Overclocking GPU is one good, if not the most prominent way to improve the overall gaming performance. You can expect anywhere between 5 to 20 percent of frame rate improvement and possibly, fewer micro stutters and lags in the gaming session.
Although the term ‘overclocking’ sounds technical and probably not very familiar to many people, the practice is considerably easy. Unlocked GPU, paired with modern software could help you accomplish your first overclocking effortlessly, and it’s relatively safe too.
So, how to overclock GPU? Whether you are using AMD or NVIDIA, the process just the same. This also applied on any board manufacturer, whether it’s Gigabyte, Asus, MSI, Zotac, etc.
DISCLAIMER: Although it’s relatively safe, overclocking still involving risks. Damage due to overclocking is generally not covered by the card warranty. Make sure you know this before proceeding.
#1 Preparation: Download and install the necessary software for overclocking
There are three mandatory software needs to be installed before you can start overclocking. The three of which are:
- GPU driver — make sure it’s updated
- MSI Afterburner — for overclocking, it works on all GPU brands, not just MSI
- MSI Kombustor — a companion software to monitor the system stability when overclocking
Another preparation you need to look into is making sure the cooling system on the machine is adequate enough to handle the extra temperature. Overclocked GPU is running at a slightly hotter (but still safe) temperature. Having more fans installed in the PC case can be an advantage to gain higher frequencies.
You probably want to clean dust from your PC first before overclocking to prevent the system from suffocating.
#2 Overclocking the GPU Core Clock
INFO: Overclocking Core Clock generally directly affect frame rates when playing video games. Higher frequencies mean higher fps in general.
1. Run MSI Afterburner, then click the K button to launch MSI Kombustor. Or you may launch it manually.
2. On MSI Kombustor, select FurMark-Donut as the “Stress test” and “Resolution” based on your monitor native resolution. Then, click RUN stress test.
3. Next, you will see something like this. This is a stress test for the GPU. MSI Kombustor will reflect how stable your overclocking profile is. If it lags or closed when applying the overclocking setting, then the setting is not stable.
4. Go back to MSI Afterburner. Set the Power Limit and Temp. Limit to the maximum point. It was set by the GPU manufacturer and it’s pretty much still within the safe limit. Don’t forget to hit the (✓) button. You must click the button every time you changed something on the parameters.
5. Now, we are focusing on Core Clock. Add 10 Mhz at a time and click (✓) to apply the setting.
6. Keep adding 10 Mhz incrementally until you get to the point where MSI Kombustor seems laggy, glitching, or closed (or the monitor turns off for a few seconds). That’s the point where the overclocking profile is no longer stable. Don’t worry, it will automatically revert back to the default setting.
When that happens, reduce the Core Clock to the previous stable frequency. For example, I managed to overclock the GPU core to 190 Mhz, but due to instability, I lower it to 180 Mhz and further to 170 Mhz just to be safe. You might be got a different number, but the theory is the same.
#2 Overclocking the GPU Memory Clock
INFO: Overclocking the memory clock is recommended to reduce lag, preventing slow texture load, and combat micro stutter.
7. Next step is improving the Memory Clock speed. You can add 100 Mhz at a time then click (✓).
8. Just like Core Clock, keep adding an extra 100 Mhz (yes, with double zeros) incrementally until MSI Kombustor becomes unstable. If so, you can lower the frequency by 50 Mhz until it gets stable.
9. When everything seems right and stable, you can save the overclocking profile so you don’t have to adjust the settings manually in the future.
10. Finally, click on the Startup Windows button to make the overclocking profile applied at startup. You also need to make MSI Afterburner running at startup by going to the gear icon > General > Start with Windows > OK.
This is an optional step, though. You may run MSI Afterburner and activating the overclock feature when you about to play a video game or rendering videos.
So, that’s basically how to overclock your GPU. Pretty easy, right?
A note that you have to remember that MSI Kombustor doesn’t always represent real-life scenarios. Sometimes MSI Kombustor runs pretty stably, but some graphics-demanding games will probably crash on the overclocked GPU. If that happens, you know what to do — lower the frequencies and try running the game again.
FAQ about GPU overclocking
- Do I need to run MSI Afterburner to apply the overclocking profile?
Yes, unlike unlocked CPU which can be overclocked through BIOS, thus eliminating the need for overclocking software, overclocking GPU can only be done through software. MSI Kombustor (or other similar overclocking software) has to run at least once in one session to apply the overclocking profile.
- Is overclocking GPU safe?
If done correctly, overclocking GPU is relatively safe. As long as we don't go over the power and temperature limit set by the manufacturer, it's pretty much safe. Modern graphic cards will prevent themself from being hurt when things are beyond the acceptable design limit.
A video by JayzTwoCent demonstrates how hard it is to kill a GPU even by purposedly blasting hot air on it. The card just throttles the frequency and subsequently lowers the temperature. So, it's something you should not worry about.
- Will overclocking GPU lower its lifespan?
It's safe to say that overclocking practically did not affect the GPU lifespan, unless if you are playing with the voltage (we are not changing the voltage in this guide). Another challenge is the heat, but then again, we are still within the manufacturer's margin.
- Can I overclock laptop GPU?
GPU on laptops can be overclocked as long as it's marketed as 'unlocked GPU'. But the benefit of overclocking laptop GPU is far slimmer than desktops. This is due to the fact that laptops don't have a cooling system, sophisticated enough to handle excessive heat.
- Should I overclock my GPU?
To sum up, there's no reason not to. It's basically free extra performance you can get just by sliding a few settings.
Now you can start playing video games with a bit more frame rates, less fps drop, and smoother. Let me know how your overclocked GPU is doing!