Overclocking sounds intimidating, and the process of overclocking isn’t any more reassuring when it comes to the safety of the procedure. However, after doing some research, I was able to get more info on its safety.
Overclocking should be safe because graphics cards have hard locks in place to prevent you from destroying your graphics card. But, it can still lower the lifespan of your graphics card.
Now let’s look deeper into the safety of overclocking and whether or not you should do it.
Is GPU Overclocking Safe?
Overclocking should be safe from an immediate catastrophic end to your graphics card because graphics cards put hard locks in place to keep you from overdoing it and causing that damage.
The real threat to your GPU is the constant degrading that can happen from both the voltage and high temperatures maintained over time.
Overclocking causes your GPU to generate more heat, so your graphics card will have higher measured temperatures.
If you are consistently running at 79C when you could be running at 70C at stock, you will wear down your graphics card faster.
This is overtime, of course, and is expediting something that already happens naturally.
This shouldn’t be anything that causes severe immediate damage to the graphics card. It’s simply something that would shave some time off of an already long expected lifespan of your GPU.
The catastrophic events should be avoided due to fail-safe measures.
Once you reach about 84C, which may be more or less depending on your graphics card, you will experience thermal throttling.
This is a significant performance decrease and lowering in your GPU’s power output to decrease temperature immediately.
If you happen to blast past this measure, too, that will lead to a hard shutdown as an ultra-failsafe in extreme situations.
These two procedures prevent the event where your components heat up too much and start to melt.
For reference, silicone melts at around 150C, and your graphics card should shutdown by 100C.
Ideally, you want your temperatures to be below 84C when at 100% load during your overclock.
This ensures that when you reach your max load, you aren’t reaching thermal throttling, but that number may be different for some GPUs.
While overclocking, you can experience black screens, crashing, and other similar issues resulting from pushing your GPU too far.
Fortunately, this is known in overclocking communities and guides as part of the process of finding where your max overclock is.
I’ll include several guides for overclocking below so you can do it as safely as possible.
Now let’s look at the next section, where we dive deeper into how overclocking may shorten the life of your GPU.
Does Overclocking GPU Shorten Life?
Overclocking your GPU can shorten your life if you overdo it.
Two things are known to shorten the lifespan of a GPU while overclocking.
One is oversupplying your GPU with voltage, and the other is heating up your GPU too much while overclocking.
Starting with voltage, I’ll say that there are ways to overclock without increasing your voltage at all.
However, if you do still choose to increase the voltage, there are two ways it can harm your build.
The first is an excessive distribution of power that leads to the component frying and some other parts’ possible end.
This scenario is unlikely due to the NVIDIA hard locks on temperature and voltage controls in MSI Afterburner. You shouldn’t experience this.
The more likely scenario is the slow wearing down of your component due to the increased voltage that the GPU isn’t technically built to run at.
This process of wearing down already happens by default. Increasing the electricity flowing through these pathways could further expedite the process and shave some years off the lifespan.
The temperature-related scenarios can also do some slow damage to your graphics card if you are running at a constantly high temperature, which is also very common for overclocking.
The constant process of heating up and cooling down also affects the tech inside your GPU. Of course, this also is something that happens over time if you are overclocking or running stock.
The thing is, when you heat it up to even higher temperatures then cool it down, even more, the temp swings are much larger.
Materials can crack, solder, and other things can degrade, and this is another case of expediting something that already happens.
But, you may be able to keep your temperatures low enough so that this isn’t a problem. However, this might mean lowering the overclock, which questions how much the waning FPS gain is worth it.
So, yes overclocking will lower lifespan if the voltage is higher and the temperatures are higher.
Keep in mind, though, if your graphics card’s lifespan was 10 years and it becomes 5 years due to a constant overclock.
Do you need it to last longer than that, or are you going to replace the GPU sooner than 5 years anyway?
I couldn’t find a precise amount of time overclocking reduces, so that’s a hypothetical to pose an important question, and the reduction in lifespan could be a lot less.
If you replace often, it may make more of a case to overclock since you won’t likely ever see the true end to the GPU.
But if you need your GPU to last for a while, it may be the smarter move money-wise to run its stock and maximize the lifespan.
Is GPU Overclocking Worth It?
At the end of the day, overclocking is a risk that can lower your GPU lifespan if you do it too excessively.
However, you gain FPS from it in-game, which can make it very worth doing for some.
How much it is worth it, or how much it will improve your FPS depends on how much you overclock your GPU and how much overclocking your GPU allows in the first place.
All graphics cards will have a limit as to how much you can push the overclock. The difference is some have much higher limits than others.
I have an EVGA 2070 Super Black Gaming graphics card, and although the stock clock is much better than the 1070ti I came from, I can’t really overclock it that much.
At the most, I can get about 3-5 more frames out of my new GPU, so for me, it isn’t worth putting in the time effort just to get a few more frames.
However, other EVGA cards have much higher caps even within the EVGA 2070 product line, so it really depends.
Also, even if you do have a higher capacity for overclocking, some people choose not to.
This can be a good choice because it gives you more wiggle room between your max temp and your overclock average temp.
Many people also choose not to increase the voltage to maintain the lifespan as much as possible.
Really this is more for peace of mind. Most people will max out their GPU, and if they have any issues in the future, they can always step it down.
If you want to know if overclocking your GPU specifically will give you any worthwhile performance boost, I recommend looking up your GPU model and add overclocked or overclocking.
Usually, the Reddit results are filled with people that have tried it out and are willing to show their honest tests and views on how helpful it can be for your exact GPU.
I can’t tell you how worthwhile overclocking is for you, but for me, it seems like an unnecessary risk that can shorten the life of my GPU for a few more average FPS.
Does Overclocking GPU Increase FPS?
Overclocking your GPU should increase FPS, although how much entirely depends on the things we listed above.
The extent to which you overclock and how much your GPU allows you to overclock will dictate how much of an FPS boost you get in-game.
The general rule of thumb seems to be a 0-15% boost in FPS from what you are getting now.
Many people will likely fall somewhere in the middle of that range.
If you are careful with your overclocking, it is possible to safely do it without meaningfully impacting your graphics card’s lifespan.
However, if you choose to go maximum overclock with as much voltage as you can and a much higher average temp than stock, you will likely shorten the lifespan.
This may not be the crazy end to your graphics card, and for many, this may not matter.
If you replace your graphics card often, you are shaving off time you’d likely never use, so the small boost is worth it.
However, if you have to keep your graphics card around for an extended period of time, I would recommend staying away from extreme overclocking at the very least.