Most PC gamers know what CPU and GPU overclocking are, even if they don’t do it themselves. Fewer gamers know that it’s also possible to overclock RAM. The performance boost usually isn’t as noticeable as the boost you get from overclocking your GPU, but it can still help more modest systems perform at a higher level, especially in conjunction with GPU and CPU overclocking (just watch your temperatures).
Overclocking your RAM is easy and has few drawbacks, so there’s no reason not to learn how, right? (But if you’d rather not mess with it, you could just get some awesome RAM for gaming instead.)
Dangers of RAM Overclocking
While the limitations and potential dangers of overclocking your RAM are generally minor, they do exist. Your results will depend on your motherboard and CPU. Some motherboards—even those among the best motherboards for gaming—do not allow RAM overclocking.
Motherboards that utilize LGA 1151 or H4 sockets, except for Z170, Z270, Z370 and Z390 chipsets, won’t let you overclock anything. Also, not every RAM module is the same. Even those from the same line and manufacturer may have different specifications and behave differently. Therefore, you must first do some research about your specific components.
Above all, once you start overclocking your RAM, you must exercise patience and caution. The process consists of repeating the same basic steps many times, and it’s important not to jump ahead—you could seriously break something if you do.
How to Overclock RAM: The Basics
To perform the overclocking, you are going to need a couple of tools. The first one and the easiest to use is CPU-Z, which is free.
Once you install the software on your computer and run it, you will be able to see that it includes tabs for each component of your PC. When you click on the memory tab, you will see the characteristics of your RAM. Under the SPD tab, you will be able to find XMP settings and other attributes of your RAM.
You’ll also need a program called Memtest86+, which is used for testing various memory configurations. It’s vital to run tests with Memtest86+ after every change in order to ensure the stability of your RAM and to avoid damaging it. Do not start the process without this software.
If a memory test ever displays warnings after you make a change, return everything to its previous settings. It’s unlikely that you’ll run into serious problems if you take this slow and careful, but if you do, consult your motherboard manual and clear the CMOS on your motherboard. That should return your BIOS to factory settings and allow your computer to boot normally.
Overclocking RAM with CPU-Z XMP
XMP (extreme memory profiles) is a set of prearranged, tested, and validated overclocking settings that can be used for safe and automatic configuration of RAM. We recommend this method, as it’s the most stable and user-friendly.
- First, open CPU-Z, choose the memory tab, and write down the RAM’s current frequency and timing. You will need that in case you want to undo your changes.
- Open the SPD tab and write down the XMP settings that you want to establish.
- Restart your computer and enter BIOS.
- Navigate through BIOS to find the ‘tweaker.’
- Within the ‘tweaker,’ choose XMP. Select your desired settings from the drop-down menu.
- Save your changes and reboot the computer.
- When the computer boots, perform a memory test in Memtest86+ and make sure everything is stable.
Manually Overclocking RAM in BIOS
Manual RAM overclocking will start with your previously obtained XMP settings. After each change, you will perform another memory test, which will tell you whether to stop or to keep making changes.
- Reboot the computer and enter BIOS
- Navigate to the ‘tweaker’ and choose the manual option
- Increase the DRAM voltage by 0.015V
- Save the settings and reboot the computer
- After the reboot, perform a memory test and make sure it is stable
- At the first sign of instability in Memtest86+, revert to your previous configuration and stop there.
After you set the desired voltage, you can continue tweaking the timing in small increments. Once again, perform tests after every change. Always make sure the memory is stable to prevent damage.
You should not go above any of these values:
- maximum safe DRAM voltage
- maximum BCLK or unstable value
- maximum RAM frequency
By the way, should you ever want to underclock your RAM, that’s possible too. The main benefit of underclocking would be the reduction of power consumption.
Tip: It’s also possible to underclock a GPU for the same reason.
RAM overclocking is a bit more complicated than overclocking CPUs and GPUs. While following our guide, be very patient and perform the changes in small increments.
Also, remember to check RAM speed regularly.
Although overclocking your RAM will probably not be beneficial for gaming, it can increase your PC’s overall performance.
- How RAM Affects Performance, Dell US