Overclocking, in essence, is about getting computer components to work at a faster clock rate than they were designed to run. For the purposes of this article, we’ll limit ourselves to CPU overclocking. Let’s say that you have an Intel i7 8700K processor. Out of the box, the 8700K can reach a speed of up to 4.7GHz. If you want it to run faster, you’ll have to overclock the processor.
A quick note before we get into the details. As a general rule, most AMD processors can be overclocked. The same is not true of Intel processors. As a guideline, look for processors that have a ‘K’ at the end of their name. Intel i5 8400K, i7 8700K, i9 9900K etc..
Things To Know Before You Overclock
If there’s one thing you need to know about overclocking, it’s that it produces a lot of heat. You are pushing your CPU to the limits and asking it to perform faster. This means that it’ll draw in more energy (Voltage) and that in turn will produce more heat.
Given that your CPU is about to get very hot, it might be a good time to clean your system. Yes, open your gaming PC case and actually clean it. Dust filters, heatsinks, fans — the lot. Now, a simple wipe down will do for moderate overclocking but it’s a good idea to clean thoroughly nonetheless.
Also, forget about the warranty. The moment you overclock your CPU, it’s void of any and all warranty. Overclocking can also destroy your CPU. It can render your system memory, hard drive, and your motherboard completely useless. It won’t happen if you’re careful, but it can happen.
Lastly, it’s important to understand that even after following all the safety requirements and using the correct methods, you might not be able to overclock to the speed that you like or to the speed that others have achieved. This has to do with the phenomenon called ‘Silicon Lottery’. Essentially, it refers to the fact that the manufacturing process of a process does not always bestow the same qualities to all processors.
Silicon is applied to the chips and there are always small discrepancies. No two processors are exactly the same. Some can produce more heat and some are more stable. There’s really no way to tell which one you’ll get. These discrepancies lead to variance in how much you can overclock. So, your friend might get an extra 500MHz while you get just a 100MHz. There’s nothing that you can do about it.
However, if you’re even thinking of overclocking, make sure to get adequate CPU coolers. If you have a good cooler and a CPU that can be overclocked, you’re set. So, let’s get started!
Step 1: Install Requisite Software
Before overclocking your CPU, you need to have some data. First off, stability. You need to know if your CPU is stable at the current speed. And once you’re done overclocking, you need to make sure that the CPU still remains stable. There is tons of free software that you can use for this — CPU Info, CPU Z, Prime95, and so on.
You will also need a program to monitor the temperature of the CPU itself. You can use CoreTemp, HWMonitor, AIDA 64 — any of these will do. Again, most of these programs are free. There are paid programs but in this case, some of the best ones are free.
If you’re using an AMD Ryzen processor, you actually don’t need a temperature detection program. In the overclocking battle of AMD vs Intel, AMD clearly won over overclocking enthusiasts. AMD has its own overclocking program called RyzenMaster. It’s simple, comprehensive, and intuitive. Just download it from their website.
Step 2: Monitor Temperatures
Monitoring temperature isn’t just a step. It’s more of a process. At all times, throughout this process, keep an eye on the temperature. It’s always safe to keep track of all the core temperatures.
Step 3: Basic Stress Test
This is where you’ll need that stability program that you downloaded earlier. A basic stress test allows us to benchmark the CPU. In essence, we want to find out exactly how hot your CPU gets at 100% speed. Mind you, this is still the stock speed that we’re monitoring. In any of the applications listed previously, you should be able to find a tab that says something to the effect of ‘Simple Stress Testing’.
It might say ‘Basic Stress Testing’, or even ‘Just Stress Testing’. It’s all the same. Once you select this tab, you’ll have a bunch of options in front of you. Select ‘Blend Test’ and click ‘OK’. This test basically pushes the processor to its max level and with you temperature monitoring program, you’ll be able to look at the temperature.
Step 4: Access the BIOS
Leave the test running and wait for about 15 minutes. This will allow the temperature to stabilize. Now you know how hot your CPU gets at full speed in stock settings. Once you know this temperature stop the test. The ‘Stop’ button must be accessible from the ‘Test’ menu. Again, the wording may vary depending on the program you’re using.
After you’ve stopped the testing, restart your computer and access the BIOS. To access your BIOS, you need to hit a key as soon as the computer restarts. The key may be ‘Delete’, ‘Escape’, or anything else. Unless you’ve already messed around with the BIOS and changed some settings, one of these keys should do the trick.
Related: How to Update BIOS
There’s no way to tell exactly what your BIOS will look like because each motherboard manufacturer designs a unique UI (User Interface) for their UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). In essence, a UEFI connects the hardware of the motherboard to the Operating System. Even though there are many UEFIs, there are a lot of similarities between them and the fundamental operations work pretty much operate in the same way.
Step 5: Overclocking
Now, there are two ways to overclock. Manual and auto. If you’re new, auto overclocking is the best way to go. To auto-overclock, find the overclocking tab in your BIOS. Again, like with most steps here, there is no standard tab name. It’ll be called ‘Overclock’, ‘Overclocking’, ‘Overclock Tweak’, ‘OC Tweaker’ — basically anything means overclocking.
As soon as you’re in, you’ll be presented with a myriad of options. Given that you’re doing it for the first time maybe, it’s a good idea to let the motherboard do most of the heavy lifting. Almost all motherboard manufacturers will have predetermined overclocking profiles. Basically, this means that the motherboard will do everything necessary to overclock the device.
You will find various overclocking profiles that take the clock speed up. Generally, the range begins with 3.8GHz and ends with 4.8GHz. Overclocking using this is quite simple. Just click on the option that you want and voila, it’s done.
However, as you might have guessed, there are a few caveats. One, you’re not the one who’s overclocking here. At least, you’re not doing the heavy lifting. Second, auto-overclock is best suited for moderate overclocking. Basically, this means that you’re not pushing anything to the limits. You’re increasing performance, yes, but you’re not at the edge. You’re in a Boeing 747 commercial airline, not an F-16 fighter jet.
Step 6: Overclocking by Changing the Multipliers
Welcome aboard the F-16. With experience, you’ll realize that auto-overclocking, though good, isn’t good enough. Good news is that you can do more and that begins with multiplier settings. Without getting lost in the details, this is what you’ll be doing:
You will change the score of the multiplier. All CPUs have what’s called a base clock (BCLK) figure. This is usually set to 100. Depending on how many cores your CPU has, multipliers take this number up. So, by increasing the multiplier number, you can overclock the CPU. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that your CPU is running at 3.2 GHz and you want to take it up to 4GHz.
In the BIOS, you will be able to see the current clock speed. In the overclocking menu, find a tab that says ‘multipliers’. You should also see a reading next to it. Let’s assume it reads 32. Edit this number in small increments. Change that number to 35. This will overclock the CPU.
Step 7: Testing for stability
After you’ve changed the multiplier figure to 35, you just have to save and exit from the BIOS. The computer will automatically start booting the operating system with the CPU overclocked. Once you’re logged into Windows, open the temperature monitor first and check the temperature. Now, open the testing software.
Search for a ‘Torture Test’ option. You should be able to find it under the ‘Options’ menu. Within Torture Test itself, look for ‘Blend Test’ and select it. This will start to push the CPU to its limit. You should be able to see the clock speed going up. Once it’s reached a maximum figure, note it down and wait for it to stabilize. All this while, keep an eye on the temperature. Wait for at least 15 minutes to be sure that the CPU is indeed stable.
Step 8: Searching for the Blue Screen
First off, congrats! You’ve just successfully overclocked your CPU. However, this isn’t the limit of what your CPU is capable of. If you’re interested in finding out that limit, follow Step 6 and Step 7. The only thing you have to do now is to increase the multiplier by one every time. At some point, one of two things will happen — Thermal throttle or the Blue Screen of Death.
You want the blue screen of death. You don’t want thermal throttle. Thermal throttle basically means that your CPU is getting too hot and you can’t overclock it anymore. That’s a dead end. We don’t want that. Ideally, you want to see the Blue Screen of Death before that.
The name is a bit dramatic, but it’s quite accurate… apart from the death part. As you go on increasing the multipliers, at one point, the system will fail to boot and you’ll just see a blue screen.
Step 9: Changing the Voltage
To get rid of the blue screen, you basically have to throw more voltage at the CPU. Get into the BIOS and look for a tab that says something to the effect of ‘Voltage Mode’. This tab, if you haven’t already guessed it, allows you to change the voltage. The Voltage Mode sub-menu will have a corresponding mode next to it. Change it — from whatever it is — to ‘Fixed’.
Now, you have to do a bit of research on your CPU. Go online and look for the stock voltage that your CPU takes and then search for voltage that people are using for overclocking. Once you have these figures, come back to the BIOS.
In the ‘Fixed’ mode, you can change the voltage. Begin by increasing the voltage by 0.01V each time. Do this until you can actually boot into Windows. Make sure that the CPU is stable at the voltage and the speed. As you continue to do this, you’ll see that you can push the multiplier number even further. However, you will eventually reach a point where you’re stuck with the blue screen no matter how much voltage you throw at it.
At this point, decrease the overclock by 0.1GHz. The blue screen will go away and you’re at the highest overclock for the given processor… if your CPU isn’t fried. Temperature is a serious threat at high clock speeds. Make sure you invest in a good cooler.
Step 10: Stabilization
Overclocking, for a lot of people, isn’t an event. It’s the speed at which they want to run their CPU all the time. If you’re planning to do the same, you’ll have to ensure that the overclock is stable. To do this, leave the CPU at full speed for as long as possible.
I would personally recommend at least 3 hours. Some leave it up to a day. You should be fine if you’re somewhere in this neighborhood. This is the point of a final stable overclock. Enjoy!