Overclocking your gaming PC sounds both complicated and impressive, but in actual fact is achieved with just a few programs and perhaps a few more peripherals.
The process comes with its benefits and pitfalls but in this article, we will look at navigating them and helping you decide whether overclocking your gaming PC is something you may want to do.
What’s the Benefit of Overclocking?
The immediate pros of overclocking may seem obvious—extra power for relatively little cost—but let’s explore these and some other benefits of overclocking.
The first and most obvious benefit of overclocking is squeezing every drop of performance from your hardware. By overworking your PC you’re going to get every extra frame per second, be able to trim all your load times, and game at a higher resolution. This extra power does come at a cost, which we’ll discuss later, but with the right know-how and additional hardware, it is 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 guide to overclocking your CPU. Programs such as MSI Afterburner can easily overclock your CPU and GPU with all the hand displays you may need such as internal temperatures and power draw. There is even a feature to stress test both CPU and GPU to give you an idea of just how far you can push your PC.
Overclocking Is Financially Beneficial
Having to break the bank to upgrade your hardware is something nobody looks forward to. With ever-rising prices, it makes sense to try to keep your old parts for as long as possible.
Pushing your old hardware to the limit will often push it into the region of next-generation performance, or close enough. Not having to trawl the markets for the newest gear is always a plus, why spend the money when you can get more from what you have?
There’s Plenty of Support
If you do decide to go ahead and overclock your PC, you will find swathes of helpful forums, subreddits, and videos guiding you through the process. If you’re planning on doing it, it’s almost guaranteed 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 rings true for overclocking.
Why Not Overclock?
It all seems to make sense; overclocking saves money, upgrades performance, and seems relatively simple to do. Why aren’t we all doing it? There are a few things to consider that we will go over.
Overclocking Will Shorten the Lifespan of Your Hardware
Drawing more power through any part of your PC will inevitably make it work harder. Like anything, you work hard, you need more rest. PC parts get tired too. Over time, the increased voltage being run through your PC’s hardware will wear them out. The extra volts create more heat and speed up the degradation of the delicate elements. This leads us to our second issue for consideration.
Increased Heat Output
With increased voltage comes increased heat, and that requires better airflow and heat diffusion. Increasing the internal temperature of your PC without properly addressing it can cause some serious issues, the least of all being bugs 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 are looking to seriously overclock your components, then it is absolutely worth also investing in more cooling. Water cooling is a common solution along with a good number of extra fans. Overclocking can mean a slight rebuild of your current PC depending on how far you want to go.
With greater performance comes higher power demand. When you are asking more from your components, you will be expected to compensate with a higher voltage. This obviously comes with the expected slight hike in power bills, but the more immediate concern will be whether your power supply unit can actually cope with the added strain. When you build your PC or buy your pre-built PC, make sure that you allow for the expected voltage before overclocking.
When you start to tweak the performance, you must be aware that your power supply unit will have a limit. Be careful not to exceed this as it can cause serious issues such as unexpected shut-downs and even fire. You can learn more about the importance of a suitable power supply in our explanation of why PSU unit efficiency matters.
You Need to Make Sure You Overclock Correctly
Sadly, it isn’t quite as simple as just clicking a button and immediately having a perfectly-overclocked PC. Knowing how to tweak each component and to what extent plays an important role. As previously mentioned, MSI Afterburner can help assist in this. Learn more in our list of the best overclocking software.
Beyond just knowing what software to use is also knowing whether your components can actually be overclocked, not everything can be, and pushing them beyond their limit can be damaging. It is always worth looking up your manufacturer and the exact model you have to check it is suitable for the extra boost in power and performance.
You May Void Your 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 the most efficiently for the longest time whilst producing the best results. If you decide to tweak the settings and push your gaming PC beyond the originally intended use, the manufacturer is within its right to refuse a refund if it breaks down.
The flip side to this is that, if you do decide to burn your GPU out getting 144FPS at 4K for a six-hour marathon, most companies don’t actually have the technology to test if you were overclocking or not, so there’s an element of risk.
So, Is the Calculated Risk of Overclocking Worth the Payoff?
When looking at overclocking and seeing the often considerable performance boost, the temptation to go ahead seems very obvious. But discovering that overclocking may take some research and learning how to understand your hardware may put a lot of people off the idea. Thankfully, with the help available online with videos and forums, anyone can be an expert in no time.
Of course, being able to avoid having to buy expensive and often difficult to acquire hardware is a plus point for anyone interested in PC building or performance enhancement. The downside of this is having to, first, learn how to monitor your components and then manage the heat output with things like extra cooling systems. With suitable free software, the efforts and time commitment can become negligible, and cooling systems are almost always going to be cheaper than new hardware.
Taking all the points into consideration, it does seem to suggest that overclocking your gaming PC seems like the right thing to do. Just make sure that 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 for overclocking your PC depending on whether you have the time, patience, and know-how to make it all work. With the tools available and a bit of research, an enhanced gaming performance can be within your reach.
You may need to invest in a little more hardware to keep your hardworking parts to a reasonable temperature, but these kinds of extras will usually hold their value. The extra research you put in, although time-consuming, is worth the payoff due to the money-saving and extra performance output.