Overclocking a PC (with graphics)

Table of contents:

Overclocking a PC (with graphics)
Overclocking a PC (with graphics)

Overclocking a CPU is the process of increasing the clock speed at which the CPU operates. Overclocking has traditionally been the domain of gamers and techies, but hardware manufacturers have made this process a lot easier over the years. Overclocking can significantly improve your computer's performance, as well as damage your hardware if not done correctly. But by being careful with this and making sure your CPU doesn't overheat, you can improve your computer's speed and performance.


Part 1 of 5: The preparation

Overclock a PC Step 1

Step 1. Understand the basics of overclocking

Overclocking is the process of increasing the clock speed and voltage of your CPU to improve the performance of your PC. It's a great way to get the most out of a powerful machine, or give a little more performance to a budget PC or old computer.

  • Overclocking can damage your components, especially if the hardware is not designed for higher voltages than the default values. Only start overclocking if you are willing to risk breaking your hardware.
  • No two systems are alike when it comes to overclocking, even if they have the exact same hardware. This is because overclocking is largely determined by small differences in the manufacturing process. Don't base your expectations solely on the results you read online for the hardware you have.
  • If you mainly want to improve the performance of computer games, you can also overclock your graphics card, as it will most likely give you better results.
  • Laptops are not very good candidates for overclocking as the cooling of such machines is limited. The performance improvement on a desktop computer will be much greater because you can control the temperature better.
Overclock a PC Step 2

Step 2. Download the necessary tools

You need software for benchmarking and a stress test to properly assess the results of the overclocking. These programs test your processor's performance as well as its ability to maintain that higher performance.

  • CPU-Z – This is a simple monitoring program that allows you to quickly read your computer's clock speed and voltage in Windows. It doesn't do anything else, but is an easy to use monitoring program to make sure everything is working as it should.
  • Prime95 – This is a free benchmarking program that many people use for stress testing. It is designed to run for a long time.
  • LinX – Another stress test program. This one is a bit lighter than Prime95 and is good for testing after each change.
Overclock a PC Step 3

Step 3. Check your motherboard and processor

Different motherboards and processors have different overclocking capabilities. There are also slight differences when it comes to overclocking AMD processors versus Intel, but the general idea is the same. The main thing to look for is whether or not your multiplier is unlocked. If the multiplier is locked you will only be able to adjust the clock speed, which usually produces less good results.

  • Many motherboards are designed for overclocking and should give you full access to the overclocking tools. Consult your computer's documentation to determine the capabilities of your motherboard.
  • Some processors are easier to overclock successfully than others. For example, the "K" line of the Intel i7 is specifically designed to be overclocked (e.g. Intel i7 - 2700K). The model of your processor can be found by pressing ⊞ Win+Pause and looking in the System section.
Overclock a PC Step 4

Step 4. Run a stress test to determine baseline performance

Before you start overclocking, you will need to perform a stress test for your basic settings. This gives you a ground value as a reference for overclocking, and it also reveals basic setup issues that need to be addressed before overclocking makes them worse.

  • Be sure to keep a close eye on temperature levels during the stress test. If the temperature rises above 70°C (158°F), overclocking probably won't help you because the temperature is reaching unsafe levels. It may be necessary to apply new thermal paste or install a new heat sink.
  • If your system hangs during the baseline stress test, there is likely a hardware issue that needs to be resolved before overclocking. Check your system's memory to see if there are any errors.

Part 2 of 5: Increasing the default clock speed

Overclock a PC Step 5

Step 1. Enter the BIOS

You will be making most of the changes to your computer's BIOS, which is the configuration menu and can be accessed before the operating system loads. On most systems, you can enter the BIOS by holding down Del while the computer boots up. Other possible keys are F10, F2, and F12.

Each BIOS is different, so menus and locations may vary from system to system. Don't be afraid to dig through the entire menu system to find what you need

Overclock a PC Step 6

Step 2. Enter the "Frequency/Voltage" menu

This menu may have a different name, such as "Overclocking". This is the menu you will spend most of your time on, as it allows you to change both your CPU speed and voltage.

Overclock a PC Step 7

Step 3. Reduce the speed of the memory bus

To prevent the memory from causing problems, you will need to lower the memory bus before continuing. This may be referred to as the "Memory Multiplier", "DDR Memory Frequency" or "Memory Ratio". Set it as low as possible.

If you can't find the memory frequency options, press Ctrl+Alt+F1 in the main BIOS menu

Overclock a PC Step 8

Step 4. Increase the base clock by 10%

The base clock, also referred to as the front side bus or bus speed, is the base speed of your processor. It is usually a lower speed that is multiplied to reach the total speed of the core. Most processors can handle a large jump of 10% at the beginning of the process. For example, if the base clock is 100 MHz and the multiplier is 16, then the clock speed is 1.6 GHz. Boosting it by 10% will increase the base clock to 110 MHz and the clock speed to 1.76 GHz.

Overclock a PC Step 9

Step 5. Take a stress test

Once you've got the first 10% done, reboot your computer and operating system. Start LinX and let it run for a few cycles. If no problems arise, then you are ready to proceed. If your system has become unstable, overclocking won't do you much good, and it's better to reset the settings to default.

Overclock a PC Step 10

Step 6. Increase the base clock until the system becomes unstable

Instead of increasing the speed by 10% each time, you can reduce the increase to about 5-10 MHz per step. This makes it much easier to find the most favorable value. Every time you make an adjustment, run a benchmark until the system starts to become unstable. The instability is probably because the processor is not getting enough power from the power supply.

If you can't adjust the multiplier because of your motherboard, you can skip to part 4. If you manage to adjust the multiplier, then continue to the next section to get even more profit. Be sure to write down the current settings in case you eventually want to use them again

Part 3 of 5: Increasing the multiplier

Overclock a PC Step 11

Step 1. Lower the base clock

Before increasing the multiplier you will need to lower the base clock speed slightly. This helps to make the multiplier increments more accurate. A lower base clock rate and a higher multiplier will create a more stable system, but a higher base clock with a lower multiplier will result in more performance. Finding the perfect balance is the goal.

Overclock a PC Step 12

Step 2. Increase the multiplier

Once you've lowered the base clock slightly, you can start increasing the multiplier in 0.5 increments. The multiplier could be called "CPU Ratio", or something similar. This one can be set to "Auto" instead of a number when you first encounter it.

Overclock a PC Step 13

Step 3. Run a stress test

Restart your computer and run the benchmark program. If the program doesn't encounter any errors after going through a few benchmarks, you can increase the multiplier again. Repeat this process every time you increase the multiplier one step.

Overclock a PC Step 14

Step 4. Keep an eye on the temperature

Be sure to pay attention to the temperature levels during this process. You may encounter a temperature limit before your system becomes unstable. If this is the case, you may have reached the limit of overclocking your system. At this point you can find the best balance between increasing the base clock speed and increasing the multiplier.

While each CPU has a different safe temperature range, the general rule of thumb is to make sure the CPU doesn't get hotter than 85°C (185°F)

Overclock a PC Step 15

Step 5. Repeat until the limit is reached and the computer crashes

Now you should have reached a setting where your computer just doesn't become unstable. As long as the system's temperature is still within safe limits, you can begin to adjust the voltage levels for further performance improvement.

Part 4 of 5: Increasing the tension

Overclock a PC Step 16

Step 1. Increase the voltage of the CPU

This can be referred to as "Vcore Voltage". Increasing the voltage beyond safe limits can quickly damage your equipment, so this is the most accurate and potentially dangerous part of the overclocking process. Each CPU and motherboard can handle different increases in voltage, so pay extra attention to your temperature.

When you increase your core voltage, do it in 0.025 increments. More and you risk taking too big a jump and damaging parts

Overclock a PC Step 17

Step 2. Run a stress test

After the first increase, perform a stress test. Since you left the system in an unstable state in the previous section, it's a good idea to run a stress test. If your system is stable, make sure the temperature is still at an acceptable level. If the system is still unstable, try lowering the multiplier or base clock speed.

Overclock a PC Step 18

Step 3. Return to the base clock speed or multiplier section

Once you've managed to stabilize the unstable system by increasing the voltage, you can proceed to either increase the base clock or increase the multiplier, depending on what you're trying to overclock. Do this in the same small steps, running stress tests until your system becomes unstable again.

Since the voltage settings increase the temperature the most, your goal should be to maximize the base clock and multiplier settings to achieve the highest performance at the lowest voltage. This requires a lot of trying and experimenting with the different combinations

Overclock a PC Step 19

Step 4. Repeat the cycle until a maximum voltage or maximum temperature is reached

Eventually you will reach a point where it is no longer possible to make an improvement without the temperature approaching unsafe levels. This is the limit of your motherboard and processor, and you probably won't be able to overclock any further.

  • In general, it is better not to increase the voltage more than 0.4 above the original level (0.2 if you are using a simple cooling system).
  • If you reach the temperature limit before reaching a voltage limit, it may be possible to increase performance even further by improving the cooling system in your computer. You can install a more powerful heatsink and fan combination or go for a more expensive but more effective liquid cooling system.

Part 5 of 5: A definitive stress test

Overclock a PC Step 20

Step 1. Bring your settings back to the latest safe settings

Lower the base clock or multiplier to the maximum settings at which the system was still working properly. This is your new processor speed, and if you're lucky it will be noticeably faster than before. As long as everything starts up normally, you're ready for a final test.

Overclock a PC Step 21

Step 2. Increase the memory speed

Bring the speed of the memories back up to the values ​​they had at the beginning. Do this slowly, continuing to test. It may not be possible to get them all back to the old values.

Use Memtest86 to test your computer's memory while continuing to ramp up the frequency

Overclock a PC Step 22

Step 3. Run a longer stress test

Open Prime95 and let it test the computer for 12 hours. This may seem like a long time, but the goal is to make sure the machine is super stable for a longer period of time. This ensures better and more reliable performance. If your system becomes unstable during testing, or if the temperature becomes unacceptably high, you will need to step back and lower your clock speed, multiplier and voltage.

  • When you open Prime95, select "Just Stress Testing". Click Options → Torture Test and set it to "Small FFT".
  • Temperatures just over the limit are usually OK, as Prime95 demands more from your computer than most programs will ever do. You can always limit the overclocking slightly for safety. The temperature under normal conditions should not exceed 60°C (140°F).
Overclock a PC Step 23

Step 4. Test it during normal use

While a stress test is great for making sure your system is stable, you also want to make sure the machine can handle the randomness of actual computing. If you are a gamer, start the toughest game you have. Rip your video, then try to rip a Blu-ray. Make sure everything is working properly. It may even work better now!

Overclock a PC Step 24

Step 5. Go one step further

This guide only gets to the surface of what you can do when it comes to overclocking. If you want to learn more, it's mostly about researching and trying. There are several groups online that are concerned with overclocking and its various related fields, such as refrigeration. Some of the most popular groups are Overclockers.com, Overclock.net, and Tom's Hardware, and these are all great places to look for more detailed information.


  • This may void your computer's warranty, depending on the manufacturer. Some brands, such as EVGA and BFG, maintain their warranty even after overclocking the machine.
  • You need a good cooling system to actually overclock.
  • Overclocking by increasing the voltage will shorten the life of your hardware.
  • Most computers made by Dell (excluding the XPS line), HP, Gateway, Acer, Apple, etc. cannot be overclocked due to the lack of option in the BIOS to change the FSB and CPU voltages.

Popular by topic