Have you recently acquired a high-end GPU and want to ensure that you get the maximum performance out of it? Welcome to the wonderful world of overclocking!
Using overclocking, you can ensure that your expensive graphics card is used to its fullest potential. But how exactly can you start with GPU overclocking? Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a straightforward guide so that you can get started on GPU overclocking in no time!
So make sure your laptop is fully charged and stick with us and we cover how to overclock your GPU.
What is Overclocking?
When you purchase a GPU, like the famed Nvidia graphics cards, there is a natural clocking rate that the GPU runs at. At each tick of this clocking speed, the GPU fetches and completes actions for your device. This translates to creating output for the inputs you put in, like clicking with your mouse, updating the screen when you launch a game, etc.
And although each CPU and GPU comes with clock speeds set by the manufacturer, you increase it! This is called manual overclocking and people learn how to overclock GPU to achieve more cycles per second and generally make their laptop or computer more efficient.
This shouldn’t be done without any precautions, however, as overclocking your CPU or GPU can overheat your PC, increase fan speeds and noise, and do damage to your gaming PC in the long run. To see what level to overclock your GPU too, you need to stress test and employ the use of various tools.
Thankfully, there are a wide variety of excellent tools that you can use to ensure your PC is monitored while you’re overclocking it. While your Nvidia GPUs are being overclocked, there are plenty of ways to watch their current temperature, cycles per second, and many more useful statistics.
To compare if overclocking is even affecting your laptop, you’ll need to set a benchmark set of statistics for your graphics cards too. Here are two applications you’ll need to overclock your GPU properly.
One of the most praised tools for overclocking is MSI Afterburner. This tool is a free downloadable program that can track the many intricate elements of your PC while you’re going through the trial-and-error process of seeing what works for you.
Whether you have a low-power Lenovo or an Alienware Aurora, this GPU overclocking tool will work for you and is a necessity to overclock your graphics card. You can unlock voltage monitoring and voltage control, perfect for stress testing your PC.
Benchmark Testing Tool
Benchmarking or stress testing is another essential component of ensuring you’re overclocking properly – it tells you if you’re seeing an increase in performance or not. To overclock your graphics card, you need to find an appropriate tool.
We recommend 3DMark or Furmark for the best results, but we’ve written an entire article that covers the best performance testing tools for you to check out. Thankfully, you don’t need a degree in programming to be worth either of these tools.
With a benchmark testing tool, you can also see if you’re straining your PC and how much performance is being gained as you overclock your graphics card.
How to Overclock your GPU
Let’s hop right into it! The first thing you’ve going to want to do to overclock your GPU is to open up your overclocking tool, which will be MSI Afterburner for this article.
You’ll be met with a core clock interface that has useful stats about your graphics card like temperature, voltage, and frequency. There are a variety of sliders you can manipulate, like the voltage slider, to change and unlock voltage control that gets channeled into your GPU.
The power level determines how much wattage is pushed into your GPU, which you likely will need to do when you increase the number of cycles per second but keep in mind that this will likely increase the temperature of your device.
The core clock lets you set the clock rate of your GPU, which will increase the performance of your device. You need to adjust this along with the other settings to find the best setting for your GPU.
Finally, the memory clock is similar to your core clock but measures how much memory is being allocated to your GPU.
That’s the fundamental rundown of the interface, but keep in mind that not all PCs can be overclocked. Macbooks aren’t about to be overclocked, but there are other ways to optimize your Macbook for gaming.
Benchmark Your Settings
Before you make any direct changes to core voltage or your core clock, you’re going to want to set a benchmark of your PC’s settings and performance to compare it to. This will determine your current power limit or limits depending on what you’re using your PC for.
You also want to keep an eye on your GPU temperature at this stage, as anything over 90 degrees centigrade is considered to be too hot for your PC.
Overclock the GPU Chipset
Once you’ve made a note of the benchmark that your PC naturally sits at, you should begin the process of slowly increasing the clock speeds of your GPU. Start with the clock speed of your graphics card, raising it about 5% higher than it normally is.
Once you’ve increased it in this way, open up the program or game that you often play and see if there are any graphical errors while you do so.
Overclock the GPU memory
But the GPU isn’t the only thing you should be overclocking, as the GPU memory is just as important to make your graphics run as smoothly as possible. To load intensive graphics, you need to allocate as much GPU memory as is necessary.
Start by increasing your memory overclock to 5 or 10%, which translates to 50 to 100 MHz above your benchmarked settings. Aim to not exceed this 10% increase, as it will likely lead to graphical errors and crashing.
Unfortunately, not all PCs were designed to be overclocked, so if you’re finding that your graphics card is prone to these errors then it may be best to quit before it does permanent damage.
Check your Benchmark & Adjust
After you’ve increased your GPU core and GPU memory clock speeds, you’ll want to check the changes against your benchmark and see where your temperature is and how many cycles per second you’re receiving per tick.
If you find that your temperature is increasing too quickly, your fan speed is working overtime or malfunctioning, or you’re experiencing visual and graphical glitches then you want to decrease your overclock to a more manageable and consistent point.
Your PC’s health should always be your top priority when it comes to overclocking your device, so increase in moderation and adjust to keep your PC crashes to an absolute minimum.
Repeat & Find the Ceiling
Once you’ve reached the temperature limit and power limit of your MSI Afterburner, you can either maintain the current level or increase the limits to see whether or not your PC can handle more.
We recommend that you overclock your graphics card past its limit if and only if you’ve noticed that its temperature and memory clock speeds are at a manageable level.
Risks of Overclocking your GPU
If you’re concerned about the risks that come with overclocking your GPU, then you’ll happy to know that you don’t have to worry too much about ruining your GPU or CPU. Manufacturers place failsafe into their devices to ensure that if it reaches a certain temperature they’ll be kept from destroying their components.
That being said, it’s always important to keep an eye on voltage and power limits and slowly increase your graphics card’s core frequency to avoid any crashing and graphical glitches. Too reckless and you will find these graphical problems so always increase your GPU clocks by 10% to start with.
Even if you safely overclock, there’s a likelihood of decreasing your GPUs natural lifespan through increased wear and tear but that’s the only downside of graphics card overclocking. Keep in mind that you’ll likely only receive a 10% – 20% increase even if you overclock efficiently, and some other devices like laptops and tablets may see a bigger boost.
Frequently Asked Questions
We often receive some questions again and again when it comes to overclocking your graphics card, so we’ve compiled all the common frequently asked questions together and answered them right here.
You may have been thinking of these questions as you were browsing through our article, so don’t hesitate to peruse and see if your answer lies below.
Is it OK to overclock your GPU?
Yeah, overclocking your GPU is okay to do! There’re no illegal implications to overclocking your graphics card and there are measures in place to ensure that your GPU and motherboard don’t fry themselves in your PC case.
You can even overclock your graphics card if you have a laptop or a tablet, although it’s most often done with PC rigs.
Does overclocking GPU increase FPS?
The main reason to overclock your graphics card is to increase your frames per second. If you’re working in media or plan on using your PC rig to play some of the latest games, then having the most FPS will be beneficial.
With overclocking, you can increase your frames by 10%, which could make the difference between having 60 frames per second or not.
How do I overclock my GPU without Afterburner?
Not a fan of MSI Afterburner? That’s okay – there are plenty of other tools you can utilize to get your GPU overclocked.
If you have an Nvidia GPU or an AMD GPU, then you can also use the overclocking tool that these companies have made, which comes as built-in tools for you to use. Project it to your tablet and you can handle the overclocking without the hassle of switching between monitors.
That’s about all she wrote! Hopefully, this article has given you a clearer idea of how exactly to overclock your GPU. There’s a lot you can get out of your motherboard if you have the right tools on hand, and those extra few frames are crucial when you’re playing the newest AAA title in gaming.
Writer Graham Grieve brings two decades of technical communications experience to The Holy Tech coverage. Isaac contributes articles on laptops, tablets and PCs, alongside various software and hardware guides. Isaac is a former newspaper journalist who also worked in tech communications for some of the country’s biggest corporations. He also counsels and creates material for other technology publications and hosts a podcast.
Isaac’s in-depth reporting and knowledge of hardware and software issues helps The Holy Tech’s readers learn how to choose the right products, or solve tricky problems.