What is Overclocking and Should You Do It?

The word “overclocking” gets thrown around a lot in product reviews and online tech articles, sometimes with very little explanation. Someone who isn’t familiar with computer jargon may not understand exactly what the term means or if it can or should apply to them. This article explains, in simple terms, what overclocking is, the risks involved, and what sort of users benefit the most from it.

If you’re looking into upgrading certain components of your PC, chances are you’ve seen the word “overclocking” thrown around in scores of reviews for various products. Maybe they said you should only buy a certain cooling system if you’re planning on overclocking, or that a graphics card only runs hot when overclocking. If you don’t know much about computers, it may seem like a big deal, something you’ll need to take into consideration when purchasing new parts for your PC.

So, what exactly is overclocking, and is it something you’ll need to plan for?

The Basics

To put it as simply as possible, overclocking means adjusting the settings of your processor, or CPU, to perform at speeds higher than it was originally intended. The result is that, hopefully, your system receives a nice little boost in speed at no extra cost to you. The faster your processor, the faster your machine will run, so overclocking could potentially eliminate the need to upgrade your CPU if you feel it’s a bit sluggish. However, there are some downsides in choosing this route.

Overclocking has been frowned upon in the past. In fact, choosing to push your CPU beyond its factory settings will actually void its warranty. However, some companies, such as AMD, have begun accounting for their users’ overclocking needs by allowing access to certain settings that were previously locked.

Additionally, overclocking can be harmful to your computer. Testing your CPU’s limits means it’s running faster, and that means it’s also running hotter. Without proper cooling methods, overclocking has the potential to overheat your CPU and cause irreparable damage, completely negating the attempt to save money by cheating the system a bit. However, it’s not as dangerous as you may think. It takes a lot of effort to burn out your CPU this way.

Should You Do It?

Honestly, if you’re reading this article, you probably don’t need to worry about overclocking your machine. If you’re a casual gamer or someone who just uses your PC for Internet browsing or creating documents, there’s little need for you to worry about overclocking. You’ll probably run into system crashes and other annoyances while trying to figure it out that will make the experience more trouble than it’s worth.

Typically, the only reason a PC user would need to overclock would be to meet the system demands of certain kinds of power-hungry applications, such as media-editing software. A lot of people insist that video games, especially those that are graphically intensive, benefit from overclocking. While that’s true to a point, the increase in performance usually isn’t all that spectacular. In that situation, it would be better to invest time and money into a better graphics card rather than tweaking your CPU.

If that doesn’t sound like you, the risks involved with overclocking, though they are few and unlikely, probably outweigh what little gains you could see from pushing your processor past its limits.

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