Overclocking refers to increasing the performance of existing graphics cards without spending any money on new GPU models. But before we dig deeper into this topic, let’s analyze when we need to overclock the GPU. The simple answer to these questions lies in the current performance of your PC.
If there are lags in the PC when playing your favorite games or rendering graphics taking more time, then upgrade your GPU. But upgrading costs a whole lot of money, which is a limiting factor for many users. Overclocking is the solution in this case if you are not willing to spend lots of bucks on a new upgrade. In this article, we will show you how to overclock the GPU.
What is GPU overclocking?
First of all, you need to understand what is clock speed and its link with GPU performance. To understand this, take an example of a CPU that has a fixed speed on which it works. For making things more clear for beginners to take an example of a car engine with a fixed horsepower that defines the car’s performance.
The same is the case with the graphics card; it works on a limited speed called clock speed. The more the clock speed of a GPU, the more will be the performance. Overclocking increases the graphics card’s clock speed and performance, unlock the GPU’s hidden potential, and helps run the games and multimedia faster. Overclocking is now supported by manufacturing companies and can be done by just software, but we will discuss that later in the article.
Do You Need Overclocking the GPU?
GPU overclocking is similar to CPU overclocking. It includes lots of testing, repeating the procedure till optimum performance, and monitoring the process to get the desired clock speed.
Although overclocking is somewhat time-consuming, it is worth investing time rather than spending huge money on the latest GPU. Overclocking gives improved frame rates and smoother gameplay. Overall the overclocking process is not that complicated. It requires only time and patience to manage things and follow instructions to achieve the desired results.
If you are concerned and have doubts in mind that “Whether I should overclock the GPU?” or “Does overclocking the GPU increase the gaming experience?” To answer these queries, imagine that you are playing a first-person shooter competitive game online. Suddenly you got a lag, and it’s over for you as enemies were ahead of you in speed. That is the moment when you begged for an extra moment that would produce different results. But lags took that from you.
Things work differently for you with overclocked GPU as there are no lags, and you are ahead of your enemy in terms of no lags. This performance boost makes the difference and raises a desire to have an overclocked GPU for maximum performance out of your old graphics card.
But there are downsides of overclocking, which we will discuss later in the article. These include increased temperature and the effect on the lifespan of the GPU. But these issues are not of concern when gaming is at stake?.
Choosing the Overclocking Software
There are several overclocking software solutions available in the market. All these software are good for doing the job done. There was 3rd party clocking software in the past, and companies usually were not making their own software. These days every manufacture of GPU have their overclocking software. We are listing some of the popular software that will help you do your job successfully.
Since this software for NVIDIA only works for NVIDIA cards, other card users can skip this detail. NVIDIA Inspector gives live hardware information about the card monitor for its overclocking variables (fans speed, clock speed, and temperature). It increases the GPU speed, fan speeds, and operating voltage of the GPU, which in simple terms is known as overclocking. It is an efficient tool that monitors and sets the parameters required for overclocking.
If you are looking for software that gets your job done while keeping your involvement to a minimum level, then EVGA Precision X is perfect for you. There are lots of customizations that are possible with this handy software. It allows up to 10 custom profiles. These profiles are handy for keeping individual customizations and settings for GPU, clock speed, memory, and other options. The software is developed by keeping in mind the customizations and overclocking needs. But there is a downside for this free utility that only supports NVIDIA cards, just like the NVIDIA Inspector tool.
This handy utility supports AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards. It is an excellent utility for experienced as well as newbies. A lot of customization is offered, including increased fan speed, memory clock, and GPU adjustment, like voltage tweaking. The interface is straightforward to use and has handy hardware monitors. Because of its variety of customizations, it is popular software for overclocking graphics cards.
It is another excellent software but is limited to the ASUS graphics cards only. Aside from that, there are no such limitations regarding its overclocking and hardware boosts. Other software we mentioned here only supports GPU overclocking, but this handy utility also provides CPU overclocking.
There are separate profiles to choose from while doing the OC. For the newbies, already customized profiles have preset all the levels for fans, memory, GPU, and clock speed. This utility’s considerable advantage is the silent mode that gives increased video and music play performance. It also can turn off additional services like Windows Visual Effect that lift the GPU’s extra load.
Overdrive is a fantastic tool for AMD-based systems. Just like ASUS GPU Tweak II, it offers more than just GPU overclocking. With this program’s help, fan speed and RAM speed are also monitored, and we can change them accordingly. AMD kept ease of use in mind while developing this utility so that newbies can also use it.
It has a built-in system monitor that monitors the vitals and gives recommendations based on those values. Unfortunately, this tool is no longer officially supported or available for download by AMD. So, consider upgrading to an AMD Ryzen™ Processor for overclocking* via AMD Ryzen™ Master.
It is not a quite useful utility, as we mentioned above. But for some people, 3DMark is enough for getting hardware information for overclocking. It is a benchmarking tool that tests the graphics card’s stability and performance and generates the report.
GPU-Z is an excellent free utility that gives exact stats of hardware. It is best for the overclocking enthusiast and provides insight into overall system vitals, including the graphics card, CPU, temperature, fan speed, and clock speed. It supports Intel, NVIDIA, AMD, ATI, and ASUS graphics cards. No matter what system or graphics card you are using, it works seamlessly with every manufacturer.
It facilitates the GPU overclocking by benchmarking and testing the performance of the GPU. Live stats about the hardware helps to monitor and tweak the overclocking.
Things you need to overclock your GPU
Overclocking is very easy to do and also cost-effective as compared to purchasing a new graphics card. You only need some patience and the right knowledge to overclock any GPU. Before doing anything, make sure that your PC is good for doing it and sustain its ground with the overclocked GPU. As we already mentioned, the tool required to overclock the GPU the remaining task is “How to implement them.” Let’s dig into this.
1. An overclocking tool
Many tools are available in the market that helps to do overclocking in the right way. For example, MSI Afterburner is a very easy-to-use utility. It provides all information about the existing system vitals. After overclocking, observe the stats again and overclock according to the required level. There is a beta program channel for this utility on its official website. The purpose of the beta channels is to add support for new architecture like NVIDIA Turning Architecture.
2. A Stress-test/Benchmark Utility
A stress test diagnoses the potential of the GPU to overclocking. As overclocking increases the stress on the PC by maximizing its potential in this situation, stress utility is excellent for testing the potential and consequences. While benchmarking during the stress test helps to monitors the live stat. We recommend two utilities for this purpose:
Furmark: It pushes the graphics card to its limit for testing in the stress test.
3DMark: It is classic benchmarking software that gives real-time benchmark progress and checks the PC components’ potential.
3. A Little patience – bigger reward
Overclocking itself is not difficult, but it is challenging to find the perfect blend of performance, compatibility, temperature, and endurance. You may end up overclocking the PC in a few minutes, but you may need more time to find the system’s stability.
For instance, you have achieved perfect overclocking according to your gaming needs. But suddenly game crashes during the test run. You have to reanalyze the values and tune the overclocking to a slightly lower level for getting a sustainable performance.
Is Overclocking the GPU Safe?
The old days of overclocking were not as good as the current situation. You may end up in your system in flames in your past for doing wrong overclocking.
Nowadays, it’s safe to overclock the graphics cards without fear of burning your build into the flames. However, the worst situation that may happen with graphics cards, is freezes, crashes, or black screens. They are easy to fix by lowering the overclock values and getting back to a normal state.
Some theories explain that overclocked GPU has less lifespan. Because pushing graphics cards beyond their limit and getting maximum performance from them can deteriorate their lifespan. But from observing users’ experiences, we get a clear indication that GPU sustains their health even one year after overclock.
Then comes the most important question, and that is
How to Overclock your GPU
We will be using MSI Afterburner to overclock the GPU as we have recommended earlier in this article. Download MSI Afterburner from the official website and install it. After the installation, launch the program. The program’s dashboard displays the GPU clock (current clock) and Mem clock (memory). There is a temperature value on the right side of the dashboard. These values are different from PC to PC.
Make sure that the mean value for the temperature doesn’t rise above 90°C. There are other settings available in the dashboard to customize the interface and values. Besides, the sliders in the dashboard let you control the overclocking. They include:
Core Voltage: This is the voltage level that passes to the graphics cards. It is available for older cards, but for new cards, this is not available.
Power Level: The power level slider helps the graphics card to get more power from the PSU (power supply unit). Changing the default power level affects the output and increases the temperature. For example, if a graphics card takes 200 watts as the default temperature, increasing its value to 120% can get you 240 watts.
Core Clock: Playing around with the core clock is normal when optimizing overclocked GPU in a PC. This slider lets you control clock speed.
Memory Clock: This slider controls GPU memory values and works the same way as core clock sliders.
Step 1 – Benchmark your current settings
Benchmarking gives an overview of your system vitals such as memory, clock speed, temperature, frame per second, and performance. Get any benchmarking tool for this purpose, but our recommendation is 3DMark and Furmark. Note the results down or take screenshots for the comparison with the overclocked values.
Step 2 – Overclock the GPU
Our advice is to start slowly and raise the core clock by 5%. At this level, watch for any crashes, glitches, lags, or shutdowns. Increasing values to this level doesn’t improve much performance. Check for the stability issues and keep this level initially to monitor any potential problems in the GPU performance.
Step 3 – Overclock the memory
Overclocking the memory is as important as clocking the GPU. First, try 10% overclock, which roughly is a 50-100 MHz boost. Watch for stable performance at this level. At this level, there should be no crasher or low performance. If there are any crashes in games at this level, the hardware is probably not compatible with the overclock.
Step 4 – Fine-tune the settings
In this step, play around with the different settings is done to ensure stable performance. Increase the clock speed of GPU to about 10 MHz and test the performance at this level. Watch for stability and increase up to 10 MHz if there is no issue. Keep increasing the levels again and again. Do a benchmark or stress test using 3DMark or Furmark.
Run a game for a few hours to test the stress endurance and check for any lags and performance improvements. Keep increasing the level until Windows might freeze or restart. This level is the limit for the GPU clock speed. Keep 10-20 MHZ below this value for stable performance because keeping the value near the crash point will crash the system a few hours in gameplay.
Finding perfect value during fine-tuning is the user’s responsibility. That suits the gaming needs without crashes and high temperatures. The main thing is to keep the clock speed 30 MHz less to the crashing point for getting the maximum out of your graphics card; after getting satisfied with the core clock’s stability, repeat the same process with the memory clock. Gradually keep increasing the value of the memory clock and watch for the stable value.
Step 5 – Increase the Power limit
Once you achieve the target overclock, it’s up to you to stay there or get to an extra level by increasing the power and temperature limit. MSI Afterburner shows real-time temperature and voltage. Start your favorite game and check the sound of fans and the temperature of the core. Then increase the temperature and power limit.
Again run the same game, and there is a significant difference in the power limit and temperature with more performance. Do this step in overclocking will precautions as increases more than required values disturb the whole process.
Step 6- Fine Tune and test (again)
As we have unlocked more power by increasing the power and temperature limit, it’s time to get back to the 10MHz trick. Usually, the best graphics cards go past their previous crash point after this process. Now again, it’s time to fine-tune it’s for performance by locating the crash point.
Once you get the stable clock, test your overclock with the benchmark software. Use Furmark or 3Dmark for benchmark purposes. Test the performance and note the stats and compare them to stats we have saved before doing overclocking. There is a massive boost in performance as well as actual gameplay.
Does GPU overclocking make a difference?
Our answer to this question is yes, and no at the same time. You might be wondering about the answer if you are already playing games at 60 fps and overclock the GPU to 70 fps. Chances are there that you won’t find a difference between the performance of overclocking and before overclock.
Overclocking makes a real difference when you are playing games at 40 or 50 fps, and then after overclocking, it gets to 60 fps. So, in this case, overclocking does not always make a visual impact.
Overclocking also smoothens the gameplay at higher resolutions as higher resolution demands more power and resources of the graphics cards. Even top-notch gaming cards have difficulty running Far Cry 5 at 25 fps and 6K resolutions. Overclocking enables them to run 6K at 45 fps that is a huge improvement.
Except for the new NVIDIA 30-series especially RTX 3070, 3080, and 3090 GPUs, which are capable of playing up to 8K without overclocking. So overclocking makes a significant difference when it comes to screen resolution.
Guidelines for Overclocking GPU:
Following proper guidelines for overclocking always gives good results, but if you don’t follow them properly, it will end up in crashes and reboots.
So we have listed a few things which you should consider when doing overclocking.
- Don’t auto-overclock: Do not put GPU to auto overclock all the time. Instead, use overclocking when needed as it put stress on the GPU. Our personal experience is to use the overclocking profile only in demanding games and applications, for profiles use MSI Afterburners profile system. Assign a number or specific letter to the profile for use later when playing the game.
- Avoid Overheating: The ideally overclocked system requires proper cooling. Air cooling or water-based custom coolers are best to use with the overclocked GPUs. Keep an eye on the GPU temperature and monitor for any increase beyond excessive temperature. See the optimum temperature for GPU while gaming.
- Sometimes it is better to invest in a good GPU than to overclock: This is true for an outdated graphics card, and even overclocking is not a solution to increase its performance. Overclocking it is a waste of time, and if overclocking it to 10-20% does not improve gamely, it’s time to upgrade to a better card. if you are looking for investing in the new card, don’t forget to see the list of recently released best RTX 3080 and RTX 3090 graphics cards.
Can’t I just google the overclock numbers for my graphics card and skip all that?
You can use the same numbers for a graphics card, but there is a technical problem related to this issue. As we know that hundreds of people use GPU with the same specs and quality, but they still differ in their overclock numbers. This difference in numbers is a manufacturing difference that all of the users face.
All the GPUs look identical, but they are somehow different at the microscopic level. Means they function the same but have a performance difference of few figure. This phenomenon is called the chip lottery and mostly happens due to the difference in material quality and some minor manufacturing details.
Can’t I just buy a factory overclocked card?
There are several vendors like MSI, EVGA, and Gigabyte that are providing overclocked cards. They are NVIDIA or AMD chips but have different power supplies, cooling, boards, and transistors. For example, a GeForce 1080 Ti is available from NVIDIA, AMD, EVGA, MSI, and Gigabyte. (Besides, for factory overclocked GPUs, see the list of best RTX 2060, 2070 Super, and RTX 2080 Super). They share the same chip but different cooling and power supplies.
Overclocked GPUs usually are 10-20% factory overclocked. Further overclocking results in minor improvements and won’t add to 20-30% more juice. The higher they can go to is 15% because the manufacturing company already overclocks them.
Can We Overclock a Laptop?
Overclocking is not just limited to the PC graphics card. Laptops these days are coming with mobile GPUs. They are limited in performance and focus on power saving. Overclocking then mobile GPUs in laptops helps them to improve rendering performance and frame rate.
There is a downside to laptop GPU overclocking. Overclocked GPUs release more heat and require proper ventilation and cooling system that lacks laptops due to a compact body. So, overclocking the laptop’s GPUs results in overheating and more power consumption to drain the battery real fast.
That’s is all about the overclocking, its scope, effects, and mistakes during the process. We hope you get a good read, and the information in the article is useful enough to help you achieve overclocking in just a few minutes. Feel free to contact us in the comment section in case of any confusion during overclocking.