Overclocking is the act of pushing your computer hardware past its stock configuration to boost its performance. It’s similar to what car enthusiasts do with their street races, except less expensive, of course.
Usually, a few components in your computer can be overclocked and these are:
- GPU / Graphics Card
- CPU / Processor
- RAM / Memory
Overclocking involves feeding more voltage or wattage to your PC components for that additional performance increase. Consequently, this introduces more strain to the hardware, generating more heat and thus, requiring additional cooling performance.
That begs the question of whether you should do it to your hardware or not.
Overclocking Is Generally Safe
The answer is that you should, though that depends on certain crucial conditions or factors.
While overclocking is safe, it’s not really something you should do to just about any computer. Some computers, like laptops (or even some smartphones), have poor ventilation and cooling systems that overclocking them is ill-advised since you might cause some unexpected errors, crashes, and accidental shutdowns due to overheating (more about that later).
Thus, we advise that you only overclock computer components that have proper cooling, meaning desktop PCs only.
For desktop PCs, overclocking is mostly safe, assuming you do it right and carefully. The simplest overclocking method you can do is for your GPU and that’s easy and simple enough to perform.
Here’s a general guide on overclocking your GPU, take note that it there are variations per GPU model so it’s best to get familiar by tinkering on your own. So there’s really no “definitive” process for overclocking because hardware changes frequently and other factors include variances in processor manufacturing or the so-called silicone lottery. Other chips might overclock higher, and others lower. You’ll have to experiment on your own.
Meanwhile, overclocking the CPU and the RAM is not something you should be curious about yet, especially if you’re still asking ‘what overclocking is or why you should do it.’
Overclocking the CPU and RAM is more complicated than overclocking the GPU, plenty of metrics can go wrong and the user interface for such a procedure isn’t friendly. Besides, the performance gains are too minimal when overclocking the CPU and the RAM.
How Much of a Performance Boost Does Overclocking Yield?
Overclocking’s performance boost depends on what exactly you’re doing with your computer. The most common reason to overclock your computer– the GPU in particular, is to boost its gaming performance, resulting in higher FPS.
The same goes for both the CPU and the RAM though those can be overclocked for productivity tasks as well.
The performance gains are nothing groundbreaking, by the way, regardless of whether the overclock is for the GPU, CPU, or RAM. You can expect to see some usually marginal improvements of around five to 10 percent in framerate and synthetic benchmarks or productivity.
It does not sound like much, but let’s say, for example, you’re running a game at 55 FPS and you overclock your GPU. Gaining five more FPS puts your framerate at 60 FPS and more if the framerate is higher. Suddenly, your game is smoother if your eyes are sensitive and you can see more detail during movements.
The same goes for CPU and RAM overclocks, especially with productivity applications like WinRAR. A 60-second file extraction and decompression, for example, might get cut down to just 50 to 55 seconds which is nice if you value your time down to the second.
As we said earlier, the boost is neither game-changing nor life-affirming. However, would you say no to practically free performance?
Overclocking, Its Costs, & Its Drawbacks
Well, technically, overclocking isn’t free performance.
We did mention before that it can result in some sudden emergency shutdowns and crashes. That’s because if you input a value that’s too absurd for the component and its software to perform, it will cause an error.
Other times, the overclock value might be acceptable but the cooling might be inadequate, and this will eventually crash or shut down the computer to prevent further damage. Not to mention overclocking can increase component temperatures by around five Celsius or more depending on its intensity.
Beyond that, overclocking also consumes additional electricity though it generally won’t exceed a dozen watts so the consumption is negligible.
In any case, you don’t have to worry about your computer suddenly exploding or breaking itself. That will only happen if you have faulty components, to begin with; in hindsight, overclocking could also count as some kind of stress test to see if your computer components are up to quality control standards and aren’t part of a faulty “lemon” batch.
It’s All up to You
We do recommend overclocking if you can and if you can find a stable overclocking configuration for your hardware. What we don’t recommend is spending too much on improved cooling just to accommodate overclocking; the returns are too diminished.
There are cases when you might need to overclock, such as when your PC is outdated and old and you need to squeeze out more performance.
However, what you do with your computer is all up to you. In the end, you’re the one to decide whether that 10 percent boost is worth it in exchange for a slightly hotter or noisier computer.
Your mileage might vary since there are also too many factors involved such as different models, silicone lottery, room temperature, and the applications you’re using. Still, overclocking is a good way to become familiar with your computer and its limitations; it’s even become a hobby for a lot of PC users.