Above: Jarred explains the basics of overclocking.
Overclocking is not difficult. At least it’s not as difficult as it used to be, and it’s not as mysterious as some corners of the Internet make you believe. You may not even need to open your box. Chances are you already have everything you need to dabble in the dark arts and get more Hertz from your gaming equipment. If you are lucky, you may be able to squeeze out enough performance to avoid upgrading for a few months.
Having said that, it is worth mentioning that the shipments of the latest generation chips from AMD and Intel are very close to their limits, and you rarely get anything from them. You can follow the steps listed below, but it is likely that your game has not improved in any way. But going back a few generations, things are much easier, there are several frequencies around 100MHz on the table waiting to be unlocked.
No need to introduce courses? Jump to one of our step-by-step guides:
What is overclocking
Desktop processor performance is defined in two ways: design efficiency and clock speed. Design efficiency describes the amount of work that the processor may complete during any given clock tick, and since this is derived from the architecture itself, the only way to change it is to upgrade to a newer, more efficient CPU design.
This is the second factor, the clock speed—the rate at which the CPU executes instructions, measured in MHz and GHz—overclocking enthusiasts are very interested, because you can often adjust it beyond the out-of-the-box speed. In games where the CPU rather than the graphics card is the bottleneck, a faster CPU clock speed can translate into a faster frame rate.
Although this introduction focuses on CPU overclocking, you can also overclock some graphics cards. For instructions on this, please go to our GPU overclocking guide. If you need, here is our guide to the best gaming CPU.
What are the risks of overclocking?
Increasing the clock speed and voltage of the CPU will increase the amount of heat it generates. Generally, you want to keep the overclocked CPU below 85°C and keep the temperature as low as possible. For this, you need a good cooling solution: a high-quality air cooler for basic overclocking or a liquid cooler for the best results.
Letting your CPU run too hot will cause it to limit its clock speed to cool it down, destroying the true meaning of overclocking. If left unchecked, it can also cause damage. However, don’t let it scare you. Monitoring the CPU temperature is easy, and if you are methodical and run the necessary tests, then you and your processor will be fine. In other words, overclocking is obviously more risky than not doing anything, so be careful.
What do I need to overclock?
CPUs and motherboards that support overclocking: For Intel CPU, look for the “K” logo and use a motherboard with a “Z” chipset. For example, you can use the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra motherboard to overclock the Intel Core i7 9700K. If you are not sure, please check your hardware specifications. Intel’s X-series CPUs and chipsets also support overclocking (for example, i9-7900X and X299).
Please note that “Intel Turbo Boost” will dynamically increase the clock speed, but this does not necessarily mean that the processor has been unlocked for manual overclocking, so don’t be confused by the “Turbo Speed” in the processor specifications.
All AMD Ryzen The CPU is unlocked for overclocking.
High-quality CPU cooler: As mentioned earlier, you want to keep the CPU temperature below 85°C, so please use a high-quality air cooler or liquid cooling solution, and ensure that the thermal paste is applied correctly. If you have experienced heat dissipation issues before overclocking, please consider removing your cooler, scraping off the old paste, and reapplying. For more information on installing the CPU cooler, please refer to our PC assembly guide.
Although the system clock speeds are represented by a single number, they are the result of multiple interlocking systems operating at different speeds and are derived by simple multiplication of several key system settings.
Core speed value, or Basic clock, Any architecture is almost always set at a trivial 100 MHz. However, don’t let this fool you, because this number is only part of the formula that provides different speeds for various subsystems with unique speed requirements, such as storage, PCIe slots, and memory.
Although the basic clock of the system can be adjusted upwards for better performance, this is not the starting point for overclocking the PC. Many motherboard components and add-on cards that rely on the base clock are not particularly tolerant of adjustments, become unstable after a small increase, and long before the unlocked processor reaches its full potential. Intel has also locked BCLK support in its modern CPUs, so in most cases, anything beyond a few MHz will not work.
First increase the CPU multiplier or ratio. The multiplier or ratio is a number, usually about 30x-50x on modern processors, and is applied to the base clock to determine the maximum processor speed. For example, a 100Mhz base clock with a 43x multiplier means that your operating frequency is 4,300MHz or 4.3GHz. This number is used only by the processor, so it will not affect other parts of the system that depend on the basic clock from stock or close to stock to run.
By gradually increasing the ratio from the default value to between 40x-50x, you can discover the full potential of the unlocked CPU, resulting in overclocking speeds of 4 to 5 GHz. Since the multiplier adjustment isolates the overclocking from the processor, it can provide a higher speed than the base clock with minimal troubleshooting.
The basic technique is to slightly increase the multiplier at a time (usually in 1x increments), and then run a stress test benchmark (as in Aida 64) every time. Do this until the system becomes unstable, or until the temperature becomes too high. At this point, relax one or two levels until your system is stable again and you have found the basic maximum overclocking of the CPU. Every CPU is different, so there is no one number to choose from for all speeds.
How to change the clock multiplier?
You can use Intel’s overclocking Extreme tuning tool Or AMD Ryzen Master, And these two tools have appeared a lot recently. Nevertheless, we prefer a more direct method. The BIOS is responsible for starting your PC, and this is where we adjust the clock multiplier (and other settings for more advanced overclocking). You can access the BIOS settings during the PC startup process, usually by pressing F2 or Del.
Don’t be afraid: if there is a problem with your BIOS settings and your PC cannot start, you can physically reset the motherboard. For instructions, refer to its documentation, but you usually need to use the clear CMOS jumper or button, or remove the CMOS battery for a few minutes when the system is turned off.
Although most of the performance improvement of CPU overclocking can be achieved by this simple initial multiplier adjustment, advanced overclockers usually go a step further and adjust the voltage to 1.35-1.4V, and may even adjust the basic clock to squeeze out every potential point. The performance and the bragging rights of maximizing benchmarks.
You can learn more about these basic clock and voltage boosting techniques in our Intel CPU overclocking guide, AMD CPU overclocking guide and GPU overclocking guide.