How to Overclock CPU? All You Need To Know

Dejan Cvetnarevic
Dejan Cvetnarevic

Updated · Jul 21, 2022

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Have you ever wanted to make your PC run faster? Well, there’s a way to do it without upgrading its hardware. You can push your CPU beyond its factory limits and get better performance than ever before. This is called overclocking.

It may sound complex, but every computer owner can do it with a bit of effort.

So, how to overclock a CPU?

Keep on reading to find out.

What is Overclocking a CPU?

Overclocking is using the settings on your motherboard to get your CPU to run faster.

But what does that mean?

The manufacturer has designed your computer’s Central Processing Unit to run at a certain speed. However, there’s a way to push it a little further and get some extra performance for your dollar.

Overclocking increases the clock rate, which causes your CPU to operate at a higher speed and perform more operations per second. Therefore, it makes the most of the speed and performance of your computer, even beyond its factory setting.

Gaming enthusiasts and many other users could benefit from this. For example, an overclocked gaming PC will perform better in a game than its standard counterpart.

While no amount of work will turn a quad-core processor into a six-core one, the boost you get from overclocking is highly noticeable.

Overclocking Basics

Let’s look at some of the essential concepts:

  • Core Ratio (Multiplier) - Determines the overall speed of your processor.
  • Core Voltage - The amount of voltage supplied to the CPU
  • CPU Cache/Ring Ratio - Adjusts the frequency of some parts of your CPU cache.
  • CPU Cache/Ring Voltage - Increases the input voltage of your CPU cache.

While knowing the basics is definitely useful, the info above is relevant mainly for manual overclocking

As this is the more advanced method, our guide will focus on the automatic one.

Preparation

When you want to overclock your processor, it’s best to start by prepping your PC and making sure it’s up for the task. If you try doing this with a CPU that’s already redlining, chances are you’ll experience a full system failure.          

So, here’s what to do before increasing the clock speed:

Give Your PC a Thorough Cleaning

This one’s a no-brainer, but it’s a very important step in the process. Shut off your computer and unplug it. Then, open the case and clean out any dust you see on the motherboard, fans, and anywhere else you can reach.

Advanced users may even want to remove some components from the case and clean each one separately.

Identify Your CPU

Many users don’t know much about their specs, and it’s common to be unfamiliar with your processor’s manufacturer. Depending on whether you have an AMD or Intel processor, you’ll have to use a different overclocking app.

So, the next important step is to identify your CPU.

You can do that by:

  • Using software like CPU-Z
  • Checking your PC’s specs on the manufacturer’s website
  • Going through System settings

If you’re overclocking a Windows PC and you want to identify your processor through the System settings, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start
  2. Open Control Panel
  3. Select System and Security (or just System for some users)
  4. Click on General Tab

There, you’ll find your processor’s type and speed.

Test CPU Performance

Finally, you need to put your CPU to the test. If you benchmark its baseline performance, you’ll have starting numbers to use for comparison after you increase CPU performance.

The easiest way to do this is by using a benchmarking tool. There are plenty around, some of which are available for free. Some of the top options you can choose from are:

  • Geekbench
  • Cinebench
  • 3DMark

All these apps are easy to use and can show you how well your CPU and GPU are running.

How to Overclock a CPU?

You can overclock CPU from Windows through BIOS. While this method is also beginner-friendly, it’s generally easier to do it through a dedicated app. Both top two CPU manufacturers, AMD and Intel, have their own apps for PC overclocking.

Intel Extreme Tuning Utility

Intel chips are among the best ones out there. While they often bring the performance you need, pushing them a little extra can pay off.

Manual overclocking is often a mammoth task, and it’s much easier to do it with the native Intel CPU overclocking software called Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU).

So, how to use this tool and gain some free extra performance?

Here it is:

Run an Initial Benchmark

After you install the Intel XTU, you can run a benchmark to gauge your machine’s performance. You can use the results to compare what you’ve achieved after processor overclocking.

Make Changes

Once you have the default tuning, it’s time to make adjustments. The final frequency you get is the base clock with the multiplier on top of it. For example, if you put an x40 multiplier on a 100 MHz core, you’d get 4000 MHz or 4 GHz frequency.

Run a Test

Once you increase the multiplier and save the changes, it’s time to reboot your PC. If it boots up fine, you can keep increasing the x1 multiplier. In case you see no improvements, your CPU is probably already performing at its best.

Iron out Any Stability Issues

If the computer turns off after you overclock your Intel processor, chances are it’s overheating. You can deal with this by either decreasing the overclock settings or picking up a better cooling solution for your machine.

If the PC runs but starts stuttering, you’re probably lacking power. To solve this, you can go to the Advanced Tuning tab in the Intel overclocking tool and change the core voltage offset. Remember to keep your voltage changes at 0.05V at a time.

Test Long-Term System Stability

Once you find the settings that work for you, it’s time to test them for 30 minutes or so. The best way to see how your computer overclocking settings perform is through the app’s Stress Test tab.

An extended benchmark will put it through many challenges, such as video rendering or running games.

AMD Ryzen Master

AMD Ryzen chips have been the second fiddle to Intel for some time but are now blisteringly quick. However, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t try squeezing even more power out of them.

Some of its CPUs, such as the Ryzen 5 3600X and Ryzen 7 3700X, don’t have plenty of overclocking headroom. But if you have any of its non-X chips, you can certainly benefit from overclocking the CPU.

The best part – the entire process doesn’t have to be difficult. The native AMD Ryzen Master app can guide you through it. It doesn’t require touching the BIOS, and you can access various clocking options.

So, how to use AMD software to overclock your Ryzen CPU?

Let’s take a better look at it.

Select a Profile

When you first run this CPU overclocking software, it presents four profiles you can choose from. With the Creator Mode profile, you get access to all CPU cores and various other options available under Control Mode. That’s where you can boost CPU speed.

Decide How Fast You Want It to Run

The next step includes figuring out how far you want to take the processor. For example, you can try running a 3.6 GHz CPU at 4.4 GHz if you do everything right.

Change the Speed and Run a Stress Test

Without the AMD CPU overclocking software, this step could get complicated. However, with it, you can increase your processor’s speed with just a few clicks. Once you set each core to your overclocking goal, simply click the Apply & Test button.

That way, you’ll trigger the changes you’ve made and see if you’ve pushed the device too far. If you have, the system would probably crash or revert to stable figures.

Always check monitoring dials during stress tests. Even the tiniest changes may have an impact on the temperature.

Repeat

If you haven’t reached your desired speed yet, simply repeat the process. This shouldn’t take a lot of time since the AMD software can overclock your CPU without much work.

Run a Final Stress Test

In the end, run one final stress test to see if that’s how you should run your PC.

Is Overclocking Safe?

Your main concern should be the increase in temperature. However, as long as you do it carefully, it’s safe to increase CPU performance by overclocking it. With the materials manufacturers now use, most hardware will likely experience no issues.

It takes proper cooling to overclock a CPU, and you have to make sure you don’t fry your chip in the process. However, even if your fans are lacking or the clock is set too high, the PC will simply reboot or bluescreen.

Generally, overclocking puts some wear on the CPU and may reduce its lifespan. It’ll probably bring it down from 15-20 years to around 12-15. However, by that time, you’d have probably replaced either your entire PC or most of its parts, anyway.

It’s also important to mention that overclocking will, in most cases, effectively void your warranty.

Benefits of Overclocking a CPU

So, what do you gain by overclocking your machine? Let’s look at the main benefits:

  • PC performance gains - extra frames and shorter render time.
  • Increased control - you decide how your computer runs.
  • A cost-efficient strategy - you gain performance without spending on upgrades.
  • Easy to learn - with the proper apps, the entire process is seamless.

Depending on how far you’re willing to go, you can boost your PC’s performance by up to 20%. If you put in the effort and you’re careful about cooling, overclocking definitely pays off.

Wrap Up

I hope this guide helped you better understand how overclocking works.

It comes with very little risk, and it’s easy to learn. And since you can overclock the CPU with software like Intel Extreme Tuning Utility and AMD Ryzen Master, you get access to all the advanced options you want.

Putting some effort into it does pay off, especially if you really want your computer to perform better, but upgrading its hardware isn’t an option.

If you decide to do it, be careful about the temperature, and the entire process should be painless.

FAQ.


Is it safe to overclock a CPU?

When done correctly, overclocking is entirely safe. It pushes your processor beyond its factory limits, but as long as you’re careful about the temperature, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Will CPU overclocking increase FPS?

Yes, overclocking can increase FPS in CPU-heavy games. It can result in a 5% to 15% gain depending on the game and computer architecture.

Does overclocking reduce CPU lifespan?

If you aren’t careful when overclocking your CPU, it could easily reduce its lifespan. Without proper cooling means, heat degradation will make the processor perform worse over time. However, if you employ this strategy responsibly, it’ll still take over a decade for your CPU to fail completely. By that time, you’d probably have upgraded most of your PC’s hardware, anyway.

Should I overclock CPU for gaming?

In short, overclocking the central processing unit isn’t necessary. However, when you want to run applications that can benefit from it, there’s no real reason not to do it. Remember that you should first learn how to overclock CPU responsibly.

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Dejan Cvetnarevic

Dejan Cvetnarevic

Dejan is a techie at heart who always dreamed of turning his fascination with gaming into a career. He finds working for TechJury a perfect opportunity to express his views of all kinds of different software. Being an avid reader, particularly of fantasy and sci-fi, Dejan pursued a degree in English Language and Literature. When not at his computer, he’s watching sports or playing tabletop games.

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