What Is Overclocking, And How It Can Help Your PC, Tablet, & Phone [MakeUseOf Explains]

morecores intro   What Is Overclocking, And How It Can Help Your PC, Tablet, & Phone [MakeUseOf Explains]Whenever you buy a piece of hardware, you are the owner of that hardware. No matter what people or corporations try to do to lock in your device, it is still yours, and therefore you can do whatever you want with it. Provided that you have hardware from a manufacturer who understands those principles, you can do plenty to juice up your system, whether it be a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

One of the best things you can do — with appropriate hardware, firmware, and/or software — is to speed up your system by overclocking it.

What Is Overclocking?

Simply put, overclocking is the process of tweaking system settings so that your system (or at least components in your system) is running faster than the manufacturer set. Most commonly, people overclock their CPUs and possibly their RAM. For CPUs, this is achieved in a number of different ways.

First, each CPU core has something called a “front side bus speed’. This is the base, external frequency which all of your motherboard components runs on. The CPU uses a multiplier for its internal frequency, so that it can have accurate timings with the rest of the system. These are usually the two things — more the multiplier than the front side bus speed — which users change to overclock their CPU. To aid with the CPU’s increased need for electricity when it’s running at a higher frequency, the voltage usually needs to be increased a little bit as well for the CPU to run stably under the new frequency.

When it comes to overclocking the RAM, usually the voltage needs to be increased to automatically gain a higher memory frequency. Again, this can be done only so much before the RAM becomes unstable and your computer doesn’t run. Changes for the CPU and RAM are usually done in the BIOS, although extreme-edition hardware will usually come with capable software as well.

morecores gpu   What Is Overclocking, And How It Can Help Your PC, Tablet, & Phone [MakeUseOf Explains]
Users also overclock their graphics cards whenever possible to get the best gaming experiences. Graphics cards have two parts, the core frequency and the memory frequency. With higher-end graphics cards, the software should allow you to do this fairly easily.

Benefits of Overclocking

Before you make the decision to overclock, you need to be aware of what benefits as well as consequences it has. As far as benefits are concerned, you’ll see a nice improvement in performance. Things should be running faster, smoother, etc. Of course, if you’re running something which requires heavy use of a certain component, you’ll experience a bottleneck and no increase in performance if you don’t overclock the component which is giving you the bottleneck.

Consequences of Overclocking

overclocking heat displacement   What Is Overclocking, And How It Can Help Your PC, Tablet, & Phone [MakeUseOf Explains]
However, that’s where the benefits list already ends. The main point of overclocking is to gain extra performance, but it comes at a price if you’re willing to pay it. For example, overclocking is an art where settings have to be carefully chosen for the system to run stably. While attempting to overclock, you may find your system to be unstable, making it restart or show BSOD often. Your overclocked components will also generate more heat, so it’s vital that you make sure that your cooling solution — whether air or water — is sufficient to transport the heat. Also be aware that because of the extra stress and heat which the component has to go through when overclocked, the life of that component, before it breaks or fails in any sort of way, will be reduced. Also, it’s most likely that you’ll be voiding any warranties you may have on the components which you overclock.

Conclusion

In the end, it really depends on your needs — or wants — on whether you should actually overclock. If you run mission critical applications, then most likely not, so as to maintain the longevity of the system. If you’re a casual user, then I suggest not to overclock simply because it’s recommended for people who have plenty of experience with computers. If you’re a gamer, then you’ll most likely want to overclock because it gives you the added performance for something that isn’t considered mission-critical. When it comes to smartphones and tablets, it really depends on whether you actually need the extra performance, as you’ll be using up more of your battery. Just remember that you’ll need to root your device to achieve that, and that you set your CPU governor settings appropriately for maximum battery life.

For more information about your system’s components, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of our MakeUseOf guide “Your PC, Inside and Out”! Also, if you need help with overclocking, check out MakeUseOf Answers!

What stories do you have to share about overclocking? Do you recommend it? Anything else people need to be aware of? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credits: OlivanderForrestal_PL, TerrorNoize

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

40 Comments -

0 votes

vineedcool

in my sense only hard core gamers shuld overclock their cpu

0 votes

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Yeah, basic users don’t need it.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

What about, as another example, those who do a lot of video rendering?

0 votes

vineedcool

yea tht counts too…

0 votes

Humza Aamir

A very good and informative read :).
I wanted to know whether there are any third-party apps that can overclock a graphics card. Not the shared Intel based ones, but the ATI/NVIDIA cards? The temperature is bound to rise but I guess the FPS would benefit as well.

0 votes

Elijah Swartz

From my experience, for Nvidia videocards, the EVGA Precision program works good for creating profiles and adjusting very settings. Another thing you can do is set a fan profile to have the fan increase as the temperature does or set it at a set rate if you want. You can even enable an OSD (on screen display) for various things such as the temperature of your GPU and the framerate. For AMD Radeon videocards, there is the MSI Afterburner program. It essentially is the same as the EVGA Precision program, just reskinned. Same functionality. If I recall correctly, they both are based off of the free RivaTuner program. Either program may work with either Nvidia or AMD Radeon, but I’ve always used the EVGA precision for my Nvidia cards and MSI Afterburner for the AMD Radeon cards.

0 votes

Humza Aamir

Thanx. I’ll give MSI Afterburner a try with the ATI card :)

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Hopefully Elijah was able to help you out. I have a Radeon HD 6950, which seems to be overclocking-capable directly from the Catalyst Control Center.

0 votes

Robert Gorman

Also remember that if you Overclock your Device and it goes belly up and its still under warranty, it will render it Void ;-0

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Oh! I thought I had touched on that. Thanks for mentioning it!

0 votes

Adjei Kofi

In my opinion, only desktop users should overclock their cpu/graphic cards. Desktops seem to cope well with overclocking.

0 votes

Elijah Swartz

One of the biggest factors to consider when overclocking is proper cooling. Laptops are too small to allow for effective cooling when significantly overclocking. They tend to get quite warm from just regular usage sometimes. Desktops are bigger and feature more room for air ventilation (or water cooling if you do that). You can have more fans and bigger heatsinks which help dissipate the heat away. Desktops have more potential to allow for good cooling when overclocking, but not all desktops come with good cooling options.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Not only that, but mobile processors are a little bit limited compared to desktop processors so that they’re more energy efficient. That’s why the model number often has an “M” after it.

When it comes to smartphones, people won’t care.

0 votes

Collin Hoffman

If your only concern is pushing your CPU too far, you can always buy the very reasonably priced Intel Performance Tuning Plan, which is essentially overclocker’s insurance that ranges in price from $20 to $35, depending on your processor, and covers a one time replacement of your processor is you kill it.

http://click.intel.com/tuningplan/

0 votes

Elijah Swartz

Intel’s mid level and higher processors feature Turbo which will overclock your device when you need it assuming your temps are fine. Overclocking doesn’t give you the boost it used to back in the day. There really isn’t much of a reason to overclock Intel processor anymore.

About the tuning plan, how could they possibly tell that a device was broken from overclocking than just running in a hot environment or from the heat sink being too dirty to allow ventilation. Intel processors feature something called a TJ Max (or thermal junction max). If your processor hits lets say 100 degrees Celcius, your computer will turn off right then and there. You’d have try hard to ruin your processor. The program is sort of for easily scared “suckers” or exceptionally honest people who honestly think they can break their processor. That’s my opinion at least.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

It sounds that in any case, the plan covers your own mistakes, and not just manufacturing mistakes (as covered by the warranty). A simple overheating case would be covered either way, then.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Plus, I must add, overclocking does give a noticeable boost. “Turbo” is very limited in comparison.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I think I heard of that plan before, but I don’t know much about it, honestly. Thanks for sharing, Collin!

0 votes

Rigoberto Garcia

Article with good information to start making decisions. Important point to consider is the fact that the components have a lower life due to stress they are subjected by the heat generated.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Exactly! It only gets noticed when it’s too late.

0 votes

Elijah Swartz

I would recommend that if you are interested in overclocking you consider a couple things. First, run various benchmarks before you overclock and then after you do. How much improvement was there? Intel 2nd gen core processors overclock very well, but so what (the increase in actual performance isn’t too great). Another thing is that overclocking causes your computer to use more electricity. You should make sure that your power supply has enough of a additional buffer of wattage to make sure it can handle it. One other thing is that in many cases, if you are overclocking, you might want to think about using 3rd party cooling and new high performance thermal compound. The stock cooling is for stock frequencies. Making your computer do more, uses more power which in turn creates more heat. Getting a good fan heat sink could be beneficial. One of the perks of using overclocking software (from within the OS) is that you can often use profiles. If you are playing a casual game or watching a movie, you won’t need your device overclocked. You can switch between between normal settings and overclocked settings in seconds without having to restart.

RAM is the fastest part in a computer, so there isn’t really a reason to overclock it. Like Danny Stieben said in the article, the other parts will be the bottle neck.

0 votes

Elijah Swartz

I was also going to mention that when over clocking your videocard, you should stress test it to make sure it can handle running demanding games. You can stress test your videocard by using a program such as FurMark. It should be more demanding than a typical video game. Run it for a while and be on the look out for abnormalities such as white marks along edges or other artifacts. This is a sign that you overclocked the device too much. To over clock go from your stock speeds and slowly increase speeds in small increments at a time, test it with Furmark, and then attempt to increase the clock speeds by small increments, etc.To get an estimate what your card is capable, look up some results other individuals have been able to achieve.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Thanks for the input, Elijah!

0 votes

Randy Luczak

good info – thanks for your explaination!

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Glad you found it useful, Randy!

0 votes

Va Du

All I can say is that overclocking is crazy hard to get right. The more you push it the less stable it becomes. Even with the built in overclocking software in my Mobo that should supposedly make overclocking my processor and ram an easy feat, it crashes so randomly still.

0 votes

jennifer

its stupid and so are all of you guys trying to do it

0 votes

jennifer

get a life buy a real computer…loosers…….

0 votes

sadden

please define ;real computer’

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Yeah, I’m confused as well.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I have to agree. I tend to just try to get to a certain frequency and call it good right there, rather than trying to go for the absolute highest.

0 votes

Colin Ryan

We always used to do this back in the days of the 386 etc…

0 votes

pahaysaz

I think I will try progressively OC’ing my system. There’s a lot of room there for extra speed. One thing though, my system right now is hard drive limited as far as basic performance. Would you recommend a faster HDD (10K, 15K SAS), Hybrid or SSD?

0 votes

Danny Stieben

I would definitely recommend a SSD if money is not an issue. They’re the fastest and most energy efficient ones you can get. Hopefully I’ll have enough money soon so that I can get one too, because my HDD is my own bottleneck right now.

0 votes

pahaysaz

I’ve had limited success with OC’ing in the past. I’m going to approach it systematically this time, OC’ing one aspect or component at a time. Hopefully, I’ll see more success in the future.

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Remember you can always clear the BIOS’s CMOS if things go bad!

0 votes

Erlis Dhima

Really cool post! :)

0 votes

Danny Stieben

Thanks Erlis!

0 votes

sonnylim

Good read and informative. Thanks!

0 votes

Douglas Mutay

Very interesting one! Thanks.