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AMD Confirms Its GPU Drivers Are Overclocking CPUs Without Asking

AMD Ryzen CPUs

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

AMD has confirmed to Tom's Hardware that a bug in its GPU driver is, in fact, changing Ryzen CPU settings in the BIOS without permission. This condition has been shown to auto-overclock Ryzen CPUs without the user's knowledge.

"We are aware of an issue in the AMD software suite that is adjusting certain AMD processor settings for some users. We are investigating the issue and we’ll share more information as soon as we’re able." — AMD representative to Tom's Hardware.

Reports of this issue began cropping up on various social media outlets recently, with users reporting that their CPUs had mysteriously been overclocked without their consent. The issue was subsequently investigated and tracked back to AMD's GPU drivers.

AMD originally added support for automatic CPU overclocking through its GPU drivers last year, with the idea that adding in a Ryzen Master module into the Radeon Adrenalin GPU drivers would simplify the overclocking experience. Users with a Ryzen CPU and Radeon GPU could use one interface to overclock both. Previously, it required both the GPU driver and AMD's Ryzen Master software.

Overclocking a Ryzen CPU requires the software to manipulate the BIOS settings, just as we see with other software overclocking utilities. For AMD, this can mean simply engaging the auto-overclocking Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) feature. This feature does all the dirty work, like adjusting voltages and frequency on the fly, to give you a one-click automatic overclock.

However, applying a GPU profile in the AMD driver can now inexplicably alter the BIOS settings to enable automatic overclocking. This is problematic because of the potential ill effects of overclocking — in fact, overclocking a Ryzen CPU automatically voids the warranty. AMD's software typically requires you to click a warning to acknowledge that you understand the risks associated with overclocking, and that it voids your warranty, before it allows you to overclock the system. Unfortunately, that isn't happening here.

Overclocking isn't suitable for all systems, particularly those with lower-end coolers or motherboards, for instance. Naturally, overclocking also exposes you to an increased risk of BSODs that can ultimately result in data loss. Overclocking also causes other ill side effects, like excessive heat generation, which is problematic if you don't have a suitable cooler.

Luckily Ryzen CPUs have robust protection features built in to prevent any physical damage to the chip. Still, system instability from a warranty-voiding feature isn't acceptable if you aren't made aware of the risks first. As such, we're sure that AMD will work quickly to resolve the issue. The company says that it will share more information soon, and we've asked about the warranty implications of this driver bug. We'll update you as we learn more.

Until then, users have taken to using the Radeon Software Slimmer to delete the Ryzen Master SDK from the GPU driver, thus preventing any untoward changes to the BIOS settings. This is not official advice from AMD, though, and since this is third-party software, proceed at your own risk. Also, note that users of Intel CPUs obviously aren't affected.

Paul Alcorn
Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.

  • JamesJones44
    Having this ability seems like a bad idea. If a simple driver can alter the bios settings, this could be used by malicious 3rd party driver to wreak havoc on a system if they decided it was fun.
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    JamesJones44 said:
    Having this ability seems like a bad idea. If a simple driver can alter the bios settings, this could be used by malicious 3rd party driver to wreak havoc on a system if they decided it was fun.
    Which would only be a problem if a malicious actor managed to get AMD's private key that's used to sign the drivers. Otherwise, it's very hard to install an untrusted driver.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    I'm sure AMD will fix it soon enough.
    Reply
  • peachpuff
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    I'm sure AMD will fix it soon enough.
    But... but it's a feature!
    Reply
  • wifiburger
    JamesJones44 said:
    Having this ability seems like a bad idea. If a simple driver can alter the bios settings, this could be used by malicious 3rd party driver to wreak havoc on a system if they decided it was fun.

    if that's your concern, the Ryzen master DLL is already running if you have RyzenMaster installed (check Autoruns -Sysinternal tool under Drivers section)

    there's no safety checks for writing bios settings on AMD; any malicious software could technically do it and if the DLL is not there it can get loaded
    Reply
  • Why_Me
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    I'm sure AMD will fix it soon enough.
    Like they did with their USB ports?
    Reply
  • tommo1982
    JamesJones44 said:
    Having this ability seems like a bad idea. If a simple driver can alter the bios settings, this could be used by malicious 3rd party driver to wreak havoc on a system if they decided it was fun.
    ... and he'd what. Make the system crash? Unless one of the safety mechanisms is faulty the PC would freeze or shutdown. Phishing or ransomware is much more dangerous. CPU/mobo you can replace. Your life's savings... not so much.
    Reply
  • tommo1982
    Admin said:
    AMD has confirmed to Tom's Hardware that a bug in its Adrenalin GPU drivers is causing changes to CPU settings in the BIOS, which results in the CPU being overclocked without the user's permission.

    AMD Confirms Its GPU Drivers Are Overclocking CPUs Without Asking : Read more

    That was fast. Luckily we will have new adrenaline driver with a fix, soon.
    Reply
  • B-Bus-Ch
    I'm not managing my CPUs overclock and am having zero stability issues for the last year while updating Adrenaline each time, while using both an AMD processor and GPU.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    wifiburger said:
    if that's your concern, the Ryzen master DLL is already running if you have RyzenMaster installed (check Autoruns -Sysinternal tool under Drivers section)

    there's no safety checks for writing bios settings on AMD; any malicious software could technically do it and if the DLL is not there it can get loaded
    Even if this is true (and I have no idea if it is), I'm going to assume that the malicious software would need administrative privileges to do that. And if you have malware running with admin privileges then you're already screwed, regardless of whether it can modify BIOS settings.
    Reply