Enthusiasts and gamers looking to get the most out of their systems often turn to overclocking. Overclocking a component allows it to exceed its base clock speed, which equates to better overall performance in a wide range of tasks. You might be surprised just how many pieces of hardware can be overclocked. GPUs, CPUs, monitors, and even gaming mice can be overclocked for performance increases.
If you’re looking to eke out as much performance as possible with your current rig then you’ve likely considered overclocking your RAM modules. With talk circulating about DDR5 RAM once more, many gamers are eager to get as much performance out of their current DDR4 sticks now. A fair word of warning, you likely won’t see vast improvements in performance if you follow the steps this guide lays out. Overclocking RAM produces niche performance gains at best and often comes with its fair share of system instability if done incorrectly.
But those who are confident or curious and want to know how to overclock their RAM should keep reading. This guide will lay out the basic steps as well as answer some frequently asked questions.
Helpful Tools & Software
Overclocking your RAM isn’t as simple as a GPU or monitor. You cannot go through a couple of menus in your control panel or use a quick-and-easy tool like MSI Afterburner. It will take some trial and error as well as a bit of stress testing to get the configuration right. The tools listed below are free and will make getting the correct settings right a bit easier.
XMP stands for “Extreme Memory Profile” and is the only option on this list that isn’t a third-party utility or software. Certain motherboards have built-in XMP settings that can be accessed via your system’s BIOS. These are pre-defined and validated settings that can be loaded directly through the BIOS. These settings are easy to find. They will be located in the memory section of the BIOS and will be listed plainly under “XMP.” These same XMP settings can be accessed and applied through the utilities that get listed next for those who aren’t comfortable fiddling with BIOS settings.
CPU-Z is a free utility that can provide quick and accessible system reports. You can view your RAM frequency/clock speeds and apply XMP or custom frequency settings. You should use this tool in conjunction with the stress test software next in this list to make sure that the settings you apply are stable.
SuperPi is a free piece of software that lets you stress test a wide array of system components, including your RAM. It’s recommended to perform stress tests each time you attempt a new overclock configuration to ensure system stability and monitor any performance gains
Steps for Overclocking RAM
Once you have the tools listed above, it will only take a few simple steps to overclock your RAM. Keep in mind that each module is different. What works for one user may not work for another since individual tolerances and speeds can vary between sticks. This remains true even if those sticks are of the same speed and made by the same manufacturer.
- Use any of the above tools to confirm that your RAM is running at the base speed and voltage as the manufacturer lists. You can do this by checking the settings in CPU-Z against those listed for your specific module. Don’t be alarmed if your speed first appears to be half of the advertised frequency. This is because some DDR RAM stands for double data rate. Some programs only read the base rate before it is doubled.
- Use your tool of choice to set the memory multiplier for your RAM to the maximum value that the software or system setting allows. Make sure to confirm system stability after this and perform a stress test. If everything looks good, proceed to step 3.
- Start by increasing the clock speed or “BCLK frequency” in small increments. I recommend starting with 5-10Hz at a time. Again, confirm stability and perform a stress test after each change.
- If you run into issues during step 4, you may want to try and slightly increase the voltage going to your modules to see if that mitigates the instability. The setting should appear as “DRAM Voltage.” Be sure to only increase it by small increments like 0.01V. After each change, check for stability and perform a stress test.
- Continue these steps until you reach one or all of the following: the maximum safe BCLK, DRAM voltage, and/or RAM frequency settings that still allow for a stable experience.
Is it Safe to Overclock RAM?
These steps may sound daunting if you have not tweaked voltage settings or clock speeds in your system before this. While overclocking RAM can result in crashes and system instability, these issues are temporary. The majority of issues can easily be reversed through the BIOS. Unlike CPUs and GPUs, RAM does not produce much heat or voltage. Even if you exceed your system’s voltage settings for the RAM and cause a crash, those settings can be changed back to restore the state of the system.
So, yes, it is safe to overclock your RAM. It won’t pose any dangers to your system. It will just be a time-consuming process to get it right.
Will Overclocking Reduce my RAM’s Lifespan?
In short, it can. All systems and components are different. The lifespan of any component depends heavily on the amount of heavy use time. Case temperatures, ambient temperature, and other use case factors can influence a component’s lifespan. Generally, overclocking will reduce the lifespan of any given component. However, it is hard to say by how much.
Why Would I Overclock my RAM?
Every bit of performance matters. Gamers and enthusiasts looking to squeeze every last drop of performance out of a system can expect some slight improvements through RAM overclocking. However, these improvements will be marginal in games with an average boost of just 1-2% extra frames.
Since your CPU interacts directly with your RAM, an overclock in your RAM can result in increased performance from both components. Some users have reported noticeable performance boosts in productivity tasks that focus heavily on CPU performance.
Overclocking your system’s RAM will require a bit of patience and a lot of trial and error. While the results won’t be nearly as significant as overclocking GPUs or CPUs, users can still expect some slight gains that may make it worth the effort. Just remember to be safe and only tweak settings in small increments.
If you’re curious about overclocking other system components, check out our guide for overclocking your CPU, GPU, and peripherals.