While conservatively overclocked settings don’t require aggressive adjustments, gamers don’t want “conservative” performance on their revved-up systems. If you’re not careful, though, overclocking can do more harm than good. “The fastest CPU in the world provides no benefit if it’s not stable,” Covington warns.
Start with the automatic overclocking settings in the motherboard’s BIOS after you add extra third-party cooling to handle the heat. And have patience. Make sure every item on your PC is up to date, including the operating system, all the drivers, and your motherboard BIOS firmware.
Maxon’s Cinebench is perhaps the simplest CPU benchmarking utility, while Prime95 from Guru3D will stress-test your CPU to make sure it’s stable at your chosen clock speed. Intel Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) and AMD OverDrive make overclocking easier, but don’t provide as much control as the BIOS settings.
Here are two more utilities to consider, both of which are free, like the software mentioned previously: CPU-Z from CPUID and Real Temp from TechPowerUp.
Squeezing extra performance from your processor without frying your system takes a delicate approach and a tolerance for risk. If you have neither, you can order a system that’s guaranteed to support overclocking from multiple custom builders and white-box suppliers.