Overclocking Your CPU – A Beginner’s Guide
If you are a hardcore gamer, you might have come across a situation quite few a times when CPU power falls short while playing heavy games causing lags and screen flickering etc. You may have all the top notch components installed on your machine, and many of you might wonder if something is wrong with them. But the issue here is not with the components or something else, but the CPU itself. Here you CPU is giving its full performance, but that is not enough when compared to the amount of power the game demands. One solution to this problem is Overclocking.
I am pretty sure that you will have came across this work quite many times. But in case you don’t know what it really means, Overclocking is a process of tweaking your CPU’s hardware so that it can break its limitations and could perform faster than what the manufacturer has already specified. By this, your CPU will be performed faster and better than what it has been till now.
You can overclock various components of a CPU including processors, graphics cards, RAMs etc, and all that requires is just adjustments in the settings of the motherboard. You can access that menu from the BIOS, but that all info we are going to cover later in this post. All in all, overclocking won’t harm your PC in any way, however, you need to manage the additional amount of heat that the machine can produce while operating at higher specifications.
But before we begin with the tutorial, we would like to inform you that overclocking is not recommended and is definitely not for PCs used for general use. You should only Overclock your machine if you use it for stressful intensive tasks like heavy gaming, 3D rendering, video encoding etc. Also, your system somewhat plays a major role in deciding what component you should overclock. Overclocking CPU every time is not beneficial. For example, if you want to overclock your machine for gaming purpose, overclocking just your GPU might be a better alternative for you.
But before you begin with any kind of overclocking we would like to warn you that it can be dangerous. Overclocking can shorten the life period of your machine or the components and in some cases, can permanently damage them as well, if any one thing goes wrong. So, you should not proceed if you are not ready to face such situations or if you do not have full knowledge and confidence to overclock it.
Steps to Overclock your CPU
While you try to overclock your CPU, there are mainly three things that you will be playing with. The first term you need to know is “Base Clock”. The Base clocking affects the frequency at which your CPU is actually working. In addition to that, it also affects that RAM frequency. The Base clock does not work alone, CPU multiplier is also required which decides the final frequency at which your CPU will be running after Overclocking. If you are getting lost, consider this example:
Let’s say your base clock is 100 MHz and the CPU multiplier is 35, so the final frequency of your CPU will turn out to be 100MHz x 25 = 3.5 GHz.
In addition to these two settings, we will also be tweaking the CPU Vcore which is responsible for the voltage value. Since you are increasing your processor speed, it will require more power, and this is why you also have to increase the Vcore supply to make sure that your processor gets enough power from the supply all the time. Also, since this is a guide we have prepared for beginners, we are not going much in detail and tweaking. We will definitely come up with more advanced CPU overclocking tutorials to help you with specific cases.
Before you begin the overclocking process, you will be needing all these things:
We have written this guide for Windows machines. In case you are using Linux or Mac, the tutorial is not for you. However, if you have these OS on a part of your hard disk, that is fine.
Unlocked Intel Processor
We are going to use an unlocked Intel K processor for overclocking. The guide is also written keeping the latest Intel processors in mind, especially the “K” series. It is because the old first gen or iSeries processors are way more complicated to overclock. It is also possible to overclock old processors like Intel Atom and AMD but you will have to look some additional setting tweak in order to overclock them efficiently.
You get a lot of motherboards in the market which already comes with overclocking settings, however, many other have a lot more settings when compared to normal motherboards. So, if you are building up or assembling a computer, choose a keyboard which has the overclocking features.
Efficient Cooling System
Since you are overclocking your CPU, it will produce more heat than normal. So, you need to take care of the extra heat and for that you good an efficient cooling system. A fast air cooler is a good option. But for extreme overclocking, you want a something really cooling like water cooling system. You need to look more into levels of overclocking to decide what kind of cooling system it requires.
Prime95, AIDA64, CPU-Z, and LinX are few software that you will need to test the already configured settings. CPU-Z gives you the numerical value of the clock speed, voltage, and other parameters so that you can see the output of the tweaked settings easily.
The other programs test your CPU after you have made your settings in order to see if the settings are stable. There are many other software available on the internet that you can use instead of the one mentioned above. We would also recommend you to install ReaTemp software which is able to tell you the real time temperature of your CPU as you run the stress testing on it.
How to Overclock CPU
Here we are going to help you to get a stable overclocked CPU while keeping the tutorial as simple as we can. This tutorial is not going to make your PC super PC but will teach you the basics of overclocking and how to exploit it to extract every last bit of power that it can produce. There are different and a lot of settings to play around, but here we are going to stick to the very basic ones.
Unlike many other tutorials that you will find out there, we are going to keep it a bit slow. Instead of changing everything at once, we are going to go step by step so that you can understand how each and every component affects your CPU performance.
The very first thing that you need to understand before starting overclocking is that each and every motherboard is a bit different from each other. You will have to explore around a bit to understand its functionality. It is important to do some reading about your motherboard, the maximum temperature it can handle, the max and min voltage that it should get etc.
Testing the Defaults
If you are overclocking your PC for the first time, you still do not know how far it can go at default settings. So you need to know them first. In order to do that, open your BIOS settings and then just set everything to default. For stress testing in default mode:
- Restart your PC and then press the “Delete” of “F2” key (or whatever key which opens the BIOS for your motherboard. This will open the BIOS setup in front of you.
- There in the menu, you need to find the option named “Load optimized defaults” or “Restore to Defaults”. Press enter and everything will be set to default.
- Finally, you need to head over to “Save and Exit” to save the settings, exit BIOS and then Reboot your PC.
Once your PC restarts, head over to start menu and run the AID64 application. In the application, you will find a “Stability System Test”. After that make sure all the boxes present on the top left-hand corner are checked and then begin the test. You will have to be very patient as the test might run for a couple of hours. The test results will tell you how stable your CPU is at stock settings. Click the Stop button when you are done and move on to the next step.
Tweak the Multiplier
After you have the results from the previous test in your hand, you are not ready to overclock the CPU. You can search your motherboards overclock setting on the internet and check if you can find something useful. However, we will recommend you to start from your base clock speed and then increase it slowly. It will take a bit but it is way easier than you can imagine. Also, by this method, you will be able to find the point where your PC is the most stable.
Now you need to go back to your BIOS settings and the head over to the “Overclocking Settings” or “CPU Tweaker”. It will have a similar name. In the setting, you will find the “CPU multiplier” or “CPU Ratio’ setting that will be having the “auto” setting by default. However, you will have to change it by entering a new number there. You can increase it by a single value initially. If you are not sure what is the default value of your CPU multiplier, you will be able to find it on the top of the Overclocking window. So, if your default overclocking multiplier value is 33, change it to 34, making it jump from 3.3 GHz to 3.4GHz initially.
After you have done this, save the setting, exit the BIOS menu and then restart your PC to move on to the next step.
Now your CPU has been overclocked and you need to check whether the changes that you have made are stable or not. This could be determined with the help of stress test. For stress testing, you will need three programs Real Temp, CPU-Zand stress testing program.
The CPU-Z will tell you whether the changes have been applied to your CPU properly or not. The Real Temp will tell you the real time temperature of the CPU and you should always have an eye on it. The temperature change is drastic when you change or tweak the settings and as you increase the voltage. Make sure that it does not a very high figure. The stress testing program LinX will provide you the results of the stress test but might take some time to complete.
Set it to run 10-20 times and click on the “Start” button. Keep an eye on the Real Temp screen as the stress test runs. You will notice that the CPU temperature goes too high and then low quite many times.
Now, if the test finishes successfully with the temperature not reaching very high value, you should increase the value of the multiplier by one more value and then rerun the test.
If the temperature touches the unsafe figure, your CPU has touched its limits. We would like to recommend you to keep it below 85 degrees Celsius in all scenarios. However, the maximum temperature your CPU can touch might vary, so you will have to check your CPU’s limits by yourself. But you can find some possible combinations on the internet. But keep this in mind, more is your CPU’s temperature, shorter will be its lifespan.
But, if the test fails in between and you face the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), you need to move on to the next step.
Increasing the Voltage
If you are facing the Blue Screen of Death, it ultimately means that the amount of voltage that your CPU is getting is not enough for the clock speed that has been set on the CPU. In order to avoid that or whenever you face this issue, simply raise the voltage.
For increasing the voltage, go back to the BIOS settings and then look for “CPU core” or Vcore. You need to change increase the already set value a bit. A good way will be to increase it in steps of 0.05. After you have changed the setting, save it and exit the BIOS and then restart your PC. However, you need to keep in mind that the more voltage you will raise, the higher temperature will get.
Repeat and Refine
You will have to repeat the steps that have been mentioned above quite a few times to get the optimal setting for your machine. You have to reach the maximum safe temperature as well as the maximum safe voltage to stop. Once you have reached this state, reset your settings to the original default stable values. After this, save the settings and then restart your system to go for the final stress testing.
We are going to make use of a software named Prime95 to stress test the machine finally. In order to stress test using Prime95, select the “Just Stress Test” button. You can manually go to Options and then select the Torture test and then set the setting to “Small FF” test. Click the OK button and then leave your PC idle for about 6 hours. This is the minimum amount of time you need to give the program to stress test properly. Some people even keep it for12 hours for more accurate results.
You should also keep an eye time to time as well. Prime95 pushed your CPU to really extreme level, so it might take the CPU temperature to a high value. If something like this happens, you might have to back down the setting to certain lower value.
After you are done with Prime95, we would also like to recommend you to run AIDA64 program. Just click on the “Stability System Test” after checking all the boxes you find on the upper left corner. Click on the “Start” button to begin the test. This program will require around 6 hours too to complete. This program is a bit softer on CPU and pushes it to its 100 percent only. But, it is recommended because it also checks whether other components are working fine with the changed settings or not.
What to do Next?
As we mentioned before, this is just a basic tutorial which teaches you how to start with overclocking. But this is not the end and you can do a lot more than this. We can’t explain how to do all the extra things here, but here is a brief summary of stuff that you can play with to extract more from your machine.
Overclock your RAM
The default RAMs do not work at their rated specifications and speed. Most of them do not. However, this fact is unknown to most of the users. But it is very easy to overclock your RAM to make it run at the rated speed. Go to the BIOS settings, there you will have to tweak with the voltage as well as the RAM speed parameters and set them to a specific stable value. That means that you will have to keep one more thing in mind while running the stress testing process mentioned above.
The new processors in the market are capable of per-core overclocking thus offering you very high processing than rated. You won’t have to overclock all the cores, but tweaking a couple of them will give you enough power to play even the latest games easily in the high setting.
Enable Power Saving
After your processor is overclocked, it will more likely run at higher speed even at normal usage. It will draw extra power from the source even when it is not required. Since it is consuming extra power, obviously it will produce extra heat. But you can prevent that by tweaking motherboard settings. SpeedStep and Intel’s C-states is a good example tweaking which will help your CPU to be in power saving mode. You will have to disable them when overclocking, but re-enable them when you are done so that your CPU runs at normal speed when high performance is not required.
There is no limit to the experiments that you can try on your PC and overclock. Taking your CPU to the limit is not bad but is highly risky. But you should not worry much as there are plenty of detailed guides like this available on the internet to help you with perfect settings.