You’ve figured out how to overclock your CPU and your memory modules; both tend to last you a long time. A good Intel Core i7, i9, or AMD Ryzen 7 processor will easily last more than seven years.
After that, they’re no longer covered by their respective warranties, and you can overclock them to get a few extra months or years worth of performance. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for graphics cards if you’re one who likes to crank the settings to the absolute maximum.
Every two years, we see a massive bump in performance numbers for graphics cards, and video game developers are happy to capitalize on that and provide realistic visuals in video games. All of this comes at a steep price, literally. If you want to continue enjoying games at the absolute maximum settings, you’re forced to upgrade every three years.
On one end, you can overclock and get some extra performance, but you’ll still miss out on the feature upgrades that come with each generation. The same applies to
CPUs, but the impact isn’t felt as strongly as it is with graphics cards. You’ve already learned how to overclock your computer’s CPU. It might have appeared a bit complicated given all the
things you have to factor for each step. Thankfully, graphics cards are much simpler to deal with, and the process is practically the same for both AMD and NVIDIA graphics cards.
BEFORE YOU START
Like CPUs, GPUs also require a stable power supply and sufficient cooling. Thankfully, most graphics cards already sport beefy heatsinks. You can get aftermarket air coolers or even opt for a custom water cooling loop with a GPU block for some extra cooling for the graphics card.
It comes down to how much of an overclock you wish to achieve and whether you intend to run the card at the high overclock on a 24×7 basis. Like CPUs, graphics cards also have tiers based on how well the GPU at the heart of the graphics card was binned. The flagship SKUs have considerably greater headroom and come with enhanced VRM that allows for stable over-
clocks. So the more expensive, high-end cards overclock better compared to the mid-range and low-end cards. Most of the instructions for graphics cards are the same as those for CPUs. The only extra bit we’d like to add here is that you clean the cooling assembly on your graphics card before proceeding.
All those fins can get caked up with dust within a few months, so unless your graphics card is new, we’d advise you to use a blower to clean the card. Also, ensure that no components are blocking the intake or exhaust areas for the fan.
OVERCLOCKING YOUR GRAPHICS CARD
For graphics card overclocking, the go-to software is MSI Afterburner. It has all the settings that you can manipulate to overclock your graphics card, and you don’t have to keep booting into your BIOS.
The latest version of MSI Afterburner even has a feature called OC scanner that can find the highest stable overclock settings for your card. For manual overclocking, start off by running a benchmark on loop in the background or you can run the benchmark once after applying to new settings.
Now increase the fan speeds to maximum, max out the power limit, and keep the temperature limit to 90 degrees celsius. You can increase the temperature limit if you have a better cooling solution. Then increase the core clock by 50-100 MHz based on what card you have.
Run a benchmark to test for stability and then go back to increasing the core clock. Rinse and repeat till there are stability issues or if you start to see artifacts. Since there is a lot of visual feedback while overclocking graphics cards, you’ll instantly know if anything’s wrong with your current settings.
That’s when you bump up the memory clock because the artifacts indicate insufficient bandwidth. It could also indicate that your core clock is a bit too high. As you go through a permutation of settings, you will figure out which one is the culprit. Ideally, you don’t want memory bandwidth to be a bottleneck, which is
why you’ll want to bump the memory clock to the most that is possible. If you don’t want to go through the entire process of hunting for the right combination of core and memory clock, you can always rely on the OC scanner feature and do the overclocking for you. The entire process takes about 20 minutes, and you’ll get a fairly decent overclock at the end.
CUSTOM FIRMWARE FLASHING
While not technically overclocking, you can flash custom firmware onto your graphics card and do away with the software part altogether. Sometimes, different graphics cards are different only in terms of their firmware, while the underlying hardware remains the same. You can take the firmware of a Radeon RX 570 and flash it onto a Radeon RX 470. This does not apply to all RX 470 cards.
NVIDIA Founders Edition (FE) cards have power limits baked into them, flashing the BIOS of an aftermarket card can help you remove those power limits. This was the case with the GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition. You could flash the ASUS STRIX 1080Ti BIOS onto the 1080 Ti FE and enable higher overclocks.
The flashing process uses a simple CLI and uses nvflash. Radeon cards use ATIFlash for the same purpose. You can always find graphics card BIOS from aftermarket cards on websites such as TechPowerUp. Do note, flashing a BIOS onto your card will invalidate your warranty.