- What is GPU Overclocking
- What Do You Need to Overclock GPU
- How to Overclocking GPU
- Benchmark Your Stock Settings
- Increase Your Core Clock and Re-Benchmark
- Increase Your Voltage and Memory Clock (Optional)
- Run a Final Stress Test and Play Some Games
- Common Mistakes When Overclocking
- Summing Up
In PC gaming, getting the most out of your hardware can make all the difference. Overclocking your GPU can squeeze more performance out of it than you would get with the stock settings. With patience, know-how, and free software, you can overclock your graphics card and improve your gaming experience. This guide will walk you through the steps to safely overclock your GPU and get the most out of your gaming rig.
What is GPU Overclocking
Just like CPU overclocking, here we increase the clock speed of a graphics processing unit (GPU) beyond its default or factory settings. The clock speed determines how quickly the GPU processes data and performs calculations. By increasing the clock speed, the GPU can perform these operations faster, resulting in higher frame rates and better overall performance in applications such as video games or 3D rendering.
What Do You Need to Overclock GPU
Overclocking any graphics card is possible, but using a well-cooled card in a spacious case is best for better results. If your card has an inadequate heatsink or is inside a small Mini-ITX build, your headroom for overclocking may be limited, and it may not be worth the effort. To begin, you only need a few programs:
- An overclocking tool: Many manufacturers provide different overclocking tools. This guide uses MSI Afterburner, but EVGA Precision, Asus GPU Tweak, or AMD WattMan are other options. All except WattMan are compatible with any card, and the settings used in this guide should be similar across programs.
- A benchmarking tool: You’ll need a benchmarking tool to stress test your card. This guide suggests using Unigine Superposition and Unigine Heaven, which put recent cards under heavy stress and allow you to run an infinitely long stress test for free.
- GPU-Z: This program is optional, but it’s helpful to use GPU-Z to verify clock and voltage changes during stress testing.
Once you have all three programs installed, you can begin overclocking.
How to Overclocking GPU
Benchmark Your Stock Settings
Benchmarking your system at its stock settings is an essential first step before attempting to overclock. It ensures that your system is stable and gives you a baseline for performance comparison after overclocking.
Preparation for Benchmarking
Benchmarking your system ensures it is stable at its out-of-the-box clock speeds and gives an idea of performance gains.
- Download and launch Superposition and select a preset option that will push your graphics card to 100% without running at a dismally low frame rate.
- Disable Vsync to avoid locking your frame rate to your monitor’s refresh rate.
- Click the Run button to begin the benchmark, which will take approximately five minutes.
Monitoring Clock Speed, Frame Rate, and Temperature
- While running the benchmark, keep an eye on the performance information displayed in the corner, which includes clock speed, frame rate, and temperature.
- Clock speeds may fluctuate throughout the benchmark, especially for modern AMD and Nvidia cards that adjust the boost clock based on temperature and power usage.
- Monitor temperatures as they may increase during overclocking, and avoid letting the card get too hot.
- Overclocking your card can push boost clocks higher than built-in limits, increasing performance.
- Some graphics cards with automatic boost features will lower their clock speeds from the maximum boost speed if necessary. Still, it’s recommended to overclock with fans at 100% to eliminate temperature as a variable.
- For older cards that aren’t as smart about throttling down, overclock with the fan control you plan on using long-term and avoid overclocks that cause the temperature to reach higher than the mid-80s.
Reviewing Benchmark Results
- Once the benchmark is finished, review the final scorecard.
- If desired, write down the minimum, maximum, and average frame rates from the scorecard and the benchmark score.
- Continue to monitor temperatures during benchmark runs.
Increase Your Core Clock and Re-Benchmark
After benchmarking your system at its out-of-the-box clock speeds, you can increase your GPU’s core clock to push its performance further. In this step, we will explain how to use MSI Afterburner (or a similar tool) to boost your core clock and re-benchmark your system to check for stability and performance gains.
Preparing for Overclocking
- Open your preferred overclocking tool, such as MSI Afterburner.
- Increase the “Power Limit” slider to the maximum.
- Adjust the “Temperature Limit” slider to your desired level.
- Keep a watchful eye on the temperatures, ensuring they don’t exceed the safe limit.
Overclocking your Graphics Card
- Increase the “Core Clock” by about 10MHz.
- Apply the changes and rerun the Superposition benchmark.
- Observe the performance and check for any artifacts.
- Repeat the process, increasing the Core Clock by 10MHz each time and benchmarking until you reach the maximum stable overclocking limit.
- If the benchmark fails, reboot your computer; the set clock speeds will return to stock.
Pushing the Limits (Optional)
- If you want to push the card further, try increasing the Memory Clock.
- Keep the temperature in check by adjusting the fan control to run at 100% throughout the overclocking process.
- Once you’ve achieved your desired, overclock, rerun Superposition to determine the final score and check for stability.
- If you encounter issues or instability, you can dial back the overclocking to the last stable clock speed.
Following these steps, you can safely and effectively overclock your graphics card to improve performance.
Increase Your Voltage and Memory Clock (Optional)
- Check the Unlock Voltage Control and Unlock Voltage Monitoring boxes in Afterburner’s settings.
- Set the voltage control drop-down to Third Party and click OK.
- Increase “Core Voltage” by 10mV for supported cards and rerun the benchmark.
- Increase the “Core Clock” when the system is stable.
- Repeat steps 3-4 until you reach the stable Core Clock.
- Increase the “Memory Clock” by 100MHz and run a benchmark.
- Watch for crashes and a decrease in FPS while Memory Clock increases.
- Stop increasing the Memory Clock when you experience crashes and a drop in FPS.
- Monitor temperature closely when increasing “Core Voltage” because it can produce more heat.
- Determine the maximum safe Voltage for your card to avoid hardware damage.
Run a Final Stress Test and Play Some Games
Testing Stability With Heaven
- Open Heaven and set the graphics settings as high as possible to ensure maximum stress on the GPU.
- Click the Run button to start the stress test, which will run indefinitely until it crashes or you quit the program.
- Monitor your temperatures to ensure they remain at a safe level, and watch out for any signs of crashes or artifacts.
- If it does crash, you may need to dial back your clocks slightly to ensure stability.
Testing Stability in Real-World Scenarios
- Play your favorite games to test your overclocking stability in real-world scenarios.
- Remember that some benchmarks may remain stable even if a particular game crashes, so testing with actual gameplay is essential.
- Consider using an in-game benchmark like Metro Exodus, especially if you have an RTX card and can crank up ray tracing to stress your card to the max.
- After some time and tweaking, you should find the ideal settings for your system, and you can enjoy a slight performance boost.
Common Mistakes When Overclocking
When overclocking your GPU, there are several pitfalls you should avoid to achieve stable and safe overclocking. Some of the common mistakes include:
- Going too fast: Raising clock frequencies too quickly may cause crashes, glitches, or black screens. It’s best to increase clocks incrementally and test after each change.
- Not testing: Failing to test at each incremental clock speed prevents you from monitoring the system’s performance and may lead to overdoing it.
- Overheating: Overclocking generates more heat, which can damage your computer if not adequately cooled. A custom-made card with sufficient cooling or a water-cooling system can help keep temperatures under control.
- Auto-overclocking: Your GPU doesn’t need to be overclocked all the time. Save overclock settings using MSI Afterburner’s profile system, and apply them only when running intensive applications or playing demanding games.
- Expecting too much: The performance of an older GPU, even when overclocked, cannot be expected to match that of the latest high-end cards. You can expect a performance increase of 10 to 20% at most.
To sum up, overclocking your GPU is a viable option to enhance your computer’s performance. This guide has provided safe and practical steps to overclock your GPU. It is crucial to monitor your temperatures and voltages constantly and adjust your settings accordingly if any issues arise. By finding the ideal balance between performance and stability, you can enjoy a faster and smoother gaming experience.
Why should I overclock my GPU?
Overclocking your GPU can increase its performance and improve your gaming experience. It can also help you get more out of your existing hardware without purchasing a new graphics card.
Is GPU overclocking safe?
Overclocking can be safe if you follow the proper steps and monitor your system’s temperature and voltage. However, overclocking can damage your GPU if you push it too far. Hence, it’s essential to proceed with caution.
What are the risks of overclocking my GPU?
The main risks of GPU overclocking include system instability, overheating, and reduced graphics card lifespan. It can also void your warranty if your manufacturer detects you have overclocked your GPU.