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Is Overclocking Dangerous? - Overclocking Explained

Is Overclocking Dangerous? - Overclocking Explained

You’ve probably already heard of overclocking. But what is it? And, more importantly, is it safe? Let’s check it out! So, before getting into whether overclocking is dangerous or not, let’s first make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to what it actually does. The concept is pretty simple. Overclocking means running a certain component at a higher frequency than the one it runs at out of the box. 

Now let’s translate that into actual English by using a real-world example: I have a 3.5 GHz CPU. I managed to overclock it to a stable 4.3 GHz.

And that’s what overclocking is: manually changing the frequency to something higher. You’re saying: “Look, you don’t have to stop at 3.5 GHz, you can keep going all the way to 4.3 GHz.” The goal is pretty simple: you’re doing it to get better performance for free.

By increasing the frequency to 4.3 GHz, I basically improved my CPU’s speed by 23% (the math is a bit more complicated than that, but you can do some rough approximations). And this is not limited to your Processor. You can overclock CPUs, Graphics Cards, RAM, and even Monitors. So, up until now, everything sounds pretty cool.

You get some extra performance, without having to spend any more money (except the slight increase in power usage). But nothing is ever quite that simple, and overclocking is no exception. It does sometimes come with a few risks. As with everything, computer parts have certain specifications set by the manufacturers. These are speeds that they feel certain every one of their products can achieve.

We’ll keep using my CPU (the Intel i5-6600K) as an example. Because of the nature of the microprocessor manufacturing process, no two CPUs are exactly the same. All of them have a certain amount of small imperfections that affect things like the efficiency of the chip. That means that your i5-6600K might not be able to get to 4.3 GHz like mine when overclocked, or, on the contrary, it might go all the way to 4.5 or higher.

However, when we buy our CPUs, they’re both running at 3.5 GHz, because intel has established that, no matter the flaws in the manufacturing process, every single one of these chips is capable of at least that. You can then choose to ignore this and try to get the most out of your new processor by overclocking. And here’s where the risks come in.

When you overclock PC parts, you constantly need to think about two things:

1. Power
2. Heat.

The harder a chip is working, the more power it draws, and the more power it draws, the more heat is produced. If you try to run your CPU at a higher frequency without giving it more voltage, you will find that it becomes unstable.

In other words, it gets to a point where it tries to go faster, but it suddenly runs out of power, because you haven’t allowed it to use more of it, and your system crashes (usually ending in a bluescreen). That’s why you usually increase the voltage of your chip when overclocking, but this must be done with a lot of caution because it is the one thing that can actually damage your components.

If I was to set my CPU (which normally runs at 1.2-something Volts) to something like 2 Volts, it would instantly fry it and permanently kill it. Voltage must be increased very, very slightly and you should constantly keep an eye on what temperatures your CPU is reaching by performing stress tests after each overclocking attempt.

If you see that you’re getting very high temperatures, it might be time to decrease your voltage and start looking for the highest frequency at which the CPU is stable with that lower voltage.

So, long story short here’s the deal with overclocking: you are giving your CPU more power and telling it to go faster.

The more power you give it, the hotter it gets. However, if you give it too much extra power, it will cook itself and die. On the other hand, if you tell it to go really fast, without giving it enough power it just won’t work. I fi was to tell my i5-6600K to go to 7GHz, the PC would just not start.

The big difference here is that you can’t kill your CPU by setting a ridiculously high frequency. The worst thing that can happen is that you can’t boot into your operating system anymore, at which point you should just hit the Clear CMOS button on your motherboard and that will reset all settings to defaults and cancel your overclock so you can try another, slightly more sensible frequency.

I’ve been using CPUs to explain stuff throughout this video, but it also applies to RAM and Graphics Cards. Higher frequencies decrease stability. To compensate, you give it more power in the form of higher voltage, which makes it run hotter.

If you give it too much voltage, you can kill it. It’s pretty simple. But, and this is very important, what I want you to take away from this article isn’t that overclocking is something dangerous that you should stay away from. No.

Overclocking is great. You’re unlocking better performance for free.

You do, however, have to be aware that it can damage or kill your components if you overdo it. So, before overclocking, go out and watch some tutorials by trustworthy youtube channels (LinusTechTips, Paulshardware, BitWit, and so on) and read some articles on the topic. Only start overclocking when you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into.

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