When it comes to overclocking, GPUs (& graphics cards) have a relatively simple procedure. Unlike CPUs, you don’t have to go to the BIOS and mess with the voltages or worry about frying your beloved chip. You only need a few freeware apps and a benchmarking application which can be a game or a synthetic like Heaven or Valley. In this post, I’ll explain how to overclock your GPU and memory to get the most out of your graphics card. You’ll be needing the following:
- MSI Afterburner/EVGA Precision X
- GPU Intensive Game like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided or The Division 2
First and foremost, let’s go over the terms used in overclocking:
- Core Voltage: This is the additional voltage you’ll be feeding your GPU to expand the overclocking headroom. Although back in the days of Fermi, this was a risky parameter, these days, courtesy of GPU Boost, you don’t need to worry about frying your GPU.
- Power and Temperature Limit: The power limit is the maximum power your GPU will draw while operating at peak frequencies without throttling the clocks. The temperature limit is the same, except, the GPU will start throttling as soon as you hit 70+ degrees. This is just the limit when there’ll be a substantial drop in the clocks.
- Throttling: This is the gradual decrease in the in-game core clocks that is a safety measure put in place by the OEM to keep you from frying your GPU. When the temps cross 70 degrees, or the TDP goes above the limit, your GPU clocks will start throttling.
- Core Clock: This is the figure by which you’ll be overclocking your GPU core.
- Memory Clock: This is the figure by which you’ll be overclocking your GPU memory.
- Limiting factor (PerfCap-NVIDIA only): This is the reason why you can’t push your clocks past a specific limit. It can be the thermal limit, the power limit, the voltage or simply your silicon lot in life.
How to Overclock Your GPU Core:
- Firstly enable temperature and core clock monitoring and fire up your test game to see how the temps are holding up prior to the overclock. If you are below 75 degrees, you’re good to go. If not, then do something about your thermals. Check your case ventilation, increase your fan speed (at the expense of noise of course) or simply buy a custom water block or something.
- Next, max out your core-voltage, power limit and the temp limit (don’t worry as long as the temps are stable, you’ll be fine).
- Then add +100 to your core clock and hit apply. Run a game in windowed mode, and keep an instance of GPU-Z running on the side as well.
- Scroll down in the GPU-Z sensor window and you’ll see a bunch of options. Out of these, you need to keep an eye on the GPU clock, GPU temp, power consumption and PerfCap Reason. If the game runs for 15-20 minutes without crashing and the temps and power stay below the safe limits, voila, you just overclocked your GPU by +100 MHz.
- Increase the core offset by another +100MHz. Monitor the GPU clock and note the rough average through the course of the benchmark run. If it’s higher than the previous run, you’re good to go.
- If you experience a crash or image artifacts, then revert to the last stable setting. This is your GPU’s highest stable core clock.
- The PerfCap Reason will tell you what’s the reason you can’t further increase your core clock. It may be voltage, power or temp, or a combination of the three. You can do something about the latter, but voltage and power can’t be tweaked using conventional means.
How to Overclock Your GPU Memory:
- Overclocking the memory is more straightforward. You can now close GPU-Z and increase the memory clock by 200MHz in each step. Keep going till the game crashes or you start seeing artifacts like these:
- They can be subtle or easily noticeable, and usually, start appearing right before the memory becomes too unstable. If you overclock the memory further, it’ll probably crash. So these artifacts are a good indicator of stability.
Conclusion and Tips
Overclocking your GPU is a slow and painstaking process. Your part might not overclock at all or you might get lucky and win the silicon lottery. Regardless, here are a few tips to keep in mind while overclocking:
- It’s a good idea to keep track of the frame rates (both average and min). Often right before your GPU becomes unstable, you’ll notice abnormally low min FPS or a relatively lower average.
- If the GPU clock is throttling, consider increasing the voltage/power limit in case you haven’t already. Refer to GPU-Z to find the PerfCap Reason.
- If the GPU keeps on crashing and you can’t figure out a stable configuration, Test out the GPU Core overclock and the memory overclock separately and see which one is the culprit. Then combine the two and see if things go smoothly.
- That’s about it. If you run into any problems, let us know in the comments section below. Happy overclocking!