For folks just getting into the world of PC customization, there’s probably nothing more exciting than RGB lighting. But a close second has got to be overclocking your processor. Just go to any large computer enthusiast forum. You’ll encounter tons of people. Passionately discussing their overclocking results, their cooling systems, and which CPUs are the most forgiving for tinkerers. But, as active and vibrant as the overclocking community is. Have you ever wondered whether it’s even worth it to go through the hassle of making adjustments to your CPU? To squeeze every megahertz you can out of your hardware before it reaches the point of instability?
Well, it really depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. Although seasoned veterans of the overclocking game know this well. Novices who become excited after buying their first unlocked CPU, may not know that while you can see a performance bump by overclocking, you’re not likely to change your computing experience.
But why would that be? Well, the improvements we’ve seen with CPUs over the past couple of decades have largely been because of changing their architectures. That is how the pathways that handle logic inside the processor are put together. And shrinking transistor sizes that make the processors faster and more power efficient. Don’t get me wrong, higher clock speeds are still better but this is only true when you’re comparing like – like that is to say 2 processors with the same micro-architecture and the same number. To top it off, you’re not going to get close to say, doubling the factory clock speed at home. Unless you’re running some exotic high-dollar cooling setup.
The thing to remember is that even then that kind of equipment is usually meant for short-term overclocks in a competition environment, not for everyday use with a standard air or water cooler. You’re likely to get a few hundred megahertz bump, but anything north of 1 gigahertz will probably be a bit of a challenge.
So, does that mean overclocking is a huge waste of time and does nothing practical? Well no, I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying to have realistic expectations, which includes knowing how different programs and games use your CPU and your GPU in different ways. While some applications are heavily tied to CPU performance, including programs that do lots of encoding. Such as video editing and file compression utilities. Others don’t really care that much how fast your CPU is. This includes many games which are often much more tied to how quickly your GPU can spit out frames.
If you were to overclock your cpu by a few hundred megahertz you could expect your files to compress or your videos to export a little faster. But you might see virtually no improvement when you’re gaming. That is unless you’re playing a title where there’s a great deal of CPU bound logic. Such as some larger scale simulation games. However, graphics card overclocking might end up being useful, with some titles getting a bump of 5 or even 10 frames per second or more. Which could noticeably smooth out your experience. Especially if you’re getting an extra 5 or 10 frames during a dip while the actions intense.
There is something that I should say though. For the ease with which you can overclock a modern chip. Back in the day overclocking was far more tedious, but these days with easy-to-use firmware and overclocking software combined with power efficient chips, that don’t need a super expensive motherboard to overclock. Dialing in your settings can take mere seconds. Then validating those seconds is often a matter of doing an automated stress test for a few hours up to a couple of days. Plus, many folks love overclocking as a fun hobby and a way to get free performance out of their rigs even if it will not turn their home battle station into the Cray supercomputer. And while overclocking typically voids a standard CPU warranty, modern processors are so reliable that this isn’t much of a concern for most tinkers.
So give it a shot. The results might not be earth shattering, but it’s one of the few times in life that you can go faster for free.