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AMD Ryzen Overclocking Guide: Get More from Your CPU

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No matter what AMD Ryzen CPU you have -- from first-gen Ryzen all the way up to the top-of-the-line Ryzen 3950X, there’s always an opportunity to squeeze a few more MHz out of the chip by overclocking it. Unlike Intel, which limits overclocking to its most-expensive CPUs and motherboards, AMD allows you to overclock any Ryzen processor with all of their chipsets except for A320 (it works with B350, B450, X370, X470, X570).

Modern processors automatically adjust their own clock speeds based on temperature and workload, so one might wonder why overclocking is necessary. The answer comes down to the silicon lottery. Even amongst CPUs of the same model, made at the same time at the same factory, there are subtle differences in how much additional voltage and frequency the chips can leverage. AMD configures all of its Ryzen CPUs of a given model number for the same boost clock speed, but the piece of silicon in your PC might be capable of offering more, if you just tweak its settings.

While there are some nearly fool-proof, automated methods for overclocking your AMD Ryzen CPU, it’s important to note that pushing anything beyond its normal operating point has inherent risks that range from system instability to the unfortunate early failure of components. And, if you break your CPU by overclocking, it will not be covered by warranty.

AMD Ryzen Overclocking: What You Need 

Though even a low-end AMD Ryzen CPU with the stock fan can be overclocked, you’ll have more success with a higher-end processor, motherboard and thermal solution. Like all processors, Ryzen CPUs are designed to throttle performance when they reach a certain temperature so, if you want them to run fast, you have to keep them cool. 

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Before we start, let’s make sure to match our expectations to the components we plan to use.  Overclocking stresses the electrical performance of the processor, memory, and motherboard, and produces excessive amounts of heat in the process. As such, make sure to pick a processor that will provide enough overclocked performance, a motherboard that has the capability to overclock as desired, and a thermal solution that can handle the increased thermal load better than the stock cooler. 

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If you’re shopping for an AMD Ryzen CPU and want one with the most overclocking potential, consider buying at least a mid-tiered processor (3600, 3700X), a motherboard (B450, X470, X570) with sufficient VRM cooling potential, and either an oversized air cooler or 240mm AIO liquid cooler.  And don’t forget to budget for a solid power supply from a reliable vendor.  Quality manufacturers provide a steady supply of current to the board and devices, which is critical.  Also, make sure to account for the increased CPU wattage that will come from increased power; we’ve seen 105W Ryzen processors start to pull upwards of ~220W in extreme situations. 

AMD Ryzen Overclocking Methods 

There are two main methods for overclocking your AMD Ryzen CPU: Precision traditional, “all core” overclocking and Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO). The former is more of a manual process that provides potentially more reward while the latter is more fool-proof.

With a traditional all-core overclock, the tweaker's objective is to elevate the processor’s operating frequency and underlying features to a fixed setting that enables higher operating frequencies at the cost of bypassing the hardware’s normal voltage and temperature controls. The benefit for this approach is ‘What You See is What You Get,’ and deviations from expected results are typically due to the thermal, voltage, or current limitations of the processor or motherboard. In some cases, these types of overclocks lead to higher overall all-core performance over more extended periods, but come at the cost of bypassing power-saving features inherent to Ryzen processors.

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Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO), in contrast, automatically increases the voltage, power, and temperature limits defined by the chip and motherboard firmware. So instead of limiting a processor to 110 amps of current draw, for example, our motherboard now enables the regulators to provide 250 amps of current while maintaining other operating conditions. This method is a very simple and easy way for users to unlock untapped potential in their components while still leveraging many of the power efficiency technologies provided by the AGESA (BIOS) and OS software stacks. The downside is that PBO is just that: Potential. If, at any time, the system violates any of the three specifications, the firmware dials back the settings, which in some cases brings the system back to stock performance! Of course, users (and manufacturers) can modify these settings to extreme levels, and without proper knowledge and implementation, this can significantly impact the overall result. 

Ryzen Overclocking Goals: What’s Your Purpose? 

An overclock is only as good as its stability, and for that, we need to talk about testing. There are three basic genres of overclocks: competitive, performance, and daily-driver.

For competitive overclocks, processors are tuned to specific settings to reach maximum performance for an individual workload. If you browse around, a site that tracks competitive results, you'll see many examples of records that have obscene results and others that seem much tamer. In these instances, tuners typically only test stability for the benchmark at hand and often use advanced motherboard features and save motherboard presets for when they begin running their benchmarks.

Performance overclocks, on the other hand, cover a range of applications but might not be safe for all workloads. Most times, a gamut of benchmarks are run at a single overclock setting to validate stability, such as an x264 Handbrake encode followed by a 30 minute Blender render. These use cases verify that less-than-mission-critical work completes faster than normal while not risking too much in terms of stability.

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The daily driver overclocks are typically the most conservative of tweaks that aim for 100% uptime within specific “safe” operating parameters. Here, tests like Prime95, Realbench, AIDA64, and Memtest variants stress the system to the max and provide high confidence that standard applications do not exceed the tested limits.  

Regardless of the type of overclock, understanding workload performance is important.  AVX based workloads are going to hammer a Ryzen processor both thermally and electrically, which will tend to result in very conservative overclocks.  AVX-based tasks include Prime95, Blender, x264/x265 encoding, various security protocols and scientific workloads.  If the end goal is to run these applications under extreme overclock, make sure to invest in a solid cooling solution.

Ryzen Overclocking 101: Settings, Measurements, Tools 

Every setting you tweak to overclock is in your system’s BIOS (aka UEFI) interface (you can usually enter the BIOS by hitting Del at boot). Before you get started overclocking your AMD Ryzen CPU, make sure you install the latest “good” version of your motherboard’s BIOS firmware.  The reason we emphasize "good" is that sometimes manufacturers release software that isn't stable or locks features out. Browse your motherboard’s support page and read the release notes. More often than not, the latest version is typically the one to get.  But if you’re using an older-gen Ryzen processor, check the update notes, because some newer BIOS versions lock out older processors. 

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Before you change any settings, it’s important to know how your processor and motherboard work out of the box. Install and launch HWiNFO64, a free app that measures voltage, temperature and clock speeds. Then run an app you wish to test with. Each motherboard is different, but we look at each processor's voltage, thermals, and VRM temperatures, which usually look at VID (processor voltage), Tdie (temperature), and VRM_MOS (motherboard VRM temperature), respectively. When in doubt, stop by our forum and ask for some help before changing any settings! 

Next, let's talk about our most often used settings. Caution: READ THE MANUAL!

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Not all BIOSes are created equal, and manufacturers like to put their spin on some of the options (we're looking at you, Asus). If you're going the auto-overclocking Precision Boost Overdrive route, simply find the setting (sometimes under AMD CBS), select Enable, and you're done! 

Traditional overclocks are a bit more complicated, but are straight forward. In the CPU overclocking tab/menus, find the area that mentions "multiplier," and toggle manual control. From there, adjust the multiplier (MULT) up or down to increase/decrease the effective clock speed. The base clock (BCLK) is also in this area, and it impacts the effective clock speed as such:

Effective Clock = BCLK * MULT ( 3927 = 102 * 38.50 )

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However, we tend to leave BCLK alone because other devices (memory and PCIe) also rely on this clock, and deviating too far from expected values can drastically impact those interfaces' stability. These two settings alone can provide quick and dirty settings to get you started. 

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Now, reboot the machine and hopefully it POSTs (boots up)! If so, relaunch HWiNFO64, enable logging, clear the history, and run the application you’re testing. If you are just looking for general stability not related to a particular piece of software, using a stress-testing app like Prime95 will get the job done.

With any luck, the app runs in its entirety and the results will match your expectations. If the workload fails, restore the original working settings, and open up the previous HWiNFO64 log. We do this to diagnose if we hit a hardware condition that would cause a crash, such as high temperatures, low voltages, or excessive power. With that information in hand, we can make some adjustments.

Ryzen Overclocking 102: Voltage and Temperature 

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If your system isn’t stable after you turn up the clock speed, the CPU just might not be getting enough voltage to operate at that speed. If you turn up the VCORE, the voltage going to the processor, it may have enough power to deliver those extra MHz. But more voltage also generates more heat and too much voltage can damage your processor. 

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When it comes to adjusting the voltage on your Ryzen motherboard, the options vary based on the make and model. Many vendors place voltage controls within the overclocking or CPU frequency menus behind an additional voltage menu.  To maintain consistency, we tend to stick with manual controls where possible so we can specify the exact voltage we want to set.  

This voltage might not reflect the actual measured voltage, so take it slow (5 to 10mV steps) and measure how the change impacts the sensor readings.  Keep in mind, increasing voltage will also increase CPU temperatures.

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Of course, we are just scratching the surface, and many other factors account for voltage and power draw. BIOSes offer several methods of adjusting the voltage and modifying current draw (to an extent), so pick a method and see how it works. Also, check out some of our stress testing guides and motherboard articles to get a feel for how the different settings impact overclocking results, too. Your mileage may vary.

Safety is a highly contentious subject, and it is challenging to get people to agree on "safe" CPU voltage conditions for Ryzen processors. We can't trust all numbers thrown out on the internet because sometimes "1.35V" has no qualifiers, and we can't just throw that into our UEFI and expect things to work as intended. In general, we compare the reported VID from HWiNFO to the CPU Core reported in the UEFI and make the best guess on what the appropriate UEFI value should be. Advertised "maximum safe" values on the internet are 1.375V for Ryzen 1000 and 2000, while Ryzen 3000 tends to be 1.325V under load. We recommend running experiments with small steps up in voltage to get a sense of comfort with what a setting voltage translates into an operating voltage in the reporting software. Of course, external test equipment can reduce guesswork if you have access to that luxury.

The System-on-Chip (SoC) voltage is very important for Ryzen processors as it impacts the memory controller as well as other internal fabric voltages on the chip.  Similar to why we don’t adjust BCLK too much, this rail can impact system stability overall and should be a last ditch effort when tweaking memory speeds or fabric speeds.  For us, a general safe limit is 1.2V and the average overclocker should not deviate from the specification.

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Temperatures are a bit less controversial, and by default, the Ryzen 1000 and 2000 series like to run around 67C. Generally, AMD processors don't like to run as hot as Intel processors, so its best to keep them to a maximum temperature of 85 degrees Celsius  under load. 

Overclocking your Ryzen’s RAM 

After making some changes, it's time to relaunch our monitoring software, log the metrics , and execute our application. Hopefully, the adjustments correlate with the values shown in the log, and there's still room for more performance! Head back into the BIOS and continue through this tweak, test, tweak, test cycle until YOUR safe thresholds or performance criteria are met. We went ahead and created a flow chart to help guide you through the journey. 

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Once an acceptable processor frequency is reached, we turn our attention to our memory. Most DDR4 kits sold these days come with an eXtreme Memory Profile (XMP), and our first step is to enable that free performance. Just move over to the overclocking or memory menus in the BIOS and find the section for XMP (or DOCP) and load the default values. 

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Try to reboot the machine, but beware that the RAM might not come up on the first try. If the system boots, run a Memtest-style test (I use AIDA64's memory stress test, but there are many options) and run it as long as necessary. If the boot or test fails, proceed back to the BIOS and either select a different data rate and increase the DRAM timings, or both. 

Tweaking the memory interface isn't the primary goal of the article, but following the same trial and error procedure should find settings that work better than stock.  If XMP doesn’t quite satisfy the overclocking itch, with Ryzen 3000 processors, users can manipulate the fabric clock (FCLK). This feature can shift the system from a synchronous to asynchronous mode that could push the data rates even further at the expense of increased internal memory latency.

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Also, FCLK multipliers can be adjusted to compensate for this change, though be warned system instability likely follows.  Lastly, lowering memory timings is a great way to improve performance without changing voltage or frequency.  However, timings are very tightly coupled and adjusting one usually requires the adjustment of others. 

Bottom Line

As a rule, AMD Ryzen processors don’t have as much overclocking headroom as Intel models, but squeezing out that extra performance is a rewarding experience.  If you need more help, remember to check out our overclocking forum where the community is full of people who’ve overclocked Ryzen CPUs of their own.