What is overclocking? Can it damage my components? Do I need to pay anything extra for it? All good questions that are commonly asked by those who are new to overclocking. Let’s find the answers, shall we?
What is Overclocking?
The cores of your processor and graphics card work in frequencies that we measure in Hz. 1GHz means that your CPU can make a billion calculations per second, 2GHz means that it can do two, you get the point.
So, the higher the frequency that your CPU or GPU offers, the more performance that you’ll get out of them. However, do keep in mind that this only applies when we’re talking about the same models.
You can’t compare two different CPUs and judge how fast they are solely by their frequency because they are built differently. Core VS Core, a Pentium 4 CPU at 3.5GHz will always be several times slower than a Core i5 at the same frequency or even at a much lower one.
But, if you get two identical i5 processors with one of them offering a higher clock/frequency, then that one is definitely going to be faster than its sibling which offers a lower frequency. Easy enough to understand, right?
That being said, processors ship with a specific range of core speeds that they can achieve out of the box without you touching anything. Some of them can be modified to reach higher speeds – and that’s when overclocking comes in.
Overclocking is when the user raises the CPU or GPU core frequencies in order to gain higher levels of performance. But, how can you do that? When? And is it safe?
Can I Overclock? How?
When it comes to processors, Intel and AMD are the only ones who can create them for traditional desktops or laptops. And when it comes to overclocking, the situation is a bit different for each team.
Those of you who own an AMD Ryzen processor can all overclock your processor – no strings attached. Intel users, however, need to own a K series processor and a Z motherboard. If you don’t, your CPU’s core clock will be locked and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
As for how to overclock your CPU, in most cases, you need to reboot into your BIOS settings, start raising the CPU frequency and/or voltage little by little, reboot, stress test, and stop when you see that the PC is crashing. NEVER raise the frequency by more than 50 or 100Hz at once and never raise the voltage abruptly. More on that later.
Now, for graphics cards, almost all GPUs can be overclocked by using something like MSI Afterburner. Thankfully, you don’t need to keep on rebooting for this one to work.
All you have to do is launch the app, start raising the core frequency little by little, benchmark, and keep on going with this process until your games/benchmarks start crashing. A GPU crash can differ from model to model. Some of them just throw you out of the game while others completely crash the whole system.
Can Overclocking Harm My Computer?
Every time that I’m asked, “What is overclocking?”, the next question that almost always comes after is if this is dangerous. The answer? Kinda. Mostly if you don’t know what you’re doing.
When it comes to overclocking, there are primarily three things that can kill your CPU, GPU, or even motherboard:
- Bad motherboard VRM
First of all, let’s start with heat. Making your components work faster, regardless of if you’re pushing more voltage into them or not, will make them heat up more than before.
So, while overclocking, always start with frequency only and move with small steps every single time to while monitoring temperatures to ensure that you’re fine. Most chips can go up to 95C before shutting down. But, the cooler that you can go, the better. I personally prefer staying under 70C at all time. Though technically speaking, anything up to 80-83C is generally considered “perfectly safe”.
Voltage and VRMs
After that comes voltage. And voltage can definitely shorten the lifespan of your components – depending on how much you’re pushing into them.
This is a highly controversial topic. But, most people agree that:
- 1.3V core voltage is the safe level for 24/7 operation
- 1.4V up to 1.45V is still relatively safe but may slightly degrade the lifespan of the CPU
- And anything above that is getting dangerous and will definitely have an impact on the lifespan of the processor
Note: Do keep in mind that the safe levels differ from CPU to CPU.
Then you also have VRMs (Voltage Regulator Modules). Those are the tiny things that you see around the CPU on your motherboard and they are responsible for providing stable voltage to the processor. If those are crappy, then they may not be able to handle overclocking which can lead to crashes, slowdowns, or even motherboard/CPU failures.
That being said, AMD users may be the only ones who have to worry about it since their chips are overlocked regardless of which motherboard you use. While Intel, on the other hand, only allows you to overclock on specific motherboards that meet the requirements for overclocking.
Summary: If you know what you’re doing, then overclocking is relatively safe. But, it still poses a few dangers. While we’re on this subject, let us not forget to mention that overclocking is NOT recommended for professionals. You don’t want your PC crashing while you’re working on something and losing all progress.
Does Overclocking Cost Me Anything?
Technically speaking, overclocking is free performance. Practically speaking, it costs you so much that you may as well spend that money on a better CPU in the first place.
See, as mentioned above, one of the things that can damage your components while overclocking is heat. And in order to keep everything cool, you need to spend money on cooling solutions like:
- A 3rd party CPU cooler
- Good case fans
- Maybe even a new case that’s focused on cooling
Not to mention that overclocking is a time-consuming process and you know what they say: “Time is money”. For all the time and money that you spend on overclocking, you may as well save your money, spend your time working, and get a Ryzen 7 instead of a Ryzen 5 which will deliver much better performance without you having to worry about damaging the chip.
So, if things are like that, then why is it that so many people love overclocking? Well, first of all, it’s situational. Maybe you already have your CPU for a few years now and you’re trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of it without buying a new chip or something.
Other than that, it’s also a hobby. Some people just love doing this stuff not so much for the performance that they are getting, but because it’s fun.
Questions that were answered today:
- What is overclocking?
- Is it harmful?
- Does it cost me anything?
If you’ve got any more questions, then let us and everyone else know about them in the comments section down below! The WTLS team will try to get back to you as soon as possible along with the rest of our community.