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How to Overclock Any Raspberry Pi

Overclocking Raspberry Pi
A selection of active and passive cooling products for the Raspberry Pi 4. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

There’s free, extra performance buried inside your Raspberry Pi. Just as you can overclock a PC, increasing its CPU speed above stock, you can overclock any model of Raspberry Pi .  In fact, on newer models, you can not only turn up the Raspberry PI’s CPU speed, but also its GPU speed. You can, for example, get a Raspberry Pi 4, which defaults to 1.5 GHz CPU / 500 MHz GPU all the way  up to 2.1 GHz / 750 MHz or perhaps even higher.

We’ve written in the past about the benefits of overclocking a Raspberry Pi 4 specifically, but the methods below will work on any Pi model. We also have a table of recommended Raspberry Pi overclock settings for everything from the Raspberry Pi 1 to the Zero / Zero W  at the bottom. 

Before you begin the process of overclocking your Raspberry Pi, make sure that you have adequate cooling. At minimum, you should have a heat sink on the CPU and chipset, but a fan such as the Pimoroni Fan Shim  is better. Note, of course, that while unlikely, it’s also possible to damage your Pi during the process.  

How to Overclock a Raspberry Pi 

1. Attach a fan or heatsink to the Raspberry Pi before powering on.

A Raspberry Pi 4 with Pimoroni’s Fan Shim providing active cooling.  (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

2. Update the available repositories and then upgrade your Raspberry Pi. This will ensure we have the latest software available. 

sudo apt update && sudo apt dist-upgrade

3. Open config.txt for editing. It’s found in the /boot directory. 

sudo nano /boot/config.txt

 4. At the bottom of the file make a new line and add the corresponding data from the table below for your model of Raspberry Pi. If you choose to use this card in a different model of Raspberry Pi later, you should change or remove this first.

5. Save the file by pressing CTRL + X, Y then ENTER.

6. Reboot the Raspberry Pi. If the Raspberry Pi fails to boot, power off the Raspberry Pi, remove the micro SD card and insert it into another computer. In the BOOT partition edit config.txt and check your settings. You may need to reduce the overclock by 100MHz in order to boot.

7. With the Raspberry Pi booted to the desktop open a new terminal. To see the current CPU speed of the Pi updated every second use this command.

watch -n 1 vcgencmd measure_clock arm

When idle the CPU will run at around 600MHz, if we were to open a web browser or another heavy application such as Wolfram, then the CPU speed would increase to match the demand. 

Running the Chromium browser on a content heavy website will force the CPU to work. (Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Overclocking values for all models of Pi 

All of these values have been tested with our Raspberry Pis but you may need to tweak the settings as per step 6. 

Modelconfig.txt settings
Raspberry Pi 1 Model A & Barm_freq=1000
core_freq=450
over_voltage=6
Raspberry Pi A+ / B+ / Compute Module Cooling Requiredarm_freq=1100
core_freq=450
sdram_freq=450
over_voltage=6
Raspberry Pi 2 v1.1arm_freq=1000
core_freq=500
over_voltage=2
Raspberry Pi 2 V1.2 (Shares the same CPU as a Raspberry Pi 3)arm_freq=1300
core_freq=500
over_voltage=4
Raspberry Pi 3 & Compute Module 3arm_freq=1300
core_freq=500
over_voltage=4
Raspberry Pi 3 A+ / B+ / Compute Module 3+arm_freq=1500
over_voltage=4
Raspberry Pi 4arm_freq=2100
gpu_freq=750
over_voltage=6
Raspberry Pi Zero / Zero Warm_freq=1100
core_freq=450
over_voltage=6
  • PrinceTexasLoaf
    WOW! What an incredibly neat article I never even thought of overclocking a Rasberry Pi.
    Reply
  • CooliPi
    A few practical tips though.

    Thanks to silicon lottery, your particular unit may not overclock proportionally the gpu and the cpu part the same as well. So, if you don't need faster graphics, don't overclock its GPU. This increases your chance to overclock higher and have a stable system. Also lower power consumption and less supply current means better stability.

    Raspberry Pis with 4 CPU cores may hit a power delivery wall when loaded with all 4 cores active. The integrated PMIC (power management IC) may not supply the needed current for all of the cores, and turn itself off for a short period of time, thus rebooting the Pi. Cool the PMIC too.

    Don't overvolt at max if you need all-core load (kernel compiles, heavy number crunching etc). Here we have a RPI4 which can run at 1850MHz with all cores active with over_voltage=2, but with higher over_voltage=3, it reboots when loaded. Higher over_voltage means also higher current and the PMIC circuitry has limited output current. The hotter the PMIC and its surrounding inductors, the less current it can supply. This is a limitation of the PMIC chip, not the BCM chipset.

    So, if you encounter occasional reboots under heavy load, it may be the overheating of the PMIC. If your Pi locks up, it won't be this particular problem, but perhaps silicon lottery loss.

    Underclocking a GPU part may be an interesting way of increasing overclockability (more stable system), but AFAIK, older Raspberry Pis had L2 cache tied to the GPU, so underclocking it may slow the CPU too.

    I've documented how the PMIC of Raspberry Pi 4 heats - all other chips being cooled directly to a heatsink. The view is from an underside, i.e. you see the heated PCB . Lower left corner is the PMIC.
    Reply
  • Matt_ogu812
    How well would the Raspberry Pi 4 respond to water cooling or is it even possible?

    Thanks!
    Reply
  • CooliPi
    https://www.tomshardware.com/news/waterproof-your-raspberry-pi,40446.html
    ...but it needs that you impregnate the whole surface with isolating coating and it ain't gonna last long. Or you may use mineral oil or some special dielectric coolant, there are many options.

    But none of them is practical. The most practical (to me) is a heatsink with a large surface area. Hence CooliPi...
    Reply
  • CooliPi
    Matt_ogu812 said:
    How well would the Raspberry Pi 4 respond to water cooling or is it even possible?

    Thanks!

    Here you can see how the Raspberry Pi responds to liquid Nitrogen cooling.

    RbzKM5XxlOAView: https://youtu.be/RbzKM5XxlOA
    Reply
  • Todd Melanson
    Was so glad when I found a RPi overclocking tutorial here at Tom's, a site I trust to get it right.

    There are all kinds of tutorials out there but none of them I've come across anyway, mentioned the core_freq and sdram_freq.

    I have two RPi4 - 4Gbs. The first I got to 2147, but after about an hour it would finally crash. I just dropped it to 2140 and it's rock solid; been surfing and working in terminal all day with like 10+ tabs open in Chromium. No problems.

    For anyone who finds those numbers impressive (I do!), keep in mind, I am using Ice Tower Fan/Heatsink Coolers on both units. One is mounted to the top surface of an Argon Neo aluminum case, and the other is just using the included Ice Tower 'case', which I don't really consider a case, as it doesn't protect the inner hardware from physical damage in any way. I'm looking at my sensor readings right now, and they have yet to go above 34 degrees celcius even at full load. Wow!!

    I didn't get as lucky in the silicon lottery with the second RPi4. After MANY adjustments, it settled in at 2070. But again, absolutely rock solid. I do not feel any noticeable performance difference between 2.07 and 2.14 Ghz.

    The main benefits I'm seeing with the OC's are:

    Web browsing is now nearly as good as my 8th Gen i5 laptop - impressive!! No more hesitating when scrolling, everything is smooth as buttah. I think force_turbo=1 is what is making that such a better experience.

    Video: with the latest update to RaspberryPi OS 64-Bit, you can now enable fake GL drivers and Compositor, and YouTube performance is greatly improved. (I tried every combination, this is the best one) There is still occasional tearing, but MUCH MUCH less. It's perfectly acceptable. Also, hardly any dropped frames, and 90% of those seem to always happen in the first 15 seconds of the video. I ran Big Buck Bunny at 1080p/60fps and only had 11 dropped frames throughout the entire video. Again, impressive.

    As soon as I finish this post (Rpi Zero is finishing rpi-update) I am going to OC the Zero W and see how far I can get that to go.

    Here are my OC settings for 2140, pretty much the same as you suggest:












    Reply