So you’ve got yourself a new rig and want to overclock to get the best performance for your money. Maybe you have malfunctioning hardware and need to perform diagnostics? Stress testing your PC rig, including RAM, CPU and GPU stress tests are a great way to help build a healthy and stable system – performing at its very best. Whatever your particular goal you would like to achieve through stress testing your rig, we have put together a list of useful stress and torture tests to get you started and on your way to a healthy and stable system.
*Before we get into the guide, we want YOU to understand that running your system at its limits poses risks to hardware and you should make sure that you have configured your rig so that it can withstand the stress these programs are going to put on it.*
Before running these torture/stress tests you want to make sure your cooling components are properly installed ie. heatsinks and CPU/GPU blocks are tightened down properly and thermal paste was used during installation. System fans are wired and working. Any overclocking and system parameters are set either at stock or very conservative values for the very first few runs. Monitoring software must be also installed on the system to make sure that components aren’t overheating or pulling too much voltage. Usually, the hardware can protect itself when things go south, but low grade or incorrectly installed/configured components may degrade beyond repair in just minutes.
Monitoring software for stress testing your PC
For monitoring software there are a few great choices like HWiNFO64, HWMONITOR and Open Hardware Monitor (OHM) are all great pieces of software with different functions. Use any of these and you will see what your system is doing at any time and how your temperatures are. I must mention that HWMONITOR and OHM are more starter friendly with a simpler UI design, but HWiNFO64 offers more functionality and customizability.
Installing such software is mandatory if doing any kind of torture/stress testing because of the need to monitor system parameters ie. temperatures, voltages, clocks and power draw. Software is never 100% accurate but it will give you a sense of what is happening in your machine.
Now with that out-of-the-way lets finally get to the software you need to let your machine stretch its legs. We will be covering both benchmarking and stress/torture testing software, and we will also explain the differences between the types of software.
Best Stress Tests for CPU, GPU, RAM & Whole System
Stress/torture testing software is used to push the system to its absolute limits, these tests strain systems way beyond daily usage and gaming. These programs are used to make sure that the system can work under any conditions and loads. Stress tests may stress only one component like the CPU or the GPU, but they can also combine tests to gauge your PC across a wider operating circumstances. These are the pieces of software that can cause damage to incorrectly installed/configured hardware.
1. Prime95 (CPU, Free)
First up is a CPU and RAM heavy test, Prime95, which focuses on the CPUs integer and floating-point performance – with optional AVX instruction enabled tests that stress the CPU very hard. AVX workloads are extremely demanding on the CPU and you must keep a close eye on temperatures and power when running AVX enabled workloads, they will cook your CPU or motherboard VRM in the blink of an eye if the cooling is subpar.
Prime95 is free and works on basically all platforms (Windows, Mac and Linux). This should be the one CPU stress test for anyone who is overclocking, stability testing or otherwise diagnosing CPU performance. If your system can pass an hour of Prime95 without crashing, it will hold up to anything you can throw at it. The UI is simple and hassle-free.
2. Aida64 Extreme (CPU, RAM, GPU, Storage, Paid)
Aida64 Extreme is a more realistic stress test that will push your machine all around (CPU, RAM, GPU, storage, etc.) and comparatively lighter on hardware against other stress tests. It is like an all in one for those who want everything in one tightly-knit package. The UI can be a little intimidating but once you get used to navigating the menus it becomes a really useful piece of software with many functions beyond just stress testing and monitoring. It is a paid program with a 30-day trial period and works only on Windows machines so bear that in mind.
3. FurMark (GPU, Free)
FurMark is like the Prime95 of GPU stress testing, it places a lot of stress on the GPU and is known to make GPUs beg for mercy before the eye of Sauron or the Donut of Doom. This is a GPU stress test known to strike fear in lesser GPUs cores and VRMs. This is one bad boy of a stress test that makes sure your GPU can handle everything else if it survives an hour of FurMark. It will wreak havoc on bad GPU cooler designs and is to be used with utmost care. This is my go-to GPU stress test for absolute stability. The UI is simple and effective.
4. OCCT (CPU, GPU, RAM, Storage, PSU, Free)
This stress test, OCCT, is one clean package to measure and stress components as a whole. The UI is clean and modern, it can test CPU, GPU, RAM, storage and PSU. A great feature of this particular stress test software is that you can get graphs for basically everything in an easy to read and navigate UI, with loads of options and features. An all-around package with a level of polish not found on other similar software.
Best Benchmark Tests
Now for the benchmarks. Benchmarks differ from stress tests in one major way, they give your PC a score based on how it performed during the test. They place an equally heavy load on your components and measure how it performs. This is also a great way to see if your PC is performing according to expectations when comparing to similar systems. These tests can be made up of CPU, RAM and GPU tests that stress the PC as a whole, or they can focus only on one or two components depending on the benchmark.
1. 3DMark (CPU, GPU, RAM, Free + Paid)
3DMark is generally regarded as the most popular benchmarking tool, used widely and used to rank CPUs and GPUs. The tests are closer to gaming than stress tests and offer workloads that stress your components in a realistic manner. An overall great tool for the overclocker or stability tester to give an accurate picture of how the PC will perform in gaming-focused applications. Your CPU, GPU and RAM all have an impact on your score which lets you see if your rig is performing correctly.
2. Maxon Cinebench R20 (CPU, RAM, Free + Paid)
Maxon Cinebench R20 is a CPU intensive benchmark used by overclockers and professionals in the industry. A clean UI, short and compact test suite that stresses your CPU and RAM. This test uses a render workload to test your CPUs limits with AVX instruction sets that are used in the render. The test only takes between 1-8 minutes depending on hardware. The test type also affects the time, multicore being much faster and single-core taking a longer time to finish the test. A score is given based on how long it took to complete the render and that score can be used to see if the CPU/RAM is operating correctly. The UI is simple and hassle-free with a robust look and feel. 3DMarks full version will run you $30 on Steam, but a free version is available.
3. UserBenchmark (Whole System, Free)
UserBenchmark is a small compact program that scores your whole system in under 5 minutes, as well as rank your individual components on how well they performed compared to identical parts. It also tells you if you’ve won in the silicon lottery, a useful piece of info if you want to push high clock speeds.
All parts of your system are tested to give you a picture on how your PC performs. Optional stress tests are also included and can be run for longer periods to determine system stability on per-component basis. It also ranks your system in an overall list and gives your system a “fitness” rating on different workloads like gaming, workstation and desktop, expressed as a percentage. The “fitness” ratings use different parameter weighting to give you an idea how your PC should perform.
4. PCMark 10 (Whole System, Free + Paid)
PCMark 10 is a benchmark tool with as many tests as AIDA64 and even more – featuring almost every kind of test in its package. With a clean interface and monitoring built in you are ready to test the system. Workloads can be synthetic or more realistic giving you accurate insight on how your PC is performing across the board in different types of workloads. PCMark 10 will run you $30 with a free version available.
That concludes our list on the best stress testing and benchmarking software for 2020, with any of these programs you can achieve a more stable and overall healthier system that will hold its ground on heavy workloads. Though we recommend installing at least two programs of either type so that you can test your whole system in case your first choice can’t stress all the components.