I wanted to create a simple how-to guide for overclocking video cards since today’s newer cards are fully capable of modest overclocking without damaging them, thus giving you a free performance upgrade. However is extremely important to note; overclocking technically voids most manufacturer’s warranties and can cause damage to or even ruin your video card if a high level of precaution is not taken. This guide is for using overclocking utilities: ATI Tools and RivaTuner, and we will benchmarking with 3DMark06.
RivaTuner is a utility used to adjust GPU core voltage and memory clock speeds. ATI Tools is a program for checking performance stability and core temperature levels. Once you have downloaded and installed both utilities you will want to start with RivaTuner first. (If you want to install and run 3DMark06 to test your video cards performance prior to overclocking to see how much improvement was made you will want to do that now.)
Don’t run any other applications and if you just booted up let it process all the startup programs and come back to idle Go ahead and open the RivaTuner application. In the Target Adapter section, find the Customize arrow. Click that and then go-to Hardware Monitoring, to see what your current core temperature(s) are at and write them down. Once you have that go ahead and open up your ATI Tools. Click Scan for Artifacts. Let this process run for a few minutes and monitor your new core temperatures in RivaTools to determine your temperature threshold and write it down under your idle core temperature. Stop the artifact scan in ATI tools and go back to RivaTuner. (If you are liquid cooled, ignore the following step): Click Customize Driver Settings, click System Settings, click the Fan tab, and then click Direct Fan Control. Move the slider to 100% and click Apply. If the fan becomes too loud, reduce the fan speed in small increments until you find a speed that you’re comfortable with. When that’s done, click Save, and name the profile.
Next, in RivaTuner under Driver Settings click the Customize arrow then click System Settings. Click on the Overclocking tab, and click on Enable Driver-Level Overclocking. Click Save, and name the profile.
You’ll begin the overclocking by increasing the Core Clock slider 10Mhz and click Apply, go back to your ATI Tools and click Scan for Artifacts again. If no artifacts appear after a minute go back to RivaTuner and move it up another 10Mhz. Click Apply and go back to your ATI Tools and click Scan for Artifacts. If no artifacts appear again, repeat this process until your satisfied or until you do start to see artifacts. If artifacts start to appear, back it down 20-30Mhz wait 2 minutes and return to ATI Tools and click Scan for Artifacts again. Go back to RivaTuner and check your current core temperature against your previous temperature threshold.
Now you will want to install 3DMark06 (if you haven’t already), which is benchmarking utility (used to test 3D graphic performance). Go ahead install and run the program, and look carefully for artifacts and instabilities. Lagging is normal and will probably always do that at some point (based on individual hardware).
If everything appears stable and no artifacts are present go back to RivaTuner and proceed to overclocking the Memory Clock speeds. You will perform the same exact process as you did overclocking the Core Clock increasing only 10MHz at a time scanning for artifacts after every increase. It is good practice to run a 3DMark06 test every 2-3 increases to check for stability issues. (Don’t worry its ok if it crashes). Once you get to a stable clock speed with no artifacts and no crashing you will want to create a launcher. A launcher is simply a button to change from standard clock speeds to your newly created overclocking profile.
Click on the launcher tab of Rivatuner and click Add New Item (it’s a green plus sign). Click OK on Regular Item. Type in a name (e.g. overclock1), and then click the check boxes for Associated overclocking profile and Fan profile. In the drop down boxes click for both, click both profiles you have created. Click OK to finish creating your launcher. You will use your new launcher to activate your overclocking. There is an option to apply the launcher at startup if preferred.
That’s about it, there are deeper levels of overclocking and tweaking that can produce even more optimal results and depending on your hardware, cooling may become an issue that needs further addressing. Some people look to water-cooling to increase overclocking potential. But that is a whole other subject all together. If liquid cooling seems like something you may be interested in, do plenty of research and see if it is viable option for your setup. Water cooling is a great way to get more out of your components, but it may come down to what you want to budget for your system.
You can also overclock from your BIOS but it can be risky, and is not recommended for first time overclockers.