Why Is CPU Clock Speed Low?

The clock speed is a metric of understanding how fast a processor works, the clock speed usually determines its “single core performance”.

If you notice that your CPU is running slower when it should be faster, then this can have negative influences on the entire system’s performance.

Low clock speeds can be the result of many things, low clock speeds can be a product of your PC being Idle, or overheating.

The CPU Clock Speed Will Naturally Fluctuate

Naturally, your processor isn’t going to run at 100% speed, this isn’t efficient from a performance and energy saving perspective.

So your CPU most likely has dynamic frequency scaling which automatically increases or decreases the CPUs core clock speed based on what tasks are running.

For example, if you’re just browsing the web, then your CPU clock speed will be low because it isn’t a CPU intensive task.

However, if you’re gaming, or video editing, your CPU clock speed will naturally ramp up as the performance is needed.

Also Read: CPU Clock Speed Fluctuating

Low Clock Speeds Are A Product Of Overheating

In case you are playing a game, or video editing, the clock speed will naturally clock down once the CPU reaches a certain temperature.

This is what you call thermal throttling, and it’s the act of the CPU sacrificing performance so it can run at an acceptable temperature.

Thermal throttling graph
Thermal throttling graph

Thermal throttling is part of the dynamic frequency scaling technology present in your CPU cooler, it’s there to protect the CPU from heat damage.

Think of it as a safeguard to protect your CPU, it’s definitely annoying to lose clock speed especially whilst gaming, but it’s a necessary evil.

You can always fix thermal throttling by increasing airflow, removing dust from fans and vents, and using a better CPU cooler.

So Why Is My CPU Clock Speed Low?

Having low clock speeds isn’t inherently a bad thing, your processor isn’t always going to run at the advertised speed.

For example, the I9 12900K has a boost clock speed of 5.2GHz, but running at this speed 100% of the time is 100% a bad idea.

So your processor has built in features to provide performance only when necessary, so when you’re gaming, you will see the I9 12900K reach 5.2GHz more often.

But when you’re idle or just browsing the web, you will most likely never see the CPU hit 5.2GHz, it will stay closer to the base speed.

However, low clock speeds can be an issue caused by an overheating CPU, you can apply measures to lower the CPU temperature

Solution 1: Adjusting Fan Speed Curve

Adjusting your fan speed curve is a great way to control the fan speed depending on the CPU temperature.

Doing this will allow you to reduce the CPU temperature more effectively during CPU intensive tasks, this can reduce thermal throttling if done correctly.

CPU fan speed curve graph
The fan speed increases as the core temperature increases

Adjusting the fan speed curve is usually done through the BIOS, your BIOS will look different as not all motherboards are the same.

Entering the BIOS is simple, follow the guide below:

Gigabyte motherboards prioritize the DEL key or the delete key, and you press “F8” to enter the dual-BIOS.

ASUS motherboards also prioritize the DEL key to enter the BIOS, you must press the delete key right when you see the “ASUS” logo.

EVGA motherboards are a little different, they prioritize the F2 key in most cases, but it can also be the DEL key.

MSI motherboards will prioritize the DEL key to enter the BIOS, you should see “press del to enter setup” in most cases.

After entering the BIOS:

  • Navigate to the “Status” menu, it may be called “Monitor”
  • Select “Fan Speed Control”
  • Select the fan you want to adjust
  • Adjust the fan speed curve
  • Exit and save changes

It may take multiple tries to find the optimal speed curve, so be patient. Most of the time, you shouldn’t have to adjust the speed curves as the factory speed curves are usually enough.

Solution 2: Fix PC Airflow Config

When you’re experiencing low clock speeds during CPU intensive tasks, it’s most likely due to the whole PC being warm which can increase the CPU temperature.

So it’s important to ensure that your PC is exhausting warm air whilst taking in cool air, this is how your components effectively cool.

There are usually two setups people go with when building an airflow setup for their PC case and its – Negative airflow, and Positive airflow.

Negative airflow means more air is leaving than coming in so more warm air is leaving than cool air entering.

Positive airflow is pretty much the opposite, more cool air is entering the system while less warm air is leaving.

For the most part, negative airflow/air pressure is more effective than positive airflow at moving air and keeping temperatures low.

Solution 3: Using The Right CPU Cooler

Tower CPU Cooler – Great For Cooling Hot Chips

Another reason for having lower than normal clock speed is because your CPU cooler isn’t able to dissipate heat effectively.

Whilst adjusting the fan speed curves is helpful, there’s only so much it can do, and in the case of having a bad CPU cooler, it won’t do very much.

So, your best option is to pick up a better CPU cooler for your needs. High end CPUs with multiple cores tend to generate more heat so they need beefier coolers.

More budget friendly CPUs with lower clock speeds and fewer cores don’t generate that much heat, so they don’t need beefy coolers.

In the case that you have a high end CPU, you may be experiencing lower clock speeds in gaming scenarios due to thermal throttling

Solution 4: Adjusting Voltages In The BIOS

Finally, adjusting your CPU voltages in the BIOS can be effective at lowering temperatures and solving low clock speed issues.

When done carefully, you should be able to lower the voltage whilst maintaining the exact same clock speeds, this has the effect of reducing the amount of temperature generated.

This is popular among laptops as laptops are poor at dispersing heat compared to desktops, but this can still be useful for desktop users.

Conclusion – Should I Worry About Low Clock Speeds?

In conclusion, you shouldn’t worry about low clock speeds as most of the time it’s a normal part of the CPU’s dynamic frequency scaling.

But during CPU intensive tasks, if you’re suffering from lower clock speeds compared to similar systems, then this can be due to poor heat management.

Leave a Comment