For all those looking for the cheap solution for playing the latest games, or just those who need to boost their graphics card up a bit in order to have Windows on their PC, GPU overclock comes as the great solution. Yes, you will need some time to do it, but the thing is that this action doesn’t require for any serious knowledge anymore, and is drastically safer than the CPU overclock. Basically, you just read the instruction and enjoy the ride.
“Should I overclock my GPU?” is no longer a question, the only question is “How do I do it?” and that is what this guide is for in the first place, to help you out on that journey.
Do You Need a GPU Overclock?
GPU overclock, just like CPU overclock, demands for a lot of work that includes monitoring, testing and a lot of repeating. Nevertheless, it gives the following results:
- Improved frame rate
- Smoother gameplay
More importantly, the process itself isn’t complicated. It can be managed by an overclocking newbie, or in other words, anyone. All that is needed is to be patient and follow the instructions.
If you have doubts and are still asking yourself “Should I overclock my GPU?” or “How will this really help my gaming experience?”, just think about the FPS (First Person Shooter), where every moment is a difference between life and death, and remember how many times you lacked that extra moment.
With OC, that moment will be yours. You will get that split second to spot the enemy sooner and save your head.
Of course, there also some downsides that include increased temperature values and shorter lifespan of the card, but they are tolerable issues that the majority of players is ready to sacrifice.
How to Do It?
If you have decided for OC, but have no clue how to overclock GPU in the first place, the answer is the overclocking software. Yes, you can also do it through BIOS, but it is much more time consuming and the final results are the same. It is just not worth the hassle. The majority of users, even the die-hard OC fans, use the software. Therefore, there is no reason for you to do it differently.
Depending on the GPU that you have and your personal preferences, you may choose the overclocking software among a whole bunch of programs. Basically, every manufacturer of the graphics cards has its own software solution and here we will only present the most popular ones, ones that will help you finish your job successfully.
- MSI Afterburner is a great solution for both OC newbies and experienced users. It allows for an adjustment of a GPU, memory clock, fan speeds, etc., tweaking GPU voltage, it comes equipped with the handy hardware monitor. It is easy to use, offers plenty of options, it supports both Nvidia and AMD chips… everything that is required to overclock graphics card is there. Therefore, it is no wonder that it is among the most popular options on the market.
- AMD Overdrive is an amazing choice for all those with an AMD chip. This program is more than just a GPU overclocking tool: with it you can change RAM and fan speeds, or check your chip state through the built-in status monitor. Thanks to its streamlined interface (change values with sliders), ease of use is guaranteed, which is exactly what you need if you are a newbie.
- EVGA Precision X is another free solution that may prove to be very handy, especially if you want to improve the capabilities of your card, but with the least possible involvement. With the easily navigable interface, 10 custom user profiles and settings for changing GPU and memory clock speeds, this software offers everything the majority of users could need. The only downside is that it is designed only for Nvidia cards.
- NVIDIA Inspector is a free utility that offers all the needed hardware information about the built-in card, it allows for monitoring of the important overclocking parameters (clocks, fan speed and temperature) and it gives the user an opportunity to overclock (offers an increase of GPU and memory clock speeds and increase of fan speeds and GPU operating voltage). Very practical tool, but similar to EVGA Precision X it covers only the Nvidia cards.
- ASUS GPU Tweak II is another great software solution that came with time, that not only allows for full OC of your graphics card, but also optimization of the entire PC. What makes this tool different is that it offers an already set OC profile that unlocks the maximum performance. Also, there is a silent mode for video and music play and a custom profile that allows you to set everything to your personal needs. Other than that, you can turn off Windows visual effects and services and a lot more, all in order to give yourself the perfect gaming conditions. All you need is to have an ASUS card, and the rest is pure joy.
- GPU-Z is a must-have free utility for every overclocking enthusiast. This software gives you a comprehensive insight of your graphics card, revealing all the spots where you can tweak it and improve its performance. It supports Nvidia, AMD, ATI, even Intel GPUs. Therefore, no matter what graphics card is in your rig, it will do the job.
- 3DMark is a benchmarking tool that allows you to test your graphics card stability and performance.
- Unigine Heaven is a similar type of software as the 3DMark that allows for benchmarking and performance testing of your GPU.
What to do Before the Overclocking?
Research is always an important issue, especially if you are dealing with such a fragile thing as overclocking. Google it, and see what other people are saying about your graphics card. Learn what its weaknesses and advantages are , what overclock values have they reached, etc. Prepare yourself with as much knowledge as you can.
Also, prepare for the fact that if someone has reached certain values, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will reach them too. There are so many variables in overclocking that even the slightest difference in starting conditions may result in completely different results. Therefore, explore and get to know your card before you start to overclock.
The first step in GPU overclocking is the installation of the software needed for benchmarking, tweaking and monitoring. As previously mentioned, there are various options, but some of the most practical ones, that will suit the majority of the users at the same time, are certainly MSI Afterburner, 3DMark and GPU-Z. Use the first one for tweaking, the second one for benchmarking and the third one for general information.
For beginners, this is probably the best option – they are easy to use and free (3DMark also has a paid version), but at the end of the day, it is up to you what you are going to use. Whatever your choice is, install the software and get ready to rock.
After you have installed your overclocking software, it is the time to benchmark your hardware (graphics card). You need to establish your card’s current performance in order for you to be able to compare it with the values that will get after the OC. That way you will have the full insight of the improvement that the OC brings with itself.
Although many of the games (GTA V, Far Cry 5, Hitman, etc…) have built-in benchmarking software and you can successfully use it for this purpose (they give accurate results), there are also games that don’t have it and for that purpose, there is 3DMark, Unigine Heaven, or similar software. Of course, you can use it for benchmarking of all the games, not just ones without the built-in feature, but that is up to you.
It is more important to get the numbers and save them, or even better, write them down for future comparison with the benchmarking results after the overclocking.
The Increase of Memory Clock Speed
If you still have doubts about whether you should overclock your GPU, this is the final moment you can quit. After this, there is no coming back.
Although this part isn’t essential and you can live without it, if you want the maximum performance out of your graphics card, it is recommended to do it. Improving your card’s performance should involve all of its aspects and include both memory and GPU overclock.
The whole process begins with a boot of overclocking software such as MSI Afterburner. The only thing you need to worry about in this part is that the Windows logo isn’t lit up. If it is, that means that the current settings are applied when system boots, and that is not something you need until you find the values under which the system will be stable.
The first thing you need to do is start a benchmark tool such as Unigine Heaven or 3DMark and start one of their looping themes. On a 1080p screen, chose a 720p resolution and on 1440p and 4K monitors, go for a 1080p resolution and check if there are any artefacts or similar. If there aren’t any, you can start the memory tweaking.
Increase the memory clocks values by 5-10MHz, apply the changes (press the little Windows logo that we mentioned a few lines earlier) and start the looping software. If there are no artefacts (solid blocks, stars, spots of color), increase the memory clock again and repeat the whole process.
Keep doing this until you spot the changes. In that case, go one step back, to the values under which everything worked, start the “looping”, and if everything is fine, write down the numbers and reset the card to default values.
If the problem persists, decrease the values furthermore, loop and keep repeating the process until you get the stable state. When you get it, apply the changes as mentioned above, reset the card to defaults and go to the next step.
The Increase of GPU Clock Speed (GPU Overclocking)
Before you start this step, you need to move the power limit sliders in the OC software to the maximum, because the increase of GPU clock speeds leads to an increase in power consumption. Also, because more power means higher temperatures, you need to push the temperature limit slider up a bit to account for this increase.
After this, you can begin the GPU clock speed boost. It is also a good idea to use the GPU-Z software simultaneously with the speed increase in order to check the frequency changes and see if the additional MHz are used or not.
When talking about the process itself, it is the same as what you did with memory. Raise the values by 5-10MHz and then use the looping software. As long as you have no problems, continue the process of increasing and looping until you end up with one of these three scenarios:
- Benchmark program crashes
- GPU driver crashes
- You get artefacts
There is not that much you can do about the first two scenarios – just restart the rig; however, in the case of artefacts (pixel-sized dots, random color fragments, or full-screen flashes) you have two options:
- Decrease the values, loop and continue decreasing and looping until you have stable values. Once you have them, write them down and go to the next step.
- Increase your voltage
If you have decided for the second solution, keep your eyes on the temperature values all the time (you can see them in GPU-Z), since the voltage increase also leads to temperature rise, which can ultimately lead to the chip damage.
Voltage boost should be done by 5mV at a time, after which you should try the benchmarking software (looping). In case there are no problems, you can increase the GPU clock speed for another 5-10MHz and benchmark again. If the artefacts show, increase the voltage again by 5mV, benchmark and keep increasing until you get the stable configuration. When you get into a stable state, raise the GPU speed again and continue with the whole process of both GPU clock speed and the voltage increase until you bump into a “wall” and cannot eliminate the artefacts anymore, the program crashes, or the temperature is too high.
Once you reach this situation, it means you have finished your overclocking and it is time to go back to your last stable configuration.
GPU and Memory Clock Speeds Pairing
Once you’ve found your peak GPU and memory clock speed values, it is time for their pairing to see how they work together. You need to move the sliders of both memory and the GPU to peak values and start looping.
Soon as you spot artefacts (and you surely will in this process) you need to decrease some of the values. Observe and see if the glitches are connected to VRAM or GPU, and according to that, decrease the value of the component affected by 5MHz. After that, start looping, and if there are still problems, decrease the values of the affected component, and continue this whole process of repeating until you reach the stable state.
In the case, you get a BSOD or something similar, just re-boot and decrease the values of both memory and the GPU by 5MHz and start the looping software again. If the problem persists, continue the process of decreasing and looping until you reach the values that will be saved.
Of course, if you have also decided for the voltage tempering during the GPU overclock, you also need to add that to the pairing process in order to try to lower the temperatures a bit.
When the memory and GPU speeds are paired, you can start with the voltage decrease by 5mV, after which you benchmark. If there are no problems, decrease by another 5mV and continue decreasing and benchmarking until you end up with artefacts or crashes.
Once you do, roll back to the last stable configuration and continue to the next part of the process.
After you have reached the values that are supposedly stable, it is the time for stress testing. You will again use the same software, but with one change, and that is to set the resolution of the looping theme to the native resolution of your monitor and test it as long as you can. The minimum is some ten minutes or so, but it is preferable to do it for at least an hour.
If you spot problems, go one step back and decrease the numbers a bit more until you reach the proper values. On the other hand, if everything is good, it is time to light the Windows logo button previously mentioned, apply the changes to the boot and that is it.
After all this, you can now just sit down, play your favorite title and enjoy the benefits of your hard work. Have a blast!