Every gaming enthusiast has heard about the term ‘overclocking.’ After all, it is one of the easiest methods of increasing the performance of your PC. However, the word itself looks pretty heavy. And not much is known about it in detail.
Let us take a comprehensive look at the various characteristics and facets of this term and its functions.
Should I even overclock?
The answer to this question depends upon your needs, requirements, and the build of your PC. One of the best things about a PC is that it functions as a whole unit but comprises smaller, interchangeable and replaceable parts. This allows you to bring out its peak performance safely.
Overclocking allows you to go beyond the safe peak performance threshold. In simple terms, your CPU or GPU has a base speed. This is the speed at which it will function idly. Besides that, it also has a boost clock, which refers to the maximum safe speed that your processor can achieve without causing any problems.
Sometimes though, the maximum speed isn’t enough. In such cases, you can make your processor go faster by applying higher energy (electricity). This will boost the performance of your CPU/GPU beyond the upper threshold for as long as you want.
This can be a little intimidating at first, but with proper practice, you will be able to get the best performance, even from mediocre chips or cards.
How do I overclock?
Earlier, overclocking your PC meant spending hours in the motherboard bios, tweaking, and experimenting with things. This was really inefficient and caused a lot of delays. But with the betterment of technology, overclocking became as visual and straightforward as looking at graphs and turning sliders. Nowadays, you have a variety of software that can help you overclock your CPU/GPU safely.
But there is no set rule for overclocking. What settings might be suitable for one PC may not necessarily be good for another PC of exact specifications. Overclocking requires a lot of guesses and misses. This is because the settings, while graphically visible, cannot transmit the machine’s stability once the overclock has been applied.
While overclocking, you should keep three things in mind- the stability of the CPU/GPU, the energy requirement, and the thermal energy generated in the whole process. It is pretty apparent that if you provide higher power to a component to make it do even higher work, then the part is bound to produce heat quite beyond its previous levels.
So you have to tweak the software’s values so that your PC does not suffer any problems but can still balance out high performance with heat generation. Another thing to keep in mind is to ensure that the part has sufficient cooling available, with a good amount of buffer. A temperature of 373 Kelvin is not very harmful, but that does not mean it is desirable.
What values to change while overclocking?
In overclocking software, you usually come across two values that can be changed- the base clock and the clock multiplier. The base clock is typically the clock at which every component communicates with each other. We can get a 5 GHz processor and pair it up with a 3200 Mhz RAM module, and they would still work without any problems, thanks to the base clock.
But this also leads to a lot of inefficiencies, which is why CPUs nowadays perform multiple cycles in the time that the chipset requires to execute just one process. The number of cycles is referred to as the clock multiplier.
Usually, an overclocker will start by changing the multiplier. This is because the clock multiplier is the characteristic of the CPU only. So changing its performance will only affect the CPU and nothing else. Secondly, changing only the multiplier means that you are changing only one variable. This allows you to keep a steady look at the output and hence, determine the best multiplier for your processor.
What are the Outcomes of Overclocking?
In most cases, if overclocking is done correctly, you will not notice any visible changes (except the increased fan speed at times). That is why it is necessary to put the part through stress tests. There are many software out there that do this job phenomenally.
Stress testing your CPU/GPU allows you to check whether the new clock is stable or not. An unstable clock will result in a lagging screen, restarts, or Blue Screen of Death messages. Do not worry. These messages are pretty standard. This only means that the settings you have chosen for your machine are not stable. All you need to do is either reset or regress the values by a small amount and repeat the whole process multiple times.
There will come a time when the PC will stop behaving erroneously and start functioning normally. This is the stable boosted performance of your CPU/GPU.
What are the prerequisites of overclocking?
Overclocking your PC nowadays is quite simple. But it still has some requirements that come with it. First of all, you can only overclock parts and components that are unlocked. This means that the manufacturer should have created functionality for increasing performance in exchange for energy. If this is not present, you won’t be able to overclock your component- no matter what.
When it comes to CPUs, AMD’s Ryzen has the best performance in overclocking. This is because all of its processors are unlocked, even the cheapest ones. On the other hand, Intel allows overclocking only on specific chips (usually suffixed by a -K). But the overclocking ability of these chips is beyond exceptional.
The second thing to keep in mind is only to use software that the manufacturers recommend. Wrong software can cause undue damage to the components.
Is it really necessary?
If you have a good enough setup, then you don’t need overclocking at any time. But if you have a cheaper setup or plan on using your PC for another few months at most and want to gather every ounce of performance, then it can be an excellent idea to overclock components to get higher performance.
Additionally, not every processor or chip is the same. There are many manufacturing “imperfections.” Hence, there is always room for improvement when it comes to performance. This can be explored and tested using the various software that your manufacturer recommends.
Many people use overclocking to test the highest possible clock speeds that machines can achieve- I saw one being taken as high as 8 GHz. In fact, this has now turned into a competitive sport, with many people sacrificing the lives of their components to get their name at the top of the leaderboard.
Overclocking is a beautiful functionality granted to users. But it has many glaring downsides as well.
The first, and the most significant, is the voiding of the warranty. Overclocking pushes your PC beyond its limits, causing your components to work at a higher-than-recommended speed. Manufacturers don’t recommend overclocking as it can cause damage if not done carefully, and that is why they void the warranty when overclocked-related problems are brought up.
Following up on that, you need a good amount of cooling and PSU tech to help your PC reach its true potential. Sometimes, you might even need liquid cooling to satisfy your PC’s thermal needs thoroughly. This can come as a turn-off to many people looking to overclock their PCs while keeping everything the same due to budget constraints.
Lastly, it is a time-consuming process. It will require multiple tests, retests, and restarts. Many times, even when things look good, your PC will shut itself down. It can be a very frustrating road to the top. While many people love this kind of challenge, some would rather just have a little bit of extra performance without tinkering too much.
In the end, it all comes down to your objectives.
Overclocking is not inherently wrong, provided you take care of all the aspects carefully. It has the capability to change the whole user experience completely. It cuts the export time by many hours and gives better FPS in your favorite Esports games.
There are no set criteria for overclocking. It all depends on your requirements and capabilities. If you can safely invest extra energy into making your PC run faster, it would be good to try out overclocking.
However, if your parts are still under warranty and you don’t currently require the extra headroom, it would be a good idea to steer clear of this function.