Overclocking your processor allows you to improve performance without internal swaps, but there are risks involved.
Overclocking your CPU (central processing unit) might sound dangerous, but in reality it means getting maximum performance from your PC processor. The most popular chip manufacturers (Intel and AMD) limit the maximum output to increase reliability, although this may cost money for daily speeds.
Some chips have different methods for overclocking, so this won’t work as a one-size guide for all. It’s definitely worth a try to find out how to get the highest overclock on the specific chipset you’re dealing with, but this article should be a useful general guide.
However, you can only overclock the processor if it’s ‘unlocked’. For example, Intel has an ‘non-K’ Intel Core i7 which has a locked clock speed, preventing you from overclocking and an unlocked-K version of Intel Core i7, which allows you to overclock the processor.
Achieving the best overclock is not an easy task and often requires a good ‘silicone lottery’. Lotteries come from a variety of different processes with different voltage requirements to reach a certain clock rate. For example, looking at the same model Intel Core i7 3770K processor, the CPU will need 1.35 Volts to overclock 4.5Ghz, while others will do 1.15 Volts for the same clock speed.
If you want to perfect and get the maximum performance from your processor, you must fully understand the overclocking process and also sacrifice a few weeks for overclocking, because this is a long process through trial and error.
Due to complications you might encounter while overclocking a laptop, we chose to keep using a desktop computer. If you want to overclock your laptop you have to be very careful, given their limited heat dissipation.
Danger of CPU overclocking
Before jumping to do this, there are several risks to consider. For starters, overclocking will almost certainly invalidate any warranty on your machine – even though some are built taking into account overclocking. You can also damage your CPU or even other components by overclocking. In this guide we will try to make it as safe as possible, where you should never experience problems or risk damaging any components.
However, if you are going to overclock your processor, you must realize that you can damage your components by tilting your BCLK too high, where BCLK determines overclocking your motherboard. Without getting too technical, BCLK overclock improves the performance of your entire motherboard, which means that everything directly connected to your motherboard will be overclocked. Yes it also includes your wireless card!
Therefore, BCLK overclocking is a bit dangerous, but if done correctly, you will be able to achieve fantastic results. We recommend only overclocking BCLK, if you know the ins and outs of your motherboard chipset and processor.
Overclocking multipliers can also be dangerous, but are often much easier to understand. To achieve faster processor speeds, you need to increase the multiplier. For your processor to cope with faster speeds, you need to pump more power (volts) for it – this is known as increasing Vcore. When you increase Vcore, your CPU temperature also increases because there are more volts in and out of your processor at a very fast speed. Imagine that as a motor, the faster the motor spins, the more heat it gets. More VCore means more cycles in your CPU and therefore hotter.
Before you begin
Because overclocking involves pushing your CPU outside of the factory settings, you have to monitor it.
The maximum temperature processor, also known as TJ Max is arguably the most important figure to track when overclocking, because every processor has a thermal threshold. If you exceed that temperature, your PC will have a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD); if this happens regularly, you could face data loss and more importantly hardware damage with your CPU deep fryer. If you are going above and beyond with your overclocking, we recommend buying after-market coolers; something like Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo or Arctic Freezer 7 Pro is a popular choice for low-moderate overclocking. If you are serious about overclocking, the Noctua NH-D15 or Corsair H115i liquid cooler is all you need to adequately cool your processor.
To be safe and always aware of the temperature of your processor, we recommend that you download Core Temp, Real Temp or HW Monitor. This will tell you about your processor’s core temperature and also tells you about the maximum temperature that your processor can handle before it dies.
To test overclocking, many users trust the results of Prime95, Aida64 and Cinebench, these programs place a maximum load on your processor and emphasize your processor. If it fails, you often experience an unstable overclock, which sets the Vcore required. We would only recommend using this program if you are using a non-factory overclock. In this article we will only discuss overclocks that should be completely stable by clicking a few buttons, which means stress tests are often unnecessary because your components must be able to overcome the low overclocks you will achieve.
We also recommend downloading CPU Z, because it will display real-time measurements of the core internal frequency of each processor, the frequency of your memory and even your motherboard details.
Which processor can be overclocked to?
If you are not sure then Intel has detailed specifications here or you can try to overclock and you will find out soon enough. The AMD FX processor range is unlocked and generally most modern AMD chips can be overclocked.
Use software to overclock the CPU
Overclocking an Intel processor
If you are trying to overclock an Intel processor, you can download the Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU) software. This gives access to settings you need to overclock such as power, voltage, core, and memory.
This software is easy to use and is often safe for all types of overclockers. Once again, remember that you must constantly monitor your CPU temperature and maybe run a stress test like Prime95 for several hours to ensure stability.
AMD processor overclocking
On AMD you have to download OverDrive which is effectively the same as Intel XTU. This includes automatic tuning if you are unsure of what you are doing, control of your fans, monitoring and stability testing. This is a decent package that makes overclocking more accessible and doesn’t require a lot of reboots because changes are made in real-time.
Again, like with Intel, you have to make sure you have the right monitoring tools, so you can make sure you don’t fry anything.
Using BIOS for CPU overclocking
Most overclockers, especially experienced ones will tell you to overclock through the BIOS. This is often recommended because you will not experience software conflicts and more than that, have total control over all the settings that your motherboard and processor can offer.
You can often enter the BIOS by pressing the Delete (DEL) key on your keyboard, when the PC boots up. If you are not sure how to access the BIOS, be sure to check our special guidelines for entering the BIOS.
Depending on your motherboard, there must be a one-click option to overclock. For example, on Asus mid-range and high-end motherboards you must have the option to enable Ai Overclock Tuner, which will automatically give you moderate to low overclock.
If you understand the BIOS and are confident in what you are doing, you can achieve maximum overclock through BIOS settings. Do a lot of reading on your motherboard and processor and then continue. Getting ready is never a bad thing!