Overclocking your graphics card can give you a serious performance boost. If you think your build could use the extra power and you want to push your clock speed a bit, you can start overclocking your GPU without much worry.
However, finding the correct settings can be difficult. Overclocking too high and increasing the power too much could burn out your entire card.
What Makes Overclocking Dangerous?
Overclocking is dangerous because you increase the power and clock speed of the card, which increases the heat and stress on the card itself. Cards are only rated to handle so much, and overclocking generally means that you’re moving past what’s considered safe.
While you can burn out the card just from running too much power through it, you can also damage the GPU by running it too hot, too often. An overclocked graphics card generally runs at a higher temperature than one running at stock settings.
One of the most dangerous threats to GPUs is the high temperatures they create when they run at full power.
Is It Too Dangerous to Overclock?
Definitely not! I ran an overclock on my GPU and CPU on my last build because the components were getting older, and I thought more performance might enhance my computer experience.
While there are a lot of downsides and things to beware of, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt to overclock your GPU. The benefits can outweigh the risks – mainly because when you take your time to increase the overclock gradually, you will probably avoid any significant negative drawbacks.
People who rush the overclock, boost it too high, and ramp up their voltage – or those who don’t monitor their temperatures – are in the most danger of a damaged graphics card.
What Happens When the Clock Speed Gets Higher?
When the clock speed gets higher, the card runs hotter. You might notice the temperatures creeping up when you switch from using something like a word processing program or internet browser to a video game.
One reason is that the clock speed on your card boosts up to handle the additional demands of a video game, making the card run hotter.
Increasing the clock speed will make it possible for the card to work even harder. This naturally can lead to increased temperatures as well.
What Happens When the Voltage Increases?
Running too much voltage through your card can burn it out and increase your electric bill. If you move the voltage up to support the increased memory clock, do it very slowly. You don’t want to run excessive power to your card.
What Happens When the Card Gets Too Hot?
When a GPU overheats, the software that runs it will usually shut down the program you’re using or the computer. You might notice crashes, stutters, or bluescreens increasing. Even if there are no noticeable effects, the card can degrade sooner if you regularly operate it at a high temperature.
How Can I Make Overclocking Safer?
There are a few ways you can make overclocking your GPU safer. If you use these methods as you work through the process, you have a better chance of avoiding any pitfalls.
One of the best and most essential pieces of advice about overclocking is that you need to go slow. It’s tempting to push your GPU to the highest point you think might work and start testing there. However, that’s an excellent way to stress your card more than you need to.
Instead, just bump up the necessary adjustments a little bit and test it out thoroughly. Even an adjustment of 10 MHz is enough. Even smaller steps up are a good idea if you’re increasing the voltage.
You can always push your overclock higher by going into your settings and raising it again. Even if it takes more time, going through the process multiple times until you find an acceptable, stable overclock is better than burning out your card or dealing with numerous system shutdowns.
There are two types of testing you need to think about doing.
First, look for a GPU stress test. This puts your card through a series of complex challenges and measures how well it can cope with them. You can also use it to test the stability of your overclock – if your GPU can’t complete the stress test at the level you’ve selected, it could be wise to reduce your numbers.
You should also be testing it with your most demanding programs. Put a temperature monitor on a second screen and start running whatever high-end programs the overclock will benefit the most.
For example, an overclocked GPU won’t do much for me in Microsoft Word, but it does make ARK: Survival run with higher graphics settings. Use the programs that will tax your card and look for performance issues, excessive heat, or shutdowns. Those are signs that the overclock isn’t manageable and should be turned down.
Monitor Your Temperatures
I can’t stress enough how important it is to monitor your GPU temperatures. Running it a little cooler can extend your card’s life, which is a considerable benefit when high-end GPU prices are so unstable.
Even after you think you’ve found a stable overclock, keep a temperature monitor on the screen and regularly check in different types of programs to see whether you’re temperatures are stable and expected. If they are and the overclock is stable, you should be fine.
If they aren’t, think about increasing the cooling in the case. You can get a water cooler for your GPU or even upgrade the air cooler if preferred. You can add more fans to your case or find a cooler spot to keep it in.
Whatever you do, keep the temperatures low, and you’ll avoid any extra stress on the card that might end its life sooner.
Should I Overclock My GPU?
Whether or not you should overclock your GPU is entirely up to you and based on the requirements you have for your computer. For example, I did overclock my 1080TI because I needed more performance for my games.
The 3080TI works for everything without overclocking so far; therefore, I didn’t see a need to do it personally.
You also have to consider whether you have the kind of GPU that can be overclocked. Not all can. You must have some sort of software that will let you adjust the GPU performance by increasing the clock speeds, managing the voltage, and even changing your fan curve to address higher temperatures.
If you need more power from your GPU and are comfortable using an overclocking program, then there’s no reason not to try overclocking it. Many people do so successfully. While it comes with risks, you can mitigate those by taking the steps to stay safe discussed earlier.
What if I’m Not Happy With My Overclocked GPU?
What you do with your GPU depends on why you’re unhappy with the overclock.
If the performance isn’t good once you’ve made the changes, then the overclock probably isn’t stable. Try lowering it to see whether it works better. It’s better to have a stable and weaker GPU than an overclocked one that isn’t stable and could burn out.
However, if your concern is that you’re still not getting enough power, there are only a few viable options. You can’t and shouldn’t overclock your GPU past the point of stability. You can try to overclock your CPU or attempt to upgrade other parts if they’re creating a bottleneck for the GPU.
If the graphics card’s power is the issue and the overclock doesn’t improve the performance enough for your needs, it might be time to look into a new card.
Can All Graphics Cards Take the Same Overclock?
Not all graphics cards can hit the same numbers when overclocked, even if they’re the same graphics card from the same manufacturer. Specific chips are just better than others.
When a company checks to see whether a card meets the published standards, that is the only thing they need to know. They don’t have to check to ensure each can be overclocked to a specific point.
Because of the minute differences in each graphics card that rolls off the assembly line, overclocking and the speeds you can hit are a matter of how well you do in the silicon lottery.
If you can hit higher numbers, you did good and got a card capable of pushing itself higher. If it won’t take much of an overclock and you’ve seen some of the same cards overclocked higher, then the silicon lottery wasn’t on your side that day.
Don’t despair, though! Many cards can take some type of overclocking, and even a slight boost in your card’s speed could deliver great performance leaps.