Most manufacturers tend to clock GPUs conservatively to ensure that all units in the batch work as intended. What this means for you as an end-user is that your GPU is almost certainly capable of running faster than its out-of-the-box performance would suggest. That’s where GPU overclocking software comes in.
The best software utility for overclocking can change from card to card. In general, MSI Afterburner is a popular option for GPU overclocking, and it has a lot going for it. It works with Nvidia and AMD cards, has robust framerate, GPU monitoring via RTSS, and it lets you tweak the big three: core voltage, core clocks, and memory clocks. However, there are drawbacks to it being such a platform-agnostic tool. Most of the items on our list here are exclusive to one or other vendor and they let you do things that aren’t possible with other software. Afterburner lets you control basic overclocking but there are other options out there if you really want to get your hands dirty. We’ve curated a list of the best GPU overclocking utilities here for you.
Before we begin
Make sure you have a reliable PSU with enough wattage to supply your overclock GPU. And to avoid any serious damage to your GPU, I recommend using stress-testing software like Unigine Heaven and only overclocking the GPU by 5% of the default value.
Best GPU Overclocking Software
1. AMD Wattman
Who it’s for: The default choice for AMD users
Wattman is what I personally use with my RX 580 and it has a lot going in its favor. For starters, it’s an official GPU overclocking tool that’s part of the Radeon control panel. This means if you don’t have to install anything extra: If you have an AMD card and drivers installed, Wattman is already there. You just have to right-click, then click on AMD settings, and then select the Gaming tab and you’re there.
Wattman gives you wide-ranging control over core clock, memory clock, fan speeds, and voltage. The interface, with a clean and contrasting color, is far better designed than the other options in this list. It just looks nice.
There are a couple of things you can do in Wattman that you can’t do in the apps. For starters, Wattman settings are the default settings for your GPU. This means that if load a stable overclocking config in Wattman, it’ll load this the next time you boot up. You don’t have to apply OC settings each time you boot.
Second, you get control over a very specific setting called memory timing. Other solutions here don’t let you adjust VRAM timings (these are distinct from the VRAM clock). Better timing can give you an extra few FPS for free.
That sais, Wattman’s not without its drawbacks: It can be unstable at times. And the only way to fix this is to wait for an AMD driver update to rectify it. Sometimes, AMD mysteriously pulls settings out of Wattman and then puts them back in with the next driver update. Another weakness is in terms of voltage control. Wattman lets you set voltages but its max overvoltage setting is much lower than what you’d get in Trixxx or Afterburner.
- Great out-of-the-box experience: Most AMD users won’t need to install anything else
- Great-looking interface
- Fine-grained control over-voltage, clockspeeds, and fan speed
- Limited overvoltage adjustment
- Radeon updates can cause it to be unstable
Download AMD Radeon Drivers (Wattman comes bundled)
2. Sapphire TriXX
Who it’s for: AMD power users who want to extract the most performance from their cards
Wattman is a great option for regular users who’re happy to settle for moderate overclocks. However, as we mentioned earlier, it’s main drawback is limited support for overvoltage. Heavy overclocking depends on increasing core voltage. Overvolting isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Voltage tuning isn’t going to void your warranty in most cases. However, overvolted cards can generate a lot of heat while consuming prodigious amounts of power. So it might not be for you unless you great temps and a hefty power supply. If you do and you’re looking to extract every drop of available GPU power, you might be disappointed by Wattman’s conservative voltage limits
TriXX lets you set GPU voltages way higher. We mean +100mV and beyond. If your card has adequate cooling and don’t mind the increased power load, TriXX is actually the only option available (short of some very risky hacks) to run your card at such high voltages since even Afterburner tops out at +100mV.
In most cases, though, unless you’ve got a water block, you’re not going to have adequate cooling to fully make use of TriXX’s prodigious OC capabilities. Whenever I get a new AMD card, I find myself pushing boundaries with TriXX initially, and then settling for a more viable long-term OC via Wattman. It also has its own set of limitations. Most relevant is the lack of RTSS integration. This makes its GPU and frame monitor tools a lot less robust than the competition
- Higher voltage threshold lets you push cards to the max
- Few cards are actually stable at very high voltages
- Poor GPU and frame monitoring solution
3. EVGA Precision X1
Who it’s for: Nvidia users who want a great, one-click OC solution
EVGA Precision X1 only works on Nvidia cards so if you’re sporting something from Team Red, you’re out of luck. For Nvidia users, though, Precision X1 offers enough great functionality to make it our recommendation. Personally, I’ve used different versions EVGA’s Precision software series for the Nvidia cards I’ve owned or reviewed. Precision X1’s “OC Scanner” is a key feature. It addresses one of the key pain points associated with overclocking: Users have to spend a lot of time manually stress-testing their hardware to find a stable OC.
I’ve spent days tweaking particularly temperamental cards. An older reference RX 480 only ran stable at a very specific voltage-clock speed combination I discovered after several days of hair-pulling frustration. Precision X1’s OC Scanner does away with this annoyance by automating the overclocking process. It stress-tests a range of clockspeeds and voltages to identify stable overclocks for you.
OC Scanner won’t take your card to the absolute limit but it can get you very close to your card’ max potential. RTSS integration is present here. What this means is that you get a powerful suite of in-game framerate and GPU monitoring tools, allowing you to monitor temps, voltages, and core clocks in-game. The only real con here is that Precision X is limited to Nvidia cards.
- OC Scanner automates the overclocking process
- RTSS integration for great GPU monitoring
4. Intel XTU
Who it’s for: Intel HD users who want to squeeze a bit of extra performance out of iGPUs
Intel GPUs get a bad rep and it’s not entirely unjustified. The Intel HD line offers the worst GPU performance you can get. We would only recommend gaming on Intel HD Graphics if you have no other option. And, honestly, with the proliferation of cheap AMD APUs which combine decent graphics performance with Ryzen CPU grunt, there’s little reason to game on an iGPU unless you’re stuck with the one in your laptop or tablet. Now that’s an entirely different scenario.
My Smartron Tbook laptop-tablet hybrid sports a Core M processor and the Intel HD 5500 iGPU. This isn’t even the most powerful Intel GPU, but it’s just about enough to let you get away with playable framerates in lighter seventh-gen titles. A lot of the time, though, framerates hover frustratingly in the high-twenties: the HD 5500 just needs a little boost there to push things into the playable territory.
Unfortunately, most GPU overclocking tools on the market don’t work with iGPUs. Install Precision XOC or TriXX and, well, nothing will happen. Thankfully, Intel themselves came up with a decent overclocking utility called XTU (Extreme Tuning Utility). Its primary emphasis is on CPU overclocking. But it does let you play with the GPU clock and voltages.
Keep in mind that Intel likes to lock down features in most of their SKUs. I found that, while XTU didn’t actually let me overclock my iGPU, it allowed me to adjust GPU voltages.
In thermal and power-constrained form factors like laptops and tabs, undervolting can be just as effective as overclocking: You drop the voltage to allow the GPU to operate at peak frequencies for longer. XTU isn’t a real substitute for a GPU overclocking tool and it is very limited in terms of what you can do with it. But something’s still better than nothing, right?
- Offers Intel users some control over their iGPUs
- Very limited feature set
- Certain Intel chips may be more locked down than others
Each of these overclocking utilities has its strengths and drawbacks. They’re meant for a range of different users, too. Precision X1 is for Nvidia users seeking simple, automatic overclocks. Wattman and TriXX, meanwhile are utilities targeted towards AMD users. Wattman offers great functionality out of the box, but prevents you from hitting extreme overclocks (presumably since AMD doesn’t want you to fry your Radeon silicon).
TriXX lets you take things a step further, but it’s limited in terms of monitoring capabilities. Finally, Intel XTU is the option of last resort for Intel users. It offers very limited GPU tweaking functionality. However, in thermally limited situations, a good core undervolt in XTU can let you run your iGPU at peak frequencies for longer.
If you spent all your cash on a monster GPU, you’ll want to check out these great, free open-source games while you wait for your wallet to recharge.