Should you overclock your PC?
Overclocking is very common nowadays. It’s now a trend to overclock even though one might not get expected performance. That also includes me. From Intel unlocked processors to AMD processors I have tried overclocking on CPU’s and did not spare anything in trying. And yes, it’s a tricky thing sometimes. There are a lot of things to talk about when overclocking is concerned. So, I will try to organise this article in the best manner so that you can understand about overclocking and it’s benefits or disadvantages.
What is overclocking?
This answer is for those who don’t even know what is overclocking. In simple words, it’s the process of increasing the performance of your PC through your CPU, GPU or Ram by increasing their Clock speeds. CPU, GPU and RAM, all three have different clocks and they come in different varieties based on the price you pay for them.
So, let’s start with
CPU:- It’s the main component and the central component which is the component that is used for overclocking the most. There are two types of CPU’s:- Locked and Unlocked. To identify which processor you have you need to check its spec from its official website. But to make it easy for you I will put a simple rule here to find if you have an unlocked CPU or not:-
1. For Intel CPU’s:- If your CPU is i3/i5 or i7 then if the model number of your processor has “K” at the last, then it’s an unlocked processor. It’s a simple rule you should follow
2. For AMD CPU’s:- Generally, all the AM3 CPU’s and AM4 CPU’s are overclockable and there is no particular indication to find whether the processor is unlocked or not. So, keep the general rule in mind that if you have an AM3 or AM4 socket CPU then it’s overclockable.
GPU:- Almost every Graphics card is overclockable. It doesn’t matter if it’s a low-end Graphics card or a high-end. You can still overclock it.
Memory:- Memory which is also known as RAM may or may not be overclockable. You have to manually check by going to its official website in order to check that. Nowadays, most common memories used are DDR4, so the starting frequency will be 2133Mhz up to more than 3200Mhz. Some memories may not go above 2133Mhz, while there are some which will go more than 3200Mhz. And some will be stuck in between even though its specs say that it can be overclocked up to 3200Mhz. So, it’s complicated, unlike the CPU and GPU.
Who needs Overclocking?
Overclocking is for those who are enthusiasts and also for those who are getting performance lower than expected. A person having a budget gaming PC trying to get 60+ fps at a particular resolution may need overclocking the most if the fps drop in games makes the fps go below 50 which makes it a little bit of stuttery to play. In order to reach close to 60fps, it’s necessary to overclock provided that the components support it. Otherwise, those who are playing games at 60+fps on ultra settings without any fps drops, don’t need it.
The enthusiasts are those who are expecting the fps to be well above 60 like that in CSGO. The difference between 100 fps and 200 fps in a game like CSGO is observable and one may need overclocking in that case. Other than gaming an enthusiast who records gameplay and does video editing will definitely need overclocking to do the rendering in less time.
What else you need for overclocking?
For overclocking along with CPU, GPU and Memory you also need an unlocked motherboard. If you have a locked motherboard chipset, then you can not benefit from your Components much. Although, Graphics card can still be overclocked on a locked motherboard but you can’t overclock CPU or memory without some special software’s and there are still many conditions fulfil. So, forget about overclocking on a locked motherboard.
To know if your motherboard is overclockable or not, consider the following points:-
1. For Intel CPU’s:- If your motherboard has a chipset of Z170/Z270/Z370 OR X79/X99/X299, then you can overclock your CPU. Other than these chipsets, you can’t overclock.
2. For AMD CPU’s:- If your motherboard has a chipset of 970/990FXA in case of AM3 OR B350/X370/X399 in case of Ryzen CPU’s then you can overclock your CPU.
You will also need following tools to overclock:-
1. In case of CPU and Memory:- Either BIOS for manual overclocking Or an overclocking software like Asus AI Suite 3(For ASUS motherboards only), Motherboard tools, AMD Ryzen Master etc. There are several tools for doing this. Here is the list of some of the good overclocking tools for CPU.
2. In case of Graphics card, the best is MSI Afterburner. However, there are tools for overclocking that are from the brand of the graphics card itself. You can use those too.
How to start?
There are different ways to overclock your CPU, memory and Graphics card. Every hardware has its own way of overclocking. You can not expect a Ryzen processor to be overclocked just as an Intel Coffee Lake Processor because of architecture differences. So, it’s impossible for me to list every method. Just learn to use the tools which I have listed above.
As for the graphics card, it’s very easy. You just need to increase the sliders in MSI Afterburner which are dedicated to Core clock and Memory clock. You should not touch the voltage for your graphics card right now because it’s risky. Even though I know how to use that but I still refrain from it. But for overclocking a CPU it’s necessary to gain a certain amount of boost and you should do this at your own risk.
Is it risky?
Yes, it is. If you don’t know how to overclock by the advanced method, then you should only increase the clocks up to the point where your computer becomes unstable. It won’t affect anything and you shouldn’t fear anything until that point. But when it comes to advanced overclocking which requires you to increase certain types of voltages, then you must read the about the max voltage and max temperature threshold of your processor. Only proceed by small steps and test for a long time before you reach a point where your computer becomes unstable. Then go a little back from the point where your computer became unstable. Till that you are safe.
Read:- Best CPU coolers
So, how to know if overclocking is good or not?
The best way to know is to perform an experiment which I am going to show you with my own RIG. I have a pretty high-end gaming PC through which I will test the results of overclocking and make a conclusion if paying extra money on parts is a good thing or not at this time. Although, this is a subjective test and not objective because results will vary with different components. This guide is not necessarily an experiment on only those components which I use but this is just an illustration.
But before that, keep in mind that in order to get benefit which is noticeable you must have all three components GPU, CPU and RAM overclockable. Otherwise, if you overclock one thing and not the other thing, it may not be so practical. You must have balance in everything.
Testing in real world
CPU:- Ryzen 7 1700X
Memory:- Gskill Ripjaws V series 32GB 3200Mhz
Motherboard:- Gigabyte AX370 Gaming 5
Graphics card:- MSI GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X
So, I tested the performance at base clocks and the highest but safest clocks possible. Ryzen CPU’s are not that stable as compared to Intel CPU’s, so what results I got will vary from person to person a little bit.
Testing and benchmarks
In the first test, I made the core clock of Ryzen 1700X to 3.4Ghz and Memory to 2133Mhz. Graphics card was also not overclocked even a little. I tested the performance in two applications: Heaven and Passmark. And for real-life tests, I used a video editor called Corel Video Studio for rendering a video of 700mb and in a CPU and GPU intensive game PUBG.
To compare the performance of base clocks, I then increased the Core clock of 1700X to 3.9Ghz on 1.38Volts but it wasn’t stable so, I had to keep it down to 3.8Ghz which is still a decent amount of overclocking. Memory was pushed to 2666Mhz and above that, it wasn’t booting. As for Graphics card, there were a lot of weird things going on. First I increased the core clock up to +100Mhz and memory clock up to +275Mhz. Fortunately, it worked in Heaven and video rendering tests but in Passmark and games, I wasn’t able to run the system without any problem. So, the clocks which worked were: +50Mhz for Core clock and +100Mhz for the Memory clock.
When I ran the tests, either all the three components were made to run on base clocks or all the components were overclocked together. So, don’t get confused by the following charts believing that these overclocked results are because of a particular component. These Overclocked graphs are the result of overclocking all the three components altogether.
Note:- Pay proper attention to the numbers than the bars because Excel puts too much gap between bars even if there are small differences. I got slammed because of this on reddit.
If you ask me is it worth overclocking? Then Yes but up to some extent only. You can surely get better performance in applications like video editors, rendering software’s but in games, it’s very difficult to see the difference. Because every time you play, the situation in the game is not exactly the same, so results vary very much. But if you have the hardware for overclocking, then I suggest only to go up to a certain level on which you will feel safe to run your system because extreme overclocking leads to reduced life-span of the components.