Stuck with a 60Hz refresh rate monitor? Want a boost? In this guide, we show you how to overclock your monitor so that you can get a small bump in your refresh rate.
Gamers and computer enthusiasts are well-versed in overclocking. We know all about overclocking graphics cards, processors, and RAM, but did you know you can also overclock your monitor?
Monitor overclocking may only provide marginal gains, but if there is an edge to be had, why not take it? It’s free, mostly-safe, and fairly simple to do.
What is Monitor Overclocking?
If you’re familiar with the general concept of overclocking—the process of tweaking a component’s stock speeds, clocks, or performance— you’re already familiar with monitor overclocking. It’s the same principle, but in monitor overclocking, you’re trying to increase your monitor’s refresh rate.
Most component manufacturers build in a degree of tolerance into their products. This tolerance level makes it so that the component can deliver acceptable performance without putting the device under stress. The theory is that unstressed components last longer. They should perform at their baseline with minimal deviation for the longest amount of time. The result is (hopefully) reduced mechanical failure and improved reliability—two things manufacturers depend upon.
Overlocking pushes components a little harder in the knowledge that we can usually get more performance out of that component without risking it too much. In the case of overclocking a computer monitor, we manually increase the stock refresh rate to dig into that tolerance a little to make it work harder and faster for our benefit.
Why Overclock Your Monitor?
The short answer is we overclock because we can. The longer answer is, we do it because monitor overclocking can give us a higher refresh rate, which improves our in-game experience. Why pay extra for a monitor with a higher refresh rate if you can squeeze out a little more performance from the one you have?
Refresh rates are measured in Hertz (Hz). The higher the Hz, the faster the refresh. One Hertz means the screen is refreshed once per second. A 100Hz screen refreshes 100 times per second. A 144Hz screen refreshes 144 times per second. With so much going on within the average game, it should be clear why having a faster refresh rate can benefit gamers.
Monitor overclocking does not improve the graphics quality of a game. It marginally improves the fluidity of the game. A higher refresh rate means a smoother in-game experience. In turn, a smoother in-game experience can help competitive gamers gain an edge over their opponents. And, it can also give visually-driven games a more lifelike feel.
Before You Overclock Your Monitor…
Before you begin overlocking your monitor, you should first bear a couple of things in mind.
- Some monitors are already overclocked and won’t respond well to more overclocking. Check the make and model of your monitor beforehand to make sure you’re not going to overstress it.
- Overclocking is inherently risky. While monitor overlocking is mostly safe, strange things can happen when you overclock. Overclocking any component is done entirely at your own risk!
- Test after every change. Increasing the refresh rate too much can cause frame skipping, artifacts, or a blank screen. If this happens, reboot into Windows Safe Mode and reset the refresh rate or reduce the refresh rate in CRU.
How to Overclock Your Monitor
Now that we have covered the what and why, it’s time to get to the how. The actual process of overclocking is done through software. As monitors don’t have their own processors, we use a utility to tell the monitor what to do and how to do it. Fortunately, the hard work has been done for us with the Custom Resolution Utility (CRU) software developed by ToastyX.
CRU enables us to program our monitor with custom refresh rates and override the stock rates programmed by the manufacturer. It works on both Nvidia and AMD GPUs.
Here’s how to overclock your monitor:
- Download and install the Custom Resolution Utility from the developer website.
- Launch CRU from the executable.
- Select the monitor you want to overclock from the top dropdown box in CRU. (This is only relevant if you have multiple monitors.)
- Select the resolution you’re running in the Detailed Resolutions box and note the Range Limit of your display. Then select Edit underneath.
- Select Refresh Rate under Frequency and change it to a higher rate. Make sure the rate is within the limit you just noted.
- Select OK to commit the change.
- Select the Restart executable that downloaded with CRU. This will reboot your computer. Use Restart for 32-bit systems and x64 for 64-bit.
- Once rebooted, right-click the desktop and select either your AMD Catalyst Software Suite or Nvidia Control Panel and set the monitor refresh to the same value you set in CRU.
- Test your new refresh rate both in-game and out-of-game to make sure your monitor is stable and no artifacts appear.
You don’t have to use CRU, however. You could use EVGA Precision for NVIDIA-powered monitors or use AMD Radeon drivers to create a custom refresh rate. CRU just makes overclocking a monitor a bit easier—but is by no means the only way to get the job done.
Is Overclocking Your Monitor Worth It?
Ultimately, overclocking your monitor won’t provide as big of a benefit as will overclocking other components. And, if you have the budget to purchase a high refresh rate monitor (ideally, a FreeSync or G-Sync display), that would be the better route to go.
But, if you currently have a cheap 1080P monitor with a 60Hz refresh rate and you can’t afford to bump up to a 144Hz display (or, even a 240Hz display), overclocking your existing monitor will your in-game experience a small boost.