Performance is key in everything you do: from homework to your job to even how your GPU performs in-game. It’s a bummer when your GPU is running up to standards or isn’t as great or fast as you want it to be. Thankfully, as with almost everything else, there’s a way to increase your GPU’s performance. This way is called overclocking.
Overclocking pushes your GPU to its maximum limits to run at its best possible capabilities, but it’s very dangerous to do. Fooling around and possibly messing up can cause permanent hardware damage. So, if you want to bring your GPU to its top potential you need to be very careful and do your research to know what those levels are and when to stop pushing it.
Despite these two needs, MSI Afterburner makes the possibly disastrous task of overclocking a lot simpler. MSI Afterburner works to overclock, monitor, troubleshoot, and much more while being much safer than many other overclocking utilities – making this a most commonly used and the most efficient utility out there for overclocking AND on-screen monitoring.
It only helps that it’s 100% free! Here, we’ll go over how to use MSI Afterburner and everything about it to ensure a safe run.
What is MSI Afterburner?
MSI Afterburner is a graphics utility developed by the GPU manufacturer MSI. It works to push your GPU to its max limits by assisting with overclocking, monitoring, benchmarking, and video capture, while also offering a lot of great features such as monitoring, troubleshooting, and tweaking.
The leading graphics utility, MSI Afterburner is a very versatile utility compatible with every GPU made in the last ten years no matter what their make, model, or chip or card manufacturer is. (If your GPU drivers are older than that, here’s how to update your graphics card drivers.) Once again, it’s free and great to use, making it the best GPU overclocking software around. Beginner or not, you should use this to make your GPU the best it can be.
What does MSI Afterburner do?
MSI Afterburner’s main task is to make the terrifying task of overclocking safer and simpler. While you still need to use common sense and be very careful while using it, Afterburner works to protect your hardware from permanent damage and make your overclocking experience much easier by pushing your GPU to its maximum potential.
MSI Afterburner uses Nvidia’s OC Scanner utility to work with every graphics card created within the last ten years to find your specific GPU’s maximum and most stable overclocking settings. This will apply changes to your graphics card for instantly better performance. If you still feel behind the game, check out the best graphics cards for gaming out there.
With overclocking, you can fine-tune your temperature and every single aspect of your GPU including clock speeds, fan speed, voltage, and power and temperature limits. You’ll be able to tweak your GPU to exactly how you want it, which is something other utilities can’t do.
Fan speed is extremely important in this bunch because you can create the perfect customized fan profile for you. You’ll be able to set a fan speed curve that reacts depending on your GPU’s temperature. The higher the temperature, the faster your fan will spin, and the opposite for the lower.
As will be mentioned later, you can save all of your overclocking profiles onto Afterburner and toggle it on and off with just the click of a button. MSI Afterburner even has a selection of custom user skins to let you choose the look and feel that you like the best. You can select one from the settings menu or download a custom skin online, though using default settings is the best until you’re all settled in.
Overclocking is a very dangerous and hard task that can leave your computer with permanent hardware damage, but MSI Afterburner simplifies this and makes it less dangerous. MSI Afterburner works to push your GPU to its maximum limits by incrementally tweaking its settings including core and memory clock speed, fan speed, temperature limit, power limit, and core voltage.
Afterburner is working to find the best place for your GPU between max performance and max capability. By overclocking, you can make sure your GPU is running at its best capabilities and even create new customized fan profiles to make sure that it will be safe even when it gets very hot. Afterburner even gives you the ability to save your overclocking profiles to easily switch them depending on what performance you need.
Benchmarking is a very important facet of MSI Afterburner that comes in a tool called MSI Kombustor. This is immensely popular amongst gamers and product testers to know which GPU is the best. Benchmarking, if you don’t know, provides detailed information about how your GPU is overall performing and will show you how/if your overclocking tweaks are making any impact of your GPU.
Monitoring is a very important feature of MSI Afterburner. This will allow you to see live performance changes to your GPU through various details such as GPU temperatures, core and memory clock speeds, FPS, voltage, and usage percentage through a very intuitive On-Screen Display, that you can even monitor in-game, and an informative series of graphs.
On-Screen Display also uses an add-on called RivaTuner Statistics Server, which can be used for several different utilities. Overall, monitoring is very essential, especially aside benchmarking, giving you your real-time changes even while in-game.
Predator – MSI Afterburner’s Video Capture Software
Yes, MSI Afterburner even has its own great video capture software to help capture in-game footage, tutorials, your benchmark scores, and much more in many different formats (including WMV and AVI using the H.264 codec), qualities, and frame rates up to a resolution of 1080p. This software, which is built into Afterburner, is called Predator and is great if you’re looking to do some videos.
How to Use MSI Afterburner
In this section we will go over how to use MSI Afterburner including MSI Kombustor, benchmarking, overclocking, and everything else.
Running Benchmarks in MSI Kombustor/How to Use MSI Kombustor
The first thing that you need to do before overlocking is to run benchmarks to see how well your graphics card is performing at its base levels. You’ll need to know how to use and read MSI Kombustor if you plan to overclock your GPU. Here’s how to do it:
- Open MSI Afterburner
- Find the highlighted Kombustor “K.” If you’re using the default skin, this should be in the upper left beside the GPU name and the driver version you’re using, but it can also be in the top-center. Click the “K” when you find it. It should load up immediately and begin to stress test your card. If it isn’t highlighted/cannot be clicked, you’ll need to go back to the MSI Afterburner site and download Kombustor.
- From here, you can now monitor your FPS, GPU temp, GPU load, and much more. You’ll also be able to know how your graphics card performs at base levels.
- Record these scores so that you can compare them with your scores after overclocking. Those scores should be better.
After this, you’re probably going to want to start overclocking. It’s best recommended to start researching what others who’ve used the same card as you have achieved just to make sure that your card is also being pushed to those limits.
How to Overclock when Using MSI Afterburner
Now, it’s time for the big boy. First thing’s first, you need to realize that overlocking anything is not risk-free. AT ALL. There’s a chance of permanently damaging your GPU here, so if you ever feel that something is wrong or you’re pushing your GPU too far: STOP. Please, don’t be foolish when doing this, use common sense and knowledgable sources, such as the many boards online, to safely guide you in the right direction.
Secondly, make sure to click “Apply” after any changes. It’s best to do one small thing at a time, slowly but surely, to make sure your GPU and computer stay safe. Try something out, then test it, and repeat. Over and over. Only small changes. After one change, check the results. If you’re good, do another small change then check the results, and repeat.
Now, here’s how to overclock your GPU:
- First, set both the “Power Limit” and the “Temp Limit” sliders to the maximum. With these settings, your GPU will be more power-efficient and should be able to reach higher temperatures than it would at its base levels. It’s well noted here that the GPU will never reach the upper limits unless there’s a serious hardware malfunction, so don’t be shocked if your max temperature seems dangerously high.
- Before the next step, make sure to have Kombustor running in the background so you can constantly monitor your results for any flickers, blackouts, glitches, or crashes whatsoever. If any of these happens, it means the GPU is no longer stable at its current settings and you’ll need to revert it back to its last stable or factory settings.
- Next, you’ll want to increase your core clock speed slider in small increments of about 20-30 MHz per increment. Each unit on the slider is a single MHz, so by pushing the slider in the positive position, you’re overclocking your core clock speed – the opposite of going the negative position. After each 20-30MHz, make sure to click apply and check your results. Allow a couple of minutes of monitoring for each of these changes.
- After a while, depending on which graphics card you’re using, you will encounter a steady flow of graphical issues and your card won’t be able to maintain stability. Now, you’ve reached your limits and need to stop raising your clock speed. Don’t worry about this behavior, it’s expected and just proves that all graphics cards have their limits. If your GPU black screens or crashes, your graphics card will reset the GPU driver and allow you to reduce the clock speed.
- Start reducing the clock speed in small increments of 5MHz until all of the graphical issues have disappeared and Kombustor is stable. If it’s stable, try testing your changes by running a game on very high settings and stressing your graphics card to see if it can handle it. If you encounter issues, lower the speed and keep trying. If it can handle the game, congrats! You’ve successfully overclocked your GPU.
- Next, we need to overclock the memory clock speed. We’re doing the same thing as before, moving in incremental steps. This time, we recommend anywhere between 50-100MHz per increment.
- Like before, once you encounter those consistent flow of graphical issues in Kombustor, start reducing your memory clock speed in small increments of 10MHz until you find a stable rate. Test this in-game then too.
- You’re going to want to test your new settings over a long period to make sure that your card is truly stable. Start up Kombustor and let it run for at least 10 minutes while monitoring the graphics card. Make sure there aren’t any graphical errors. If there are, reduce the speeds in small increments (of 5 or 10 depending on whether you’re reducing the core clock or memory clock speed). Redo the test until you have a stable combination of both.
- Once you’re happy with the settings and overall stability, save the settings as a profile by clicking on the floppy disk icon, then selecting one of the profile options.
How to Enable the On-Screen Display in MSI Afterburner
Enabling on-screen display (OSD) allows you to see how well, or bad, your GPU is doing during benchmarking. Through this display, you can decide what you want to see whether that be the temperature, clock speed, workload, or anything else with the GPU.
- Click on “Settings” and then click the “Monitoring” tab
- Under “Active hardware monitoring graphs” select the information that you’d want to see in the on-screen display by clicking their names then setting “Properties” to “in OSD.” You’ll most likely want to run FPS, GPU and memory temperature, fan speed, GPU usage, and GPU voltage, but you can run more or less than this. It’s all up to you.
- Now, whenever you load a game, the OSD will provide real-time details on your GPU’s performance.
- You can also assign in-game hotkeys to toggle the OSD on and off by going under the “On-Screen Display” tab under “Settings.” This is probably better to do than not, especially for convenience sake.
Setting up a Fan Profile
Making sure you have the perfect, customized fan profile will make sure that your GPU runs as efficiently as it possibly can. Here’s how to do it:
- Locate and click on “Settings,” then click the “Fan” tab at the top of the settings window.
- Mark the “Enable user-defined software automatic fan control” option so that you can now customize your fan curve
- Now, you can alter the curve below to meet your specific needs by messing with the “fan speed %” and “temperature” values. By clicking anywhere on the curve, you can define a new point then move it around to where you want. You can also remove a curve point by clicking on it and hitting “delete” on your keyboard.
- Once you’ve settled on your ideal fan profile, just click apply and close the window – don’t worry about anything else. Your new fan profile is now working as entailed!
Now you can set the curve based on however you want. This profile is great if your fans are constantly loud even at low temperatures because it will be able to get rid of some of the fan’s noise. Still, be cautious. There’s always a chance for permanent damage, especially when your PC’s temperatures get to above 70 to 80 degrees centigrade.
Here, make sure that your fan speed is running 100% fan speed, nothing lower, or your computer and GPU will be in for some trouble. Be cautious no matter what you do. Your GPU may be in even more danger if there is a problem with your fans. Don’t worry, we’ve already written about what to do when your GPU fans are not spinning.
How to Download MSI Afterburner
- Go to MSI Afterburner’s website
- Go to the bottom of the page and click the “Download” under the “MSI Afterburner” logo. Here, you can also download the Afterburner App for Android and Remote Server if you want to control Afterburner from your phone instead of interrupting your game by alt-tabbing
- Once downloaded, unzip the MSIAfterburnerSetup.zip file. Double click the .exe file and follow the installation process. Make sure to install Kombustor when prompted or you’ll just have to do this later.
- After installed, many find it necessary to restart your computer. Then, load MSI Afterburner and you’re good to go.
- You can also go right to “Settings,” then go under the “User Interface” tab to change the skin to “Default MSI Afterburner skin” because it’ll be less cluttered and more helpful to use overall.
- You can also go under “General” and click on “Unlock voltage control” and “Unlock voltage monitoring”
- If you’re running multiple GPUs, stay in the “General” tab and go to the “Master graphics processor selection” drop-down menu. From here, select the GPU that you want to overlock or monitor
While overclocking is very risky and can be complicated to do, using MSI Afterburner helps to ease the trouble and get your GPU running like you want it to. Of course, be careful and conscious when you’re overclocking and stop whenever you feel that something’s going wrong.
Don’t push your GPU just because you want to, it might not respond well to that. Yet, by following this guide we’re sure that you’ll be able to get MSI Afterburner working greatly for you and make sure that you’re pushing your GPU to the limits.