Unlike our motherboards where we overclock them by entering the BIOS and making certain adjusts and wala overclocked goodness. Video cards are a bit different, we can overclock them by backing up the BIOS that is being used, then use a BIOS editor to modify the BIOS; then, reflash the video card with the modified BIOS (not advisable for anyone new to overclocking). Or we can take a much simpler approach to overclocking our video cards ;). This easier way overclocking our video cards is by using software programs inside our Windows OS (Operating System) to make adjustments to the GPU clock frequencies, the memory frequencies, and if the video card or the software program supports it we can adjust the voltage to the GPU to get an even higher frequency.
I am not going to go through all of the programs out there that we can use to overclock our video cards. Instead I will show you how use MSI Afterburner, as I like the overall usage of this program over the others because I am giving a lot of flexibility on my adjustments, and this program supports a wide variety of different video cards and manufacturers. I should mention that MSI Afterburner is also based off a very popular program that we used years ago, RivaTuner (which makes sense why I like MSI Afterburner).
We at the DGC do not take any responsibility for your actions regarding overclocking your video card. Read this guide thoroughly prior to making any adjustments, and get your self familiar with MSI Afterburner. And most importantly TAKE YOUR TIME.
Before we get started on the usage of MSI Afterburner we need to download it and get it installed. You can download it HERE. Once you got it downloaded go ahead and install it and run it. There will be a short cut located on your desktop.
This guide is based on using a 6970 video card, you can still apply this technique to any video card on the market today, that includes all of Nvidia and ATI/AMD based video cards.
Overview and Getting to know MSI Afterburner
This is what you should have up on your desktop. It might be a bit smaller looking but it is still the same thing, I will show you where you can change the colors, and the size a little later. As you can see there are a lot of settings for you to overclock your video cards. AMD/ATI video cards will use the Core Clock adjustment. For Nvidia video cards you will either have both of the Core Clock and Shader Clock sliders available. The window to the right is where you can monitor your video cards temperature and usage etc. etc.That window is detachable. If you click on the Detach button it will detach it self from MSI Afterburner.
Just showing you that it can be detached and placed anywhere on the desktop. To reattach it to MSI Afterburner, just close it.
You will be presented with this window. This window will list any video cards you have installed on the computer up in the first drop down menu. If you are running multiple video cards (SLI or Crossfire) you can synchronize the cards clock frequencies together, so all you have to do is set one and your done. The little boxes you see is where you can set MSI to start with windows, and have it minimized to the task bar upon startup, and where you can unlock the voltage control if it applies to your video card. Check all of the little boxes.)Like so.
To make an adjustment to the fan, just click on one of the squares and move it to a desired % of fan speed.
Moving on to the monitoring tab of MSI Afterburner. This is where you can dictate what you want to monitor or do not want to monitor. To turn something on or off, just check or uncheck that specific monitoring portion. Similar to Riva Tuner, we can also monitor our framerates. Each setting can either be monitored by OSD (On Scren Display) or by the tray Icon, the Show in Logitech keyboard only applies to those who have a Logitech keyboard with a built in LCD.
The On Screen Display tab gives you a few more options for toggling the OSD. Turn it on or off while in game, without having to exit game and turn on or off the OSD. I never tried this portion of MSI Afterburner, as by using the OSD will reduce your frame rates by a few FPS.The Screenshots tab is where you can set up the screenshot capability of MSI Afterburner. I could never get this to work right.
This is where we can change the look of MSI afterburner (in case the compact MSI Afterburner Green is annoying). Also you can turn off the “tips” when you move your mouse over the monitoring window of MSI Afterburner (also gets really annoying).Typically if you make any major changes you will have to restart MSI Afterburner.
Overclocking With MSI Afterburner
WARNING: If your video while at a default clock frequency is idling at 55C, or Full load is at the 85/90C THEN DO NOT OVERCLOCK YOUR CARD.
If you noticed from my first screen shots of MSI afterburner I did not have a voltage control available. By entering the first Settings window and by checking the box for voltage control will give this capability. NOTE: Not all video cards allow for voltage control, also even if you do have voltage control (like shown here) may not always work. My 6970’s do not allow the voltage control, this is because of a driver/BIOS limitation of these types of cards (AMD’s PowerPlay is what causing this issue.To overclock your video card, start with the Core Clock adjuster. Then by small increments move the slider up 3 then test your video card by running a benchmark, ie. 3dMark 06/Vantage/10 , Unigine Heaven, Lost planet, anything that will allow you to test your video card. During the benchmark watch the screen and make sure you do not have any artifacting or experiencing lock ups, or if you reached to high of temperatures (read below). For every 15 numbers you go up, run a long set of benchmarks back to back again watch for artifacting or lock ups, or if you reached to high of temperatures (read below). once you experience artifactng, lock ups, or temperature is reaching above 85/90C reduce clocks by 5-10 or back to default settings (depends on how far you gotten).
Temperature wise since video cards vary from one to the next, I will say anything over 85/90C is bad at a full load. I personally set my temperature to no higher then 75C on my video cards.
Overclocking the memory clock frequencies. Is pretty much identical to how you overclock the core of the video card. Just you do not have any temperature monitoring for the memory. Up by 3, run tests, every 15 run a slew of testing. If artifacting or lock up happens drop by 10.
Now after you have reached your theoretical clock speeds of your video card. Does not mean it is 100% stable, the only way to determine that is by playing games for long periods of time. If you experience any problems while playing your games reduce clock speeds by 5 till it is stable or your temperatures are below 85/90C. Or stop until you reached the default clock frequencies of your video card which ever comes first.
If you noticed in the last few screenshots of MSI Afterburner, the fan adjustment was greyed out but the fan speed is at 53% now instead of the 24% it originally was set at. This is because of the fan tweaking I did in the Fan tab of the settings portion of MSI Afterburner.
Just showing you how to set the profiles of MSI Afterburner. Pretty simple, after you made all of your adjustments you wanted to make, just click on save then what ever profile you want it saved to 1-5. In case you forgot the Default clock speeds of the video card because of either you gone to far, or you are troubleshooting then just hit the rest button. If you want your clock speeds to automatically start up with the settings you want, check the Apply overclocking at system Start up (located right directly below the Profiles) also make sure you turn on the Start with Windows, and the Start minimized in the settings General tab.