you should follow the steps below:

  1. Start by downloading MSI Afterburner. Again, it doesn’t matter if you have an NVIDIA GPU or AMD one, as it works with both.
  2. Open the app and go to the ‘General’ tab.
  3. Increase the Power Limit and Temperature Limit sliders to their maximum settings to improve performance.
  4. In the “Fan” tab, make the fan spin faster to ensure your GPU stays cool. If you’re finding your PC is running too hot, reduce the power limit and temperature limit incrementally until you find the sweet spot.
  5. On the “Voltage/Frequency Curve” tab, make small changes to the Core Voltage and Memory Voltage sliders to allow for better performance.
  6. Go to the main “Overclocking” tab and slowly increase the Core Clock and Memory Clock sliders by a little bit, like +25 MHz.
  7. Keep an eye on your GPU’s performance using the monitoring window in Afterburner.
  8. Test your GPU’s stability by running a stress test like FurMark for at least 15 minutes. Look for any problems like crashes or strange visuals.
  9. If you encounter issues, slightly increase the Core Voltage and Memory Voltage and test again for stability. Remember, patience is required for this, and you should never amp everything up to 100 straight away.
  10. Keep adjusting the clock speeds and voltages until you find the best settings.
  11. Save your final settings by clicking the checkmark icon.

Using NVIDIA Control Panel and Radeon Software

Alternatively, if you would rather trust the official software options of the GPU manufacturers, then that’s also possible for both NVIDIA and AMD GPU users.

  • If you’re overclocking an NVIDIA GPU then you want to go to the NVIDIA Control Panel and slowly amp everything up while running stress tests every 15 minutes. Do this until you find the maximum stable overclock.
  • If you’re overclocking an AMD GPU then you want to go open Radeon Software and go to the Performance tab. Here, amp everything up slowly while testing the stability every 15 or so minutes.

Overclocking Your CPU

Going to the BIOS screen

There are also multiple methods you can use to overclock your CPU, like Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility or AMD’s Ryzen Master. However, the BIOS is by far the easiest way to overclock your CPU.

Because every BIOS is different, the labels and locations of certain settings might be different. Therefore, don’t be afraid to do a little digging around to find what you’re looking for.

  1. Open the BIOS screen by holding the Del key while the computer is booting up. Other keys you might potentially have to use instead include the F1, F2, F10, and F12.
  2. Then, open the frequency/voltage control settings. This setting may be labeled something else like ‘overclocking.’
  3. Here, you want to reduce the memory bus speed and increase your base clock by 10%.
  4. Do a stress test and if everything’s stable, you want to increase the base clock slightly more.
  5. Keep repeating this until your system starts to get unstable, after which you want to reduce it by five percent.
  6. Do this same thing with the CPU multiplier and voltage while ensuring the CPU’s temperature doesn’t go too high.
  7. Once done, increase the memory bus speed again and do prolonged stress testing.

Next: Guide To Watercooling For Your Gaming PC

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