How to Overclock Your GPU Safely


Overclocking GPU can seem daunting at first, and the fear of messing the computer can shun the idea of even attempting. However, tweaking the graphics card by boosting the clock speed one generation higher than its release is entirely a safe process. 

Don’t worry, the computer will not explode by overclocking graphics cards to its fullest potential. Modern GPU’s (graphics processing unit) is designed in a way that users can only overclock until it’s safe to avoid causing any consequential damage. The fear of impairing the GPU comes due to the lack of knowledge or information on overclocking GPU.

To overclock GPU safely, read the entire guide and follow the steps below and one need not worry about running into any complications.  

What Is Overclocking?

Overclocking GPU is the action of increasing the clock speed of a component or in other words, manually tweak the clock rate at which GPU performs. Commonly, it applies to CPU’s (central processing unit) and GPU’s that operate at clock speed, but not limited to it as one can overclock other components of a computer as well. CPU and GPU are factory set to perform at certain speeds. However, one is not limited to that speed and can quickly accelerate clock rate than what the component is designed to run.

Augmenting the clock rate enables the component to perform more operations per second. GPU clock speed is measured in cycles per second (Hz) and is an indication of the rate at which the general processing unit performs tasks.

Overclocking in GPU means augmenting the Core Clock (CC) and the Memory Clock (MC). Core Clock determines the speed at which core tasks are performed like rendering graphics most commonly in games. Meanwhile, the Memory Clock is the memory capacity of the GPU and not the computer.  

While overclocking GPU is safe, one must consider and be cautious about the heat it generates. It is vital to provide additional cooling while you squeeze more performance from the GPU. Overheating can damage any component of a computer or even make it unstable.

Why Overclock GPU?

Time is cruel for gamers; updating the GPU can cost a lot of money. The upgrade cycle is endless and harsh, even the best of graphics card processing units fades in a year to make a place for even a next generation.   

Therefore, gamers have sought to alternative ways to boost performance without the need of buying a new GPU such as overclocking.  Overclocking can result in dramatically better performing computer without the need of spending a fortune on new GPUs. The process of overclocking leverages only the basic tools for benchmarking.  

 How to Overclock GPU

All GPUs are factory set to run at a specific speed limit dubbed as the ‘base clock.’ However, every card has the potential to transcend to speeds set by the manufacturer. However, it uses more power and leads to overheating, and therefore, it is appropriate to provide proper cooling beforehand.

Also, one must note that overclocking GPU does not void the warranty as all configuration are stored on the computer only. It is best to find a sweet spot – the balance between performance and optimum temperature. Don’t worry, if you have overclocked the GPU to an unsafe level, as it is easy to revert it to a normal level if that occurs. The best way is to increase clock speed gradually and analyze the difference in performance. 

Overclocking Programs

Overclocking software are vital to present accurate readings that translates to good results. One of the most popular software is MSI Afterburner. The software is capable of tweaking both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs. Also, be cautious not to push the GPU too hard using the software as the graphics card might display glitches, or the PC will crash. 

MSI Afterburner is the best in the market that offers users to take full advantage of their chipset. It is an all-in-one software that offers various features such as benchmarking, monitoring, and even hardware rundown.

MSI Afterburner’s user-friendly interface makes, and real-time monitoring makes it one of the favorites among overclockers. Using the program, one can tweak the core clock, fan settings, voltage, and memory clock.

While MSI Afterburner is not the only software in the market, another popular program is the EVGA precision X Series. Most of the overclocking utilities contain the same tools.    

Benchmarking and Stress Testing

Benchmarking and stress testing are a vital part of the process when overclocking GPUs. Stress testing software ensures that the settings are stable and won’t harm your hardware. In simple words, the software determines the optimum working limit of the GPU that one can push. 

The computer will run into errors if the overclock is unstable. The computer might even crash, or in the worst case, one will end with blue screen error. If so, then one must lower the overclock configurations and try again. 

A computer crash is frequent while overclocking and does indicate a GPU failure. Once can quickly revert to normal by reconfiguring the settings. Some of the best stress testing software includes Heaven Benchmark and Valley. 

Russian software company Unigine is the developer of both the software. The software provides extreme performance and unparalleled stability test for computer hardware.

Also, Heaven and Valley both offer comprehensive frame per the second date and scoring parameter to display how the GPU is reacting to changes. The idea is to benchmark the chipset until you witness graphical glitches. Down these things slightly to get the perfect balance between performance and stability.    

Voltage Monitoring 

While the above software covers most of the stress testing and monitoring, it is best to equip your PC with professional monitoring software such as the HWMonitor, GPU temp, or RealTemp. HWMonitor is undoubtedly the best pick of the three as it provides real-time temperatures, clock speeds, voltage readings, and more. 

While MSI Afterburner and Heaven Benchmark provide a gauge to measure the changes, it is advisable to use multiple software to ensure the readings tally. Even the RealTemp and GPU Temp provide accurate readings. Computers can heat up a lot, and it is best to have software to present precise reading. As a piece of cautionary advice, it is best to maintain temp below 80 C. 

In case the temperature goes overboard, the PC will shut down to prevent the overclocking action from damaging the chipset. 

One must also take into consideration external parameters such as the room temperature. It is best to cool down the room before an overclock. 

Caution: One of the most critical steps in the process of overclocking the GPU is the parameter of voltage. Amateur overclockers fear to perform the change of voltage the most. Altering the voltage to an unsafe level can damage the GPU over time, if not immediately. Carefully and safely tweaking the voltage is the path to computer enlightenment and better gaming performance. 

Recording the current GPU level  

Firstly, one has to open the monitoring software and check that the temperature readings do not exceed 50 C, fluctuating between 30-50 is common. Also, ensure that the clock speeds are precise. It is best to test the GPU before clocking and take the reading. Below are the steps to do so:

  • Firstly, install the Unigine software.
  • Click on the Start menu and launch Heaven Benchmark 4.0. 
  • Now click on the ‘Run’ button.
  • Click on ‘Benchmark’ at the top left corner of the screen while the screen is rendering 3D scenes in the background. It will initiate the benchmarking process and offer results,  
  • It will take about 10 minutes while the program tests the settings through 26 scenes. At the end of the tests, it will offer performance data categorized under temperature, memory clock, and more. Note:- Monitor the temperature recordings while it is testing as it will give you an approximation of how much can overclock. 
  • At the end of the tests, one will receive FPS statistics and score. Save the score to refer to in the future. 

Now that you have a base performance recording, it is time to overclock the GPU. Open MSI Afterburner to tweak the GPU settings. The software welcomes you with a screen such as a car speedometer. It has the ‘Control Panel’ in the center. The control panel will be used to overclock the core voltage, power limit, temperature, core clock, memory clock, and fan speed. 

On either side of the control panel lies the temperature and core clock speed and the memory clock speed. The core clock speed is what we will overclock, and the memory clock speed will only be tweaked after testing the core clock. 

Overclocking process – Increasing the Closing Speed

Finding the right overclock setting is challenging, as multiple factors affect the configurations such as the model of the PC and cooling. 

Looking online for the optimal can help give you a heading, but you are the only one that can determine the best overclock setting for your PC. The best way is to use settings available online as guidance and then try to surpass the level using MSI Afterburner overclocking software to see how much you can push the GPU.

Preparing GPU for Overclock 

Overclockers now have to set up their GPU for the overclocking process. To do so, follow the below steps:

  • Open MSI Afterburner and click on the Setting icon available under the control panel. Bookmark the page as at the end of the setup you will have to restart the PC.
  •  In the resultant window, click on the ‘General’ tab and check the following options – Force constant voltage, unlock voltage control, and unlock voltage monitoring.
  • Click ‘OK’ to apply the settings. 
  • A prompt will appear requesting to restart the PC, click ’OK.’ 
  • Open MSI Afterburner, and Unigine Heaven following the restart.
  • Now, slide the temperature limit to 80 C, and the power limit increases parallelly. 
  • Slide the core voltage slider (%) to the maximum. 
  • Finally, click on the check button to save the configuration.

The above configuration assures that one can get the highest clock speed while maintaining safe temperature levels. 

Time to Stress Test 

Once the optimal MSI Afterburner is set, it is time to increase the core clock slider. The steps are straightforward; all you have to do is increase the core clock speed. Follow the below steps to overclock and test the GPU:

  • Begin raising the core clock by gradually in increments of +30 and click on the check button. 
  • Now, run the Heaven benchmark 4.0 the same way while recording the initial GPU level. Run the entire test for 26 screens.
  • Take note of the scores and improvement on average frames per second. With the growth, the temperature also must have increased by a couple of degrees. 
  • Once done, push the GPU to max potential by increasing the clock speed in increments of 30 again.  
  • Rerun the benchmark software and note the improvement. 
  • If you notice any graphical issues or the PC shuts down then restart the computer and lower the core clock speed by 30 and that will be the optimal clock speed. 

It is all about finding the right balance by tweaking the configurations. Overclocking the GPU process is complete, and the same can be repeated for memory clock. However, modern chipsets are designed to have enough memory. Therefore, boosting the memory clock speed won’t make much difference while games.

One can also choose to save the tweaked configuration by clicking on the ‘Save’ icon on the MSI Afterburner. Next, assign a number for that particular setting and then save it. Users can also assign hotkeys to launch the settings after saving their profiles. Nw tries the new overclocked GPU while playing your favorite games. Overclocking is not as daunting as it might feel; after all, it is safe and easy to perform. 

Last Updated on November 4, 2020

Thomas Bush

Hi, I'm Thomas. I'm passionate about getting the best possible gaming experience. On this blog, I'll share my guides, tools, and accessories for getting the most out of your PC.

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