How to Overclock a CPU

By Joe Murray

The article describes various methods of overclocking a CPU with several tips, warnings and descriptions of free overclocking software from several sources.

Things You'll Need

  • Needle-nose Pliers
  • Computer Fans
  • Heat-sink Compound
  • Computers
  • Screwdriver Sets
  • Computer Power Supplies
  • Processors
  • Back-up Drives

A computer’s central processing unit processes data at a maximum speed set by the manufacturer, called the clock speed. Intel and AMD offer a limited number of higher-end CPUs that allow some degree of overclocking using each companies’ proprietary software. Amateur computer operators deploy overclocking freeware to accomplish the same objective. They do so with lower-end and far less expensive CPUs; their ultimate goal is to increase performance.

Download the Software

Several free and pay-for-play overclocking programs support a variety of processors, but for high-end Intel or AMD CPUs, use the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility or the AMD Overdrive program. These manufacturer-built programs are designed to limit the possibility of CPU damage.

AMD Overdrive

Warning

Attempting to overclock new or expensive computer CPUs should only be performed by experienced operators. Overclocking a laptop requires a good deal of expertise because they can heat up very rapidly, have limited cooling capacity and generally have CPUs that are permanently attached to the motherboard and cannot be replaced. Burn the processor and you are left with a costly doorstop.

Tip

Heat is your enemy and overclocked CPUs get hot. If your overclocked CPU core temperature rises and stays much above 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 Celsius), you will not only need a new CPU, but you could fry the motherboard as well.

Start with an efficient cooling compound for mounting your CPU. To further dissipate the heat use the best heatsink you can afford. Use as many cooling fans as you can mount in your computer case.

Consider a CPU liquid cooling system. You can even make one yourself.

Start the Clock!

Your goal is to increase your CPU multiplier one level up from the default clock speed and then increase the voltage level of the CPU one notch above the default. Use the software you downloaded to monitor your progress, always watching the CPU temperature. Make these adjustments using motherboard control software, your BIOS or UEFI settings or by resetting the rocker switches on your motherboard depending on the motherboard model and your control software. Read your motherboard manual, the CPU data sheet and any forums on the subject of overclocking your individual motherboard and CPU before starting. There are literally dozens of configurations and modalities.

CPU Multiplier Levels

Set the Clock

After you reach the overclock speed you want (20 percent to 30 percent above default is a decent goal), save the new power configuration before you reboot and test for stability. If things seem to be functioning normally but a bit faster, use a stressing software to check long term stability for at least half an hour. Then run your favorite game or an online video and check the difference in real-time performance.

Stress Testing Software

Tip

Take separate notes of increase levels, reboot often, monitor stability and always watch the CPU temperature.