Clover News

Secure Video Card Overclocking: A Step-by-Step Guide

Alex Simon

It's already the end of summer, and video cards are not in a hurry to slow down in price. Very soon, the annual autumn wave of releases will begin, and many of them will require a powerful "hardware" responsible for the graphics. Try to follow our tips so that you do not find yourself in the new gaming year behind the sidelines.

Note: This guide applies exclusively to desktop PCs and is dedicated to the so-called "safe overclocking" (without raising the voltage or changing the cooling system). However, with any manipulation with the "iron" there is always some chance of damaging it. Therefore, study our tips very carefully and follow them at your own risk.

Step 1: Prepare your computer

If, after opening the side wall of the system unit, you at best want to sneeze, then rather arm yourself with a rag. Having previously turned off your gaming machine from the network, removing the sweater and moving the woolen carpet from the floor, wipe it thoroughly inside and blow all the dust out of the filters (it is better to do this on the street).

The second thing to do is to make sure you have enough power at the power supply. To do this, find on the website of any of the major stores the model of your graphics card (for example, GeForce GTX 760 or Radeon R9 280X) and pay attention to the column "Recommended power supply". If it says "400 W" and there is exactly as much (or even less) on board your PC, then after overclocking, hangs and even shutdown of the system are possible - increased frequencies always increase power consumption.

As for the power supply parameters, then it is worth setting either a balanced or high performance mode. Better balanced - it will allow the system to "rest" when the game is not running. Contrary to popular myth, it does not affect performance, but only spends resources wisely. It is not necessary to turn on, perhaps, the economical mode.

Step 2: Install the necessary software

The first (in the image on the left) gives all the characteristics of your graphics card: from the exact name of the model (graph Name) and core (GPU) to the frequencies (Clock), the width of the memory bus (Bus Width) and support for various technologies (Computing). The second allows you to increase the frequencies of the core (Core Clock) and memory (Memory Clock), as well as control the behavior of the cooler (Fan Speed) and play with voltage (Core Voltage). The latter, by the way, is not recommended for safe overclocking.

Any software, of course, should be downloaded only from official sites, so as not to run into various "surprises" when installing it.

Among other things, it is also worth installing one of the popular performance tests from Unigine: Heaven Benchmark, Valley Benchmark or the brand new Superposition Benchmark. If your graphics card is more than five years old, then the super-modern Superposition may not start - then put either of the first two.

Benchmarks allow not only to admire the three-dimensional scenes in beauty almost overtaking modern games, but also to quickly "warm up" the video card after overclocking to check the system for stability.

Step 3: Test your current performance

First, run the program and compare the values from the Default Clock (the standard frequency of the graphics core) and Boost from the top line (the current frequency of the graphics core in games). If they are different, then your graphics card has a factory overclocking and the frequency increase in Afterburner will be added from the top. In this case, the stock of megahertz may remain less significant - for example, the GTX 1060 STRIX OC model from Asus has already been overclocked by more than 250 units of clock frequency.

Next, look at the number of megahertz in parallel graphs: GPU Clock and Default Clock, as well as in the upper and lower Memory. At the top are written the current frequencies without taking into account the factory overclocking, and at the bottom - the original ones. The paired points must coincide with each other. Otherwise, your graphics card has already been overclocked.

Now run the built-in performance test in any demanding game (for example, GTA 5 or Rise of the Tomb Raider) and write down the average frame rate in Notepad. After that, open one of the Unigine benchmarks mentioned above, do not change anything in the settings (they will adapt to your computer themselves) and click the Run button.

Upon completion of testing, the benchmark will give the results: the total number of points, the minimum, maximum and average FPS, the maximum temperature of the graphics card, and so on. All this data is also worth writing down.

Step 4: Raise the frequencies

To work with the frequencies of the video card, you will need the previously downloaded MSI Afterburner utility. Immediately after launch, it will most likely look different from the image below. Nothing is clear in the new interface, so just go to the settings, go to the "Interface" tab and select Default MSI Afterburner v3 Skin. It's much better now.

For safe overclocking, we only need three sliders: Core Clock, Memory Clock and Power Limit. The first adds the number of megahertz to the current core frequency in games, the second overclocks the video memory (Memory), and the third increases the power consumption limit of the graphics card. By default, MSI Afterburner is configured in such a way that in Power Limit you can twist to the maximum and this will only add stability (but you need a power supply with a margin). Note that not all graphics cards of recent years have the benefit of overclocking video memory. Therefore, sometimes it is worth overclocking only the core.

To begin with, just in case, press the Reset button (suddenly the video card is already overclocked). And now you can add a little megahertz to the Core Clock column, but not more than 100 units. After that, click the Apply button and run the benchmark again. In extreme cases, the test utility will simply turn off during operation - so you need to reduce a dozen megahertz and try again. If the benchmark has reached the results, then do not save anything yet and gradually move in the direction of increasing the frequency until the benchmark begins to turn off. As soon as this happens, return to the previous value of the Core Clock.

When the benchmark is already working stably, this does not mean that everything will be fine in the games. Therefore, now you need at least half an hour to play something demanding on the video card: the same GTA 5, the latest Tomb Raider or Battlefield 1.

If for a long time there were no hangs and distortions of the image, then the overclocking of the kernel is successful. If not, drop another dozen megahertz. Then run the benchmark again and play. Repeat until you find a reliable increased frequency. At the same time, make sure that the maximum temperature of the video card is not higher than 80 degrees (you can see in the benchmark results or in the MSI Afterburner sensors).

Now let's move on to overclocking memory. To begin with, reset the frequencies with the Reset button so that the increased core frequency does not interfere and you can immediately understand that the failures began due to video memory. After that, repeat the procedures above: add about 300 megahertz to the current frequency and then slightly reduce or move forward by 20-40 units, interspersed with tests until you find a stable value. Next, set the core frequency that you found when it was overclocked. Most likely, problems will begin: reduce megahertz 10 from video memory, if it does not help, then continue to slow down until stability is restored.

After all this, you need to test the fully overclocked video card again in games.

Step 5: Measure performance gains

When stable core and memory frequencies are found, it remains to be seen how much performance has increased. Here everything is simple: the last time we run the benchmark, and then the built-in performance test from GTA 5 or other games mentioned above. Now compare the results after overclocking with those recorded in step 3.

If the increase is at least 10%, then this is already very good (the average maximum on air cooling is about 15%, occasionally - 20%).