Want to squeeze every last drop of performance out of you graphics card without splashing out on an upgrade? Then overclocking your GPU may be the solution you are looking for.
In our guide we will take you through the necessary steps of how to overclock your GPU without breaking it in the process.
Why “Overclock” a GPU?
In case you don’t know what “overclocking” means, it is to run your GPU at a higher speed than intended by the manufacturers.
Here’s why you should overclock your GPU:
The frame rate is the number of consecutive images displayed on your PC per second. If you overclock your GPU, the frame rate improves. An overclocked GPU also allows for smoother gameplay. So, you get to experience the perks of a high-performance GPU (which is quite expensive) at a much lower price.
If you’re a hardcore gamer or a professional video editor, an overclocked GPU could be life-transforming. You can access more professional software and enjoy superb display quality, without paying the absurd price often attached to the latest graphics cards (like the ones in our top 10 RTX 2080 Ti guide).
Sure, overclocking is a DIY thing. But that does not mean it is a simple quick-fix. Actually, it isn’t. It is time-consuming and requires very keen attention. Nonetheless, people still do it because the benefits of an overclocked GPU are absolutely worth it.
Furthermore, if you follow the instructions closely, it is almost impossible to get overclocking wrong. Nowadays, manufacturers make sure the users can’t damage the graphics cards. So, the most important thing you’ll have to keep in mind throughout this article is — read carefully.
What Do I Need?
- An AMD or NVIDIA card
- An overclocking program
- A benchmarking program
- A GPU information utility (we recommend GPU-Z)
- Lots of time
- A cup of tea for when you run out of patience
Once you’ve gathered all of the above, you are ready to overclock your GPU. Just don’t forget to read the instructions very carefully.
1. Gather as much information as you can
Like Ronald Reagan said, “Information is the oxygen of the modern age.” Therefore, you need to take in as much of this oxygen as possible before you start working on your GPU. Make the most of Google and sites such as Reddit and Quora. Make sure you look for information that is exclusively relevant to your type of GPU.
You’ll need to know how other people with the same GPU model as yours overclocked their GPU. Note that you can’t apply the same clock speed because no two GPUs are the same, not even if they are the same model. Rather, knowing the average clock speed will help you identify any flaws in your own overclocking process.
Although overclocking means pushing your GPU’s voltage beyond its default limit, you’ll still need to know the maximum voltage you should reach. Reading through some past overclocking failures could give you an idea about the voltage limit you should stick to.
Related: best power supply for 2080 Ti
A Few Things to Remember
- The GPU’s temperature should not exceed a certain point. If this happens, the GPU will draw too much power and stop working within a short period.
- Don’t try to overclock the GPU if your computer is connected to a weak or damaged socket. Your GPU will use a lot of power while it is being overclocked.
- Clean up the area where the GPU is inserted. Make sure there aren’t any cables that are blocking the airway. Your GPU will need as much air as possible while overclocking.
- The speed that works for another person’s GPU may not work for yours.
- Benchmark your GPU after every change you make to the settings.
- Do not rush it. Overclocking is essentially a process that takes time.
2. Benchmark your GPU
When overclocking your GPU, you will require two kinds of software. One is to overclock your GPU. The other one is to benchmark your GPU’s performance. The latter will prove whether the overclocking process was effective.
Overclocking software – MSI Afterburner
MSI Afterburner is a user-friendly software that is usually recommended by tech experts for overclocking. It will help you increase the core clock and memory clock speeds while keeping the temperature under control. The best part is that it supports both AMD and NVIDIA chips.
In case you don’t have access to MSI Afterburner, even AMD Overdrive and EVGA Precision X are good overclocking programs.
To start the overclocking process, you should first open your overclocking software. Then take note of your stock settings.
Next, you run the benchmarking software.
Benchmarking software – Heaven
Benchmarking refers to assessing your GPU’s performance. This is essential to identify any errors before and after you’ve overclocked your GPU.
There is software that can benchmark your GPU for you. 3DMark Benchmark is a popular example, but it isn’t free of charge. Heaven is another recommended software, and fortunately, it’s free too. We too recommend Heaven as a benchmarking tool.
Here’s how you should use Heaven:
- Download Heaven
- Install the program and then run it. You will be provided with a list of settings
- Adjust the texture quality and the screen resolution. Make sure the settings match what you usually use when editing your videos or playing video games. To choose the best settings, you will need all the information about your graphics card. For this reason, doing your research prior to reaching this step is essential
- After you have manipulated the settings, select “System”
- Click on “Run.” Don’t get too concerned if your screen displays choppy scenes. After all, that’s what you are testing in the first place.
- In the top left corner of the screen, you will see the “Benchmark” option. Select it.
- Once Heaven is finished with benchmarking your GPU, it will reveal a score. We recommend that you take note of this score so that you can compare it with the benchmarking score after overclocking your GPU.
Throughout these processes, make sure you keep an eye on the system’s temperature. It will definitely heat up, but if it goes beyond a certain threshold, it could destroy your GPU once and for all.
3. Start Overclocking
Finally, you’re ready to start overclocking your GPU.
Before you begin this process, bear in mind that at some point during the overclocking, you’ll start seeing things on the screen. These “things” could be a blank screen or what’s called “GPU artifacts,” which usually look like a checkerboard pattern. Sometimes, these artifacts can be so severe that they affect the entire display. When this happens, it means your overclock is not secure. But don’t freak out — we will tell you what needs to be done under such circumstances shortly.
To start overclocking, you’ll have to go back to your overclocking software, MSI Afterburner. Here is what needs to be done:
- Open MSI Afterburner
- You will be provided with several options such as ‘Core Voltage,’ ‘Core Clock’ and ‘Shader Clock.’ Increase the core clock by 10 MHz. The shader clock should automatically increase by 10 MHz as well.
- Click on “Apply.”
- Check the GPU information utility to ensure that the settings were actually applied.
- Don’t forget to click on “Save” before you close MSI Afterburner.
After you have done all of the above, you’ll have to benchmark your GPU’s performance again. So open Heaven and repeat the benchmarking process. If you don’t see any glitches or low-quality images, your GPU can be overclocked by another 10 MHz. Repeat this process, but make sure you keep an eye on the temperature.
At some point during this process, your screen will blank out or show artifacts (like we mentioned earlier). When this happens, you should switch back to the previous clock speed.
Another alternative is to raise your GPU’s voltage. The problem with doing this is that it can reduce your GPU’s lifespan. However, this shouldn’t be a problem because, by the time your GPU dies, you might be looking to upgrade your device anyway.
How to increase the voltage?
- Open MSI Afterburner’s settings
- Click on the “General Tab” and then choose the “Unlock voltage control” option
- Click “OK.” A new Afterburner window should appear on the screen
- Increase the voltage by 10 mV (Afterburner will reduce it to a number that’s closest to what you typed in)
- Run Heaven again to benchmark your GPU’s performance at this voltage
If you don’t see any glitches or artifacts, it means your GPU core clock is stable, so you can try increasing the clock speed by another 10 MHz.
Make sure you run Heaven every time you increase your GPU clock speed. This is essential to ensure you don’t damage the GPU while overclocking it.
If you notice artifacts or glitches when benchmarking, go back to Afterburner settings and increase the voltage by another 10 mV. You can keep repeating this until you’ve reached the maximum voltage for your GPU. You should know the maximum voltage from the research your carried out before you started overclocking. When you have reached the maximum, it’s best that you stop increasing the clock speed.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the temperature as you continue increasing the clock speed. When you’ve reached the maximum temperature, Afterburner will no longer allow you to continue overclocking.
Related: Liquid vs air cooling complete guide
If you find that you are not able to increase the clock speed anymore, we recommend that you switch back to the last clock speed. This would be the safest and most stable speed at which your GPU can operate.
Now that you’ve got the hang of it, you can try to overclock your GPU’s memory clock as well. The effects of this process won’t be very significant, but it’s worth it nonetheless.
4. Test your new overclocked GPU
You’re probably wondering why you have to repeat this. However, the benchmarking you did after every time you increased the clock speed wasn’t very intense. Now that you’ve finished overclocking your GPU, it’s time to push the GPU to its limits.
To do this, all you need to do is run Heaven for about 5+ hours. Remember, previously you chose “benchmark,” but this time you’ll choose to just “run” Heaven.
After you’ve run the program, Heaven will provide a new score. You can compare this score with the original score for your GPU before it was overclocked. This will give you an idea of how much your GPU has improved.
Try an intense video game
Benchmarking tools are great at doing their job, but nothing beats a hardcore video game with its HD and 3D graphics. Therefore, try playing a game like Battlefield V on your computer. Choose a tough level so that you can push your GPU to its limits again.
If your game is smooth and the display doesn’t glitch or have artifacts, your GPU has been overclocked successfully. If, however, you notice a negative change in the display, switch back to a lower clock speed. Then, try playing the game again. In the meantime, you could also use that cup of tea we recommended.