How to Overclock an HP Laptop

There's a common saying that "you can never be too rich or too good-looking." If you were to translate that into laptop terms, it might sound like "you can never be too light or deliver too much performance." The unfortunate reality is that making laptops light in weight and power usage means design compromises, and raw performance is one thing that usually suffers. You can sometimes get a performance boost if you overclock an HP laptop, but only a few machines can do it.

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What Overclocking Means

The CPU chip in your computer plays a big role in deciding how fast the computer is going to be. Part of that is the raw power of the chip itself: If you use Intel chips, an i7 or i9 give you more oomph than an i3 or an i5 in demanding tasks. On the AMD side, the Ryzen 7 outperforms the Ryzen 3 or 5. That's not the whole story, though, because each of those chip families includes multiple CPUs with different levels of performance. A lot of that performance comes down to clock speed, the number of times a chip "ticks" or processes instructions in each second. You could think of it as being like the RPMs of your car's engine. If you have two equally powerful V8s, one idling at 1,200 RPM and one redlining at 6,000, the one that's working harder generates more power. That's what overclocking boils down to. It's a way of accelerating your CPU in search of an improvement in performance.

The Downside to Overclocking

As with much in life, there's a catch. If you overclock a CPU, it operates at a higher temperature and higher voltage, which may upset the delicate balance of your motherboard's resources. Your system may behave erratically or becomes unstable as a result. Overclocking generates extra heat that has to be dissipated, or it could damage your computer. Heat is bad news in laptops, which have limited cooling capacity. Even worse for performance-hungry enthusiasts, you may not see a short-term gain to compensate for the long-term pain. If your computer's temperature gets too high, it'll protect itself by throttling back performance, and that's the exact opposite of what you want.

HP Overclocking Software

Because overclocking is a high-risk scenario in laptops, not many are built for it. In HP's case, your best bet for overclocking is the Omen X series of gaming laptops. They're built with adequate cooling and beefy power supplies, and many models come with overclockable CPUs. Omen Command Center, the Hewlett Packard setup utility, has an overclock settings section. Choose "Overclocking" from the menu bar on the left, and either watch or skip the overclocking tutorial that pops up. After that, you come to a screen where you can run a benchmark to get a baseline for your computer's current performance. Once you have that, you can start to play with the overclocking options.

Overclock Your CPU

You'll see three sliders, allowing you to increase the "multiplier" for each of your processor's cores, the CPU's voltage and – if you have an Intel chip – its cache ratio. If you don't know what these are, it's a good idea to stop here and do some online research to find recommended settings. Alternatively, you can wing it. Increase your settings slightly, save the changes, and rerun your benchmarks to see how much improvement you achieved. If your system is still stable, try tweaking it a little further and see what happens. This is a seriously high-risk strategy on some machines, but the Omen Command Center won't let you do any real damage. If you go past the computer's limits and make your system unstable, the Command Center takes you back to the last stable configuration and restarts your computer.

A Couple of Other Options

Depending on the configuration of your specific laptop, you might also see a tab that lets you overclock the system memory and get a second boost in performance. Select that tab and click the "Turbo" option to accelerate your RAM. Click again to accept the changes, and your system reboots with the new settings. You'll only see this option if you have the right kind of RAM, so don't sweat it if it's not there. Unfortunately, you may go into Omen Command Center and find that you don't have a menu option for overclocking. That means your system has a "locked" processor chip, which can't be overclocked. If that's the case, you'll have to fall back on routine tweaking and tuning to coax better performance out of your laptop.

Other Ways to Improve Performance

If you're part of an online gaming community, dropping a casual reference to overclocking your CPU is a quick way to earn some "geek cred." Being a masterful system tweaker isn't as glamorous, but it's a subtle skill set in its own right, and it has the advantage of working on any computer. You'll find any number of tutorials and suggestions online, but a few basics are always useful. First, keep your system clean and dust-free. Dust traps heat, so a dusty system can't work as hard or as long without throttling. Also, research which drivers are best for your video card and then update them regularly. Nvidia, AMD and Intel all tweak their drivers constantly for improved performance and stability. Another key tip is to free up your system resources as much as possible. Before you launch your game, close any unused programs. Set your Windows Updates and other programs so they can't download updates in the background, which slows both your computer itself and your internet connection. There are plenty of other tweaks, but those are the important ones to start with.

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