GUIDE: Should you overclock your GPU?

With how hard it is to buy a new GPU these days, you may have gotten the idea to overclock your GPU instead. After all, if your GPU isn’t that old, overclocking may give it the performance boost you’re looking for.

It’s pretty easy to overclock your GPU these days. MSI Afterburner and other tools have made it quite simple and straightforward.

That said, the process still has a few cons that you may want to consider. With this in mind, we’ve tried our best to list down the pros and cons of overclocking your GPU.

Maybe you shouldn’t overclock

Overclocking basically means feeding more electricity into your GPU at a faster rate. As such, any amount of overclocking will affect your GPU.

This will also increase the voltage being fed into your GPU, decreasing its lifespan. If you’re looking to keeping your GPU for a while, then you might want to hold off on overclocking it, especially if it’s an older card.

The other issue to consider is heating. Any sort of overclocking will increase the heat being put out by your GPU. In fact, this usually means having to replace your GPU’s stock cooler with a beefier one. This may even require water cooling, which is not as straightforward for GPUs as it is for CPUs.

While closed-loop all-in-one (AIO) water cooling solutions are readily available for CPUs, they are not for GPUs. Water cooling a GPU oftentimes means building a custom, open water cooling loop. These require you to do your own plumbing and fill the loop with a coolant on your own.

Creating a custom water cooling loop and be a rewarding exercise for anyone looking to learn. But it isn’t for beginners or people just looking for a quick performance upgrade, especially since it involves handling water around electronics—one spill, and your whole system could be damaged beyond repair.

overclock your GPU cooling
Overclocking could require a custom water cooling loop for your GPU.

Finally, overclocking will still not give your GPU some of the new features found in the latest GPUs, such as real-time ray tracing. If you really want these features, then your only choice is to upgrade your GPU.

A rewarding experience if you do

Despite the challenges that it poses, it can be a rewarding experience. For one, depending on the overclock, it can greatly increase the performance of your GPU without having to replace it.

The exact amount of performance you can gain from a GPU overclock depends on multiple factors in your system. This includes the other components in your PC, as well as what games your playing. But in the best-case scenario, you can get an increase of 10 or even 15 frames-per-second (fps).

Also, depending on your PC’s cooling setup, as well as that on your existing GPU, you may not need to go to great lengths to cool your GPU if you overclock it.

Many modern PC cases are optimized for cooling and airflow, coming with multiple vents and fans. If your case has the capacity, all you may need to do is install more fans to ensure better airflow and cooling.

overclock your GPU case
Moden cases, such as this Lancool II Mesh from Lian-Li, offer excellent cooling.

Indeed, it’s usually only when doing the most extreme GPU overclocking that you will need to do something as exotic as building a custom water cooling loop for your GPU.

Also, those features that come with the latest GPUs? Many games don’t support them. For one, only a few games support Nvidia’s RTX real-time ray tracing, and even fewer support AMD’s equivalent.

Meanwhile, other features such as Nvidia’s DLSS resolution scaling are available on older generation cards such as the RTX 20 series.

Should you overclock your GPU?

At the end of the day, whether or not you should overclock your GPU depends on a combination of factors, based on the things listed above.

If you have a much older GPU that may not have much life left, or if you have a system that runs quite hot or doesn’t have much airflow, then you might want to avoid overclocking your GPU.

Even if it’s almost impossible to break a GPU by putting too much voltage through these days—thanks to overclocking software like Afterburner—the wear and tear could still significantly shorten the life of an older GPU.

Meanwhile, running it too hot can also cause damage to it and the components around it.

But if you have a newer GPU and you have enough cooling for your PC, then, by all means, try it out. It could give you a decent performance gain without having to spend money on an upgrade.

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Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games

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