The world of overclocking is extremely complex not because the process itself is challenging but because there are so many different platforms to be overclocked. In the interests of simplicity we will look at the most basic form of overclocking today. That is overclocking the processor through multiplier changes which is applicable to all unlocked processors from the Sandy Bridge (LGA 1155), Sandy Bridge-E (LGA 2011), Ivy Bridge (LGA 1155), Llano (FM1), Phenom II (AM3/AM3+) Bulldozer (AM3/AM3+) platforms. We will also take you through a brief guide of how to overclock a discrete graphics card.
Processor Overclocking – Through multiplier changes
As we’ve mentioned already the following platforms contain processors where there are unlocked multipliers: Sandy Bridge (LGA 1155), Sandy Bridge-E (LGA 2011), Ivy Bridge (LGA 1155), Llano (FM1), Phenom II (AM3/AM3+) Bulldozer (AM3/AM3+). To overclock these processors users must access their BIOS or UEFI BIOS, accessible normally by pressing delete on start up of your system. Inside your BIOS, for most motherboards, there will be options that allow you to raise the multiplier above its stock level, if it cannot be raised then either your processor is locked or your motherboard does not support overclocking.
To overclock you simply increase the multiplier. However, the overclocking limits of each processor vary so it’s recommended you research your processor first by visiting Google and searching “<Insert Processor model name here> overclocking review”. There are two types of overclocking I’d like to point out, one type includes using stock voltages and the other type includes using more than stock voltage. By adding voltage you increase the thermal output of your processor and will require better than stock cooling, it is also worth nothing too much voltage can damage a processor. By using stock voltages you don’t risk damaging your CPU (although a small almost negligible risk is still present) but the limits to your overclocking in terms of frequency will be much lower.
For example taking a Sandy Bridge 2500K LGA 1155 processor, at stock voltage you might only be able to manage 4.2GHz but by adding 1.4v you might be able to reach 4.8GHz. For any processor, it is important that you stability test your system using Prime95 (32Bit or 64Bit) and also ensure that whilst stability testing your processor’s temperatures do no exceed 75 degrees for Intel processors and 70 degrees for AMD processors. You can use HW Monitor to check on your temperatures. Having temperatures that are too high is bad for two reasons: it can damage your processor physically and it can cause the CPU to throttle down to safety speeds (which are really slow) and then you will end up with a slower processor than what you started off with in the first instance.
When finalising an overclock make sure you are using the lowest voltage possible, have a Prime 95 stable system and acceptable temperatures.
Processor Overclocking – Locked Multiplier
For locked Intel processors, overclocking is quite complex. You should search for the appropriate guides, note that overclocking locked LGA 1155 processors isn’t really possible at all. For locked AMD processors, we have assembled a guide which you may find useful. Read that here.
Graphics Card Overclocking
My personal utility of choice for overclocking graphics cards is MSI AfterBurner. Again like with processors you can overclock with added voltage or with stock voltage. Personally I avoid touching voltages with graphics cards as there is normally a significant amount of overclocking headroom at stock voltages. I assembled a video a while back about overclocking an ASUS GTX 460 which you may find useful:
The same key concepts apply, you should utilise MSI AfterBurner with the assistance of a review of your graphics card to determine some Core and Memory clock targets. Once you’ve identified those targets, set them in MSI AfterBurner. Then stability test these overclocks using FurMark. If your overclock is unstable, drop the clocks down a bit, if it is stable you could consider pushing it a bit further or just leaving it as it is. Again like with processors its important you keep your graphics card sufficiently cooled. However, graphics cards get hotter than processors, I’d say a safe limit for graphics cards in FurMark for most people would be 90 degrees. This is because in realistic usage scenarios such as playing Battlefield 3, a 90 degree FurMark card would probably only reach 80 degrees. The video contains a more useful information.
Well there is no need for a lengthy conclusion here. We have shown you a wide range of free ways to boost pc performance and we hope you have found them useful. We appreciate that we have only been able to skim the surface so if you want more details on a specific topic covered then Google is your best friend! We welcome questions, comments and feedback – just post it in the comments section below and we will reply as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading.