The thought about pushing your components past their rated limits can be frightening because you never know what can happen.
But if pulled off successfully, you can pretty much enjoy free extra performance without any additional risk to your components.
Overclocking pretty much is manually increasing how fast a component cycles per second, this can either be done through the BIOS or through applications, and it’s pretty safe.
What Is Overclocking?
Overclocking is a way of increasing how fast a component cycles per second, it gives a way to control how well a computer component performs.
The higher the clock speed, the more it will perform, this has huge benefits when it comes to gaming, video editing and other demanding tasks.
The most common thing that comes with overclocking is additional heat, this can be counteracted by having a competent cooling system in place to efficiently dissipate additional heat.
What Is CPU Overclocking?
When overclocking the CPU, it can result in huge performance gains across the board in single-core and multi-core situations.
Overclocking the CPU is mostly done by gamers looking for extra performance, this is most likely because their CPU is limiting the GPU’s performance in some sort of way.
Overclocking the CPU is usually done within the BIOS by changing the clock speed modifier, it’s best done in slow increments to know how your CPU responds to different clock speeds.
Most AMD and Intel CPUs can overclock but there are some exceptions. Only the Intel CPU’s with a ‘K’ suffix is allowed to overclock, and most AMD CPUs are overclockable.
Is CPU Overclocking Safe?
CPU overclocking is very safe if you know what you’re doing, there’s always a way you can potentially damage your CPU by overclocking, but that’s if you don’t follow good practices.
Firstly, if you’re worried about reducing your CPU’s lifespan by overclocking it, then it’s best to not tamper with the voltages, this is what can ruin a CPU.
Sure, the voltages may offer better stability at higher clock speeds, but if you can slowly increase the clock speed without increasing the voltage, that will be a huge benefit.
With that out of the way, before you overclock a CPU, ensure that you have a competent cooling system in place because an overclocked CPU will definitely produce more heat than normal.
So considering a water cooling system will greatly reduce the chance of heat induced damage to the CPU, and allow you to benefit from the overclock much longer.
After you’ve overclocked by increasing the clock speed modifier slowly, you should run a benchmark to see how stable the CPU runs.
A great benchmark for CPU would be the PassMark benchmark, it allows you to compare your scores with similar processors to see how well your overclock is.
What Is RAM Overclocking?
Depending on what type of RAM modules you have, overclocking them can be extremely simple and safe compared to GPU and CPU overclocking.
This is thanks to XMP memory modules with XMP profiles which are overclock presets installed by the memory manufacturer.
When you overclock VIA XMP, it will apply safe clock speeds and safe voltage ratings verified by the manufacturer. Normal DDR4 is rated for 1.2V, and XMP DDR4 is rated for 1.35V.
However, you can manually overclock your RAM even if they don’t have an XMP profile, this can be done through the BIOS.
The benefits of increasing the RAM speed is great, it minimizes the CPU/RAM bottleneck which allows for higher frame rates in games.
Is RAM Overclocking Safe?
XMP overclocking is extremely safe like previously stated, but if you manually overclock normal DDR4 RAM, things change extremely fast.
For one, a non-XMP overclock isn’t pre-verified to work at any clock speed or voltage, so you’re basically in the dark in terms of modifying the values.
And messing the memory voltages too much can definitely destroy them, or significantly reduce the lifespans, so you must be cautious.
The general rule of thumb for non-XMP overclocking is to not go above 1.5v for an extended period of time, also it’s best to increment values slowly.
Otherwise, if you want overclockable DDR4 RAM that can reach speeds of 3600MHz, it’s best to purchase pre-overclocked XMP memory to be more on the safe side.
What Is GPU Overclocking?
When overclocking a graphics card, things are a little easier and safer compared to overclocking a CPU, or non-XMP RAM.
This is because you have access to software such as MSI Afterburner which has a user-friendly layout for beginners and advanced overclockers.
The thing that makes GPU overclocking so popular is that you don’t have to go to the BIOS, and the results you see are quite big especially if you’re a gamer.
Increasing a GPUs clock speed results in huge FPS gains, this is because a graphics card’s clock speed has a linear relationship with in-game frames per second.
Is GPU Overclocking Safe?
Overclocking a graphics card is generally considered safe because there’s very little you can do to inflict damage to the GPU.
Even though overclocking the GPU will increase temperatures, the GPU is quite robust meaning they’re made to handle extreme temperatures.
Also, most graphics cards will have a fail-safe mechanism for overclocking, so it will prevent anyone from inputting values that are seen as harmful to the GPU.
So if you push your graphics card’s clock speed too far, the system will simply freeze and crash, no harm will be done to the GPU.
The general rule of thumb for overclocking the GPU is to increment the clock speed by a factor of 10 Mhz to ensure the stability of the GPU when gaming.
If the GPU reaches an unstable point, then you can decrease the clock speed by 10 or 20MHz to find where your GPU belongs in terms of overclocking.
How To Safely Overclock
There are a few tips and tricks you can implement to safely overclock your CPU, GPU, or RAM, this will ensure complete safety, and maximum performance.
Increment Slowly – If you raise a clock speed multiplier way too fast, then you’re more likely to encounter crashes, freezing, and instability.
So each time you increase the clock speed, test the system vigorously to ensure that the system remains stable at its new speed.
Have Sufficient Cooling – It doesn’t matter whether you’re overclocking the CPU, GPU, or RAM, having sufficient cooling is absolutely necessary.
Something as simple as having a sufficient airflow setup in your PC case to exhaust hot air, and intake cool air can massively benefit you in your overclocking endeavours.
Popular Overclocking Tools
There are a few tools you can use to help overclock, and help test how well your overclocked system performs. These tools can greatly improve your overclocking experience.
MSI Afterburner is probably the best overclocking tool anyone can own, it’s free, and it allows you to modify most values such as fan speed, core clock, and voltages.
It also allows you to add overlays into video games to show how well your GPU is performing in terms of clock speed, temperature, and fan speed.
This is important if you’re trying to gauge the limits of your graphics cards in terms of thermal throttling, this will help you know whether you need more fan speed or not.
Overclocking also requires benchmarking software so you can compare your overclocked results to your pre-overclocked results.
This will help you know whether your overclocked system was worthwhile, and you can also compare your system to similarly overclocked system’s.
A great tool for this would be 3DMark or Cinebench, with these tools, they generate a result which is comparable to many other results.
In conclusion, overclocking is definitely safe within certain parameters, this usually involves not increasing the voltages, and incrementing slowly.
We think if your hardware is capable of being overclocked, and you have sufficient cooling, then you should definitely overclock.
Not overclocking can be seen as a waste of performance because the performance gains are usually free, and the performance it offers can be quite big.
The most dangerous forms of overclocking involve insufficient cooling equipment, incrementing too fast, and increasing the voltages too far.