In this post, I am going to show you how to overclock your GPU. But before I dive into the actual process of overclocking, I first want to clarify what overclocking actually is. Overclocking means manually pushing your hardware’s’ limits beyond their factory settings. Overclocking is being considered by many people as something dangerous and time-consuming. The truth is that back in the 90’s overclocking was indeed a process only “extreme Pc enthusiasts” would perform and it really was a difficult process with very small to no actual benefit from it. Today, things have changed. Overclocking is pretty easy and can be done by anyone who is able to follow simple guidelines.
GPU overclocking is even easier than Cpu overclocking as the user does not need to go into the BIOS to tweak settings. With a few simple programs and attention and a little patience, a GPU can be overclocked without problems. If you want to know how to overclock your CPU, check out my guide here
Maximum Temperature Limits
Before I explain to you step by step how to overclock your graphics card, I want to emphasize a few things before I move on. Overclocking your GPU means increasing its thermal output by increasing the core and memory clock as well as the voltage.
It is important to understand the temperature limits of a GPU before starting.
- Nvidia GPUs
If you own a Nvidia GPU, either a new Pascal one like the Gtx 1070 or 1080 or even an older one like the Gtx 970, the maximum temperature should not exceed 90 degrees Celcius. If the temperature reaches or exceeds 90 degrees, stop the overclocking process immediately.
- AMD Radeon GPUs
If you own an AMD GPU either an RX 480 or 580 the maximum temperature should not exceed 90 degrees Celsius. If the temperature reaches or exceeds 90 degrees, stop the overclocking process immediately. If you own an older AMD Maxwell GPU like the R9 390(x) or the R9 Fury X chances are that you’ve witnessed how hot those cards actually get. They are designed to operate at higher temperatures, so it is perfectly normal. In this case, the maximum temperature should not exceed 95 degrees Celsius. If the temperature reaches or exceeds 95 degrees, stop the overclocking process immediately.
The hotter the card gets the lower overclocking headroom it actually provides. A cooler card provides much more overclocking potential than a hotter one. Temperatures play a major role in this situation because as you bump up clocks and voltages temperature rises too, which is essentially the determining factor of overclocking.
When you overclock, you need to do it the right way. There are 3 tools that you will need, in order to overclock. These tools will allow you to:
- Monetize your overclock
- Check the stability of your overclock
Overclocking means experimenting with your graphics card and that is why you must make sure that you know exactly what you are doing.
There is a huge variety of programs on the Internet, which allow you to tweak the settings of your graphics card. However, Msi Afterburner is what I find to be the best program out there and that is what I personally use to overclock my GPU. It is a program, which works with every GPU on the market and I never had any issue with it.
It lets you tweak the voltage setting, core clock, memory clock as well as the fan GPU’s fan speed.
Monetize Your Overclock
Monetizing your overclock is very important, as you want to be able to see every small detail of your GPU from temperatures to voltages. You also want to check if your overclocked settings have actually been applied. One great tool you can use to monetize your GPU is GPU-Z by TechPowerUp
This is the most important part of overclocking. Every time you apply new overclocking settings, you want to be certain that these settings are actually stable. For this purpose I recommend you download one of Unigine’s 3 benchmarking program, ( Valley, Heaven or Superposition) Superposition is the newest one, which launched this year. They are free programs and offer excellent benchmarks to check your GPU’s stability.
How To Overclock A GPU
Now that I have explained everything you need to know before jumping onto the overclocking train, it is time to start the overclocking process. I am going to explain to you step-by-step how to do that. Just follow this guide and you will be good to go.
- Open Msi Afterburner
When you open up the program, you will see 4 green slides or lines (whatever you want to call them). Those are the actual slides you will be moving up in order to overclock your graphics card. Before doing that, go to the Settings tab, which is located on the bottom right and under “General settings” enable “Unlock Voltage Control” and “Unlock Voltage Monitoring”. Click “OK” and it will bring you back to the user interface.
- Go to the “Core Clock” slide and add +10 to it. After you have done that click on “Apply”. Now that you have applied your first overclock, open up GPU-Z to see if the +10 to the core clock has actually been applied. Note that the core clock is what gives you the increase in performance. The memory clock does not have a great impact on performance.
There is also a quicker way of getting started with your overclock. You can google your graphics card overclocking performance at this link and see what other people, who own the same graphics card as you, have achieved in terms of overclocking. Find the core clock score most users have achieved and add it to Msi Afterburner.
- After adding your first “Core Clock” number, you now have to make sure that your overclock is actually stable. Open up the Unigine program of your choice. Set the profile to “Extreme or Ultra” as you want to push your GPU to its maximum to check stability. Then choose the resolution of your monitor and start the benchmark. Let it run for 10-15. If you do not experience any stuttering or artifacts your overclock is probably stable.
If you want to see how artifacts look like in Unigine Heaven, click here. Note that artifacts like these are pretty heavy. Many times artifacts are not so easily distinguishable and that is why you must observe the benchmark carefully. In this stage of overclocking you probably will not experience any kind of artifacts.
- Get back to Msi Afterburner and repeat the same process until you experience artifacts or even Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). It is perfectly normal for your Pc to crash after excessive overclocking. You do not need to worry, however, as the odds of damaging your GPU are very small.
When you reach that point, you can either back down your overclock until it is stable or increase the core voltage. By increasing the voltage, you also increase the thermal output as more voltage means higher temperatures. Msi Afterburner will not let you over-voltage your GPU because the maximum voltage you can apply is 100mv(0,1V) which is in perfectly safe limits and will not harm your GPU.
However, you have to take into consideration the performance you get in return to increasing voltages. Usually, when you reach the point to apply voltage in order to achieve higher overclocks, you have reached 80-90% of the overclocking potential of your card. Personally, I never touch the voltage, not because I think it is risky, but I simply do not want to increase my GPU’s temperature for minimal performance increases.
- Time to adjust the “Memory Clock”. You can be more generous when increasing the memory clock. Start by adding +50 every time and check stability with Unigine. If you reach your limit go back -50 to find your last stable overclock.
Remember that overclocking is all about experimenting with your components. Every card overclocks differently and that applies even to the same cards, as their overclocking potential relies heavily on the chip itself. That is why some people get lower or higher overclocks out of the same card.
- After finding your perfect overclock settings, it is time to save them. At Msi Afterburner after applying your final settings, click on “Save” next to “Apply”. Now you can save you overclock as a profile and access it whenever you want. After clicking “Save”, five numbers will appear. Simply choose where you want to save your profile. You can save up to 5 overclocking profiles at the same time, so you do not have to go through the same process again every time.
Time To Play Some Games
Now that you have found your stable overclock, it is time to have some fun and play your favorite games. Gaming is also a great way to ensure long-term overclocking stability. There always exists a possibility that in-game your Pc may crash, although it may seem stable while benchmarking with Unigine. It is normal for that to happen. Crashes, BSOD artifacts. When overclocking you always have to be aware that you push the limits of your components and therefore instability is always a possibility. Just go back to Msi Afterburner, decrease your core clock a little bit and try again.
You can also check your GPU’s performance before and after overclocking, with Unigine. Reset your overclock to stock settings by clicking on the “Reset” button next to the “Apply” button on the right bottom corner in Msi Afterburner. Go into your benchmarking program and choose “Benchmark”. After it is complete, save the score, apply your overclock through your “Profile” setting and benchmark again. When it is done, save the score and compare the two.
When overclocking the graphics card you expect a 10-15% increase in performance over stock settings. This performance can be obtained for free, by following a simple guide like this. Why not drain more performance out of your GPU, at no additional cost?
I think it is worth it, I always overclock my components, especially my GPU, but that is up to you to decide!
I hope that you liked my overclocking guide. If you have any questions in regards to GPU overclocking or would like to add something to my post, feel free to do so, by adding a comment in the comment section below.