How to increase graphics card performance: top 3 methods and examples

The old joke says that your computer is already obsolete the moment you leave the store. This is true especially when it comes to video game machines. Every year the system requirements for games are increasing, especially for the graphics card. To improve the performance of your PC, you can, of course, regularly buy more modern components for it. But, as a rule, it is easier to simply increase the performance of your current video card.

How a video card works

A video card is an electronic device whose function is to display a fragment of the computer’s memory as an image on the monitor screen. The area of memory in which the graphics data of the currently displayed image is stored is called the image memory or frame buffer.

Video card

The job of the video card is to process the read contents of this memory and transmit it digitally to the monitor using a digital connector or to convert this digital signal into an analog RGB video signal. The monitor then connects to a digital DVI or HDMI connection and outputs this signal as an image.

How you can improve the performance of your graphics card

You can improve the performance of your graphics card from simple PC cleaning and optimization to hardware overclocking. See below for all the methods.

Software methods

Before you start overclocking, it is worth improving the performance of your PC by cleaning and optimizing the system and installing the latest drivers. Do not ignore it, because this method can give a good performance boost not only the graphics card, but also the rest of the computer components.

pc upgrade

Optimize your PC

If you notice not only a drop in FPS, but Windows is loading slower and working worse, then optimizing your computer is essential. You can optimize your PC:

  1. By defragmenting the drive.
  2. Clean the registry of errors.
  3. Disable all autorun programs.
  4. Update or reinstall the operating system.
  5. Scan your computer for viruses.
  6. Clean your PC of unnecessary applications.

Most of these items can be done with a variety of programs, for example, CCleaner and HitmanPro will eliminate problems with the registry, clean your PC of unwanted programs and viruses.

Installing the latest driver updates

The good operation of your computer and the devices connected to it depends on whether the latest drivers are installed.

A driver is the program that is responsible for the device and mediates between it and the rest of the system. Therefore, one of the most commonly offered tips in case of strange behavior of the video card or the PC as a whole, is to driver update. You can update them manually by downloading the driver from the manufacturer’s website, or by using special programs (such as Driver Booster Free, DriverPack Solution or SlimDrivers).

Driver Booster Free

Drivers for video adapters are constantly being released, so it is worth installing GeForce Experience for Nvidia video cards and Radeon Software for AMD. These programs will notify you when a new driver is available, and you can download and install it through them.

Hardware Overclocking

Overclocking is the process of increasing the speed of a device beyond its factory specifications. The idea behind overclocking is to get the component in question to run at maximum speed while keeping it stable. This process can be related to the processor, the RAM as well as the graphics card. Although overclocking is done differently for these three components, the general principles remain the same. Details on a safe way to boost graphics card performance will follow.

overclocking

Also note that incorrect overclocking of every part of the computer, in our case the GPU, threatens to damage the hardware. You should also note that interfering with the specifications and the way the GPU works leads to a loss of warranty from the manufacturer.

Improved cooling

Video cards nowadays have more processing power than processors, which automatically heats them up more. High temperatures can lead to performance degradation and complete hardware failure. Some video adapters slow down their speed by up to 25% when the emergency temperature is exceeded, which causes FPS jumps.

The ideal solution to lower the temperature at the core of the video card to use its full potential is to install water cooling. This will lower the temperature of the chip considerably, also water cooling usually comes with a special holder that will hold the video card in the PC. This prevents the PCI-Express slot on the motherboard from tearing, the pins on the board and the graphics card will hold better, which will greatly extend the life of the video adapter.

water cooling installation

You should also consider buying a case with built-in coolers. These cases lower the overall temperature inside the computer, which will be good not only for the graphics card, but also for the rest of the components.

How Dangerous is Overclocking

Many PC users are worried about possible damage to their graphics card and therefore prefer to stay away from overclocking. But overclocking is not a black magic, and if you act using special programs, you probably have nothing to fear.

Safe overclocking of GPU is possible from the system level. It is worth using the tools offered by the video card manufacturers themselves, and choose one of the programs that will support both Nvidia and AMD.

GPU overclocking

However, overclocking the GPU using mechanical interventions in the video card is risky, you should not take any action if you do not have sufficient knowledge and skills. Those who are well versed in the subject can completely modify the cooling system on the GPU, solder additional connections and make other changes that speed up the video card. However, any intervention of this type will invalidate the warranty from the manufacturer.

How to properly overclock a video card for a beginner

Overclocking a video card is simple and achievable for everyone, but it can be easy to overclock. You should be especially careful when determining the output settings for core, memory, and voltage timing. The easiest way to adjust frequencies is to use MSI Afterburner, which simply and clearly displays all the necessary information. This program works with any video card, it’s the most popular application for overclocking.

But before you proceed directly to overclocking, it is worth answering a number of questions related to overclocking.

What graphics cards can and cannot be overclocked.

In fact, any video card can be overclocked, but there are a number of conditions under which this idea should be abandoned.

Old and new graphics card
  1. Lifetime. If the video card has already worked for more than three years, overclocking can “kill” the device after a short period of operation.
  2. Budget video cards. There are usually no problems with overclocking such video adapters, but, as a rule, outdated models are less amenable to overclocking.
  3. Repaired videocards. If the device has been repaired due to some faults, you should not overclock it.
  4. Mobile devices. It is also worth avoiding overclocking the video card on a laptop, as any error can lead to a breakdown, and the replacement will be problematic.

Expected performance gain

It is difficult to give a definite answer to this question. The result will depend on many factors, for example, the performance of other components, the overall success of overclocking, from a particular video game.

As a rule, in the best case the gain will be 30 to 40%, in the worst case 5 to 10%.

Overclocking methods

There are three types of video card overclocking – software, BIOS and mechanical modification.

  1. The easiest way to overclock a video adapter is to use overclocking software, and any beginner will be able to handle it, if you follow the instructions.
  2. It is more difficult to overclock via BIOS, but for experienced users it will not be difficult.
  3. Mechanical modification is done only by professionals who have special equipment, skills and experience with electrical engineering.

Necessary software

Below we will talk about the necessary programs that will help to properly carry out the procedure of overlocking.

For overclocking

Individual manufacturers often have their own software for overclocking video adapters (such as NVIDIA Inspector and AMD GPU Clock Tool), but the most popular tool today is MSI Afterburner, which is universal and works with all models on the market. Therefore, beginners should use this program.

MSI Afterburner

For monitoring

The same MSI Afterburner is equipped with tools for video card monitoring, but a good idea is also to use the GPU-Z program which shows all parameters in one place, without any unnecessary configurations, in a very accessible way.

For testing

To check the stability of an overclocked graphics card, popular “warmers” such as FurMark are not suitable. GPU manufacturers install protections in drivers that reduce card performance when overclocked in FurMark. This makes the application not a good stability test.

FurMark

It’s better to test an overclocked video adapter in 3D games. In this case, the hardware manufacturers do not set any limits, and the cards always work at one hundred percent of their capacity.

Algorithm of overclocking with explanations

It is recommended to overclock with MSI Afterburner. The interface of this tool is easy to understand and use. Therefore, we need to discuss only the most important parameters that will regulate the performance of the entire video card.

  1. CoreVoltage (mV). The setting to change the voltage of the video card. The scale is specified in millivolts, and different models have different limits, so increasing the value will not do any harm. For example, in GTX970 the voltage can be increased by maximum 87 mV, and in Radeon R9390 – by 100 mV.
  2. PowerLimit (%). This slider can be used to increase the power limit of the video card and therefore allow more power to be consumed to maintain a certain performance or clock frequency. For example, increasing the value of this parameter by 50%, at the standard clock speed, will allow the Radeon R9 to maintain its core clock speed at 1000 MHz.
  3. Temp Limit (C). The parameter is available for GeForce video adapters with GPU Boost technology, which is linked to the card’s power limit by default. It prevents the actual clock speed from decreasing if the temperature exceeds the set limit.
  4. CoreClock (MHz). The setting used to determine the graphics card driver clock speed. GeForce owners can choose how many megahertz to accelerate the base clock frequency (e.g. +50 MHz), while Radeon owners specify the clock frequency directly (e.g. 1100 MHz).
  5. Memory Clock (MHz). This option, similarly to the one described above, allows to speed up memory frequency.
  6. FanSpeed (%). This option allows to set fan speed in video card cooling system. Manual settings are available, e.g. increase fan speed by 45%.

After increasing these parameters it is necessary to save the changes and restart the computer. Then it is worth running tests in video games. If critical errors appear after 20 minutes of play, such as artifacts or emergency overheating, you need to lower the parameters a bit in MSI Afterburner. And so continue until the optimal settings are found.

Example overclocking

As an example GTX 1080 Ti will be overclocked. The base clock frequency of the memory is set to 1530 MHz. We will be using MSI Afterburner for the overclocking.

GTX 1080 Ti

First, increase the CPU core voltage and chip temperature. To do this, you need to increase the Core Voltage parameter by 3-5%, which will increase the range of allowable voltages for the video card core. The layout will adjust the specific value by itself.

After checking the card and power adapter TDP, switch the Power Limit and Temp sliders to the maximum limit. The video card will be able to draw more current when it needs it. Then raise Memory Clock and Core Clock to 20 MHz and 10 MHz respectively. That’s it, save the changes and reboot the computer.

overclocking

Now let’s check the card stability by using any computer game which has high hardware requirements (e.g. “Witcher 3” as it is a very demanding game for GPU). If after a few minutes of continuous operation all is well, the image continues to be displayed and there are no artifacts, you can proceed to further upscaling. The core clock frequency for GTX 1080 Ti has a “ceiling” of 2037 MHz, using the boost function. It is desirable to reach this value.

Further tips and tricks

Although the graphics card may work properly after overclocking and a few minutes of loading, it is not certain that it will be the same. Some artifacts and complications appear even after an hour of continuous loading.

For accurate measurements and reliable results it is recommended to test the overclocked card for a long period of time. If after one hour there are no side effects (artifacts or image blinking), the overclocking process has completed successfully. In addition, don’t forget to check the chip load in several games, as they use the video card differently and affect the results.

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