How to overclock your PC’s CPU

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How to overclock your PC’s CPU

If you think that overclocking is solely for performance-obsessed geeks armed with bottles of liquid nitrogen, it’s time to reconsider! Even a small bump in PC performance can delay the need to upgrade your CPU, keeping money in your pocket.

Today I’ll walk you through simple overclocking steps that can boost processor speeds 10 percent or more. If you’re a gamer, video artist, or media streamer, that’s a useful, no-cost upgrade. Read on if you want your PC to go faster!

What is overclocking, anyway?

Overclocking is a technique for tweaking various types of PC hardware, so that it runs faster than the manufacturer’s intended specification. Many processors, RAM modules, and graphics cards can be overclocked, usually by adjusting their settings via your motherboard’s UEFI BIOS. Operate in safe margins and overclocking shouldn’t damage your PC. But, as we’ll discuss, it’s important to manage the additional heat that accelerated hardware can generate.

Some tips for the journey

There are a few guiding principles worth considering before you overclock a CPU. First, not all processors can be easily overclocked. If you’re Team AMD, you’re probably in luck, as all modern Ryzen processors can be overclocked in B- and X-series AM4 motherboards. Intel, however, locks most of its mainstream CPUs to prevent smart users from purchasing a budget component and jacking up its performance. Pricier enthusiast processor lines (identified by a K or X suffix, such as the Intel Core i5-10600K), on the other hand, are sold unlocked and can therefore be overclocked.

Even then, bear in mind that processors are unique slabs of silicon and electronics. Some processors can tolerate higher operating speeds better than others—even those of the same model and specification. It’s known as the “silicon lottery” for a reason!

Stable overclocks entail a delicate balance of speed and heat. The more you push your processor, the hotter it’s going to get. If your PC becomes a little too toasty, integrated fail-safe measures should shut off the power before those expensive components are damaged. To keep your overclocked PC stable, your job is to keep it cool.

Budget CPU coolers (the stock heatsink-and-fan assembly that ships with many processors) are going to struggle here. Consider upgrading to a better-performing air cooler (such as those from Noctua) or investigate all-in-one liquid coolers, which work much like a car’s radiator. I recently upgraded my gaming rig with the NZXT Kraken X62 which pumps coolant over the CPU via a sealed system, then extracts the heat via a large radiator and double-fan assembly, mounted in the top of the case.

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NZXT Kraken X62

We’re about to get hands-on with a motherboard’s UEFI BIOS software, which allows fine-tuning of your hardware settings. However, some motherboard manufacturers offer convenient apps that attempt to safely overclock your CPU for you. If these manual steps seem a little tough, then check out the likes of Asus Dual Intelligent Processors 5, Gigabyte EasyTune, AMD’s Ryzen Master, or Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility. MSI motherboards even have a physical OC Genie button you can press to turbocharge your PC.

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