If you want to get the most out of your computer, you can’t just rely on your computer’s hardware to run at factory settings. We’ve already talked about how you can overclock your GPU to improve graphics performance, but the CPU plays an even bigger role in a computer’s efficiency, and overclocking is one of the most effective ways. for players to improve their performance.
This does not mean that there are no risks. Factory default settings are there for many reasons, but the most important is that going outside of these settings can cause your system to overheat and cause irreparable damage to your computer. Fortunately, overclocking isn’t as dangerous today as it once was.
Our guide will help you understand what CPU overclocking does, whether you need it or not, and how to overclock your CPU without causing harm to your gaming rig. In addition to our in-depth guide, we offer some quick answers to the most common questions about CPU overclocking at the very end of the article.
Prepare your computer for overclocking
Before we get into the details of how you can overclock your CPU, we need to talk about what overclocking actually is. If you’re even remotely involved in the video game scene, you’ve probably heard of it and perhaps understand the basics, but we’ll start over from the beginning for those readers who are less familiar with it. hardware optimization.
The central clock
Before you think about overclocking, you need to understand what clock speed actually is and how you can determine your CPU’s standard clock speed. Your CPU clock speed tells you how many cycles the CPU can perform in a second. Like the refresh rate of a display, it is measured in gigahertz. Even a single gigahertz is a lot, because it’s billions of pulses per second.
As it determines the performance efficiency of a processor, clock speed is a pretty reliable indicator of how fast a processor is. And since the CPU is the central brain of a computer, it controls virtually everything in the game. From refresh rate, CPU clock speed has an effect on almost everything you do in a game.
Understand the risks
There was a time when overclocking was considered a serious procedure that could cause harm to your computer, and that’s still true to some degree. But with processors increasing in power and manufacturers opening up to the modding scene, it’s usually possible to get some type of overclocking for your computer without putting your device at risk.
This does not mean, however, that there is no risk. Overclocking your CPU may void the warranty on your CPU, motherboard, or other pieces of hardware. It can be difficult to verify if overclocking has caused a problem with your hardware, but it is advisable to be cautious. Replacing a motherboard or processor can be very expensive.
Even a slight overclock will heat up your CPU. If you are not careful with the process, you can easily burn your motherboard, RAM or central processor. Generally, you don’t have to worry about a little bit of overclocking burning out your motherboard, but there are limits to what you can push without having a negative impact. This is why you should pay attention to the extent of overclocking your computer and carefully monitor any changes to ensure the process is safe.
Finally, the ability to overclock your CPU is limited to some degree. As is often the case, modding on a laptop is limited, although there are a few gaming laptop models that will allow you to accomplish this. But for the most part, overclocking is a procedure best reserved for a gaming tower.
Understand what to expect
Overclocking isn’t as dangerous as it used to be, but it’s also not as lucrative. As the clock performance of CPU models gets more and more sophisticated, the amount of extra juice you can get from them has shrunk. Overclocking can give you a decent performance boost, but not as much as before.
The other thing to keep in mind is that your central processor is limited by other hardware, including your video card. A good Intel Core paired with a lower quality graphics card won’t need to be overclocked to get the best possible performance. With current hardware on the market, overclocking your GPU will generally get you better performance than overclocking your CPU, although the latter can also have a positive impact.
You should also keep in mind that not every CPU will give you the same performance. Even if you have the same hardware in your computer as someone else, you may get better or worse results. That’s why it’s important to carefully measure your performance, run stress tests, and make sure your system is and continues to be stable.
Understand the terminology
Let’s talk specifically about what happens when you overclock your computer so you can better understand what we’re talking about as we walk you through this process. The base clock tells you the standard speed at which your computer is running. You can think of it as the average speed of your processor. It can affect your CPU speed as well as RAM efficiency, and it is the baseline when you overclock your CPU core. Some Intel processors also offer a Turbo Boost mode that automatically pushes your processor beyond its standard performance.
To determine the actual speed of your CPU, simply multiply the base clock speed by the CPU multiplier. This level is set in your motherboard to achieve the standard speeds that a manufacturer promises for their CPU. When we start overclocking your CPU through BIOS, we adjust the CPU multiplier. The base clock speed will not change.
The last thing to consider here is the CPU VCore. This is the primary supply voltage for the central processor in overclocking. Increasing the CPU multiplier will put more strain on your motherboard, CPU, and other related components, which means you need more power. This is an incredibly important factor to pay attention to because the higher the power output, the more risk it poses to your motherboard and other hardware.
Preparing your computer
If you want to get the best result when overclocking a CPU, you need to make sure your computer is already running in peak physical condition. A little dust in the vents might not affect your performance today, but that’s a different story when you’re overclocking a CPU. Be sure to wear an anti-static wrist strap and avoid using vacuum cleaners, as they can cause a build-up of static electricity. You should ensure that all surfaces where air can escape are cleaned to maximize ventilation and cooling of the processor.
Once you have all of this in place, you’ll want to make preparations to ensure you have all the software and hardware you need. We will list all the basics below. Although you may need a hardware upgrade to overclock the CPU, all the software we have listed is completely free. You will need:
- A version of Windows, preferably Windows 10, saved on your computer. It may be a dual boot version of Windows. Mac or Linux users can follow most of the steps below, but there may be variations depending on the operating system. We focus on Windows as it is the primary operating system for gamers.
- Your CPU model and clock speed. Since Intel processors – and specifically Intel Core processors – are the standard for most machines, we’ll use them as a model for this guide. But if you’re using an AMD processor, the basics still apply. You will just have to use different software.
- A solid cooling system. A computer’s CPU usually has a dedicated fan or cooling system. You may not need an upgrade, but when you take the stress test you will be able to determine if it is necessary or not.
- A motherboard that supports overclocking. If you’re building a computer from scratch, you should carefully check a motherboard’s specs before choosing it, as different motherboards offer different levels of overclocking functionality, and more advanced models may offer you denser options. But if you already have a motherboard in place, chances are it supports some level of overclocking.
- Software to check your CPU temperature when performing your stress test. This is absolutely essential, as it will prevent your computer from overheating both during the stress test and while gaming. We recommend Real Temp.
- to perform stress tests. LinX, AIDA64 and Prime95 are three of the most popular software, but they are not the only ones. The actual interface for each of them is different, but they essentially accomplish the same thing. You should be fine with any of them, but you might want to experiment with them all until you find the right one for you.
- CPU-Z. This software provides you with critical specifications that can help you ensure that everything is within safe limits. Everything from clock speed to multiplier to voltage is included, which can be a great way to keep track of your settings during the stress test.
Find your CPU clock speed
If you know the model of central processor your computer uses, you can easily find the standard clock speed listed online. But you don’t have to go to the trouble to discover a solution. Fortunately, both Apple and Windows operating systems make it easy to check your clock’s base speed. It’s important to keep in mind that your clock’s base speed is more of an average than anything else. Your clock speed will fluctuate depending on the demands of your computer, but overclocking will increase this average as well as the peaks it is capable of reaching.
You will also need to determine the model of processor you want to overclock. AMD processors are naturally unlocked and have been for a long time, so you should be able to overclock most of them with no problem. Intel processors are another story. Many Intel Core series processors are capable of overclocking, but not all. If an Intel Core processor supports overclocking, it will almost always have an “X” or a “K” at the end of its product number. Most Intel processors that are not part of the Core series do not support overclocking.
In Windows 10
- Open Task Manager by clicking Control + Shift + Escape
- Click the More details button
- Click on the Performance tab
- Your base clock speed will be listed in the CPU tab.
- Click the Apple button in the top right of the screen, then click About This Mac
- Here you will find all the essential information about the hardware of your Mac. This section will tell you both your computer’s processor and your base clock speed.
Overclock a PC in BIOS
There are a lot of software out there designed for the sole purpose of helping you overclock a CPU and many of them are very good. Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, MSI Afterburner, and CPU Tweaker are all well-regarded, and for good reason. We encourage you to use such software if this is your first time trying to overclock a CPU. But if all these software have different interfaces, the basic principles are the same.
Our guide is going to go straight to the source and assume you are overclocking from the BIOS. Also known as the Basic Input/Output System, this is the screen that appears before Windows starts. Since the software listed above uses the same methodology, the process presented here should be useful even to those who use software, although we cannot provide a step-by-step guide for every overclocking interface out there.
- Test your computer as is. Before you begin the overclocking process, you need to determine your control variable. Restart the computer, and when the BIOS screen appears, you will see a shortcut to enter setup. The key combination varies from computer to computer. You’ll want to find a button that lets you assign optimized defaults and then proceed with the reboot. Run your stress testing software for a few hours to get a feel for the standard settings.
- Return to the BIOS menu and find the equivalent menu for overclocking settings. You may have to search a bit, as different manufacturers use different names for this menu. Then find a menu labeled “CPU Ratio” or “CPU Multiplier”. This will allow you to change the multiplier and increase your clock speed. Start with a slight increase from base speed, then repeat.
- Stress test! You’ll want to run your stress testing software to see if your computer is performing well. Opening Real Temp will help ensure that your hardware doesn’t overheat, while CPU-Z will allow you to verify that the settings are correct.
- Repeat the process. Continue until you see an error message in your stress test or your computer crashes. This indicates that the voltage is not high enough.
- Adjust your tension upwards. You’re going to have to keep doing this until it’s no longer safe. Your voltage can be found in the BIOS under a menu usually labeled “VCore” or “CPU Core.” In both cases, the goal is to increase the voltage until it can support the CPU multiplier increase.
- Alternate between increasing the voltage and increasing the CPU multiplier. Once the voltage levels are just outside the dangerous levels, you will have the setup that works best for you. You’ll want to reboot one last time to do some stress testing.
- Test, test, test! Just because you’ve found the setup that seems right for you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take all the necessary precautions. Ideally, you’ll want to run as many different types of stress testing software as possible. No platform is perfect, and getting multiple reviews will help ensure that your computer doesn’t overheat at the wrong time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is overclocking your CPU safe?
Overclocking was once considered a dangerous process, but now there are a number of tools that can help you with this process. As long as you’re careful, you don’t have to worry about an overclocked CPU wreaking havoc on your hardware.
Why would I want to overclock my CPU?
Mainly for games. People who only use their computer for day-to-day tasks like browsing the Internet or streaming video won’t really benefit from overclocking, but gamers and others who use resource-intensive applications may see their performance increase significantly.
How much can I overclock my CPU?
It depends on your computer’s processor speed and hardware. Most CPUs can comfortably sustain a 10-15% increase in performance, but you can get more or less depending on your computer’s specs.
How do I overclock my CPU in the BIOS?
Overclocking in the BIOS is largely a matter of trial and error: experimenting with different configurations until you find the one that’s right for you. But you can find ways to make the process easier. Our guide above goes into detail.
If you’re looking to overclock a CPU for the first time, our guide is a great place to start, but those looking to get the most power out of their computer might want to dig deeper. We have a variety of different guides that can help you optimize your gaming PC, and you can also check out our guides to some of the most important hardware for gaming rigs so you can build your own PC with confidence. from scratch or upgrade your existing hardware.