Overclocking your gaming PC sounds both complicated and impressive, but is actually accomplished with just a few programs and maybe a few more peripherals.
The process comes with its benefits and pitfalls, but in this article we’ll look at navigating them and help you decide if overclocking your gaming PC is something you might want to do.
What is the benefit of overclocking?
The immediate benefits of overclocking may seem obvious – extra power at a relatively low cost – but let’s explore these and some other benefits of overclocking.
The first and most obvious benefit of overclocking is squeezing every last drop of performance out of your hardware. By overclocking your PC, you’ll gain every extra frame per second, be able to trim all the load times and play at higher resolutions. This extra power comes at a cost, which we’ll discuss later, but with the right knowledge and extra hardware, it’s manageable.
The tools are out there
With a few relatively simple tools, you can push a lot more power through your GPU, CPU and RAM and get closer to the performance you want. To get started, see our CPU overclocking guide. Programs like MSI Afterburner can easily overclock your CPU and GPU with all the hands-on displays you might need, such as internal temperatures and power consumption. There’s even a feature to stress test both the CPU and GPU to give you an idea of how far you can push your PC.
Overclocking is economically beneficial
Having to break the bank to upgrade your hardware is something no one looks forward to. With prices constantly rising, it makes sense to try to keep your old parts as long as possible.
Pushing the old hardware to its limits will often push it into the region of next-gen performance, or close enough. Not having to trawl the markets for the latest equipment is always a plus, why spend the money when you can get more out of what you have?
There is plenty of support
If you decide to overclock your PC, you’ll find tons of helpful forums, subreddits, and videos to guide you through the process. If you plan to do it, it’s almost guaranteed that someone has already done it, made all the mistakes, and posted about it online. Research is key with anything to do with building and buying a PC, and that goes for overclocking.
Why not overclock?
It all seems to make sense; overclocking saves money, upgrades performance and seems relatively easy to do. Why don’t we all do it? There are a few things to consider that we will go over.
Overclocking will shorten the life of your hardware
Drawing more power through any part of your PC will inevitably make it work harder. Like anything else, you work hard, you need more rest. PC parts also wear out. Over time, the increased stress running through your PC’s hardware will wear them out. The extra volts create more heat and accelerate the decomposition of the delicate elements. This leads us to our second problem for consideration.
Increased heating effect
With increased voltage comes increased heat, and this requires better air flow and heat dissipation. Raising the internal temperature of your PC without correcting it properly can cause some serious problems, not the least of which are errors and minor crashes. An overclocked CPU can reach temperatures of 195F and still be considered within the safe zone, although closer to 175F and below is obviously much more preferable.
If you’re serious about overclocking your components, it’s definitely worth investing in more cooling. Water cooling is a common solution together with a good number of additional fans. Overclocking can mean a small rebuild of your current PC depending on how far you want to go.
With higher performance comes higher power requirements. When you ask more from your components, you will be expected to compensate with a higher voltage. Of course, this comes with the expected slight increase in your electricity bill, but the more immediate concern will be whether your PSU can actually handle the extra load. When building your PC or buying your pre-built PC, make sure you take into account the expected voltage before overclocking.
When you start tweaking performance, be aware that your power supply unit will have a limit. Be careful not to exceed this as it can cause serious problems such as unexpected shutdowns and even fire. You can learn more about the importance of a suitable power supply in our explanation of why PSU efficiency is important.
You need to make sure you overclock correctly
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as just clicking a button and instantly having a perfectly overclocked PC. Knowing how to adjust each component and to what degree plays an important role. As previously mentioned, MSI Afterburner can help with this. Learn more in our list of the best overclocking software.
Beyond just knowing what software to use is also knowing if your components can actually be overclocked, not everything can be and pushing them beyond the limit can be harmful. It’s always worth looking up your manufacturer and the exact model you need to check is suitable for that extra boost in power and performance.
You can void the warranty
If you decide to go ahead and push your PC to the limit, it may affect your statutory rights. Most manufacturers release their products set up to work most efficiently for the longest time while providing the best results. If you decide to adjust the settings and push the gaming PC beyond its original intended use, the manufacturer is within their rights to refuse a refund if it breaks.
The flip side of this is that if you decide to burn out your GPU and get 144FPS at 4K for a six hour marathon, most companies don’t actually have the technology to test whether you’re overclocking or not, so there’s an element of risk.
So, is the calculated risk of overclocking worth the payoff?
When you look at overclocking and see the often significant performance increase, the temptation to go further seems very obvious. But discovering that overclocking can take some research and learning how to understand your hardware can put many people off the idea. Fortunately, with the help available online with videos and forums, anyone can become an expert in no time.
Being able to avoid buying expensive and often difficult to acquire hardware is of course a plus for anyone interested in PC building or performance enhancement. The downside to this is having to first learn how to monitor your components and then manage the heat output with things like additional cooling systems. With the right free software, the effort and time spent can be negligible, and cooling systems will almost always be cheaper than new hardware.
Taking all the points into consideration, it seems to suggest that overclocking your gaming PC seems like the right thing to do. Just make sure you take the time to understand the process and gather the right tools to monitor your gaming PC.
As you can see, there are good reasons to overclock your PC depending on whether you have the time, patience and knowledge to make it work. With the tools available and a little research, improved gaming performance can be within reach.
You may have to invest in a little more hardware to keep your hard-working parts at a reasonable temperature, but these types of extras will usually hold their value. The extra research you put in, while time consuming, is worth the payoff because of the money saved and added performance.