With great clock speeds comes great computation power, and along with it, high temperatures. But unlike desktops which can facilitate extensive cooling systems, the cooling on laptops is very limited.
This is one of the main reasons why overclocking isn’t possible on most laptops. But for the ones that do support overclocking, this guide is sure to be useful.
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Things to Know Before Overclocking Your Laptop
- Overclocking, in most cases, voids the warranty.
- You need an unlocked processor for overclocking. Most AMD processors are unlocked, whereas, for Intel, you should look for processors with a K or X at the end of the name (e.g., i9-11900k).
- Your motherboard needs to support overclocking.
- You should check your CPU temperature. If your CPU is already operating at high temp, you’ll need to take steps to lower the temp first. Otherwise, your CPU will throttle performance to deal with the heat, making the overclock pointless.
How to Overclock Your Laptop CPU
The traditional method of overclocking via the BIOS is usually not possible on laptops. As such, we recommend using manufacturer tools such as Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel XTU) or AMD Ryzen Master. When using these tools, if overclocking isn’t possible on your laptop, you’ll encounter an error message indicating the same.
Step 1: Check Baseline Performance
The first step, before the actual overclocking, is to benchmark your CPU with the default configurations to establish a baseline. You can use a free tool like Prime95 or Cinebench to run a stress test. With Intel XTU, you can also use the Run Benchmark option from the Benchmarking tab.
- CPU Temperature on all cores
- CPU Voltage (Vcore)
- Benchmark Score
If you want to get really accurate values, you can also repeat this process multiple times and note down the average value.
Step 2: Overclock the CPU
If you’re new to overclocking, you must know how the CPU frequency is calculated before proceeding further. Your CPU has a base clock speed (BCLK), which is usually 100MHz. Each CPU core also has a core multiplier, which, as the name implies, multiplies the BCLK.
Let’s assume the CPU core multiplier is something like 36.
BCLK * Multiplier = Frequency. So, 100 MHz * 36 = 3600 MHz, or 3.6 GHz. This is how the CPU frequency is determined.
Now, the core multipliers will likely have slightly different values by default (ex. 38, 37, 37, 36 in the case of 4 cores). You’ll want to set them all to the same value (ex. 36, 36, 36, 36) at the start.
The stock CPU frequency is a value that the CPU is designed to safely work under with a focus on stability and longevity. But this isn’t the maximum frequency that it’s capable of working at. For instance, by bumping up the core multipliers from 36 to 37, you can increase the CPU frequency to 3.7 GHz.
The next step is to test this new configuration. Apply the settings, restart your laptop, use it for a bit and throw in a stress test or two. If your system is stable, excellent! Note down the current configurations for reference later. You can either use this overclock, or you can increase the multiplier once again to test a higher frequency.
Soon enough though, your laptop will crash, whether in the form of stuttering, freezing, or BSODs. This is normal, and it’s happening because the CPU can’t handle the current frequency at the current-voltage. So, the fix is to increase your voltage by a minor amount (+0.02 to +0.05V) and test if the new configuration works. If it’s stable now, excellent. If not, increase the voltage further.
Do note that you obviously can’t keep increasing the voltage and frequency indefinitely. Increased voltage means more power flowing through the CPU, which means higher temperatures. It’s imperative that you don’t increase the voltage to above 1.4V. Even with lower voltage, you should make sure that the CPU temperature isn’t too high.
As you play around with different frequency and voltage combinations, you’ll figure out your hardware’s limits and, hopefully, the best possible overclock configuration as well.
We highly recommend thoroughly researching overclocking your specific laptop and processor online. Most likely, the Reddit overclocking community or someone else online has already figured out the best overclock configurations for that set of hardware, which will make the testing process a whole lot easier for you.
- Benchmark both before and after you overclock to get an accurate measure of the performance difference.
- Make small changes only (1 core multiplier and/or 0.05V at a time) when trying out different combinations.
- Do not exceed 1.4V. Try to find the lowest stable voltage.
- Always keep the temperature in mind. If it’s too high (100° C+) when testing, lower the voltage, upgrade your system cooling or reduce the temperature some other way. During long-term use, it’s best not to let the temperature exceed 80° C.
How to Overclock CPU Laptop Automatically?
Intel’s Performance Maximizer is a convenient tool that performs various tests and automatically figures out the best overclock configurations for your system. The caveat is that it only supports certain 9th – 11th generation processors. Additionally, you’ll also need to reset any previous overclocks before using this tool. An easy way to do this is by reseating the CMOS battery.
Although quite rare, some laptops also sport a physical overclock button, usually labeled along the lines of Turbo or Boost.
Does Overclocking CPU Shorten Lifespan?
Overclocking, per se, doesn’t reduce the CPU lifespan. However, you do have to pay attention to how high the CPU temperature gets after overclocking. Electronic components and high temperatures don’t mix well, and the same is true with CPUs.
During stress tests, it’s normal for CPUs to reach 90° C+. Laptop CPUs are designed to withstand slightly higher temperatures, so you can bump that number up to 100° C+.
However, this is during stress tests. During normal usage, it’s recommended not to let the temperature exceed 80° C. Regularly exposing the CPU to such high temperatures will likely shorten its lifespan.
The good news in all of this is that as long as your cooling system and other bases are covered, you can achieve a pretty good overclock without any overheating issues.
And even in the bad case with a shortened lifespan, CPUs actually last very long (6+ years). We have a detailed article on how overclocking affects CPU lifespan if you’re interested in delving deeper into this topic.
Is It Safe To Overclock CPU?
Overclocking is a way to safely squeeze out more performance from your components. Safely implies you’re following proper procedure, which includes only making small changes at a time, using the lowest possible voltage and not exceeding 1.4V, keeping track of the CPU temperature etc.
With how mainstream overclocking is getting, most people know how important it is to follow such procedures. Some people though, don’t care, which is where the occasional overclock gone wrong videos and posts come from.