Overclocking is one of the terms you will hear the most when talking about PC hardware, or PC gaming in general. Yet people rarely bother to explain just what it is and how it works and is overclocking worth it. For people just getting into the world of PC customization, there is probably nothing more exciting than RGB lighting, but a close second has to be overclocking. A lot of people passionately are involved in doing such things and they love to share their experiences. They love to discuss their overclocking results, their cooling systems, and which CPUs are the most forgiving for pushing the limits. As enjoyable as this can be, the question must be asked. Wheater is even worth it to go through the hassle of making adjustments to your PC to squeeze every last megahertz out of your hardware before it reaches the point of instability?
Well, it really depends on what are you trying to accomplish. Although season veterans of the overclocking game know this well, novices who get excited after buying their first unlock CPU may not know that while you certainly can get a performance bump by overclocking, you are not likely to change your computing experience in a jaw-dropping way. The improvements we have seen with the CPUs in the past couple of decades have largely been due to changing their architecture. That is the way that the pathways handle the logic inside the processor are put together. As well as shrinking transistor sizes that make processors faster and more power-efficient. With a standard air or water cool, you will likely get a few hundred megahertz bump. Anything above one gigahertz will be a massive challenge.
What is overclocking
You must have noticed by now that many PC components contain specs that are measured in hertz, megahertz, or gigahertz. These specs represent the clock speed of these components. For example, if you have an Intel Core i5 9600 CPU, your CPU has a base speed frequency of 3.1 GHz. This is your CPU base clock speed and it tells you how many cycles that component can perform in a second. The thing is, you can make these components work faster by overclocking them. This will usually merit better performance. You can overclock your CPU, GPU, RAM to make them go faster. You can even overclock your monitor to increase the refresh rate. Although, you should probably never do the last one. To put it simply, overclocking is a way to improve the performance of certain PC components for free.
Overclocking is increasing the multiplier or the frequency of your component to get more operations per second to make it operate faster. Now, the question arises, how is this possible? Why are we able to overclock the components, don’t the manufacturers set them at their peak performance when we buy them? In the last decade, millions and millions of components are bought, and shipped from manufacturers to their owners. You have to think about RMA (return merchandise authorization) and warranties that are involved with that. If companies ship their products on their very limit, they will break left and right, and they are taking these warranty returns and having to ship more, they are then just losing money. So they decided to ship components with unlocked functions to allow users if they want to take the risk and overclock them.
How to overclock
There are many components out there that can be overclocked. However, you need to have a component that is capable of being overclocked, so the component has to be unlocked. If you are not sure, you can do a quick google search for your component, and find out is it possible to overclock it. Also, you need to make sure that your motherboard is capable of overclocking. Some motherboards have more or less features for overclocking.
How to overclock GPU
Graphic cards are very easy and safe to overclock. You can freely move those sliders, have some fun. Because those sliders are set by the BIOS on how far they can actually go. And those BIOS limits are set by the factory on where they know it’s safe to play around with. It is safe to move that voltage slider all the way to the right. It is safe to put that temperature limit all the way to the right. If you have an aftermarket card that doesn’t have terrible fans on it, like blower-style coolers from factories and they have nice big heat pipes heat sinks that are going to keep things nice and cool. The nice thing with graphics overclocking is that usually, a percentage of overclocking directly relates to the percentage of performance increase. GPUs are definitely an area where overclocking is worth it.
GPU overclocking is done through software. Programs like MSI Afterburner are really easy to use and compatible with pretty much any graphics card. You overclock your GPU by changing the settings in the MSI Afterburner and then stress testing in MSI Kombustor.
How to overclock CPU
CPUs are a little bit more tricky to overclock and fortunately, the button on there is going to wipe down any of your settings that you may have messed up and it is going to get you up and running again. You need to be more careful with CPUs than GPUs. This is because the CPU parameters are not going to have very many safeguards involved to keep you from blowing it up. If you put too many volts into the CPU, the motherboard won’t keep you from making that mistake.
The process of CPU overclocking is pretty straightforward, it is pretty simple. You will need to restart your PC and then press the delete key to access the motherboard BIOS. After that navigate to the overclocking section. You will find a lot of settings there that can be adjusted. It is a good idea to start slowly, and not set the highest possible overclock setting or you might cause some serious damage to your CPU.
Best overclocking software
For CPU overclocking, it is good to have some tools where you can keep track of your CPU performance. Softwares like Cinerbench and Core temp are great for running tests on your GPU. MSI Afterburner is compatible with pretty much any graphics card out there. It is a great tool, and alongside it, you might want to get yourself MSI Kombustor. All these tools are free and easy for downloading.
Is overclocking necessary
Now, getting a better performance for free sounds awesome. So is there a reason why you would never want to do this? There are actually a couple of reasons. In order to compensate for higher clock speed. In order to compensate for higher clock speed, you will need to feed more power into the component. This will increase power consumption and make the component generate more heat. And more importantly, it can do some serious damage. There a number of risks involved with overclocking and we will get to them later. But does this mean you should never overclock? That is not really the answer either. Context is the most important thing here, and understanding just how much extra performance you can squeeze out when overclocking.
As things stand consumer PCs are more powerful than ever and have been designed to live up to the demands of high-end gaming, rendering, and video editing. If your PC has a decent spec sheet most importantly a modern CPU and a dedicated GPU then you won’t be getting much from overclocking. You will get a slightly higher FPS, but the results will hardly be worth the effort and the risk.
When should you overclock
The overclocking is definitely worth it if you are dealing with somewhat dated components. They don’t necessarily have to be outdated just not brand new. In this case, overclocking to get that extra bit of performance out of the CPU and GPU can make the difference between a game being choppy and playable. This of course depends on what the PC in question will be used for. Let’s focus on gaming here. The game you interested in running, will also play a large role in how effective overclocking will be. Some games are CPU-centric others are GPU-centric. Overclocking CPU will not really help with GPU-centric games and vice versa. Overclocking a CPU view will always provide an incremental boost in the CPU’s performance. That isn’t the same case with GPU. The results from GPU overclocking are unpredictable and require a lot of trial-and-error.
The bottom line is this. Overclocking is not necessary but it is a good way to get some extra mileage out of dated components that you just are not in a situation to replace with new ones.
Is overclocking safe
There is a lot of people out there not using their hardware to its full potential. This is mostly because they are afraid of something they read or heard. There is a lot of misinformation out there. Things got much better when it comes to overclocking. One thing that scares people is they hear about the degradation of the chip. This is actually true, but you are actually shorting the tail end of its lifespan. You may have turned the chip that would run otherwise 10 or 15 years and made it maybe run 7 or 8 years before it dies. Are you planning on upgrading before you potentially hit that lifespan? If you upgrade your computer every three years or buy your graphics card every other year, you are not going to shave off enough lifespan out of your components to even notice any sort of degradation.
Sings of degradation are when your clocks are no longer stable anymore at that overclock and you have to start bumping it down. And as you decrease it, you start to decrease some of the load you again decrease the degradation. It is just a balancing act. Number one killer of overclocked components has nothing to do with clock speed. It has everything to do with voltage and exponential heat that is going to occur when you start to add voltage and overclocking to your parts. Obviously, you have to keep temperatures in check. The point here is to get the best results with your CPU you need to have a really good cooler. Factory cooling just is not going to cut it. Everybody should run some sort of custom cooler. You want to protect your most expensive computer parts from overheating.
Point of failure
Another thing that makes people fearful of wheater or not overclocking is safe is in order to find your maximum overclock, often you are going to find that point of failure. And it is that point of failure that scares people. Bottom line is, you have to try really hard to break something when it comes to your overclocked components. All the settings can always be reverted and start over. However, even a mild overclock, just a small overclock of 5-10% is that much more power, and that much more performance you are getting for the same amount of money. And you are missing out if you are not taking that opportunity to pull more power out of your components.
After seeing the risks and benefits of overclocking let’s summarise. Should you overclock? If your hardware can handle it then there is no reason not to try it as long as your careful with it. Keep in mind that there is and if here. Since not all the motherboards and chipset support overclocking in the first place. Also, you want to make sure that you have a good CPU cooler that can handle the increased temperature. Stock coolers are rarely good enough for this. So right off the bat, this means that overclocking is not always entirely free since you will need an aftermarket cooler in most cases. Having a pair of case-mounted fans can really go a long way in making the air flowing your case much better and less taxing on the hardware.
And finally, remember that overclocking won’t always give you the same benefits. The actual performance increase will depend on your hardware and the games you want to play. In any case, you won’t know whether it is a thing for you until you try.