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Overclocking causes devices to perform unreliably or fail due to overheating components. It also voids warranties. However, overclocking increases the performance of the CPU. To prevent damage, overclocking should be monitored.
You can check if the CPU is overclocked by examining the BIOS settings for a CPU multiplier or comparing the processor’s base speed to the real speed during a stress test. You can measure the CPU speed during the stress test with tools like HWiNFO and DirectX Diagnostic Tool.
In the rest of this article, I will discuss:
Let’s jump in.
Performance settings, such as the processor speed and settings for your CPU, are stored in the BIOS. If your computer is overclocked, this will be apparent from the CPU ratio or overclocking settings in BIOS.
To access BIOS, either restart your computer in recovery mode or hit the BIOS key during start-up. Some computers call BIOS the UEFI settings.
The easiest way to get to BIOS is through the Advanced Startup option in settings. Search your computer for Advanced Startup to find the option to restart the computer in recovery mode and access firmware settings.
Many systems go through the start-up process too quickly, so you may not be able to see the BIOS key screen during start-up. If you do see the BIOS key screen, it will tell you to hit F1, F2, F10, F12, or the DEL key to enter the BIOS settings. If you do not see the BIOS key screen, you can find the correct key by searching for it on your computer manufacturer’s website.
Check the CPU Ratio, CPU Voltage, and Overclock settings to determine if the CPU is overclocked.
CPUs with a multiplier on the CPU Ratio are overclocked. Look for the firmware setting menu for the CPU. It may be called Overclocking or OC.
If you cannot find the right menu, try searching for your computer model and “CPU Multiplier” or “CPU Ratio” to identify where in BIOS to look.
In the CPU settings, there should be a CPU Ratio. If the CPU Ratio is greater than 1, then your computer is overclocked.
Your CPU may be overclocked if the CPU Voltage is higher than 1.25V. The CPU Voltage setting should be on the same screen as the CPU Ratio setting. Scroll until you find it.
Some motherboards (see also when to upgrade your motherboard here) have an overclock setting that must be enabled to overclock the CPU. This may be in the Advanced BIOS setting. If it is disabled, then your CPU is not overclocked.
Changes to BIOS settings can cause your computer system to become unstable or damaged. Specifically, changing the CPU Ratio and CPU Voltage can cause overheating. Changing these settings sometimes voids the warranty.
HWiNFO is an app that runs system diagnostics. It is free for personal use. It helps you determine if your CPU is overclocked by measuring the CPU’s real speed during a stress test. If the CPU speed is faster during a stress test than the motherboard manufacturer’s base speed, then the CPU is overclocked.
Before you can determine if your CPU is overclocked, you need to know the base speed for your CPU. You must compare the base speed to the real speed to see if your CPU is overclocked. You can find this in multiple ways.
One way to determine your CPU base speed is in the About information for your computer. You can access this by searching your computer for “Processor Speed.” You can also access the About information through Settings. About is usually the last option on the main list of Settings. A final way to access the About dialog is by hitting the Windows and Pause Break keys at the same time.
Once you access the About information for your computer, there will be Processor information under Device specifications. The brand, model, and base speed will be listed. The CPU base speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz.)
Another way is to look up the specifications for your CPU with the manufacturer. You will need to know the brand and model of your motherboard. This is available in the About information for your computer under Processor information and in the Device Manager. Common manufacturers are Ryzen, AMD, and Intel. Common models for Intel CPUs are i5, i7, and i9. Lookup detailed information to find an accurate base speed for the CPU.
Finally, your receipt and/or packaging that came with the computer likely has information on the processor. You can find the CPU speed there, as well.
Overclocking is best observed during a system stress test. Stress tests are also called torture tests because of the strain they put on the CPU. During a system stress test, the computer runs the CPU at maximum speed and takes measurements. One of these measurements is the temperature of the CPU.
Prime95 is a tool that finds prime numbers. This requires so many computations and instructions that it stresses the system and runs the CPU at a maximum speed. When you run the Prime95 application, it will ask for your purpose. Select “Just Stress Testing.”
While running a stress test, keep an eye on the CPU temperature with the HWiNFO application. If the CPU temperature rises too much, it could permanently damage the CPU and other hardware. Do not allow the CPU temperature to exceed 175°. Consider installing a CPU cooler if you see high temperatures even without overclocking.
After you know the CPU base speed, you need to measure the CPU speed during a stress test of the system. The HWiNFO app makes this easy to do.
First, download the app and run it. You will either see a GUI or a tree structure of your computer’s hardware. In the GUI, select the performance tab.
At the top of the tree is “Central Processors.” Expand that part of the tree. There will be one item on the list for each of your CPUs. You will want to monitor every CPU.
While running the stress test, watch the CPU speed. If it exceeds the base speed, then your CPU is overclocked.
The DirectX Diagnostic Tool also monitors CPU speed. Many computers come with DirectX Diagnostic Tool.
There are many ways to run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool. To run the tool from the command line, hit the Windows key and R key at the same time. Type in “dxdiag” and hit enter. The DirectX Diagnostic Tool should open.
Another way to run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool is to search the computer for “dxdiag.” The results should show the “dxdiag” command. Click on it to run the command and open the tool.
Before opening the DirectX Diagnostic Tool, start the stress test. Then run the DirectX Diagnostic Tool command.
A GUI will pop up. Select the System tab. Find the Processor information. It will have the manufacturer and model of the CPU and the current speed. The speed is measured in MHz and will be preceded by a ~.
If the DirectX Diagnostic Tool speed is higher than the CPU base speed, then the CPU is overclocked.
This article covers three different ways to check if the CPU is overclocked. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Checking the BIOS settings does not require downloading another tool. It is also the most accurate way to check for overclocking because the BIOS settings show precisely how much the system is overclocked. However, it requires restarting in recovery mode to access the firmware settings. Also, accidentally making a change to the firmware settings could damage the system.
HWiNFO does not require restarting the computer. Moreover, it provides a lot of information about your system. But this could be more information than needed. And you have to download the application to use it.
The DirectX Diagnostic tool is likely already installed. It is simple to use, too. But it does not provide much information, such as the temperature of the CPU.
You should identify how important it is to know the CPU temperature and how much a system is overclocked when picking the method to check whether the CPU is overclocked.
To prevent overclocking, some CPUs have multiplier locking. Therefore, the CPU Ratio cannot be changed. People pay a premium to have a CPU without multiplier locking.
An overclocked system can damage components, including the CPU. To check if the CPU is overclocked, you can look at the BIOS settings or use a diagnostic tool to see if the CPU speed during a stress test exceeds the manufacturer’s CPU base speed.
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