Considering overclocking your GPU? Not sure where to start? In this guide, we go over what overclocking is, why you might want to do it, and how you can overclock your GPU.
Overclocking is a way of extracting more performance out of your computer’s hardware. It’s a useful way to get a performance boost for some and an obsession for others. Wherever you sit on the spectrum, though, the process of overclocking your GPU is relatively straightforward. In fact, in overclocking, more work comes in the preparation and monitoring than the task itself.
If you are considering overclocking your graphics card, in this guide, we’ll show you how to do so.
What is GPU Overclocking?
A GPU (or Graphics Processing Unit) is a common term for your graphics card. A GPU, however, is actually the core graphics processor on the graphics card.
Like your computer’s processor, the GPU can only operate at specific speeds as set by the manufacturer. But, while a manufacturer may set their GPU to operate within a certain range of speeds, the reality is that the GPU CAN go beyond those set ranges of speeds. And, for consumers to get their GPU to perform beyond the manufacturer’s set speeds, they will need to overclock it.
Overclocking pushes the stock clock (speed) set by the manufacturer to higher levels. Typically, overclocking is done in small increments to avoid overstressing it. And, if done correctly, you can get a decent bump in performance as a result.
There are GPU overclocking tools that do the hard work for you by overwriting the manufacturer’s performance settings. This makes the overclocking part of the process very simple. As we mentioned above, though, what takes the most time in overclocking is the preparation and the monitoring.
Why Overclock Your GPU?
As newer generations of games with better graphics are released, more graphics processing power is needed to run them properly. As a graphics card ages, it won’t perform as well in newer titles as it did when it was brand new. However, overclocking can help with that.
Overclocking doesn’t utilize new technologies to improve in-game performance, but it will force your current card to work faster to help get better performance in those newer games.
And, given how expensive graphics cards are, many users find it beneficial to overclock their existing GPUs. That way, they can put off having to drop a lot of money to upgrade to a new graphics card.
Also, if you’ve built a new computer or purchased a new graphics card, overclocking it is an easy way to get even more performance out of it.
The Preparation Phase of GPU Overclocking
As we mentioned above, more work goes into preparing your GPU for overclocking than does actually overclocking it.
Overclocking forces your GPU to work harder, which, in turn, will make it operate at higher temperatures. So, before you get into overclocking, you need to make sure your system can handle the extra heat.
- If your computer is dirty, clean it out.
- Ensure that you’re maximizing airflow through your case with proper fan configuration.
- Download a temperature monitoring program so you can track your GPU’s temperatures. Speccy and GPU-Z are good options.
Once you’ve cleaned out your system and ensured you’re getting proper airflow through your case, you can begin overclocking your GPU.
Overclocking Your GPU
After all that preparation, the actual overclocking is straightforward. You can use software to do all of the hard work. The two most popular GPU overclocking programs are MSI Afterburner and EVGA Precision X1. Both work on NVIDIA cards, and MSI Afterburner also works with AMD graphics cards. For this tutorial, we’ll use MSI Afterburner—although, the process is similar to other overclocking tools.
It’s also a good idea to use a benchmarking tool so that you can gauge much performance your card is getting after overclocking it. You can use Unreal Engine’s Heaven benchmark. You can also use the benchmark features provided in certain games (like GTA V or Middle Earth: Shadow of War).
- Download and install your overclocking program of choice.
- Download and install Unreal Engine’s Heaven benchmark or another benchmarking tool.
- Run a benchmark on your stock system and record the results.
- Open MSI Afterburner and familiarize yourself with the layout.
- Increase the Core Clock by 5% of stock using the slider in the center.
- Increase the Memory Clock setting by 10% using the slider.
- Run a game or benchmark tool to ensure the card remains stable.
If everything looks fine, repeat Steps 5 – 7 until either your graphics card crashes, you start having problems while running the benchmark tool, or you’re happy with the performance gains.
If your system starts having problems, you can roll back to the previous overclock and keep it there.
Keep Monitoring Your System’s Performance
It’s important to monitor your GPU’s temperatures before, during, and after overclocking and benchmarking.
NVIDIA cards are usually safe up to 85°C when under full load. AMD cards are similar but can have a wider variation in temperature.
If your card is running too hot, either increase the fan speed in MSI Afterburner, dial back the overclock a bit, or invest in better cooling.
Should You Overclock Your GPU?
It’s important to note that, while overclocking will give you a boost in performance, it will also lower its lifespan. If you’re someone that upgrades your components frequently, or you have an older GPU that you’re trying to squeeze more performance out of, overclocking is a great idea.
If you’ve got a mid-range-to-higher-end card, though, and you need it to last you for the foreseeable future, it might not be a bad idea to hold off on overclocking for now.
In any case, overclocking your GPU is a quick way to get an in-game performance boost. And, this guide will walk you through how to do it.