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Guide to Overclocking Video Cards

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  • Overclocking
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January 24, 2008 9:14:43 PM

This guide is still a sticky for reference only. It needs to be update badly as it doesn't even have working images, so if interested PM randomizer

WARNING: Overclocking may void the original manufacturer's warranty and can cause damage to your card if you are not careful. I am not responsible for any actions you take and this guide is just that, a how to.

First I would like to thank Evilonigiri for helping me out with this guide and for teaching me the basics of overclocking my video card (though I've done a lot more since we talked).

So for starters, this guide is going to be about overclocking Video cards using Rivatuner and ATI Tools. They are both great tools for overclocking and will attempt to show you how to use them on a basic level.

This guide is primarily about driver-level overclocking. BIOS Overclocking is, in general, more dangerous and more noticeable by a manufacturer. It will also not go into Hard mods like resistor pots and the like to increase vGPU and vMEM.

So first thing is first. What tools do I need? You will need to download Rivatuner and ATi Tools. The current versions of each are 2.06 (Riva) and 0.27b2 (ATI). I will attempt to keep these updated with new information.

So what are they used for? Rivatuner is used to adjust your GPU Core and Memory Clock while ATI Tools is used to test and check for stability and temperatures.

First thing is first. Hardware monitoring. We can't do anything if we don't know our temperatures. Once Rivatuner is ready to go click on it. Under target adapter find the arrow. Click on that and click Hardware Monitoring.





Now once you have it open find the current core temperature and take a note. After this open up ATI Tools and click Scan For Artifacts; Run this for about 2 minutes and watch your Core Temperature climb. After 2 minutes it should be nice and toasty. Believe it or not this is the point at which your BIOS in the GPU wants to run the card at. Keep this in your head when overclocking and never exceed it. Another option here is to monitor the temperatures is to run a full 3D Mark06 or play a game for 15-20 minutes. Once you leave it find your maximum temperature.





So now we know what temperature we do not want to exceed. The next question is.. how loud can you stand it? Open up Rivatuner and click on Customize Driver Settings (If this is not here please refer to the Video Card Tweaker's FAQ). Now click on System Settings.



Click on the Fan Tab and on the scroll down box click Direct Fan Control. Move the slider up to 100% and hit apply. If this is too loud, continue to back off until it is within a comfortable auditory range. Once you have found this, click the Save (NOT APPLY ON STARTUP) button under Fan Profile Settings and give it a name. You can save multiple fan profiles (I have several for different launchers which I will explain later).



The other option here is to use low level system settings and using automatic fan control. You can set the minimum and maximum Fan Duty Cycle and target temperatures. This is another option, however I prefer to just use direct fan control. PWM and this pisses me off. I can't stand to hear things ramping up and down but I don't mind a constant buzz.

Now reopen the Hardware Monitor and notice how much the temperatures have dropped. This is another chance to run ATI Tools again and see how warm it gets!

Now it's time to go back into System Settings. This time click on the Overclocking Tab and Enable Driver-Level Overclocking. Same thing here as far as saving it, by the way.

Now it's time to get to Overclocking! Start moving ONE slider at a time 10-15 MHz at a time and check it for artifacts in ATI Tools. Don't know what one is? Here are two examples:



This is a minor artifact.



This is a fairly bad artifact, but I've seen worse on my PC.

So what is the goal? First I go for 30 seconds, so I can move up quickly. If I don't see any artifacts for 30 seconds I will move up another 10-15 MHz. Once I start seeing artifacts I back down a bit and start waiting for 2 minutes. Some people consider 1 minute stable enough for gaming, others will say 2 minutes and some will say 5. Personally I use 2 minutes and then do a full run of 3D Mark06 and visually scan it for problems and monitor temperatures.

First you start with the Core Clock. Once you start to artifact you can try to unlink the clocks (Shader/Core) and see which one is causing the instability (9 times out of 10 it will be the shaders) to increase the core further. Once the core is good run a full 3D Mark06 as a quick stability test. Once this is done it's time to get started on the memory. The same thing applies here but I will say one thing. It is possible for the system to freeze without showing an artifact in ATI Tool. This is why I recommend an occasional 3DMark06 test to check for stability (I've crashed it numerous times).

Once you find a good overclock with your fan setting already going, it's time to save it and create a launcher. Click on the launcher tab of Rivatuner and click Add New Item. Choose regular item. Type in a name and then click on the check boxes for associated overclocking profile and fan profile. From the drop down box select the Fan and OC profile you have already saved. Now click ok. Now you have a quick launcher. Whenever you want to apply the overclock just right click on Rivatuner in the tray and hit the launcher. The other option is once you are done go back into System Settings and hit Save to apply the overclock/fan profile at the launch of Windows.



You have successfully overclocked your video card! There is a lot more to do from here but these are the basics.

So what is this thing called PCIe Frequency? This is the bandwidth lane between the PCI Express Slot and the Northbridge of the motherboard. The current PCIe1.0 Standard is 500 MB/s in each direction. This gives you a total of 8 GB/s on a 16x PCIe Slot. Assuming you are using the standard 100 MHz PCIe Frequency increasing this by 15% to 115 MHz can give you 9.2 GB/s bandwidth. It is recommended not to OC this past 120 MHz as it can cause SATA Corruption. PCIe2.0 doubles this to 16 GB/s in a 16x lane. There is not a card that currently maxes out the PCIe1.0 bandwidth, however when there is increasing your PCIe Frequency may let you enjoy a new graphics card without having to fork out for a new motherboard.

PCIe Frequency can be changed in the BIOS. There was a rumor at one time that raising the PCIe Frequency could result in higher overclocks. In my personal experience I have not found this to be the case, your mileage may vary.. however for myself, raising the PCIe Frequency did not result in any tangible improvement.

Currently in nVidias there is no way to change voltage going to the GPU without a hard mod. A hard mod is soldering a resistor pot between two points on a video card. I won't go into how to do it but I just want you to be aware that this is out there. This is also possible on ATI cards. Please keep in mind that increasing the voltage will increase heat and can cause electromitigation within the GPU.

You can also BIOS flash your card. Again I won't go into how to do it as that is beyond the scope of this guide. However you need to be aware that it is possible. BIOS Flashing can make the stock clocks of your Video card higher without the need to use Rivatuner. I highly suggest using a completely stable overclock when flashing and testing it thoroughly first.

Suggestions are welcome and I will work to keep this guide up to date. It may go through revisions as I edit it, and in general, attempt to make it better.

Other Useful Tools:

Real Time HDR Demo - This is also useful for Video Card stressing and temperature testing. Personally I use this and Prime95v255 on a waterloop that includes the CPU and GPU for maximum temperature testing to ensure a safe overclock.

Speed Fan - A very useful temperature tool. If you follow Computronix's post on calibrations for C2D and C2Q it can be extremely effective. It also has useful monitoring and logging tools that Rivatuner's Hardware monitor does not feature.

AGAIN: READ THIS.

WARNING: Overclocking may void the original manufacturer's warranty and can cause damage to your card if you are not careful. I am not responsible for any actions you take and this guide is just that, a how to.

More about : guide overclocking video cards

January 24, 2008 10:11:40 PM

Well done, very informative :D .
a b K Overclocking
January 24, 2008 10:19:54 PM

Nice Guide, took me like 3 hours to learn the whole thing talking to Evilonigiri..
January 24, 2008 10:25:17 PM

trihedral said:
Nice Guide, took me like 3 hours to learn the whole thing talking to Evilonigiri..

:ange: 
a b K Overclocking
January 24, 2008 11:57:37 PM

May i ask how to change the PCIe from 100Mhz to 115Mhz? Id like to give that a try. And Evil im done overclocking to da Fullest! 680Mhz Core, 1395Mhz Shader Core, 525Mhz Memory Bus. If i go anymore i will start getting those yellow things on ATI tools. Thats pretty good for a GeForce 8500GT right?
January 24, 2008 11:58:26 PM

trihedral said:
May i ask how to change the PCIe from 100Mhz to 115Mhz? Id like to give that a try. And Evil im done overclocking to da Fullest! 680Mhz Core, 1395Mhz Shader Core, 525Mhz Memory Bus. If i go anymore i will start getting those yellow things on ATI tools. Thats pretty good for a GeForce 8500GT right?


For the 8500 GT it's not needed at all, BUT.. It's in the BIOS of the motherboard (if it's there).
January 25, 2008 2:46:19 AM

trihedral said:
May i ask how to change the PCIe from 100Mhz to 115Mhz? Id like to give that a try. And Evil im done overclocking to da Fullest! 680Mhz Core, 1395Mhz Shader Core, 525Mhz Memory Bus. If i go anymore i will start getting those yellow things on ATI tools. Thats pretty good for a GeForce 8500GT right?

You can have a little yellow artifacts, they will usually never show in games. That is a very good OC, and by increasing the PCIE frequency to 115MHz, I bet you can hit 700MHz.

The setting should be in the bios.
January 25, 2008 3:59:49 AM

This is also pretty good for testing for stability/artifacts together with atitool (But not at the same time obviously):

Real-Time High Dynamic Range Image-Based Lighting

http://www.daionet.gr.jp/~masa/rthdribl/#Download

Also get this Speedfan that when used in together with rivatuner monitor seems like a more complete tool, because it will record minimum, maximum, and average temperatures of the GPU from the moment it was executed, seems like a pretty good tool to have besides the monitor (Even though I use both).

Speedfan 4.33

http://www.almico.com/sfdownload.php

EDIT: Also remind people NOT to use fraps while artifact scanning or they might see yellow stripes that can be confused with artifacts.
January 25, 2008 6:23:23 PM

emp said:
This is also pretty good for testing for stability/artifacts together with atitool (But not at the same time obviously):

Real-Time High Dynamic Range Image-Based Lighting

http://www.daionet.gr.jp/~masa/rthdribl/#Download

I think ATI tools is more powerful, if you get what I mean.
January 26, 2008 1:15:16 AM

Definitely, but it isn't bad by any stretch to make sure that the thing is 100% stable with another small test. Also remember that you can increase the stress on the graphics card by upping the Res and changing settings with this app.
January 26, 2008 1:26:58 AM

emp said:
Definitely, but it isn't bad by any stretch to make sure that the thing is 100% stable with another small test. Also remember that you can increase the stress on the graphics card by upping the Res and changing settings with this app.


Agreed. I actually use that demo with Prime95 for temp testing a water loop.

I prefer ATiTool because it shows the artifact very clearly.

As far as Speed Fan go I was trying to keep it simple and use as few programs as possible to avoid confusion. Speed Fan isn't needed, so it wasn't included.

Good points all around. :D 
January 28, 2008 6:38:39 AM

Nice.
January 29, 2008 6:36:13 PM

Something ba has happened with the whole deal.I let it find the max core,but aborted after 4 hours,and it then detects crazy stats as default and i get low scores on 3d mark 06.sm2.0 dropped fro 3100 to 900.
January 29, 2008 6:51:36 PM

I restarted and sm2.0 is up to 2451,but still omething has gone wrong,y all that sudden drop?
January 29, 2008 7:17:37 PM

ATI HD3870.

I had the omega 7.12 drivers installed,and when i selected set core,the core dropped to 389 no matter what.Now i installed the oficial ati 8.1 catalyst and sm2.0 is back and better than ever.3200+.

But what was with that drop?I still got the omega shortcut group,i didnt uninstall them,i just installed the latest ati.

Is there any damage to my card?
January 29, 2008 7:19:59 PM

Prob. just a screw up with the drivers...common, no biggie.
January 29, 2008 7:31:36 PM

therock003 said:
Something ba has happened with the whole deal.I let it find the max core,but aborted after 4 hours,and it then detects crazy stats as default and i get low scores on 3d mark 06.sm2.0 dropped fro 3100 to 900.


I recommend you never let ATi Tool detect max core settings.

The card is probably fine, it was just a driver issue.
January 29, 2008 7:42:11 PM

After the core could not be set i tried setting core speed to 900 with riva tuner and when i run 3d mark it stuck and i pressed escape to exit and i was left with a black screen and i exited and thats y i got so worried.

Anyway,so is there a way for me to overclock or will i get stuck with the stock speeds?

Will there be a problem that i didnt uninstall the omega and there are still on my system along with the official 8.1?

Guys i'm new at these and i got so worried.
January 29, 2008 7:48:13 PM

therock003 said:
After the core could not be set i tried setting core speed to 900 with riva tuner and when i run 3d mark it stuck and i pressed escape to exit and i was left with a black screen and i exited and thats y i got so worried.

Anyway,so is there a way for me to overclock or will i get stuck with the stock speeds?

Will there be a problem that i didnt uninstall the omega and there are still on my system along with the official 8.1?

Guys i'm new at these and i got so worried.



Is the stock speed 897 MHz? Unless it isn't, stop trying to go so far at once.

The OTHER thing is, there is a known issue with some HD3870s. They won't let you pass 862 MHz Core because of a setting in the BIOS called the PLL VCO Divider. You won't break 862 MHz with most 3870s unless you flash to a new BIOS (released by ATi).

Read this thread.
January 29, 2008 7:54:13 PM

No it isnt,of course it isnt,stock is 777,but when i canned for artifacts i kept raising the slider and i didnt see any artifacts,i even reached like 1000mhz and no artifact and i thought it just didnt make any adjustment at all,that y i tried riva tuner.

Arent you supposed to scan for artifacts and while the timer is running to slide the core speed?
January 29, 2008 7:55:46 PM

therock003 said:
No it isnt,of course it isnt,stock is 777,but when i canned for artifacts i kept raising the slider and i didnt see any artifacts,i even reached like 1000mhz and no artifact and i thought it just didnt make any adjustment at all,that y i tried riva tuner.

Arent you supposed to scan for artifacts and while the timer is running to slide the core speed?


You hit scan for artifacts and let it run for 2 minutes, then stop and move the slider up another 3 MHz and scan again.
January 29, 2008 8:20:30 PM

In the guide it says 10-15 fo half a minute.

Ok but now it does happen,with the omega the core was dropped to 389 when i selected scan.

So i do this for the core speed and i then go for the memory?
January 29, 2008 8:21:54 PM

therock003 said:
In the guide it says 10-15 fo half a minute.

Ok but now it does happen,with the omega the core was dropped to 389 when i selected scan.

So i do this for the core speed and i then go for the memory?


I know what the guide says, obviously you went too far and didn't do any 3D Marks either as the guide suggests.

Core Speed First, then memory. Are you still having problems displaying proper core speed?
January 29, 2008 8:30:44 PM

What do you mean 3d marks?I run a strees test and core temp is 88-89c.I didnt see a reason thoug to bother with fan contol so i went ahead with the overclock.Default diesplays now 777/1126 under profile,but when program loads values are 389/562.50 on the boxes what does that mean?

Anyway so far i'm up to 900,scanning for artifacts,and still seing none.Am i doing something wrong?
January 29, 2008 8:35:40 PM

90C is getting pretty hot for a GPU.

3D Mark is a program the runs tests and gives you a benchmark score
January 29, 2008 8:36:56 PM

You're suppose to run 3dmark, setting it on a loop to stress the video card.
January 29, 2008 8:38:32 PM

therock003 said:
After the core could not be set i tried setting core speed to 900 with riva tuner and when i run 3d mark it stuck and i pressed escape to exit and i was left with a black screen and i exited and thats y i got so worried.


Quote:
What do you mean 3d marks?I run a strees test and core temp is 88-89c.I didnt see a reason thoug to bother with fan contol so i went ahead with the overclock.Default diesplays now 777/1126 under profile,but when program loads values are 389/562.50 on the boxes what does that mean?


My advice is to re-read the guide and FAQ 7-8 times before you keep pushing the issue. I really can't tell you what you are doing wrong without being there.

Edit: If you fixed the clock issue, why would you reinstall Omega drivers?
January 29, 2008 8:38:47 PM

Yes i know i've mentioned it on my previous post,i asked what the phrase "you havent done 3d marks meant"?

90c is the temperature for stock settings.and for gpu i dont think its hot.
January 29, 2008 8:40:15 PM

90C is pretty warm. Mine is at 49
January 29, 2008 8:41:50 PM

therock003 said:
Yes i know i've mentioned it on my previous post,i asked what the phrase "you havent done 3d marks meant"?

90c is the temperature for stock settings.and for gpu i dont think its hot.


I have a feeling you are burning the card. If you want to take some of our advice but not others, be my guest. But this isn't really a cookie cutter thing. There have been several HD3870s with fan problems (Not scaling).

So odds are if you stressed the card at STOCK SETTINGS and it hit 90c and now you have overclocked it and are Scanning the card probably overheated and now throttled to prevent damage.

That or a driver issue, that is for you to work out. Obviously deleting the drivers helped you some.

What OS? We are TRYING to help you, but it appears you aren't helping yourself.
January 29, 2008 8:43:05 PM

I'd say help us help you.
January 29, 2008 9:02:00 PM

Ok sorry guys plz ask me what you want to know and i'll tell you everything.

OS running is win 2k3 server R2 enterprise SP2 32 bit.

On the video card faq you provided it says that temperatures 80-90c are normal.Its atomshardware post,its not just others advice,but if you say its a lot then i will take that into serious consideration.

+I never uninstalled the omega drivers.I just installed the 8.1 on top of them.

+I have not yet overclocked the card.I just scanned for artifacts and i never saw any,and thats when i guessed that something is gettieng adjusted as well as it should.

I just clocked the card once at 900,with the riva tuner overclocking option,but then i immediately turned to the default core clock (777).

Now i'm in a state where no overclocking is applied and card has both omega and official 8.1 installed.

I've read and reread the guide time and time again,i'm still not seeing things clearly.

Actually never mind the overclocking,i will uninstall oc tools and revese all settings,i just want thing to go back to stock,if they are not.

If there is anything else i didnt mention pls ask me directly.

Also excess heat could be due to my htpc case.Eveerything is squezzed up tightly in there and heat may not be circulated properly or something.
January 29, 2008 9:08:03 PM

Use driver cleaner pro and delete all drivers. Get rid of all OC utilities. Then install the new Ati drivers (not omega).
January 29, 2008 9:30:26 PM

ok,is there anything else i should do?Cause i tmpered with some settings on ati tray tools as well.Are these stored on registry or something?Should i do something about that as well,before i use the tool you mentioned?
January 29, 2008 9:38:56 PM

therock003 said:
ok,is there anything else i should do?Cause i tmpered with some settings on ati tray tools as well.Are these stored on registry or something?Should i do something about that as well,before i use the tool you mentioned?


Riva and ATi Tool are driver level, on a restart the changes are erased.
January 30, 2008 9:05:38 AM

Not Ati Tool but ATITraytools.Is that driver level too?So basically nothing does anything hardware related except flashing bios i guess.

And finally a general question,how much does the overclocking process shorten a hardware parts life,a CPU ot a GPU?
January 30, 2008 9:37:48 AM

As long as you keep it in check temperature wise and don't do crazy voltages it should be fine.

If the CPU is at 1.6v on air and 90C then yes, lifetime will shorten but if its
1.45 at 65C then its fine...same with GPUs, just keep temps. in check
a b K Overclocking
February 1, 2008 6:42:27 PM

cnumartyr, congratulations on a much needed Guide. Well done! I vote for Sticky!

Comp :sol: 
Anonymous
February 3, 2008 2:55:59 AM

Omega drivers suck for the HD38xx cards. I deleted them immediately. Terrible performance and problems with apps/games.
February 6, 2008 12:52:21 AM

Why is this not stickied? I keep having to search to find it. Please sticky!
February 8, 2008 3:01:42 PM

This topic has been sticky in top of the forum by Turpit
February 24, 2008 11:32:48 PM

Nice guide, but how did you get the 169.21 drivers to work with riva tuner? Whenever I try to open it, it says drivers not detected, etc...and in the box below where it states my video card, it says no information available, and it doesn't display the hardware monitoring icon. Lower, it says forceware detected, but won't let me customize. I have a 8800 gts 512mb from xfx, rivatuner 2.06, 169.21 drivers, windows xp pro. Also, i recently formatted my hard drive, and this problem occurred before the format too.
a b U Graphics card
a b K Overclocking
February 25, 2008 12:22:19 AM

Nice guide. Now see if you can include info on volt mods etc. ;) 

Thank god for vmods. Thats how I got my 8400GS to 700/475. (see my sig)
or here
a c 118 U Graphics card
a b K Overclocking
February 25, 2008 12:24:06 AM

strange.....it works for me, but i have a 8800gtx, maybe nvidia did something different for the drivers for that g92 cores....or maybe riva is not upto date for them?
a c 118 U Graphics card
a b K Overclocking
February 25, 2008 2:28:01 AM

Yes, but the unified drivers just contain all the drivers(in a way of speaking as far as i know...if someone has more info on this....yeah...cause old cards are no longer supported....so the drivers for them must have been removed...).....this gives users one download, but there may be subtle differences in....or....as said maybe the g92 is not supported my riva yet....i do not have one to test with.....

i just installed the latest drivers...and it still works....does say unknown driver(on startup)....but the rest works....
February 25, 2008 2:44:18 AM

Evilonigiri said:
You can have a little yellow artifacts, they will usually never show in games. That is a very good OC, and by increasing the PCIE frequency to 115MHz, I bet you can hit 700MHz.

The setting should be in the bios.



I have never heard of this before. Currently my 8800GTS is at 650 core, 1620 shader, and 1GHZ non effective ram.

By increasing my PCIe Frequency would it be possible to get something like 675 core and 1650-1700 shader? Also can I get a link on this cause I need to know why it does. I don't understand how it would be possible.
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