How to Overclock a CPU

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.

Intel XTU
credit: Intel
AMD Overdrive
credit: AMD

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
credit: CrystalCPUID

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
credit: Prime95