A GPU is a Graphics Processing Unit, more commonly referred to as a graphics card. A GPU acts as a sort of assistant to the CPU by performing quicker and shorter calculations so the CPU is freed up for the heavier work.
AMD and NVIDIA are the most common GPU providers on the market right now. Even though GPUs tend to come with a set clock speed, most of them can easily be either overclocked or underclocked, depending on your needs.
While overclocking is the more popular option, there are some cases where you might want to underclock your GPU. So if you want to learn how to underclock your GPU, or whether you might even need to do so, then this is the right article for you.
The Benefits of Underclocking GPUs
Before we figure out how to underclock your GPU, it is important to know the benefits. In total, there are a total of 4 major benefits for anyone who underclocks their GPU.
Power Consumption is Reduced
When you lower clock speed, it means your computer hardware is now using less power to run. This reduced power consumption means you can save some money on your electricity bills.
Lower Temperature for the GPU
Once again, lowering clock speed will also result in lower fan speeds. Which further results in the GPU being cooler because it can now run at a lower temperature. This is important because most tech equipment is generally sensitive to and degraded by heat.
Things might be beginning to sound rather redundant at this point. This is because the one simple act of underclocking has so many benefits, and those are all inter-linked.
The higher the temperature of the GPU gets, the faster the fans have to run to keep things cool. This makes them louder. As you already know, the temperature rises with clock speed, so underclocking helps fans run at a slower and thus quieter speed.
Reduced Risk of Overheating
Your fans are now slower and don’t need to work as hard, your power consumption is less than before, and your GPU now runs at a lower temperature. So naturally and lastly, the chances of your system overheating are now significantly reduced as well.
But Do You Actually Need to Underclock?
Sure, we’ve made it sound like underclocking is going to solve a lot of your problems, but that does not necessarily mean that you absolutely have to do it. Consider your individual needs first.
For instance, if you don’t need a GPU functioning at full capacity all the time, then yes, it is best to underclock and save on your electricity bill. Increasing temperatures may also indicate a need to underclock. Similarly, if you are not a gamer and your pc isn’t used for anything besides maybe some mild internet games, then again, go right ahead. Lastly, if you have been dealing with overheating for some time and haven’t been able to find a solution, then this might be first a shot.
So now that you are familiar with both the benefits of underclocking as well as whether or not you should do it, let’s take a look at how it’s done.
Using Software to Underclock a GPU
There is certain software that you can use to get this job done. Some currently available options are EVGA Precision XOC, NZXT Cam, and ASUS GPU Tweak. However, the most popular one and the go-to for most people is MSI Afterburner. This is the one we’ll be discussing as well.
Hence, if you want to know how to underclock your AMD GPU or how to underclock your NVIDIA GPU, you will first need to learn how to use Afterburner. Luckily, it is fairly simple.
What is MSI Afterburner?
Afterburner helps you adjust variables such as voltage, temperature, core clock speed and memory clock speed for your GPU. You’ll find it has a very user-friendly interface.
Setting Things Up
The first step, of course, is to download the software. You can download MSI Afterburner from here. Once downloaded, go to the setup wizard and set it up just as you would with any new software. Make sure your graphics card is being detected before you proceed further.
Adjusting the Core Clock
Once everything is set up, open the utility. You will find all the adjustable settings in the middle of your screen. One of these is the Core Clock Meter which shows the GPU’s clock speed in MHz.
You can adjust the clock speed by sliding this meter all the way to the left to decrease, which is what we require in this case, and vice versa.
Optional: Undervolting for Added Benefit
Some users like to combine undervolting with underclocking to maximize benefit. Most GPUs are set at higher voltages by default, but once underclocked they don’t need as high a voltage to run. So undervolting can further add to the benefits already being given by underclocking.
Some things to consider if you want to undervolt:
- Undervolting has less performance costs than underclocking, although both work well together.
- Most cards will only allow adjustments in multiples.
If you decide to undervolt, you can do it by adjusting the Core Voltage Meter in the same way as you did for clock speed.
Once you’re satisfied with the clock speed and/or voltage that you’ve set, be sure to click the check mark to apply and save these changes.
Monitoring for Stability
Theoretically, all these changes should help you achieve the benefits described above. We know for sure that underclocking leads to a cooler GPU, but what if your GPU isn’t as cool as it could be? You need to have a way to monitor progress after you’ve made any changes, so you’ll know what further change is needed.
The best way to do this is to set up a custom fan curve. Fan curves plot fan speed and the corresponding temperature, so this is ideal. To do this, go to the fan tab by clicking the gear icon under the fan speed meter. You can play around with the settings here to determine what ratio best suits you.
Lastly, remember to stress test your GPU. Stress testing can be used to see how your GPU and your rig, in general, perform under heavy loads. Underclocking your GPU should make for a lot more stability as well as lower temperatures whenever you are stress testing.