Is Overclocking Safe? (GPU, CPU, RAM)

Overclocking allows the user to manually set how fast they want their computer to perform, it gives the user a little control over how much performance they want. This is great because it allows the user to get more performance out of what they’ve paid for, and if they can do it safely, it’s only a win/win situation.

Overclocking is a method used to make certain applications perform better, this includes video editing, gaming, and streaming. Overclocking as a whole will affect the performance of your entire system, but users usually want it for a few more FPS in games or faster rendering times. Overclocking shouldn’t be performed without a good reason.

Answer: Overclocking in itself isn’t harmful, overclocking is only stable or unstable, it has nothing to do with the lifespan or the safety of your computer. When an overclock is unstable, the component will require more voltage to keep it stable, this is what can degrade your components.

Is Overclocking Harmful To CPU?

cpu overclocking

With the CPU, overclocking can result in huge performance gains in the single-core and multi-core tests. Overclocking the CPU can be pretty safe, it doesn’t have to be harmful if you do it smartly, changing the clock speed itself shouldn’t harm the CPU. Whenever you’re overclocking and in the BIOS, increasing the clock modifier slowly whilst maintaining stability will not harm your CPU in any way.

When going for crazy overclock past the point of stability, increasing the voltage and giving the CPU more juice is necessary to keep the cores stable. By doing this, you’re degrading the CPU through unrated voltages as well as the heat generated. Modest overclocks that do not require overvolting are perfectly safe and you do not need to worry.

Most CPUs by AMD and Intel should have some overclocking headroom, this means you should be able to increase the clock modifier without having to increase the voltages. The K series of Intel processors which means the CPU is unlocked means it’s free to overclock, and most AMD CPUs are unlocked by default.

It’s Hard To Damage The GPU

gpu overclocking

With GPU overclocking, things are a little safer, there are applications out there such as MSI Afterburner which streamlines the overclocking process. MSI Afterburner has an easy-to-use interface which makes overclocking easy, plus MSI Afterburner won’t allow the user to apply voltages that would damage the GPU in any way.

NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards aren’t completely hopeless to crazy overclocks, they have limits that prevent their graphics cards from destroying themselves. Firstly is a thermal limit, if the GPU is operating too hot, then the GPU will throttle or automatically shut down. NVIDIA card’s thermal throttle limit is around 70-85C degrees Celsius(158-185 Fahrenheit), and AMD is around 60-70 Celsius (140-158 Fahrenheit).

The best way to maintain a good GPU overclock is to make sure it’s receiving enough cooling, overclocked graphics cards will run hotter, therefore to prevent automatic throttling you need to dissipate heat effectively. Aftermarket GPU coolers are great for doing this if you have a blower-style cooler, but this will void the warranty. The best way to decrease the temperature is to increase airflow by effectively dissipating hot air and bringing in ambient cool air.

XMP Overclocking Is Also Pretty Safe

ram overclocking

Depending on your RAM modules, overclocking the RAM can be extremely safe, safer than overclocking the GPU. XMP RAM modules will have an extreme memory profile stored on the RAM chip, if your RAM modules are rated for 3200MHz, then this is what the XMP profile will apply. With a single press of the button, XMP profiles will be applied automatically and safely, not degrading the RAM modules.

If you’re applying manual overclocks, this is where things can get quite unsafe, this is because you will have to tweak the voltages in many cases to get faster RAM. While XMP will apply safe voltages rated by the manufacturers, manually overclocking means you have to apply voltages unfamiliar to those RAM modules. This will undoubtedly reduce the lifespan of the RAM modules especially if they’re cheap with no cooling.

Faster RAM will outperform slower RAM in many applications and sometimes will gain you a decent amount of FPS in games. 3200MHz RAM is better than 3000MHz RAM due to the extra 200MHz, although it doesn’t look like a lot, it can result in slightly higher frame rates in most games. Even if the CAS latency is worse on the faster modules, it will still perform faster because bandwidth is more important than latency.

Overclocking Tools

best overclocking tool
Credit MSI

There are certain overclocking tools that make the overclocking process far better through ease of use and through the value they provide. Software such as MSI afterburner for the graphics card is free and provides a lot of value, you’re able to modify the values of the fan speed, core clocks, memory clocks, voltages, and power limit. It allows you to add overlays into video games, and it will show the temperature and clock speeds, this is necessary to find out if you’re thermal throttling.

When overclocking the GPU, CPU, or RAM, you will need to benchmark your results to ensure it is worthwhile. Before overclocking, you will need to find out how your PC performs and base values, this is so after the overclock, you know how much your PC has improved. A great tool for this would be 3DMark or Cinebench. With these tools, you’re also able to compare your overclock with other users’ scores to see how well you’ve done.

If you’re overclocking an Intel CPU, you can use the XTU software as a way to tune the CPUs parameters through the OS. It isn’t recommended as BIOS tuning is recommended for the CPU, it allows you to have more control over the voltages which is necessary. XTU/OS overclocking can apply unnecessarily high overclocks which can reduce the lifespan of your CPU.

How To Safely Overclock (Quick Tips)

Before overclocking, each and every component in your system has a temperature limit it should not pass, for CPUs, it’s usually around 90C. Even 80C is pretty hot for a CPU and can cause thermal throttling, but if you do not have the thermal headroom, it will not be worth it. Graphics cards have a thermal limit depending on the brand, NVIDIA GPUs are able to get a little hotter than AMD cards, but you shouldn’t really pass 80C on the GPUs.

Finding your base performance levels is important for overclocking so you can measure how much you’ve improved. Just looking at the clock speed improvements isn’t enough as it doesn’t take into account other factors such as temperatures and throttles. Benchmarking software such as Passmark, 3DMark and Cinebech are great for measuring the performance boost after overclock, and you’re able to compare it to other people’s builds too.

To actually apply overclocks, you will need to access your overclocking tool, for the CPU it’s most likely going to be the BIOS. You can use XTU, but through the BIOS, you will have more control over the voltages. When overclocking the CPU, slowly increase the clock multiplier till you hit a point of instability, from here you can stop, or choose to go further and increase the voltages. GPU and RAM overclocking are easier, for the GPU you have software such as MSI Afterburner, and XMP RAM can be activated with one press of a button.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, overclocking is pretty safe as long as you’re not increasing the voltages. The safest way to overclock is to ensure you have enough thermal headroom, and not to increase any voltages. With overclocking, you can choose to increase the clock speed, but once you hit an unstable point, it’s up to you to increase the voltage to go further. this will undoubtedly decrease the lifespan of your CPU.

RAM overclocking is the safest through XMP, this is because it’s a profile installed by the manufacturer, and it’s meant to automatically apply safe and tested clocks and voltages. If you pick up 3200MHz RAM, then activating XMP will apply this overclock, and it should be through one press of a button.