Overclocking can seem like black magic, but its just performance tuning. By definition, overclocking is increasing the clock rate on a component, making it run faster than it was meant to run. You can overclock several components in your PC, but most common would be your CPU and GPU.
You may have heard overclocking is dangerous, and it can be.
When you push a component to perform more operations per second, you generate
more heat. More heat can lead to component failure or degradation of parts.
However, with some understanding and care, overclocking is incredibly safe.
When any component comes from the factory, it will be capped
at a certain speed. The actual capabilities of the chip may be much higher than
the cap applied. Manufacturers have some reasons for doing this, such as
stability of the component, cooling considerations, power consumption, and
price bracket, to name a few.
If the chips themselves are limited on speed, that means you may have the capability to unlock the true potential. You can do this by increasing the clock rate or changing the multiplier in your computer’s BIOS. Toying with clock rate or multipliers forces the component to perform more operations per second and gives you the potential for high performance.
Again, we have to be careful in this process. Increasing the
clock speed of any chip will generate more heat or cause the system to become
unstable. Any time you overclock, you need to take small steps, be patient, and
be willing to back out if things get touchy.
Can You Overclock?
Not all components allow for overclocking. Several processors and motherboards ship with locked multipliers. Locking the multipliers means that even if the chip can support more performance, you won’t be able to unlock it. Before attempting to follow an overclocking guide, validate that the component you are trying to overclock supports that action.
We have mentioned temperature many times, and we will see it a few more times before this article is over. If your PC is already running hot, do not attempt to overclock. Overclocking will generate more heat, so priority one has to be on getting better cooling in your system. More, or larger, fans are always good. What I recommend is water cooling. You don’t need some next-generation solution; any of the basic closed-loop water cooling systems on the market will help a ton.
In short: just because you want to overclock a component in your PC does not mean you should, or even can.
Why Would You Want to
There are some pretty clear advantages to overclocking
components within your PC. First and foremost, you get better performance.
Second, you get more speed. Speed and performance may sound like the same
thing, but they are not. Think of performance as a component meeting its full
potential, while speed is raw computing power.
Most people overclock due to being a gaming enthusiast. I
have always felt that part of being a gamer, and especially a PC gamer, is
wanting the most performance for your money. Overclocking gives you that. If
you can get your $100 RAM to perform like $200 RAM, or get an extra five frames
per second out of your GPU at no additional cost, wouldn’t you? Most gamers
I know I have touched on the dangers several times in the
article, but this topic deserves its own section. I want to reiterate that
overclocking can be done in a very safe way. However, it is my job to hammer
home any potential downsides so you can make an educated decision.
The first danger is that you will likely void your warranty. Yes, you read that right. If you overclock a component in your PC, you probably have no way to replace it or receive support from the manufacturer if something goes wrong. Depending on how comfortable you are with PC repairs and how expensive the component you are overclocking is, this could be a deal-breaker.
Overclocking will generate more heat and likely cause some system instability if not tuned correctly. This instability and heat can cause components to degrade faster or, in the worst case, break the system. You have to ask yourself whether a shorter lifespan for your PC is worth the increased performance in the short term.
PC Goes Boom
Finally, there is a risk of breaking your system during the
overclocking process. Again, overclocking is safe if you take your time, have
appropriate cooling, and follow a useful resource.
Where to Get
Now that you understand what overclocking is, why you may
consider it, and what the dangers are, you have likely made the decision to
either dive in or back out.
If you have been scared off from overclocking, I apologize, as that was not my intention. However, I would never recommend you move forward in attempting to overclock your CPU, GPU, RAM, etc. unless you were comfortable with the risks versus rewards.
On the other hand, if you are ready to move forward, you may
be looking for some resources. There are lots of useful resources out there on
the internet and whole communities of dedicated overclockers willing to help
If you are not happy with the resources available, I would recommend you follow us on Gamezo. In the next few weeks, I will be posting detailed guides on how to overclock different components within your gaming PC.