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What Is Overclocking? [The Definitive Guide]

Learn about what overclocking is and how you can overclock different components.

Overclocking can help increase your system’s overall performance, but you need to do it with extreme care. This is because overclocking can end up doing more harm than good if done wrong. Therefore, it is important for you to learn about what overclocking is and whether you should do it or not. 

Key Takeaways

  • Overclocking means increasing the core speeds of your CPU, GPU, or RAM beyond manufacturer-certified limits for the purpose of performance improvement.
  • Overclocking CPU or GPU can help gamers with an FPS gain of up to 20% while playing their favorite games.
  • AMD allows overclocking on all of its processors and almost all motherboards, whereas Intel allows overclocking only on Z-series motherboards and processors ending with the letter F in their names.
  • Overclocking makes CPU and GPU work more, causing more heat production and a significant rise in power consumption, which means you need an aftermarket PSU and a CPU cooler.

What Is Overclocking?

Overclocking CPU GPU RAM
Overclocking CPU GPU RAM

In simple terms, your processor comes with a specific clock speed, which you would call manufacturer-suggested or manufacturer-certified speed. You are overclocking when you boost the clock speed beyond that manufacturer-suggested speed. 

For instance, the Core i9 13900K processor from Intel comes with a base clock of 3.0GHz. However, as soon as you increase the clock speed of the processor beyond 3.0GHz, you are overclocking it. 

One of the most important questions to ask here is why you would overclock in the first place. Well, the idea is for your processor to work faster and provide you with better productivity and gaming performance.

Is Overclocking Safe

It’s like asking if driving fast is safe. Yes, it is safe, but it has certain caveats associated with it that you need to take into account. Remember, if it weren’t safe, manufacturers wouldn’t “allow” overclocking in the first place. Using the same example as above, an Intel Core i9 13900K processor can be overclocked from 3GHz to 5.8Ghz. You can take it even beyond that, but you’ll be taking some risk in doing that.

Since you are making the processor work faster, you might experience increased CPU temperature along with a slight increase in the temperature of your other PC components. If you can take care of the heating issue, overclocking is safe for the most part. 

What PC Things Can You Overclock?

CPU Motherboard
CPU On A Motherboard Getting Overclocked By Us – Image Captured By Us.

In most cases, when you see people discussing overclocking, they are talking about the overclocking of the CPU. However, other PC components can be overclocked. Here’s what you can overclock.

  • Processors

It’s the center of all tasks being performed on your computer. The speed of your processor can affect just about any task you perform e.g. gaming, video editing, and creating spreadsheets. Processor overclocking is the most common practice and can result in better overall PC and gaming performance. 

  • Graphics Cards

GPU overclocking is done mainly for the purpose of getting better gaming performance. In other words, you are seeking a few more extra frames every second by overclocking your graphics card. Successful overclocking may result in FPS gains of up to 20%.

  • RAM

Sometimes, you can overclock your RAM and get the desired speed improvements that you expect from your PC without overclocking your CPU at all. If your work requires a lot of RAM usage, it is worth overclocking it.

How To Check If Your System Is Overclocked?

Task Manager Performance Tab
Task Manager Performance Tab

You can use plenty of simple commands or methods on your computer to find out if your system is overclocked or not. You can use utility tools to see whether your system is overclocked. The best part is that you can check the overclocking status of your computer without any of these utility tools. So, let’s take a look at the easiest method, which is to use Task Manager.

Using Task Manager 

Open task manager by either selecting it from the Start menu or pressing ctrl+alt+del on your keyboard and selecting “Task Manager” from the given options. Once you have the task manager window on your screen, look for the “performance” tab. 

Here, you can see your CPU usage in the CPU tab. Look at the speed of your CPU written with its name, and then check the speed written in front of the “base speed” heading. If the base speed of your CPU is more than its manufacturer-certified base or boost speed, your CPU is overclocked. 

You can also use a tool for stress testing your PC and then see if its active speed is going higher than the boost frequency recommended by the manufacturer. 

Using CPU-Z

This software tool is one of the best and easiest ways for you to know if your CPU is overclocked. You just download the software from their official website, choose the 64-bit or 32-bit version according to your operating system, install the tool, and check for core speeds in the “CPU” tab

The core speed you see tells you the frequency at which your processor is operating, and if it is higher than the recommended boosted clock speed by your manufacturer, you can be sure that your CPU is overclocked. 

Using GPU-Z 

While CPU-Z is great for looking at the CPU usage statistics, you should go with GPU-Z for looking at the overclocking statistics of your graphics card. You can download the software tool from GPU-Z’s website and install it on your computer. 

Open the tool and look at the rows that say “GPU Clock” and “Default Clock.” The GPU clock label tells you the current speed statistics of your graphics cards, whereas the Default clock label indicates the speeds the manufacturer has sent the GPU with. 

If you see your GPU clock readings are higher than your default readings, you can be sure your GPU is overclocked.

Windows BIOS
Windows BIOS

Using BIOS

Most people don’t like to meddle around with their BIOS settings, but if you don’t mind doing that, here is what you can do. Firstly, enter BIOS by pressing either Del, F2, or F1 key or any key that your manufacturer has set for entering BIOS while booting up your computer. 

Now, go into CPU settings and check out the CPU clock speed. Compare it to the default clock speed of your CPU, and if you see the numbers you have discovered in BIOS are higher than those default limits, your CPU is overclocked.

Using Dxdiag Command

This method will work if your computer has DirectXDiagnostic Tool already installed in it. To see the current speed of your CPU, you can either type “dxdiag” in the search box next to your Start Menu or open the run window using Windows + R keys and enter the same dxdiag command

Once opened, you will find yourself in the “system” tab, and here you can see the base clock speed of your CPU. You will need to run a stress test to check if the speeds shown at the end of the test are higher than the speed you see on your dxdiag window. If yes, your system is overclocked.

Things You Should Know Before Overclocking

Now that you have learned about what overclocking is, let’s discuss a few things that you have to consider before you overclock your system. Knowing these things will help you know whether or not you can overclock your system in the first place and what other changes you will have to bring about to make overclocking safe and sustainable. 

Motherboard

The first thing to consider is the motherboard of your PC. You can’t go about overclocking your system if your motherboard doesn’t support it. The good news is that most AMD motherboards will support overclocking. 

X570, B550, X470, and X370 are all AMD motherboards that allow overclocking. However, you must be careful with an Intel motherboard because not all support overclocking

Intel B-series and H-series boards will not support any overclocking. To overclock any of your PC components, you have to have a Z-series Intel motherboard. If you are not sure which motherboard you have, you can always press Windows + R keys and insert msinfo32 into the command window.

Once there, you can look at the Baseboard Version and Baseboard Product to know which motherboard you have. 

CPU

Processor
A CPU, Image Captured By Us.

Just like motherboards, CPUs can also be categorized into those that can be overclocked and those that can’t. It’s good news yet again for those who have AMD processors because all AMD Ryzen chips allow overclocking. 

On the other hand, if you have an Intel processor, you will have to look for that K at the end of the name of your processor to see if it allows overclocking. Surprisingly, most of the latest 13000-series processors from Intel have overclocking unlocked. So, you should check with the CPU you have to know if you can overclock it or not. 

CPU Cooler

You’d be making a huge mistake if you think the built-in cooler that comes with your PC is enough for your system after you have overclocked it. You will have to go for an aftermarket CPU cooler, and knowing the ones best for overclocked CPUs is a great idea. 

The more you overclock your CPU and GPU, the more cooling you will need, especially if you do a lot of gaming. Here, you will have to choose between the traditional air cooling and water cooling options. 

AIO (all-in-one) water cooling is a great solution for newbies, as its installation is easy. Air cooling is cheaper and so a great option for those on a budget. Water cooling is expensive but more effective than air cooling and less noisy. 

You also have the custom water looping option, but it suits only those who consider themselves experts. If you are new to CPU cooler installations, you should stick with air cooling or AIO water cooling.

Has your case fan suddenly stopped spinning, and you fear it could fry up your PC components? Read our guide on why your PC fan is not spinning and how you can fix it.

Power Supply

The power supply you have on your PC is to support the CPU’s TDP based on its default values set by the manufacturer. When you overclock your GPU and CPU, you cause them to use more power, and thus you have to change the power supply unit as well. 

To select the right power supply, you have to look at your processor’s TDP and then add 75 watts (According to Corsair) for other components. After that, you’ll add the TDP of your GPU, and this should give you the PSU wattage you need. 

Since you are thinking about overclocking, a headroom of 100 to 150 watts would be great. EVGA, Cooler Master, and Corsair are among the best PSU brands you should be aiming for when you’re out to buy a new power supply.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Overclocking?

While overclocking does give you a performance boost in FPS or productivity, it does come at a cost. Here are some downsides to overclocking your system. 

Increased Power Usage

When overclocking, you are asking your system to perform beyond the limits specified by the manufacturer. You know these components also have certain TDP numbers associated with them based on the clock speeds certified by the manufacturer. 

When you push clock speeds beyond those limits, you are asking the components to do more work, and they require more power as a result. This results in increased energy bills and also the requirement to buy a bigger, better, and more expensive power supply

Does your PC suddenly restart while you are gaming? Our PC Restarts While Gaming guide can help you.

Increased Heating

Burning CPU
CPU in Flames

More work will cause the processor and GPU to produce more heat. Overheating is the first of all issues that need to be discussed before you overclock your system. The cooling system that might have come with your CPU (in the case of AMD) is not enough to cope with the added heat that will be produced after overclocking.

As a result, you will have to rely on a more non-traditional and advanced cooling system. You can choose from an advanced air cooling, water cooling, or custom looping option, with air cooling being the most affordable.

Warranty Void

Whether you are overclocking your processor, graphics card, or RAM, you have to keep in mind that you will end up voiding the component’s warranty. Consider this disclaimer to always be there with all processors, graphics cards, and RAMs from any brand. 

If you overclock these components, you will be the one taking responsibility for your action. If things go south, you will have to purchase a new unit.

Added Noise

As soon as you overclock your GPU or CPU, you will first notice the increased fan speed. The fan speed may increase automatically, or you will have to increase it manually to provide more cooling for your overclocked GPU or CPU. 

This increased blade spinning speed results in added noise. If your PC was completely quiet previously, it would now have a noticeable fan spinning noise, which you can’t define as merely a humming sound.

Didn’t gain any significant performance gains despite overclocking? Use our guide on how to turn off overclocking to get your CPU in its default state.

How To Overclock Your CPU

AMD CPU
AMD CPU

There are many ways and tools that can help you overclock your CPU, but the main idea is the same. We’ll look at the step-by-step process that you will have to follow to overclock your CPU. You can use tools like AMD Ryzen Master, Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, CPU Tweaker, or BIOS. Here’s what you will have to do. 

  • Know which CPU you have and find out if it is overclock-ready or not. 
  • Download one of the tools stated above, install it and run.
  • Open the overclocking tool and perform the stress test usually given inside the tool.
  • Note down the temperature, power draw, max frequency, and statistics to get a baseline.
  • Increase the multiplier in the settings by a single point for all cores.
  • Stress test the CPU again (this time a smaller test) and check if it completes smoothly.
  • If yes, increase the multiplier again by a single point and stress test again. 
  • Choose the previous stable settings when the stress test fails.

Always stress-test your PC again after returning to the last stable settings to see where things stand. It’s best that the temperature of your CPU doesn’t go above 85° Celsius. For the latest CPUs, even 95° Celsius is good enough. Anything above that would be damaging to your processor.

Make sure to read our guide on how to lower CPU temperature if your CPU is running hot without any overclocking.

How To Overclock Your Graphics Card

You have plenty of overclocking tools available to overclock your GPU. The process is similar to how you would overclock your CPU. Some of the best tools you can use for overclocking your GPU are MSI Afterburner, NVIDIA Inspector, RivaTuner, ASUS, and GPU Tweak. Here’s how you will overclock your GPU. 

  • Download and install one of the tools stated above. We are performing overclocking using an MSI burner.
  • Use a tool like 3Dmark or V-Ray 5 to stress-test your GPU at its current settings.
  • Write down the temperature, power draw, and other important numbers to use as a baseline.
  • Open MSI Afterburner and crank up your temperature and power limit settings to their max.
  • Choose an increment by which you will add to the core clock speed of your GPU. It can be 5MHz or 10MHz. 
  • Apply the new settings and use your benchmarking tool again to stress-test your GPU.
  • Wait until the benchmark test comes to a failure and choose the previous stable settings as your new overclocked configuration.

Keeping in mind that adding to the voltage of your GPU using the same overclocking tool is also possible to squeeze out a few more FPS. However, playing with voltage can be risky and should only be tried once you have become an expert at overclocking by increasing only the clock speeds.

Is GPU running hotter than the sun’s surface? Read our guide on how to lower GPU temperature to fix the problem.

How To Overclock Your RAM

Ram Modules
Ram Modules In a PC – Image Captured Via Our Sabrient Ram Review.

When it comes to overclocking RAM, you have to do it manually. You can overclock it using the XMP profile, but that only applies to Intel processors. So, we’ll do it manually. However, you do want to have a tool like CPU-Z handy to keep track of your RAM’s statistics before overclocking it. Here is how you will overclock your RAM.

  • Use CPU-Z to go into the SPD tab and write down your RAM’s timings and frequencies.
  • Reboot your PC to enter BIOS using the key that your manufacturer has assigned.
  • Inside BIOS, look for and select AI Tweaker settings.
  • Select to change the settings manually.
  • Start increasing the DRAM voltage very slowly, and make sure you never go above 1.5V.
  • The voltages of your CPU System and CPU VCCIO will also have to be increased accordingly.
  • Save the settings, restart the PC, and use a benchmarking tool to stress-test the new settings.
  • Also, play your favorite games to see how well the system is performing.
  • Keep repeating the above steps until your test results crash. At that point, you will return to the previous settings. 

It’s imperative to be careful when you are increasing the voltage of your RAM. Any big increments can result in damaging the component.

Final Thoughts

This was everything you needed to know about what is overclocking. It isn’t as scary as many people make it sound. Some even believe that overclocking can result in frying up your PC and its components. The truth is, a frying incident is extremely rare and only possible when you are tweaking your CPU, GPU, and RAM’s basic settings without proper guidance. The main idea is to learn the steps of overclocking before trying them. 

Just make sure to know that your motherboard and CPU allow overclocking. Secondly, always make sure to benchmark your CPU, GPU, and RAM with their default settings so you can always return to them. Thirdly, make sure you are prepared to buy a new and reliable power supply and cooling system for your system before you perform overclocking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Overclocking Reduce CPU, GPU, and RAM Lifespan?

Yes, it can reduce the lifespan of your CPU, GPU, and RAM because overheating is the main cause of the degradation of these PC components.

Will overclocking GPU damage it?

Only if you do it without proper guidance. With proper guidance, small increments, and an understanding of the baseline statistics of your GPU, you can make overclocking very safe and useful.

Does overclocking void CPU/GPU/RAM warranty?

Yes, overclocking your RAM, GPU, or CPU will void the warranty of these components.


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