Underclocking? Is that really a thing? Why would anyone want to slow down their GPU? Most gamers try to squeeze out all the GPU power they can get because of how expensive graphics cards are.
Maybe you want to flex the power of your GPU and prove that it can run new titles on ultra settings even while underclocked?
Nah, that can’t be it.
Aside from avoiding CPU & GPU bottlenecks and high temperatures, we will explore and review some of the reasons for the underclocking and its possible benefits. If you would like to perform underclocking yourself, we will show you the steps to this fairly simple process.
What is Underclocking & Overclocking
Today, overclocking is a lot more popular than underclocking and almost everybody knows about it. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s the procedure for speeding up your hardware in order to get better performance.
Of course, overclocking is usually necessary only if you’re running a budget graphics card. When you’re in possession of one of the best GPUs for gaming, most of the latest titles will run smoothly without any additional modifications needed.
Underclocking is a reversed procedure. It means slowing down the clock speed of the hardware, in this case, your GPU. GPU chips at slower speeds do fewer calculations at a given time, thus lowering the GPU’s performance.
When to Underclock GPU?
Underclocking a GPU should be done when energy efficiency is a priority. The slower clock speed of the GPU chip means that the chip uses less energy (i.e., electricity) to perform its tasks. Another effect of this procedure is that the GPU’s working temperatures decrease.
Therefore, the GPU fans have less work to do. Cooling a slower chip is easier and the fans themselves use less electricity while working more quietly. This is very important when ambient temperatures are high.
In some parts of the world, during the summer season, GPU coolers have to do heavy work even when the GPU isn’t running particularly hard. Underclocking can be a good idea when performance is not important, and when you want to make your PC quiet, cool, and low-profile.
How to Underclock a GPU
Our recommendation is to perform underclocking via MSI Afterburner. It is free and it is one of the best hardware monitoring utilities out there. It provides all the important data about your GPU: temperatures, clock speed, and voltage. Apart from monitoring, it can be used for overclocking and underclocking. Within this software, you will be able to underclock, but also to adjust the voltage (undervolt) and to set the fan speed.
This software supports both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.
So what’s the difference between underclocking and undervolting? Underclocking, as mentioned before, means adjusting the clock speed of the GPU, while undervolting means lowering the voltage input of the GPU. It means directly setting your GPU to use less electricity. It is sometimes simultaneously done with underclocking in order to get maximum energy efficiency.
However, you should not experiment with voltage adjustment if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. It is a serious thing and can reduce your GPU’s performance too much, or even damage it.
Underclocking GPU via MSI Afterburner
First off, search for MSI Afterburner on the internet and download it (or click on the previous link). Launch the installation process and follow the instructions of the installation wizard.
- After the installation, start the application.
- Make sure that software detects your GPU. The GPU should be displayed at the bottom.
- On the left side, you will see the clock speed, while the temperature should be on the right.
- Lower the clock speed with the slider at the center. It will be displayed in MHz.
- Click the apply button to save the preferred settings.
- Save the settings on a preset profile.
I recommend restarting your PC at this point and checking whether there are any significant differences in how your GPU performs. Note that Afterburner must be open with a profile loaded for its settings to take effect in-game.
How to Undervolt a GPU
If you’ve researched safe voltages for your GPU and you’re confident that you know what you’re doing, you can perform undervolting in MSI Afterburner.
- Open MSI Afterburner and make sure it detects your GPU at the bottom of the window.
- Find the voltage slider in the center of the window.
- It displays voltage in mV and it will allow for adjustments in previously arranged increments specific to the GPU.
- Set the voltage to the desired value by moving the slider.
- Click on the apply button to save changes to a profile.
How to Adjust GPU Fans in MSI Afterburner
We’ve already mentioned that GPU fan speeds should mirror how hard the card is working. However, that doesn’t always happen, and you should make sure that your GPU fans will work properly once you’ve done the underclocking.
- Find the fan speed slider within the MSI Afterburner window.
- Click on the gear button underneath the slider. It will open the fan performance graph.
The graph is showing the fan speed in proportion to the GPU temperature.
- Set the graph in the desired way. Try to find the best ratio between fan performance and noise.
- Once you set the fan speed, close the window and click on the apply button.
The recommended fan speed ratio is 1:1. It will provide safe GPU temperatures. However, that setting can be too noisy at low temperatures, so experiment to see what works for you.
If your GPU fans have stopped spinning, it doesn’t mean that they are dead, but you should probably revert to default settings.
Underclocking is useful and has its benefits in certain situations. If you don’t require top performance from your PC, it is smart to think about energy efficiency and your GPU’s lifespan.
The process of the clock and voltage adjustment is easy, and everyone can do it. However, it is not always safe for your hardware. If you don’t do it right, your computer may crash—your GPU might even die. Take some time and research your GPU. Learn from other people’s experiences. After you acquire the necessary knowledge, then start experimenting with underclocking yourself.
- How to Underclock a PC, WikiHow