This article has been just updated: January 16, 2024

Overclocking is shrouded in mystery, which only makes it more appealing to PC users who want to push their machines that extra step further. But, as we explain in detail in this article, there’s actually nothing mysterious about overclocking at all! In fact, overclocking is an excellent alternative to costly CPU upgrades, which are often possible only with a new motherboard and RAM.



Don’t worry: the days when CPU overclocking could easily set your entire house on fire are long gone. Today, overclocking is not only dead-simple but also relatively safe. We say relatively because it still involves pushing components beyond their specifications, which may lead to stability issues and even overheating. Overclocking can also void your warranty, especially if you’ve bought your PC as a complete system from a dealer, instead of building it yourself from individual hardware components.

You should also know that not all processors can be overclocked. To enjoy problem-free overclocking, focus your attention on Intel’s K-series and AMD’s Ryzen CPUs. It also greatly helps to have a motherboard that’s been designed with overclocking in mind. Even with the right CPU and motherboard, you may find that your CPU lags behind what others experience simply because not all processors are born equal. Of course, you may also get lucky and achieve spectacular results.

In this article, we don’t cover CPU voltage and its impact on overclocking because you can easily kill your CPU by increasing CPU voltage too much. Besides, it’s not safe to increase CPU voltage without a powerful aftermarket CPU cooler that can handle the extra heat, and the cost of such cooler somewhat defeats the purpose of overclocking. That said, it doesn’t hurt to get a beefy CPU cooler even if you don’t intent to go beyond the stock voltage simply because it will be quieter and likely increase the lifespan of your CPU.


Before You Start

Before you start, you should equip yourself with a few software tools to supply you with all the data you need to determine how much extra processing power you can extract from your CPU:

  • CPU-Z: This freeware software utility gathers all sorts of CPU-related information, including the realtime multiplier and clock speeds. It also displays processor name and number, codename, cache levels, memory type, size, timings, and module specifications (SPD), just to give you a few examples of why you won’t find an overclocker that doesn’t use CPU-Z.
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  • Real Temp: During overclocking, it’s critical that you keep an eye on your CPU temperature to prevent overheating. Real Temp is a temperature monitoring tool designed for all Intel single Core, Intel Dual Core, Intel Quad Core & Core i7 processors. You can individually calibrate it for each core of your CPU to get the most accurate results possible, and it has a host of other features that make it an easy choice for temperature monitoring. A good alternative to Real Temp for AMD processors is Open Hardware Monitor, which is an open source software that monitors temperature fan speeds, sensors, voltages, load & even a clock speeds of a computer.
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  • Cinebench: Utilizing a multi-threaded rendering test to gauge your processor’s performance, Cinebench is a real-world cross platform test suite based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software Cinema 4D. Cinebench includes two different test scenarios—one for your CPU and one for your GPU—and it also provides a command line option, allowing users to run automated test procedures.
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Step 1: Test the Stability of Your System

You might be surprised just how many people fail at overclocking because they skip this step. Unless your computer is 100 percent stable, you should never attempt to increase its performance by overclocking. We’ve already mentioned Cinebench as an excellent cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities, but you can also use stress testing and monitoring program OCCT or system stability checker Prime95.

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When testing the stability of your system, you want to carefully monitor the temperature of your CPU and other components. It’s generally recommended that CPUs shouldn’t exceed 80 degrees Celsius for longer periods of times. If your CPU idles at around 60 degrees Celsius and exceeds 80 degrees Celsius under load, you should get a better CPU and take other steps to maximize air flow through your case.


Step 2: Increase Your CPU Multiplier

Your CPU runs at a certain clock speed, which is similar to the horsepower of a car. If you take two identical CPUs and overclock one to run at, let’s say, 3 GHz instead of 2.5 GHz, you can expect frame rates in games to go up and your system to become more responsive.

Some motherboards today come with various self-overclocking features that automate CPU overclocking and reduce it to a single mouse click. Such features are, however, highly unreliable, and we recommend you take the manual approach instead by increasing your CPU multiplier.

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The CPU multiplier sets the ratio of an internal CPU clock rate to the externally supplied clock. So, if the internal CPU clock rate of your CPU is 100 MHz, you would need to set the CPU multiplier to 30 to achieve 3 GHz.

In practice, changing your CPU multiplier is just a matter of changing a single BIOS setting one step at a time. In most cases, the setting in question will be called “CPU Clock Ration,” and you should find it in the Advanced CPU Core Settings section of your BIOS. Because the user interface of your BIOS will depend on the make and model of your motherboard, we recommend you look in the manual that came with your motherboard.

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If you would rather avoid booting to BIOS altogether, you can use either the AMD Ryzen Master application or the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility to overclock your CPU from the comfort of the Windows operating system.


Step 3: Stress-Test Your System Again

After each increase of the CPU multiplier, you should test if your machine boots and stress-test its stability. You’ll know when you’ve reached your CPU’s limits when you see the infamous BSOD or encounter instability during benchmarking. If you really overdo it, your PC may even refuse to boot, but you can always go back to the stock CPU multiplier by pressing a dedicated button on your motherboard or temporarily removing the CMOS battery.


As you can see, overclocking is really pretty simple, and there’s no reason to be afraid of it. Unless you start messing with your CPU voltage, the worst thing that can happen is that your machine will refuse to boot. With a little bit of patience, you can push your CPU to the next level and enjoy measurably better gaming and application performance without spending any money at all.


CPU overclocking refers to the process of increasing the clock frequency of a computer processor beyond its default factory setting. This allows for potentially improved performance during resource-intensive tasks such as gaming, video editing, or 3D rendering. It’s done to squeeze out additional computing power from the CPU, often for better multitasking or enhanced gaming experiences.

Overclocking a CPU can lead to increased heat output, which, if not properly managed, can cause thermal throttling or permanent damage to the processor. There’s also a risk of system instability, which can result in crashes or data corruption. Lastly, pushing hardware beyond its intended specifications can void warranties.

To overclock a CPU, you’ll need reliable overclocking software such as Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) for Intel processors or AMD’s Ryzen Master for AMD processors. Additionally, a hardware monitoring tool to keep track of temperatures, like HWMonitor, is essential. An aftermarket cooling solution is also highly recommended to manage the extra heat.

Not all CPUs are designed to be overclocked. Generally, processors that are unlocked, such as those designated with a ‘K’ or ‘X’ in their model name (i.e., Intel Core i7-9700K or AMD Ryzen 7 3700X), are intended for overclocking. Always check manufacturer specifications to confirm whether a CPU is overclockable.

It may be necessary to update the BIOS before overclocking to ensure that the motherboard supports the latest performance enhancements and stability improvements. Updating the BIOS can also fix known issues and unlock new overclocking features for the most effective performance tweak.

You can enter the BIOS by rebooting your computer and pressing a specific key during the startup process. Common keys include Del, F2, F10, or Esc. The correct key will often be displayed on-screen during the boot sequence or can be found in the motherboard’s user manual.

Baseline testing involves running performance and stability tests at your CPU’s default settings before overclocking. This process provides a reference point for later comparison and helps ensure that any performance gains from overclocking are genuine and not due to other system variabilities.

Finding the optimal overclocking settings involves a process of incremental adjustment and careful monitoring. Start by slightly increasing the CPU multiplier or base clock frequency, then run stress tests to check for stability. Monitor temperatures throughout the process to prevent overheating, and continue adjusting until you reach the desired balance of performance and stability.

CPU voltage, also known as Vcore, is the amount of electrical power provided to the CPU. During overclocking, you may need to increase the Vcore to maintain stability at higher clock speeds. However, increasing the voltage can lead to higher temperatures, so finding the right balance is crucial.

Thermal throttling is the process by which a CPU automatically reduces its clock speed to prevent overheating when it reaches a certain temperature threshold. During overclocking, high temperatures may cause thermal throttling, which can counteract the performance benefits of overclocking, leading to slower speeds and potential instability.

Cooling is critical when overclocking a CPU as increased clock speeds result in additional heat production. Effective cooling solutions, such as high-performance air coolers or liquid cooling systems, are necessary to dissipate this extra heat and maintain system stability.

Air cooling systems use large heat sinks and fans to dissipate heat, while liquid cooling systems use a liquid coolant circulated through a loop to transfer heat away from the CPU. Liquid cooling generally provides superior cooling performance, which can be beneficial for higher levels of overclocking, but it is also more expensive and complex to set up.

After adjusting your CPU’s overclock settings, you should conduct a stress test using software like Prime95 or AIDA64. These programs push your CPU to its limits to ensure stability under full load. Monitor temperatures and system stability throughout the test to confirm that your overclock is sustainable.

Ensuring system stability after overclocking is vital because instability can lead to system crashes, data loss, or hardware damage. A stable system guarantees that the CPU can handle the increased clock speeds during normal and peak operational conditions without issues.

It’s recommended to run a stability test like Prime95 for at least a few hours to a full day. This duration ensures that the CPU is stable under prolonged stress and can handle intense workloads without crashing or overheating.

If your system becomes unstable after overclocking, you should reduce the clock speed or voltage incrementally until stability is restored. Keep testing after each adjustment to find a balance where the CPU runs stably at the highest possible clock speed.

When done conservatively and with proper cooling, overclocking can have a minimal impact on a CPU’s lifespan. However, excessive voltage increases and temperatures can accelerate wear and potentially reduce its lifespan.

If you primarily use your computer for everyday tasks like browsing the web or office applications, overclocking may not provide a noticeable benefit and could introduce unnecessary risks. Overclocking is more beneficial for high-performance tasks such as gaming, video editing, or 3D rendering.

Detailed guides for overclocking specific CPU models can be found on community forums, dedicated overclocking websites, or from the manufacturer’s own resources. For instance, as a starting point, you might visit Intel or AMD’s official website to learn more about their respective overclocking utilities and guidelines.

Yes, using a high-quality power supply unit (PSU) is crucial when overclocking as it ensures a stable and clean power delivery to the CPU and other components. A PSU with higher wattage and efficiency rating (80+ Gold or better) can handle the increased power demands of an overclocked system.