Tweak3D - Your Freakin' Tweakin' Source!
Video card overclocking guide

Posted: May 30, 1999
Updated: July 15, 1999

Written by: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy

If you visit Tweak3D often, you know how we think. We want everything in our computers to be running as fast as possible, while remaining stable. This guide is divided into three parts: a video card overclocking FAQ (frequently asked questions), a cooling recommendation/installation guide, and a list of several overclocking programs along with our personal thoughts on them.

Note - some of the cooling methods and overclocking programs in this article must be used by even advanced users with care. Overclocking a video card may void the warranty. We take no responsibility is you screw something up... so be careful!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most asked questions regarding video card overclocking. If you have any specific questions that you think should be added to this list, e-mail me and I'll answer them.

Q: What does it mean to overclock a video card?

A: When you overclock a video card, you are increasing the core and/or memory clock speed, in order to make the card faster. For example, a Voodoo2 runs at 90 MHz, but overclocking can safely boost the speed to 105 MHz, resulting in a rather significant performance increase.

Q: Why would it void the warranty of my video card to overclock?

A: Overclocking your video card will void the warranty because you are pushing the speed higher than the manufacturer intended. This is like driving 100 MPH on a 65 MPH highway. It's considered "dangerous".

Q: If it is "dangerous" to overclock a video card, why did my hardware manufacturer include an overclocking program? Have you ever seen a video card permanently fail due to increased clock speed?

A: Manufacturers often include these programs with a warning not to exceed a certain speed. This lets the manufacturer avoid liability while still satisfying the wants of some potential buyers. They might call overclocking very dangerous, but it really is not too serious. Although I have heard stories, I have never personally seen a video card fail permanently from overclocking. If you overclock with responsibility and with caution, your risk will be minimal.

Q: Why would someone overclock a video card, especially when it is already a very fast one?

A: There isn't a simple answer to this question, but I have a few reasons for overclocking a video card:
  • It's like a video card upgrade, except it's free.
  • It's a very simple process.
  • A game running at 24 frames per second could be bumped up to 30 frames per second which would be a lot more "playable".
  • You may develop a cool nickname like "Tweak Monkey" if you overclock enough hardware.

Q: Can all video cards be overclocked?

A: No, not all video cards can be overclocked. Many new video cards that are designed for 3D games can be overclocked if you have the right program. See page 3 for more information.

Q: Can my video card be overclocked?

A: I'm not sure. There are too many video cards to keep track of and too many issues to talk about. For information on this, either visit the web site of your video card manufacturer or try looking for programs to overclock the card.

Q: I tried to overclock my video card and my computer froze! Is this abnormal?

A: No, freezes are quite common when overclocking a video card. Try to reboot your computer. If your settings were saved, you may have to use Windows "Safe Mode" to lower the speed.

Q: Why did the PC freeze?

A: Usually if a PC freezes while you are overclocking a component, it is because you either set the speed too high or it lacks sufficient cooling. Try a lower speed.

Q: Wait a second here... you need to cool a video card?

A: You don't need to, but if you are overclocking, you should definitely consider cooling. It is much more risky to overclock without cooling because by increasing the clock speed you are increasing the heat production of the card. Also, the card will most likely be unstable if you overclock without cooling. With cooling, you have a better chance of reaching higher speeds.

Q: Okay, I want to cool the video card. How can I do it?

A: Read page 2 for cooling information and recommendations.

Q: I'm all ready to go... but I can't find a program to overclock my video card! What should I do?

A: Read page 3 for information on overclocking programs.

Q: My video card runs at xxx MHz, what speed should I run it at?

A: For every single MHz you increase the clock speed, you will increase performance and decrease stability. I recommend you try increasing the clock speed by a few MHz at a time. Test the card on various programs for long periods at each speed. This will give you an idea of how fast you can safely run the card.

Q: But I read on my favorite hardware site that my video card can run at xxx MHz. Shouldn't I overclock to xxx MHz?

A: No. This is the only real dangerous way you can overclock a video card. Personally test your own video card using the method above! Do not rely solely on the opinions of others. There are many variations that could account for your success or failure when overclocking; including: memory speed, cooling installation, room temperature, case size, etc. etc. etc...

Q: My video card can only reach xxx MHz... do you have any tips to increase the clock speed even higher?

A: Yes, apply more cooling! It won't hurt to add another fan, or two.. or twenty. The cooler your video card, the faster it should be able to run. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule of thumb...

Q: The other day I had my video card running at xxx MHz for 12 hours, then it crashed. What caused this? What can I do to prevent this in the future?

A: If your PC was running for 12 hours, the crash may have been unrelated. But if the crash was caused after (for example) 12 hours of playing one game, the cause was most likely heat related. To prevent this in the future, add even more fans or try a slightly lower speed.

Q: If I overclock my video card at all times for months and months and play games every day, will my card eventually fail permanently?

A: This question comes up often. If the card is cooled sufficiently, it should last for several years. If you're worried, lower the clock speed unless you need it. For example, a certain game runs slowly so you overclock only for that game... set your clock speed back when you're not playing that game.

Q: Honestly, what kind of performance increase can I expect from overclocking?

A: This will vary with every PC or video card. I have seen as high as a 50% increase in performance from overclocking and as low as 0%. These, however, were extreme cases. You'll probably gain between 5% and 20% in your frame rates. Faster processors will generally gain a lot more from overclocking a video card because with low-end machines, the CPU is usually the limiting factor. Run benchmarks to compare differences.

Next Page - Cooling

  • News
  • Forums
  • Tweaks
  • Articles
  • Reviews