AVG Signal Blog Performance Gaming How to Overclock Your GPU for Better Gaming and Multimedia Performance

What is GPU overclocking in gaming?

Overclocking your graphics card means gradually increasing the clock speed of your video card to boost its performance. Like overclocking your CPU, GPU overclocking entails slowly increasing the graphics card’s core frequency, while testing its stability with a benchmarking tool and ensuring it doesn’t get too hot.

This article contains:

    Clock speed measures the number of processing cycles per second your card can handle, and is set by the manufacturer. Increasing the clock speed results in more computing power and a smoother, better gaming experience, but it can also raise your GPU temperature.

    What you need to overclock your GPU

    Overclocking is fairly straightforward and doesn’t cost much. You need just two tools to overclock your GPU: one to handle the actual overclock, and another to test performance. You’ll use the overclocking tool to raise your GPU’s clock rate and the testing tool to benchmark and measure the performance impact of the change.

    First, you should make sure your PC is optimized from the ground up, and ready to run its best. Read on to learn more about what you need to overclock your GPU, or jump straight to our step-by-step instructions.

    1. One of the best overclocking tools

    The best tool for overclocking your video card is MSI Afterburner — it’s easy to use, includes a skinnable interface if you like to modify things, and is constantly updated with the latest GPUs.

    There’s also a beta channel you can try if you’ve just bought a card based on new architecture. You can always get the latest beta releases on Guru3D.

    MSI Afterburner UI to help overclock GPU.

    2. A benchmark or stress-test tool

    Overclocking your video card pushes it to its limit and increases its temperature, so you need a tool to benchmark performance and make sure you’re not putting it through too much stress. Benchmarking and stress testing help ensure stability while gaming.

    3DMark and Furmark are our picks for the best GPU benchmarking tools.

    Furmark is a stress testing tool to help you benchmark when overclocking your GPU.

    While overclocking is fairly easy, be patient and test and tweak to find the right balance of performance, temperature, and compatibility with the games you play. You might think you’ve reached the perfect GPU or CPU overclock only to find your favorite game like GTA V crashing after just a few minutes. If that happens, try a slightly lower lock rate, and then test again.

    How to overclock my GPU

    First, open your GPU overclocking tool — here we’re using MSI Afterburner. The main dashboard will display your graphics chip’s current clock speed (its GPU Clock) and its memory (Mem Clock). On the right side you’ll see the temperature. Temps will differ from PC to PC, but as a rule of thumb, avoid GPU and CPU temperatures above 90°C.

    The main dashboard for MSI Afterburner used for GPU overclocking.

    The sliders in the middle of the dash control the basic overclocking readings:

    • Core voltage: The voltage level that goes into your graphics card — this may not be available on newer cards.

    • Power level: The power slider lets your card draw more power from your power supply unit (PSU). For example, if your card is limited by default to 200 watts, you can increase this to 240 watts by setting it to 120 (20% higher). You may need to do this if you want to overclock your card further (but this will increase the temperature).

    • Core clock: The core clock gauge lets you specify your desired clock rate. You’ll adjust this a lot as you try to find the optimal setting.

    • Memory clock: The memory clock is like your core clock, but measures your GPU memory.

    1. Benchmark your current settings

    Run either 3DMark or Furmark and check your current performance. That lets you benchmark your performance, temperature, clock speeds, and FPS. Write down these numbers, or take a screenshot — it’ll help you compare later.

    Use a stress testing tool like Furmark to benchmark performance before you start overclocking.

    2. Overclock your GPU chip

    It’s important to start slowly when overclocking your video card — raise the core clock rate incrementally by 5% and test for any unusual graphical artifacts like glitches, streaks, or even crashes. At a level of 5%, performance should stay stable, but you likely won’t see much improvement. But this minor overclock helps you quickly check for any potential issues.

    3. Overclock your GPU memory

    Memory is as important as the core GPU clock — even more so in games with gigabytes of textures. Try overclocking GPU memory by 10%, or by 50 to 100 MHz. Anything below 10% should still give stable performance.

    MSI Afterburner makes it easy to overclock your GPU card's memory.

    If your computer crashes or if your games start malfunctioning, your hardware may not be designed for overlocking at all — or you may need to increase your computer’s temperature limit.

    4. Fine-tune

    After gently testing the core clock and memory clock rate, continue fine-tuning by increasing your GPU overclock by 10 MHz. Each time, test for stability and performance, and then repeat. Run a benchmark, stress test, or a game for a few hours and check for issues and monitor improvements.

    If Windows freezes or reboots, you’ve reached your GPU overclocking limit. If that happens, reduce your clock by 10 to 20 MHz. Running an overclock so close to the crashing point means you’ll hit a wall after only a couple hours of gameplay.

    For example, our Titan Xp graphics card performs well at +200 MHz on the core clock, but it gets too hot after two or three hours of playing Ark, Final Fantasy 15, Dark Souls, or The Witcher 3 in 4K. So we usually run it at 170 MHz to be safe.

    Once you’ve found a stable core clock, do the same with the memory clock. But don’t test your core clock and memory clock at the same time, because if something goes wrong you won’t know which clock setting is responsible.

    5. Increase the power limit

    Once you’ve hit your limit, you can either keep your clock where it is, or you can turn up the Power Limit and Temperature Limit toggles in MSI Afterburner and see what happens.

    Increasing the power limit settings of your graphics card in MSI Afterburner.

    Start your game now. Even without overclocking, you’ll likely notice your computer fans getting louder, and your GPU won’t reduce its clock as fast or as drastically. Use MSI Afterburner’s RivaTuner, which comes with the overclocking tools package, to check your GPU’s performance.

    Enable and configure the onscreen display so you can monitor your GPU’s clock rate and other data while you’re gaming or using your benchmarking tools.

    Display your GPU clock settings on your screen to help monitor performance when overclocking.

    By default, both Titan Xp GPUs in the PC we use for testing clock up to 1823 MHz when playing The Witcher 3. And they drop down to slightly above 1600 MHz after an hour or so, when the temperature is at its peak. But when we use a higher power limit and temperature limit, we don’t see this throttling anymore, and with the right overclock, we never drop below that optimal 2000 MHz level.

    6. Fine-tune (again) and test

    After unlocking even more power, increase your GPU overclock again by 10 MHz and test each time. Your card will probably soar past its previous crash point. On our gaming PC, we achieved a GPU overclock of +170 MHz to +450 MHz. Finding the sweet spot took us a lot of fine-tuning, so be patient to get the best results.

    Once you find a stable clock, benchmark your system again with 3DMark or Furmark. Benchmark your favorite games, too. You’ll see a difference both in numbers and in actual gameplay. You can also use a number of other methods to test your PC’s performance when overclocked.

    Does GPU overclocking really work?

    Yes, overclocking your GPU will usually improve the performance of your games and media apps. More powerful systems may see less of a benefit from overclocking the graphics card, but if your games typically run at 40 or 50 FPS, an overclock will result in visible improvements.

    Comparing PC gaming performance improvements after overclocking GPU.

    Your GPU isn’t the only bit of hardware inside your PC that can benefit from a tuneup. And depending on the hardware you have, apps you use, and games you play, a specialized optimization tool like AVG TuneUp will help you get faster performance and more storage space automatically.

    Does overclocking GPU increase FPS?

    Yes, one of the main benefits of overclocking your GPU is that it increases FPS for smoother, sharper graphics. The added computing power from a GPU overclock helps your graphics card crank out more FPS at higher resolutions.

    Is it safe to overclock your GPU?

    Yes, GPU overclocking is safe. While overclocking increases the temperature and stress on your GPU, don’t worry, failsafe mechanisms will kick in before the stress is too much. If your computer can’t handle the overclock, it will simply crash or freeze. And if that happens, lower your GPU overclock a bit and test again.

    Running at significantly higher clocks could, in theory, reduce your PC’s lifespan. But we haven’t seen any significant data on the impact of GPU overclocking. Personally, I’ve been overclocking my Titan Xp cards constantly for about a year without any problems.

    A computer with two Titan Xp graphics cards

    How to overclock your GPU safely?

    To safely overclock your GPU, go slowly in increments of 10 MHz, and test your system for stability and performance after each adjustment. If your system fails or struggles to deliver smooth performance, lower your overclock by 10 or 20 MHz, then test again. Once you know your maximum GPU overclock frequency, repeat the process with the GPU memory.

    Should I overclock my graphic card?

    Depending on the strength of your graphics card and how powerful a computer you need, overclocking may not be worth the effort. But because GPU overclocking boosts FPS and helps improve the performance of games, it usually offers strong benefits for gamers and even multimedia editors.

    What are the most common mistakes when overclocking?

    • Going too fast: If you raise your clock frequencies too quickly, you’ll likely experience crashes, glitches, or even a black screen.

    • Not testing: Failing to test after each incremental clock increase prevents you from monitoring system performance at given clock speeds. It’s easy to go too far if you don’t test properly.

    • Overheating: Overclocking your GPU increases its heat output. You’ll want a custom-made card with sufficient cooling ability, or even a water-cooling system in your PC, to protect your computer from overheating.

    • Auto-overclocking: Your GPU works harder when it’s overclocked, so you don’t need to overclock it continuously. Use MSI Afterburner’s profile system to save your overclock, and use it only when running a demanding game or application.

    • Expecting too much: Even when overclocked, an older GPU will never match the performance of the latest high-end cards. At most, you can expect performance to increase by 10 to 20%.

    Can you overclock a laptop GPU?

    Yes, you can overclock a laptop. Mobile GPUs are limited in performance, and overclocking is a great way to improve performance. We increased the FPS of our Microsoft Surface Book, which uses a GeForce 965 GTX card, by 25%.

    But while desktop GPUs usually have adequate cooling systems, mobile GPUs produce a lot of heat in a much smaller case — so you’ll quickly hit their thermal limits. Also, running at higher clock speeds increases power consumption, so your battery won’t last as long.

    Can’t I just Google the overclock numbers for my graphics card and skip all that?

    While you can look up other people’s GPU overclock speeds for the graphics card you have, their results may not work for you. This is because of chip lottery — not all GPU and memory chips are manufactured identically on a microscopic level. The material quality and lithography may vary enough that higher temps, voltage, and overall power can’t be matched.

    Also, other equipment in your PC can significantly affect your overclock potential. A customized gaming PC with a full water-cooling system can easily support a higher overclock than another machine with only default factory components.

    Can’t I just buy a pre-overclocked card?

    While you can buy pre-overclocked GPUs, you’ll still want to try overclocking them yourself. Alongside the leading graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD, most other graphics cards are manufactured by third parties like EVGA, MSI, or Gigabyte.

    These cards use the same NVIDIA or AMD chips, such as a GeForce 1080 Ti, but their cooling systems, power supplies, transistors, and boards are often designed to clock up higher. That’s why you’ll see a 1080 Ti GPU from many different manufacturers — and even the same manufacturer might offer many different versions.

    These graphics cards range from identical matches to high-end models with advanced cooling, higher-quality power supplies, and RGB lighting. Such cards may be factory overclocked by 10 to 20%. But you can still manually overclock these cards even further — we’ve seen even higher-clocked cards go up by another 15%.

    Optimize your entire PC

    Overclocking your graphics card is just one way to get a faster and more powerful PC. Streamline your whole computer with AVG TuneUp — the comprehensive PC optimization toolkit. It’ll automatically hunt down junk files, unused apps, and other unneeded data while snoozing background apps to give you the fastest PC possible.

    Find out today just how much more power is hiding inside your PC.

    Protect your iPhone's resources with AVG Mobile Security

    Free install

    Get better gaming performance with AVG Cleaner

    Free install
    Sandro Villinger