Is overclocking your CPU worth it for gaming?

#1 Posted by Unequivocable (225 posts) -

I'm building a new PC specifically for living room/TV gaming, and I have a buddy who is helping me assemble it and he's all into overclocking and tinkering with voltage and all that. I'm a little hesitant as lots of what I've read says overclocking is less about performance and more about the fun of playing with settings and getting more out of the chips. I just want this to run nice for games and not have to worry about special heatsinks or anything or having to tweak settings every few weeks.

So have any of you done much playing around with overclocking on your gaming PCs? If so, have you seen much improvement, or was it more for the fun of doing it?

I'll be using Quad Core i5 3450 3.1 GHz.

Video card is Asus Radeon 7870.

#2 Posted by Jrinswand (1711 posts) -

I have an i5-3570K, but I've never overclocked it. I'm scared to because I only have a couple of shitty case fans. I don't think my stock CPU is really holding me back all that much (if at all) anyways.

#3 Posted by SmilingPig (1341 posts) -

If you want to get that extra 0.2 fps and are willing to risk burning down your pc... sure.

#4 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4488 posts) -

@SmilingPig said:

If you want to get that extra 0.2 fps and are willing to risk burning down your pc... sure.

This. That CPU is already fine for games. You're not going to see any real benefits in games when you overclock it unless you like using emulators.

#5 Posted by MrRedwine (430 posts) -

the CPU you have won't really overclock well anyway. You need a processor ending in K like @Jrinswand:has. that k means that the multiplyer is unlocked and it is intended for enthusiast level tinkering.

As for overclocking your ram or GPU, it is usually not worth it anyway, so don't bother.

To be fair, i am not a master at this stuff either, and my opinions are only informed by some research I have done because I was planning on building a new PC.

#6 Posted by captain_clayman (3328 posts) -

Overclocking is only useful if your PC can't run things well on stock settings. With your processor, you'll be able to run everything fine. If you want to future proof your PC it might be worth it, but you'll have to buy high-end cooling, and do a lot of stress testing which can take a long time. However, there are some games that really do benefit from overclocking; GTA IV comes to mind.

#7 Posted by DxBecks (72 posts) -

Back in the day overclocking a processor was a good way to get more performance, but now because processors are far more efficient overclocking your processor isn't going to see much a performance increase and will likely only lower the life span of your hardware. You processor already has a higher clock speed than most games require on top of being extremely efficient, so there really is no point.

#8 Posted by Chrjz (338 posts) -

For gaming your video card is the most important thing; overclocking your GPU can definitely be worth it if you know what you're doing. I would do that if you're trying to squeeze more performance out of your PC.

#9 Posted by Grillbar (1904 posts) -

i have never overclocked i just buy something that works for my need. even if i need the best. but the real reason is that you really need to know what your doing or atleast know someone who does. and even then it can go south.

but from what little i know, well it has allready been said multiple times now

#10 Posted by mordukai (7185 posts) -
@Colourful_Hippie said:

@SmilingPig said:

If you want to get that extra 0.2 fps and are willing to risk burning down your pc... sure.

This. That CPU is already fine for games. You're not going to see any real benefits in games when you overclock it unless you like using emulators.

Yeah, but it doesn't necessarily means you are going to burn down your CPU. I mean you can but only if you about all tardy like. 
#11 Posted by Subjugation (4740 posts) -

@Unequivocable: You don't want to overclock with stock cooling solutions. If you want to go ahead and do it, get an aftermarket cooler so you don't fry your CPU. Upping voltages makes it heat up a fair bit. I did it with my i5-2500k and I'm sitting at 4.5 GHz. I haven't had any issues, but of course I made sure to get a good heatsink and fan combo, good thermal paste, and a very well ventilated case.

As far as your question of it being worth it, that depends on whether or not the game is CPU bound. Many MMOs for instance are more CPU reliant than GPU, so you would see greater benefit in that scenario. However, none of it is worth it if you can't make sure that you are overclocking as safely as possible because losing a several hundred dollar processor isn't worth it. Also, I noticed your processor doesn't have a "k" affixed to the end, which means (unless Intel changed their naming scheme) it doesn't have an unlocked multiplier so overclocking would be much more difficult and result in much less room for gain.

#12 Posted by believer258 (12185 posts) -

If you're not a tinkerer then don't worry about it. It won't do much for you in terms of gaming performance. And, really, there's not much that overclocking a good processor can do for you at all. Four or five years from now, or more, when it's starting to show its age then it's time to buy a new one.

#13 Posted by Alexander (1724 posts) -

I was wondering this myself as I'm building a rig of my own, but I did opt for the K model for the higher stock clock speed for things other than gaming. I'm not planning on overclocking the CPU myself, the GPU though can certainly benefit from it, the one I'm going for comes overclocked out the box. While the 3450 doesn't have the K moniker that particular model can in fact be overclocked very easily, if you wanted to take it to 3.4GHz it would be just fine but as mentioned in here already if you are doing that then an aftermarket cooler would be recommended.

#14 Posted by sins_of_mosin (1539 posts) -

Overclocking CPUs these days is just for the guy who enjoy screwing around and seeing what they can push to the limit. I'm not a fan of OC myself as its just not worth the hassle to me.

I'm thinking you want rock solid stability so I wouldn't mess with it at all.

#15 Posted by Doctorchimp (4055 posts) -

I have a 3770-K that I overclocked. Nothing crazy though, just a good bump that didn't make the temp go up.

Two things though, A) I have that huge coolermaster Hyper Evo cooler and B) I didn't overclock for gaming, I overclocked to make video editing go by a little quicker.

Your video card should be fine and also that processor isn't really meant to do it. Skip it dude, if you want an increase in performance grab a better video card. But that won't be for a year when we see the next generation of console games though.

#16 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4488 posts) -
@Colourful_Hippie said:

@SmilingPig said:

If you want to get that extra 0.2 fps and are willing to risk burning down your pc... sure.

This. That CPU is already fine for games. You're not going to see any real benefits in games when you overclock it unless you like using emulators.

Yeah, but it doesn't necessarily means you are going to burn down your CPU. I mean you can but only if you about all tardy like. 
That's just exaggeration but it's still not worth it at all to over clock the CPU for games.
#17 Edited by Zekhariah (695 posts) -

Overclocking CPUs is not really worth anything for gaming. When you could take a Celeron 300MHz to 450MHz, sure that is a huge gain and impacting game performance. But with the CPU being secondary to the GPU to such and extent, going for an overclock is just going to worsen the systems MTBF.

#18 Posted by Korwin (3026 posts) -

I overclock all my PC's, but that's really just for the fun of it.

#19 Posted by paulwade1984 (479 posts) -

clock speed has become far less important. It's not worth it. You could be doing damage you can't see. You are overclocking all 4 cores within that tiny cpu. It only takes 1 core to go down and you're in a world of regret. Just don't bother.

#20 Edited by Insectecutor (1205 posts) -

With modern games you're more likely to see slightly reduced loading times than an FPS boost. You can see what the CPU usage is like by running task manager alongside the game in windowed mode.

As others have said with a core i5 you're going to see next to no difference overclocked or not.

#21 Posted by Fattony12000 (7564 posts) -


You can take a 3.3 GHz i5 2500k to 4 GHz on the stock cooler that comes with the CPU, it's super easy and super safe these days. That's an extra 700 MHz for free! AT THESE PRICES YOU'D BE CRAZY NOT TO! You can, of course, push it further if you want.

Now, different games make use of the CPU's power in different ways, ARMA 2, Civ V and GTA IV are examples of CPU-intensive games, whereas gorgeous looking titles like Battlefield 3 and Far Cry 3 push a lot of that sexiness through the GPU.

That being said, I've pushed my i5 2500k to 4 GHz for extra performance mainly in non-gaming programs and applications. I have taken it up to 4.4 GHz with no issues whatsoever.

#22 Posted by BitterAlmond (400 posts) -

Rarely, but in a few cases it makes a lot of sense.

Case in point: Team Fortress 2. The game sees a huge boost in framerate (often 30+ frames) with an extra 200-300MHz in the 2.2-2.6GHz range. Don't ask me why, that's just how the game works. A lot of people with processors around 2.2-2.4GHz are overclocking to play the game much more stably.

That said, most games aren't like this. The Source engine is very processor-dependent. Many others aren't.

#23 Posted by warxsnake (2650 posts) -

Sometimes yes. 
For example I still have a first gen Corei7 (920) which is not OCed. 
I also have 32GB of ram and a GTX570. 
I'm playing PlanetSide 2 and its slightly laggy in large battles, enough to cause me to lose gun battles because of the framerate. 
This however is not a GPU problem, its a heavily CPU bound game; you can also press ALT-F during gameplay to check framerate and other things. 
The game indicates that I am CPU bottleneck. 
So yes, the solution for this would be to OC my CPU way past its default clock speed (already have an aftermarket cooler on it). 
Besides waiting for the next batch of Intel CPUs that is, which is when I'll upgrade.  
People who tell you clock speed is less important these days, have no idea what they are talking about. 
Especially once "next gen" games come out (i.e. calibrated for the next consoles and ported to PC), more games will have more AI, more dynamic systems, more navmesh checks, more cpu raycasting for more gameplay, all this requiring huge amounts of CPU cycles. 
HOPEFULLY more games will ditch the cheap corridor/scripted event design and go for dynamic systems (FC3, Skyrim, BF3); these games are insanely hard to develop for current gen as the limitations on current console versions are enormous, so next gen will encourage more devs to go explore more open world and dynamic systems like we do with FC3, DICE with BF3 multi, and Bethesda with Skyrim, thus requiring way more out of CPUs. 

#24 Edited by M_Shini (551 posts) -

Mine came already over clocked and after i wiped the HDD and restored it to clear it up a bit its now at whatever stock settings it was at, and haven't really noticed any difference, and from what ive heard for the most part it doesn't matter since allot of games lately haven't been very CPU intensive.

So for the most part it's not much of a issue not to be over clocked, its good for bragging rights, although if you do make sure you know exactly how its done and what settings need to be where to not break your stuff.

#25 Posted by JasonR86 (9726 posts) -

If I remember right the CPU is mostly used for the physics in games. So it could help for physics intensive games. I've done it before with my quad-core but most often I don't because it puts my cooling into overdrive and it gets fucking loud.

#26 Posted by Devildoll (909 posts) -

@JasonR86: cpu is used for everything in games. Cept for the actual rendering of the images.

#27 Posted by onarum (2292 posts) -

well, I like overclocking, my I5 3570K is currently running at 4.5 GHz :P but as others said it's not that much important at all, also yeah the stock cooler that comes in the box definitely can NOT handle it, you'd need to get a better one, it's not worth the hassle.

#28 Posted by StaticFalconar (4850 posts) -

Yes it is. Just watch the pattern of anybody that doesn't support the idea, they are all people that have never actually overclocked anything. Some of what everybody is saying is true though. You probably want a better cpu fan if you want to push the overclock to the limits, but even on the stock fan, you can OC it slightly and still get away with it.

Does pushing your chip 150% of what their speed they were made for shorten its life? Probably. But those chips wasn't made to die only after a couple of years (my old gaming rig that I didn't OC for the same fears before, I gave to my parents when I got a new one. That rig still runs fine after 8 years). Shortening its life a bit when most likely you will replace the thing before it dies on you anyway is getting your money's worth.

OC your rig isn't as big of a deal as it was before since even the moderate cpus can handle gaming just fine. Not true 10 years ago. If you want to hold back a bit and save some money not buying an aftermarket cooler, then by all means. Its just, most people that build gaming rigs usually don't hold back and would spend a bit more on getting a fancy case with a see to show the computer off. Having subtle things like an aftermarket cooler on a cpu that's probably OC'd is just one of those things that is stereotypical of a true gaming rig.

Its honestly worth it since the process is pretty simple to do. Trying to hit the limits of OCing the chips can get you diminshing returns (for the amount of work you have to put in), but especially if your friend is willing to do the leg work, I don't see why not.

#29 Posted by Mirado (1054 posts) -

Depends on where the bottleneck lies. If you're GPU bound then I don't care if you crank your CPU to 5Ghz, it won't make a single frame of difference. Some games are more CPU driven then others and if you can identify your processor is holding you back, then a few tenths of a gigahertz could push it from sub-par to playable.

Overclocking is sort of a temporary fix for performance issues, honestly; if you need that OC to keep things running smoothly, an upgrade is probably in your future anyway.

#30 Posted by Th3_James (2579 posts) -

My CPU stock clock speed is 2.93Ghz, I have it overclocked to 4.2Ghz. For me it makes a pretty big difference in performance.

#31 Edited by envane (1164 posts) -

@Unequivocable: Short story, No, don't worry.

Long story , No... your cpu isnt even an "overclockers" cpu , you shouldnt be worrrying about it , a nice heatsink and quiet fan is always good tho , stock coolers suck balls if under any actual duress and have cheap noisy fans to boot.

anyone with a K on the end of their cpu , and a decent aftermarker cooler , SHOULD bump their multiplier up a lil bit , not too much , but youre basicly ignoring the free performance boost they have given you , thats entirely under warranty too .. its all stupid marketing , why even by an unlocked multiplier cpu if your not gonna adjust it ..

ive still got my i7 950 (socket lga1336) and its got alot more options than just the multiplier to adjust , and therefore its alot less stable if i dont know what im doing .. but its basicly the coolest part of my computer now and its overclocked relatively high.

@Mirado: and yeah , exactly , in my case i have 2 580s , prior to that i had 0 reason to overclock but now i actually benefit from it and remove my cpu bottleneck at about 3.8ghz and up .. but yeah i also have THE noctua nh-d14, which hardly even makes a noise despite keeping it around 50-60degrees celcius under load. plus im dealing with extra ambient temp from aussie heat .. one of my gpus got to 90degrees running farcry 3 without vysnc the other nite , but i had my case fans set to quiet because apart from hitman i really hadnt played much recently that was all that demanding. hopefully by the time i build my next computer , heat wont be an issue , cuz its really tempting to go with watercooling now , but it will be pointless by the next generation or so (or at least to anyone except the hardcore enthusiasts with multi cpu /gpu setups)

#32 Posted by pandorasbox (303 posts) -
@Jrinswand the i5 series of CPUs are very overclockable. When you bought the CPU, it probably said something like (3.8ghz super clock) or something like that. The super clock is how far you can oc using the stock fan with no risk of damage. Always oc to the super clock specifications unless you live in a sauna.
#33 Edited by Devildoll (909 posts) -

since sometime now, the graphics card is the main culprit in the "shitty framerate case"

I, for instance bought my i7 920 in 2008, and have had it since then, but during this time, ive used 3 different graphics cards. ( 4890, 5870 and 7970 )

And the 920 has kept up.

partly cause i've got it overclocked, and partly because games are usually alot more graphics than cpu heavy.

If you buy a cpu today, of course you wont need to overclock it. if you've had one for a while though, you can get some serious free mileage without the slightest trouble, as long as you actually know what the hell you are doing.

Another case is if you are running 3 or so graphics cards, some games will require you to have a pretty blazing cpu for it to be able to feed all the gpus, when we want to run insane framerates. ( higher IQ usually doesn't stress the cpu additionally, unless the cpu actually has to handle some of the rendering, cause of a dumb-ass port )

But that's nothing anyone asking questions would be up to.

@Unequivocable: well your particular cpu cant even be overclocked.

with the newer series, you need a cpu with a K at the end of its name.

Check this site for an explanation of the naming scheme -> besides, it is a pretty high end cpu from a current series you have there, if you needed to overclock, everyone else on this planet would too.

in 4 years though, it'll give your system an extended gaming life.

@Jrinswand: as long as you are responsible, and actually check the temperature and have components dimensioned for overclocking.

anything negative that happens would most likely have happened even if you ran it stock.

@M_Shini: CPU's are usually overclocked through the bios, kind of strange that your overclocks disappeared, unless you reset the CMOS and the whole shebang.

@pandorasbox said:

@Jrinswand the i5 series of CPUs are very overclockable. When you bought the CPU, it probably said something like (3.8ghz super clock) or something like that. The super clock is how far you can oc using the stock fan with no risk of damage. Always oc to the super clock specifications unless you live in a sauna.

eh? are you referring to the turbo frequency ? for example, its max 3,9 GHz as opposed to the standard frequency of 3,5 GHz on the 3770K.

thats nothing to do with how far you can overclock it with the stock fan without damaging it, in fact, "overclocking" it to that frequency is kind of pointless, since it is already jumping up to that frequency when needed.

the max safe frequency you can reach with the stock cooler is dependent on your case cooling, how far your particular sample can go with whilst still keeping a low enough voltage for the cpu not to overheat.

#34 Posted by haggis (1677 posts) -

Overclocking used to be worthwhile because there was a wider performance gap between mid-range and high-end systems, and because games didn't rely so much on the GPU. Many mid-range CPUs were quite capable of running at higher speeds than their stock clocks were set at, and so bumping them up pretty high wasn't as much a risk. Getting a ten to fifteen percent boost on the CPU was easy and often a game-changer. Nowadays, the bottleneck isn't really the CPU but the GPU, so the small benefits you get from CPU overclocking don't matter unless you go for really extreme setups.

Of course, it's still fun to tinker with it, if that's your thing. But for average gamers, it's not worth it for the few extra FPS.

#35 Posted by Unequivocable (225 posts) -

Thanks duders! Great responses, I think I feel a l

#36 Posted by Unequivocable (225 posts) -

Blasted mobile comment posting! I was saying I now feel pretty comfortable with not over clocking seeing as I'm not really interested in the tinkering aspect of PCs. And really great info about the K version of intel chips--I had no idea what that meant.

#37 Posted by Devildoll (909 posts) -

@Unequivocable: tip for the future is, if your phone messes up a post, just edit it, dont make a new one ;)

#38 Posted by Unequivocable (225 posts) -
@Devildoll on my iPhone the mobile site doesn't give me the edit option. Just 'reply' and 'quote'. Am I missing something? I realize I could do an edit when I get home to my PC but being able to do it on my phone would also be cool.
#39 Posted by Ravenlight (8011 posts) -

With an i5? You're probably going to be okay to run whatever games you want on stock settings.

Maybe check your BIOS settings, sometimes there's a Performance option that will let you safely increase the clock speed a little bit.

#40 Posted by Devildoll (909 posts) -

@Unequivocable: ah, i've been using the full site even on my phone.

#41 Posted by mtcantor (951 posts) -

Honestly, with the i5 and the i7, there's really no point to it. A good modern CPU won't be a bottleneck.

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