When you first set up your system its hardware components are set to function at a certain level. This is known as the factory settings and they’re set for hardware components like the CPU and GPU. The factory settings for a hardware component lie within a reasonable range of its capabilities; they do not restrict the hardware too much but they do not always allow the hardware to run at its maximum potential.
Users who want to get the most out of their hardware choose to overclock it. Users who need the hardware to slow down, will underclock it.
Underclock hardware components
Underclocking hardware, much like overclocking it, has its own set of problems. The factory settings for the GPU are set so that it is stable when it runs with the other hardware components on the system, and so that it can handle the load of work it is expected to. When a GPU is underclocked, the apps that need it may not work as well, they may freeze, they may not work at all, your system might crash, or the system might heat up.
Like overclocking, underclocking of a GPU should be taken seriously and done with caution. As such, follow this guide at your own risk.
Underclock a GPU
The easiest way to underclock a GPU is to use a GUI tool. We recommend using MSI Afterburner since it works with both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.
- Download and install MSI Afterburner. It will also install the RivaTuner Statistics Server.
- Once installed, run the app and make sure your GPU is listed.
- On the left dial, you will see ‘GPU Clock’ and its current value in Mhz.
- In the middle of the app window, you will see the Core Clock slider. Move the knob to the left to begin underclocking the GPU.
- Select a profile configuration under profiles.
- Click the apply button.
GPU Clock Speeds: Pros vs Cons
Underclocking has some advantages;
- An underclocked GPU will consume less energy.
- Your system will, generally, run cooler so long as the other hardware components aren’t put under too much stress.
- The system will also run more quietly; since the GPU won’t heat up as much as it would have when it was running on its factory-set levels, the fans won’t run as often or as fast as they normally would.
Underclocking a GPU also comes with some disadvantages;
- Your system may become unstable, especially when you use apps that need the GPU running at its full power.
- The system may slow down or various apps may start to crash when they try to use the GPU.
- Although rare, the GPU might be damaged physically especially if it continues to receive more power than it needs from the PSU.
Underclocking vs Undervolting
The MSI Afterburner app has two features; underclocking and undervolting. Undervolting is entirely different from underclocking.
Undervolting limits how much power the GPU draws and it is an effective method to increase the performance of your system. When you undervolt the GPU, you’re able to limit how much power it draws even when it has been overclocked. It runs much cooler than it normally would but it still runs efficiently at its overclocked or factory-set rate.
Undervolting can give you better performance however, it may not always have a positive effect. You may end up with the same, or nearly the same performance as before. It is exceptionally rare that the system’s performance drops as a result but it is still possible.
MSI Afterburner makes it exceptionally simple to underclock a GPU, regardless if it is an AMD chip or an NVIDIA chip.
While it is easy to make this change to your hardware, and just as easy to revert it, you should still exercise some caution. Underclock the GPU in small increments and see how it affects the system’s performance. If it becomes too unstable at some point, you will know what value is too low.
You can also check online for the best underclocking values for your GPU chipset. If it’s a popular and fairly recent chip, you will be able to find suitable values to set for its clock.