Overclocking anything can sometimes be scary for someone who doesn’t know how as the prospect of ruining a component is a very real risk, but it’s relatively simple to follow the steps and It’s been made easier by manufacturers over the years. Here’s how to overclock your CPU.
Overclocking a CPU is simply the process of increasing the speed or the core’s multiplier, increasing the efficiency and the speed of which the CPU operates. Overclocking the CPU can give your computer a performance boost but there are some risks involved.
Risks involved when overclocking a CPU
Overclocking any component has its risks and overclocking a CPU is no different. When you increase the clock speed and voltage of your CPU it can raise the heat output by the component. This is more comonly named TDP. Central processing units can handle some pretty high heats before running into trouble, trouble would present its self in the form of performance issues such as, dips in FPS, stuttering and sometimes full blown system crashes.
Heat is a major threat to a CPU if it’s constantly running above 85 degrees, but with a decent fan or hydro cooler this can be avoided. Try to avoid using stock coolers as they arent specifically designed to dissipate the increased heat generatred by overclocks. Don’t worry if your CPU hits a high temperature as mentioned they can handle some heat but investing in an aftermarket cooler is wise.
The longevity of the product will be shortened as it’s running faster and hotter than it was originally intended to but some chips are designed with overclocking in mind. Most CPUs ship equipped with a hard voltage and miltiplyer limit enabled by default to avoid frying the CPU entirely.
Now that you’re aware of some of the more major risks involved you’re ready to overclock.
Overclocking the CPU can help squeeze a little extra performance out of the chip which can in some cases give a substantial boost in gaming, media editing and general tasks with no extra cost. Overclocking can be a great option for anyone looking to upgrade their performance on a tight budget, or for someone who is waiting for a newer generation CPU.
Things to consider
As mentioned above, overclocking can damage your CPU and you should only consider it if you are ok with potentially damaging your CPU. Being sensible with your overclock shouldn’t cause any damage but it still remains a potential risk.
If you are looking to increase your framerate or “FPS” when gaming, then you should consider overclocking or upgrading your graphics card. Here for overclock and here for our best of GPU list.
Overclocking a CPU in a desktop computer isn’t too much of an issue if you have adequate cooling capacity, but avoid doing this in a laptop unless you generate additional cooling like with a cooling pad for example as they will generally overheat.
A lot of modern high-end motherboards are designed for overclocking and will allow you to do it easily in the BIOS, consult your user manual for more on that.
Certain CPUs are designed for overclocking, usually outlined by a “K” or “KF” on Intel CPUs or an “X” on AMD CPUs.
If you want to benchmark or properly stress test your overclocking then you may need to download a few tools before you begin. These tools will test the performance of your CPU and allow you to keep note of those results over time.
CPU-Z – Downloading this tool will allow you to monitor your clock speed and the voltage of your CPU. You can use this mainly to keep track of how your CPU is performing and if any changes have taken effect.
Aida64 – If you are looking to perform stress tests you can use Aida64 to perform tests over a long period to test stability whilst monitoring temperatures.
HWiNFO – This tool is useful for a plethora of reasons but most importantly it will allow you to check your temperatures, a crucial variable when overclocking.
If you are going to monitor the performance or benchmark your new overclocked system then you should take a baseline benchmark first as the control, allowing you to make deductions based on any negative changes.
Increasing the base clock
Most changes will take place in the BIOS so your computer will require a reboot. When the computer is restarting you can hold or press the ‘delete’ key to access your BIOS. Each BIOS varies depending on the motherboard manufacturers so look out for labels while navigating through.
Open the Frequency settings page which can sometimes be called ‘frequency control’, ‘voltage control’ or ‘overclocking’. In here you can adjust the CPU clock speed and voltage.
It’s important to lower the memory bus speed in your settings next as when you are overclocking errors can be caused by the memory. You want this setting to be on its lowest.
Increase your base clock (front side bus) speed by 10%. Most processors can handle this slight increase of change without any fuss so give it a 10% bump and see how it does in your stress test application.
Increase your base clock until the system becomes unstable. Increase the amount in increments of 5-10MHz until you find the optimum clock speed for your system. To be safe, run a benchmark with every adjustment you make until you notice if things start to go unstable.
Increasing the core multiplier
Firstly lower the base clock a small amount. You want to do this before you increase the multiplier because this way can produce more stable results in the long run and makes it more precise. Keep in mind a lower base clock with a higher multiplier gives you a more stable system, however a higher base clock and a lower multiplier will give you better performance so find a balance.
Now you base clock has been lowered its time to start cranking up the multiplier in increments of 0.5. The multiplier can sometimes be called CPU clock ratio depending on your motherboard and is usually set to auto. You will want to run your benchmark program and check how the system is running and assuming everything is ok repeat this process. Make sure after each change at this stage to keep monitoring temperatures.
Increasing the voltage
NOTE: Here’s where you need to be cautious, increasing the core speed and the multiplier have their risks but those risks pale in comparison to those associated with overvolting your CPU. Not only is your CPU in jeopardy but your motherboard and potentially it’s VRMs too. Please procede with extream caution and make sure any values you input are correct and intentional.
Raise the CPU voltage but only in increments of 0.025, If you increase the voltage too much you run the risk of damaging your CPU. Run a stress test and check to see if your voltage increase has stabilized your system from the previous steps. If stable check your temps are also at an acceptable level. If the system remains unstable then try lowering the base clock or multiplier.
Repeat the above step until the max voltage and temperature is reached at which point you will have reached the limits of your components.
Now you can raise your memory speeds back to what they were before but do this slowly in stages while stress testing at every step, your memory may now be unstable or may not be able to reach speeds previously achievable.
A good rule of thumb is to not excede a CPU voltage of 1.35V on average, if you wish to know your specific CPUs max voltage you can look into it online to find information specific to your hardware.
Other Overclocking Guides
Overclocking can be risky but very rewarding, it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking to squeeze a little extra performance out of an older product as an alternative to shelling out for a whole new CPU. As long as you’re aware of all the risks and you have a relatively test-heavy and safe methodology your CPU should be safe from harm.