Overclocking your gaming PC sounds both complicated and daunting, but in reality, it’s accomplished with just a few programs and maybe a few extra peripherals.
The process has its pros and cons, but in this article, we’ll cover how to walk through them and help you decide if overclocking your gaming PC is something you might want to do.
What is the benefit of overclocking?
The immediate benefits of overclocking might seem obvious – extra power for a relatively low cost – but let’s explore these and some other benefits of overclocking.
The first and most obvious benefit of overclocking is getting every drop of performance out of your hardware. By supercharging your PC, you will get every extra frame per second, can reduce all your loading times and play at a higher resolution. This extra power comes at a cost, which we’ll talk about later, but with the right craftsmanship and some extra hardware, it’s manageable.
The tools are there
With a few relatively simple tools, you can push a lot more power through your GPU, CPU, and RAM and get closer to the performance you want. To get started, check out our guide to overclocking your CPU. Programs like MSI Afterburner can easily overclock your CPU and GPU with all the manual displays you might need, such as internal temperatures and power consumption. There’s even a feature to test both CPU and GPU to give you an idea of how far you can push your PC.
Overclocking is financially beneficial
Having to break the bank to upgrade hardware is something no one looks forward to. With prices constantly rising, it makes sense to try to hold on to your old coins for as long as possible.
Pushing your old hardware to the limit will often push it into the next-gen performance region, or close enough. Not having to scour the markets for the newest hardware is always a plus, why spend the money when you can get more of what you have?
There is a lot of support
If you decide to go ahead and overclock your PC, you’ll find plenty of helpful forums, subreddits, and videos guiding you through the process. If you’re planning on doing it, it’s almost certain that someone has already done it, made all the mistakes, and posted it online. Research is essential for anything related to building and buying a PC and that rings true for overclocking.
Why not overclock?
Everything seems to make sense; overclocking saves money, improves performance, and seems relatively simple to do. Why don’t we all do it? There are a few things to consider which we will go over.
Overclocking will shorten the life of your hardware
Pulling more power through any part of your PC will inevitably make it work harder. Like everything, you work hard, you need more rest. PC parts get tired too. Over time, the increased voltage going through your PC’s hardware will wear them down. The extra volts create more heat and speed up the degradation of delicate elements. This brings us to our second question to consider.
Increased heat output
Increased voltage causes increased heat, which requires better airflow and better heat distribution. Raising your PC’s internal temperature without addressing it properly can lead to serious problems, the least of which are minor bugs and crashes. An overclocked processor can reach temperatures of 195F and still be considered in the safe zone, although closer to 175F and below is obviously much more preferable.
If you’re looking to seriously overclock your components, it’s definitely worth investing in more cooling as well. Water cooling is a common solution with lots of additional fans. Overclocking can mean a slight rebuild of your current PC depending on how far you want to go.
With greater performance comes a higher power demand. When you demand more from your components, you will have to compensate with higher voltage. This obviously comes with the expected slight increase in electricity bills, but the more immediate concern will be whether your PSU can actually cope with the added strain. When you build your PC or buy your pre-built PC, be sure to consider the expected voltage before overclocking.
When you start tweaking performance, you should be aware that your PSU will have a limit. Be careful not to exceed this as it can lead to serious problems such as unexpected shutdowns and even a fire. You can read more about the importance of a proper power supply in our explanation of the importance of PSU efficiency.
You need to make sure you are overclocking correctly
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as clicking a button and immediately having a perfectly overclocked PC. Knowing how to adjust each component and to what extent plays an important role. As mentioned earlier, MSI Afterburner can help you. Learn more in our list of the best overclocking software.
Beyond knowing what software to use, it’s also knowing if your components can actually be overclocked, not everything can be, and pushing them beyond their limit can be damaging. It is always worth researching your manufacturer and the exact model you need to check, it is suitable for the extra increase in power and performance.
You can void your warranty
If you decide to go ahead and push your PC to the limit, it may affect your statutory rights. Most manufacturers launch their products configured to perform most efficiently for the longest time while producing the best results. If you decide to change the settings and take your gaming PC beyond its original intended use, the manufacturer is within its rights to refuse a refund if it fails.
The flip side is, if you decide to burn through your GPU getting 144FPS at 4K for a six-hour marathon, most companies don’t have the technology to test whether you’re overclocking or not, so there’s a element of risk.
So, is the calculated risk of overclocking worth it?
When looking at overclocking and seeing the often huge performance gain, the temptation to go ahead seems very obvious. But finding out that overclocking can take some research and learning to understand your hardware can put a lot of people off. Fortunately, with help available online with videos and forums, anyone can become an expert in no time.
Of course, being able to avoid having to buy expensive and often hard-to-acquire hardware is a plus for anyone interested in building PCs or improving performance. The downside is having to learn how to monitor your components first and then manage the heat output with things like additional cooling systems. With the right free software, the effort and time commitment can become negligible, and cooling systems will almost always be cheaper than new hardware.
Taking all the points into consideration, this seems to suggest that overclocking your gaming PC seems like the right thing to do. Just make sure you take the time to understand the process and gather the right tools to monitor your gaming PC.
As you can see, there are good reasons to overclock your PC depending on whether you have the time, patience, and know-how to make it all work. With the tools available and a little research, improved gaming performance may be within your reach.
You may need to invest in a little more hardware to keep your parts at a reasonable temperature, but these types of extras will generally hold their value. The extra research you do, while time-consuming, is worth it because of the money savings and extra performance.