Complete Guide | CPU overclocking for Beginners

CPU Overclocking can bring images of burned-out processors and graphics cards to your head, or errors when turning on your computer. Nothing is further from reality, overclock your processor, your graphics card, or your RAM, if you do it carefully and little by little, it will not be a problem for you. 

Complete Guide | CPU overclocking for Beginners
Complete Guide | CPU overclocking for Beginners

In this little guide, we are going to see what it means to overclock a CPU, and what you can gain by doing it. However, we are not responsible for any damage or error that you may cause on your computer if you replicate the steps that we are going to expose.

What is CPU Overclocking and what are the advantages?

The clock in the word of overclock refers to the clock speed measured in Hz (MHz or GHz normally) of our processor. This is one of the most important factors of a processor, but it is not the only one. Other factors that affect processor speed are the number of cores, the size of the cache, or the manufacturing process. Overclocking at clock speed means raising the frequency at which the processor runs, making it faster.

With this, we can gain some performance in our processor, which can be translated into smoother games, or improvements in pure processing tasks such as decompressing and compressing a file, or encoding a video. If you have an older computer and want to get better performance, overclocking your processor is usually a good option. You can even get better performance than the processor in your range with a new architecture (for example, overclocking an i7-3770K to get more performance than an i7-4770K)

What do you need to overclock?

Overclocking requires a few preamps on a CPU. Specifically, there are three main factors to consider. The first is to have an overclocking compatible motherboard. In the generations of Intel, they are usually those motherboards whose model begins with Z (Z77, Z87, Z97, Z170).

The second requirement is to have a processor whose multiplier (CPU Ratio) is unlocked . In the case of Intel processors, these are those whose model ends in K, such as i5-6600K or i7-6700K. In AMD’s case, these are the FX series processors. Overclocking can be done on other smaller or older processors, but may be limited by the BIOS.

An unlocked processor also allows better control of voltage and frequency to the point where we find a good balance. If your processor or motherboard does not allow overclocking, it is better to be careful in case you decide to flash a BIOS that does allow it, because you can load either the motherboard or the processor. It is best to accept the limits of your hardware if you do not have an unlocked processor.

The third and last thing you need is a good heatsink, either by liquid or air cooling. This is one of the reasons why the CPU is usually more overclocked than the GPU, since it is more comfortable and normal to install a heatsink whose cooling improves significantly than the standard, which we already mentioned that you should avoid at all costs. To overclock, the minimum is to have a heatsink of at least 30 euros if it is air, or 60 if it is liquid.

A 100% charged processor with a good heatsink does not have to go above 55-60 degrees, so we have at least 10 degrees of margin for our processor to operate at a higher frequency if we overclock it.

Processors already do a slight overclock as standard

Typically, to choose a processor, there are two frequencies that manufacturers specify: Base Clock and Boost Clock (Turbo Boost at Intel). The Base Clock is the base frequency at which the processor operates. For example, in the i7-6700K it is 4.0 GHz.

The Boost Clock is the frequency at which the processor goes up when it detects that the situation requires it, such as playing or doing a demanding task. In this case, the i7-6700K’s Boost Clock is 4.2 GHz . In AMD processors this technology is called Turbo Core.

The first thing when overclocking is to turn up the clock speed. The base on which the i7-6700K works is 100 MHz (like most processors) with a multiplier of 42, reaching the maximum 4.2 GHz it reaches. Some motherboards have a simple tool with default overclocking profiles. This tool modifies the multiplier and raises the frequency.

For example, going from 42 to 45 the multiplier, and from 100 to 103, reaching 4.6 GHz. This processor allows you to reach 4.6 GHz without touching the voltage.

Voltage; what you have to change if you reach the multiplier limit

The recommendation if you start overclocking is to change the multiplier first, since the processor frequency also affects other components of the computer, such as the speed of the DRAM or the storage controllers, while the multiplier only affects the processor.

In the event of having instability problems, it will be necessary to increase the processor voltage. Increasing it depends largely on the capacity of your processor and that of your motherboard, which is what powers the processor. What voltage, what frequency and which multiplier is the best for your processor is unknown. The best thing is usually to Google people who have overclocked a processor of the same model as yours and use it as a guide.

In our example, if 4.6 GHz is not enough for you, you can increase it to 4.8 GHz, thereby increasing the voltage. The increase in voltage must be 0.1 to 0.1. The base of the i7-6700K is 1.2 volts (data also known as VCore), so in each increase you will have to do small stress tests.

If your computer hangs, it reverses. To hit 4.8 GHz on the 6700K, 1.26 volts is fine to start. Intel claims that the maximum it can reach without problems is 1.45 volts, but in the long term this can affect the life of your processor, because the voltage increases the temperature.

The temperature with increasing voltage, moreover, does not increase linearly. From 1.3 or 1.35 volts, a good cooling system is needed if we do not want the temperature of the processor to rise too much. If the processor is above 80 degrees, it may do thermal throttling and slow down to cool down , making sense of overclocking.

Software and stability tests: AIDA64 and Prime95 are your friends

To check the stability of our system after making small increases in overclocking, it is best to do stress tests such as AIDA64 or Prime95. If our computer stays on in the test for 20 minutes without any crash, restart, or blue screen, it means that the overclock we have made does not affect the stability of the system.

AIDA64 is one of the most comprehensive stress tests out there, as it allows each piece to be subjected to maximum performance individually or together, which is also useful for detecting possible errors in our computer. Also 3DMark tests are a good option.

The small changes that we are making must always be in the UEFI (BIOS) of the computer. The interfaces of the current motherboards are very intuitive, and can be operated even with a mouse. As we have already mentioned, there are default profiles on motherboards that automatically overclock, but it is advisable to look at what they do because they usually increase the voltage, and as we have seen, it is not necessary in all cases.

How much performance increases on my model?

To find out how much performance is increased by overclocking your processor, it’s a good idea to Google your processor’s analysis and testing, because the page that analyzed it has probably tested with and without overclocking. In the case of the i7-6700K, going from 4.2 GHz from turbo mode to 4.8 GHz represents an increase in performance between 16 and 22%, although with respect to games the difference is hardly noticeable.

For games, it is best to overclock the graphics card.

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