If you need to ask a question about this guide it is best to message me directly or post in THIS THREAD.
This article is a beginner's guide to overclocking your recent generation nVidia Graphics Card. I used this method to successfully overclock my ASUS GTX660 OC edition, but it will work for most GPUs.
*Please read disclaimer at end of article before attempting any overclocks.
The goal of overclocking your video card is to get more performance out of your hardware than you paid for. If you can get yourself a dozen more FPS then call it a win. Hopefully with this guide you will be able to find yourself a nice stable overclock for that shiny new GPU or that old card you're trying to get a little bit more life out of.
Lets get started.....
First you need a tuner utility.
I use ASUS's GPU Tweak. You can download it HERE.
There is also RIVA tuner. Download it HERE.
Or MSI Afterburner. Download it HERE.
There are others out there, but I recommend these.
Download one of these and familiarize yourself with them, but don’t change any settings yet.
First, I would find an article online that reviews your particular GPU in depth to become more familiar with your card and its capabilities. It will help you know what to expect out of your card when it comes to overclocking. Many sites will even review the overclocking results they were able to produce. There really is value to doing your homework.
Next, you need to get a stress testing program. I use Unigine's Valley Benchmark or the Heaven Benchmark. Both are good. Download either of them HERE. Find another if you would like, but make sure that it documents performance. Example: min/max FPS, or an overall performance score.
Now download GPU-Z HERE. It is a hardware monitoring utility that will help you know exactly what is going on with your GPU. Familiarize yourself with the info shown, also open the "sensors" tab. Observe the graphs for a bit and familiarize yourself with them.
Now get yourself a notepad, or something to take notes with. Open whatever stress program you chose to use. (stick with the same one through the overclocking process to get consistent results. After OCing is done you can do whatever you would like concerning switching tests.)
Also open whichever tuner utility you chose and record on your notes the settings that are at default. Core speed, memory speed, etc. GPU-Z will also give you this data.
At this point you will start the benchmark. (Heaven or Valley; from here on out I will refer to it as Valley) Run Valley on stock settings, just whatever it defaults to. The program will load and begin playing a continuous loop of 3D graphics. At this point you should push "F9". It will begin documenting your GPU's performance. Let it run its course until a score card appears on your screen.
Now under where you wrote your default GPU settings record the score you received during the test. Now you know what your card is capable of at stock settings. From here we will be able to gauge if you have a good oc or not.
Be sure to observe the GPUs statistics in GPU-Z during the test. Watch the temperature, core speed, GPU load, etc. All cards are very different when it comes to temps, but as a general rule I won't get scared unless I see it going over 100*C. Newer cards run much cooler than that. During the tests your GPU laod should be at or near 100% almost the whole time. This is normal. Watch for major fluctuations in your core speed, this can be a sign of a unstable/poor performing overclock. You want your clock to hover at a level that is within about 100MHz of itself while at high loads.
Now exit Valley. Go to your tuner and bump up the core speed a couple notches. Ten MHz is a good first bump. (Some cards can do a much higher first bump. This can save you some time, but may cause issues in the long run when it comes to finding your stable OC.) Apply the changes. Record the settings in your notes.
Run valley again. Dont forget to press F9. Record your scores for that setting. Better performance score? Worse? More or less frames per second?
Bump it up another 10MHz. Repeat the benchmark. Record scores. Better? Worse?
Keep doing this a few times. At some point your performance is going to really decrease, the 3D images will get very distorted and not look right, your computer may freeze, or it may even crash down all the way. This is normal and expected. Make note at what setting it crashes or whatever.
Bump your clock back down about 5MHz. Try again. Any Changes? Better score? More crashes?
If more crashes then go back down another 5MHz to your most recent stable setting. Test again and record data.
At some point you are going to find a nice happy medium. Find that sweet spot. Monitor performance, not just MHz. Sometimes more MHz can actually hurt the performance of your card. It does on mine. I had to find the sweet spot. Just because you have a high setting, doesn't mean that it is good. Look for the performance boost, not the MHz boost.
Now set your core clock back to default.
We will now try and find your memory OC. Bump your memory up by 100MHz. Run Valley and repeat the above steps of testing and recording. Look for changes in performance and visual quality.
Keep bumping in 100MHz intervals. Then drop back 50MHz just like the method we just did until you find a nice performing memory overclock.
Now set both the core and the memory to the optimal settings you just found. Run Valley and record performance. Better? Worse? Crashes? Freezes? These are all likely.
If so drop the memory down a bit. Then try again. Or maybe drop the core down a bit. (Drop memory clock before core, core gives more performance.) Repeat this until you feel you have the best performing overclock you can get. Look at scores, not MHz.
Once you've found the "sweet spot", you may want to run Valley on a loop for a few hours. Maybe bump up the quality settings on it to push it even further. This will help insure stability on your OC. If you get crashes or bugs during the long test, then drop the OC down a bit.
My initial GPU "stable" overclock worked great in Valley, Heaven, Cinemark, and other benchmarks, but totally would crash in game. Specifiacally DiRT 3. I had to find a lower overclock that was suitable for that game. So you may want to use your favorite game as the final stability test.
I'm sure you'll have questions. Just ask, but mostly just keep trying. It took me quite a while to find my ideal OC. Sorry if I have written this too simple or have insulted your intelligence at all, not my intent. I am just writing this as if you are very new to it all.
Good luck with all your Overclocking!
NOTE: If I have made any errors, or have any suggestions, please feel free to message me.
*DISCLAIMER: Most overclocking is relatively safe. Hardware and software have built in safety measures that usually prevent serious damage to itself, but everything has a risk. I make no guarantee with regards to the safety or effectiveness of this guide. Overclocking, volt modding, over-volting, hardware mods, and software hacks all can lead to major hardware damage or complete failure. Most overclocking is not covered by manufacturer or vendor warranties. If you engage in overclocking, you will most likely void your warranty. DO ALL OVERCLOCKING AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!