If you’re interested in PC gaming and the technology associated with it, you may have heard about the expression “overclocking” related to improving performance. But what is overclocking and how does it work?
Overclocking is essentially a procedure for speeding up hardware components beyond their default or factory-suggested settings with the goal of boosting either an individual element’s capacity or an entire system’s performance.
The term “overclock” is used because it applies to components that operate with an internal clock to synchronize their frequency and output.
Which components are affected by overclocking?
From overclocking RAM to processors to graphics cards, you can overclock a variety of components. What you decide to overclock mostly depends on the system you use for gaming.
What components you focus on and how far you can push them will depend on whether you’re working with an older model or a custom rig that’s been modified over time.
Generally, the focus of most overclocking procedures is boosting your CPU by increasing its electrical output, thus improving performance during visually complex or heavily detailed gameplay.
For those with a little computer experience, a common approach is to simply redefine your CPU’s operating speed in BIOS.
Tools for direct overclocking
For many DIY and professional gamers, getting the most value out of your experience is fundamentally linked to your hardware.
Although most overclocking takes place in the form of a DIY procedure undertaken by users, there is also overclocking software that can help you achieve an easier hardware configuration.
Many HP components are designed with the potential for these optimizations in mind. In particular, the latest entries in the HP OMEN gaming line
are optimized for an easy overclocking experience, which is achieved by using straightforward reconfiguration tools directly into the HP OMEN Command Center.
As you consider whether you should overclock, here’s a rundown of the top five ways it can improve your gaming experience.
1. Improve your frame rate
With overclocking, the ideal end result is a greater sense of immersion from each gaming session. And as any gamer will tell you, one of the biggest issues you can face is a reduction in frame rate while you’re playing.
One of the most basic overclocking functions is helping to increase the number of frames your computer can render per second. This helps you see every step of the action without missing a beat or feeling disoriented by the jumps from high-production cutscenes to stilted gameplay.
This advantage won’t apply to every game, but it will help with most, especially those with more elaborate visuals.
2. Boost response time
Perhaps even more universal than frame rate increases, a boost in response times can help improve just about any game.
Overclocking can seriously address display lag and latency as well, so you’ll no longer deal with distracting interruptions to a game’s intended pace and appearance.
3. See more peripheral details and atmosphere
As game developers continue making more visually engrossing games, PC gamers
with older components or configurations may miss out.
Unfortunately, not every system is optimized for the specific demands of larger games and deeper experiences, such as virtual reality games
However, with an increased output range, overclocked hardware can help guarantee clarity and detail when playing the most visually complex games. It may not make the improvements afforded by actually upgrading your hardware, but overclocking will certainly help here.
4. Manage your energy expenditure on a game-by-game basis
One major advantage to controling how much or little you overclock a component is the opportunity to adapt your hardware’s output to suit your needs from one game to the next.
This can be particularly useful if you’re generally satisfied with your computer's performance but may want to give things a boost to keep up with the topshelf graphics of triple-A (AAA) titles or trending multiplayer games like Fortnite
5. Increase stability
Sometimes, it’s the smaller details or glitches that really detract from gameplay, such as environmental rendering or large transitions and updates within the game.
Fortunately, even a modest increase in your hardware’s overclocking can often sort out these continuity sinks and prevent them from occurring as you move deeper into a game’s content.
Drawbacks and precautions of overclocking
It may be easier than ever to directly manage your hardware’s output configuration, but there are still some things to keep in mind as you consider overclocking your gaming rig’s components.
Because this essentially boosts your hardware components beyond their manufacturer’s intended settings, there is the potential for overheating and failure when overclocking the CPU
To prevent those sorts of problems, you need to stay alert during the testing process. Most components will show clear signs of strain when their settings are pushed too far, so dial it back a bit if you do notice anything acting up.
In the spectrum of smaller capacity improvements, some boosted components like overclocked memory speed come with fewer heating risks. That means you can potentially see modest improvements to responsiveness without taking your overall gaming PC build
Given the increase in heat output, it’s crucial that you provide your rig with adequate ventilation. Don’t keep your gaming desktop or laptop in a space that doesn’t provide proper room to breathe. Also, you can look into installing a liquid cooling system
to better regulate the temperature.
Beyond managing heat and ventilation, there are plenty of other ways you can streamline your computer and help reduce the strain from overclocking.
For starters, make sure your graphics software and drivers are properly updated. Also, keep tabs on your power settings and energy consumption while making sure your device is clean as well. Any accumulated dust or grit will affect even a non-overclocked PC, so it’s extra important to keep your desktop spotless when pushing it to its limits.
Like many hardware and customization choices, there are pros and cons to consider before committing to overclocking the CPU, GPU
, or any other component for that matter.
Overclocking may be the best way to get the most value out of a more affordable previous or current generation gaming processor
, for example, but it’s important to understand the risks that come with this advanced setup.
About the Author: Dwight Pavlovic is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Dwight is a music and technology writer based out of West Virginia.
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