There are many ways to check if your CPU is overclocked or not. Some are quite intuitive and easy to follow while others require a tiny bit of technical know-how. Essentially, here will review the three popular ways on how to check if CPU is overclocked or not.
Basically, the first method is the easiest where you use the built-in OS utilities like the task-manager to check the running clock speed of your CPU. The second is to use third party system utilities like CPU-Z to check the same and the final method, a bit more technical, is to check through BIOS.
It should be noted, however, that overclocking is NOT something that happens to the CPU automatically. Overclocking is done by the user.
Also CPU’s do not come factory overclocked. So if you have just bought a new CPU and installed it yourself, then it would NOT be overclocked by default.
Finally, also know that if you have been using a system for a long time and you are worried if that has somehow become overclocked than rest assured, that is not possible. As mentioned earlier, overclocking isn’t an automated process.
Understanding Base, Turbo and Overclock Frequencies
There are essentially three measures of clock speed that you should know before checking if your CPU is overclocked or not
1. Base Frequency (Manufacturer Specified)
Base frequency is the clock speed at which the CPU operates normally. When not under stress, when in idle state and when performing lighter workloads, this is the frequency that the CPU operates at.
The base frequency is specified by the manufacturer.
2. Turbo Frequency (Manufacturer Specified)
This is the maximum speed that a processor can achieve. The CPU pushes itself to Turbo Frequency when needed particularly when performing heavier workload.
While most of the mainstream CPUs have a Turbo frequency, entry level CPUs like the AMD Athlon or Intel Celeron do not have the Turbo Frequency specification.
Plus entry-level CPUs aren’t overclockable anyways.
3 Overclocked Frequency (Done By User)
Overclocked Frequency is the clock speed of the CPU in which the Base and Turbo are higher than specified.
Overclocking can drastically improve the performance of the CPU, however, at the same time it can generate a lot of heat. As such, you have to make certain that adequate cooling is provided.
Overclocking a CPU to way beyond its standard clock speed can destabilize your system.
Which CPUs Can be Overclocked?
Having a basic idea of the CPUs and their model can tell if your CPU is overclockable or not to begin with.
No need to check if CPU is overclocked if it isn’t even designed to be overclocked.
1. Laptop CPUs are Locked – Cannot Be Overclocked
Most of the Laptop do not support CPU overclocking. Only a few rare extraordinary high end laptops feature CPU overclocking support.
So unless you have a laptop that SPECIFICALLY says somewhere that it is overclockable, you do not have worry about overclocking if you have a laptop.
2. Only “K” and “X” Series Intel CPUs can be Overclocked
If you have an Intel processor, then check if it belongs to the ‘K” series. The Intel “K” series refers to “Unlocked” processors that are designed to be overclocked.
These have a “K” suffix in their name such as
- Intel Core i7 11700K
- Intel Core i5 10600K
- Intel Core i3 9350K
The workstation grade “X” series processors can also be overlocked.
These include the likes of:
- Intel Core i9-10900X
- Intel Core i9-10980XE
3. All AMD Desktop CPU Can Be Overclocked
AMD, unlike Intel, supports overclocking for all of its desktop based CPUs.
The point I am making in this section is that if your CPU happens to fall in any of the non-overcloackable categories then you do not need to bother checking if it is overclocked or not.
How to Check if CPU is Overclocked?
There are three essential ways through which you can check the clock speed to see if its overclocked or not. These are as follows:
- Checking through Task Manager in Windows
- Checking through CPU-Z
- Checking through the BIOS
First Thing First – Find out the Base and Boost Frequency of Your CPU
It is pertinent to know what the manufacture boost frequency of your CPU is in order to check if the clock speed is going beyond the specified limit.
In my case, I am using the Intel Core i7-7700HQ.
As shown earlier above, this CPU has the following parameters
- Base Frequency: 2.80 GHz
- Boost Frequency: 3.80 GHz
If my active CPU frequency is beyond 3.80 GHz, then the CPU is overclocked. However, if it less than or equal to 3.80 GHz then the CPU is not overclocked. Simple math!
1. Checking the Clock Speed through Task Manager in Windows
The simplest way to find out if your CPU is overclocked is through the Task Manager in Windows 10.
You must know the base and boost frequency of your CPU for this method.
Following are the steps:
- Open the Task Manager by either right clicking on the Task Bar and then selecting Task Manager or by pressing CTRL + ALT + DELETE and then selecting Task Manager.
- Select the Performance Tab and check the “Speed” provided. If this is higher than the turbo frequency of your CPU then its overclocked.
- You can also see the CPU’s Base Speed. If the Base frequency is higher than manufacturer specified than your CPU is overclocked.
Since Task Manager tells you the real time information about your CPU, you can try running different loads and monitor the clock speed. For instance, try starting a heavy game.
If under stress, the CPU still maintains a clock speed less than or equal to the Turbo Frequency then your CPU is NOT overclocked.
2. Checking through CPU-Z
CPU-Z is free software that displays detailed information about your computer hardware including CPU. Here’s how you can check if your CPU is overclocked through this third-party software.
- Download and install the CPU-Z for Windows. Make sure you download it according to your computer architecture (32 bit or 64 bit).
- Once it’s loaded, look for the CPU Tab – its selected by default on startup.
- In CPU-Z, pay attention to the “Clocks” section. In this section the “Core Speed” field highlights the current operating frequency of the CPU. If this number exceeds the Turbo frequency as specified by manufacturer than your CPU is overclocked. If it is less than or equal to the specified Turbo Frequency, then it is not.
Also, you can do a simple calculation by multiplying the Bus Speed to the Multiplier. The answer will equally match the number in “Core Speed” field.
If your CPU is overclocked, you would see a higher clock multiplier here i.e greater than 38 in the case of the above CPU.
3. Checking through the BIOS
The final and the most advanced method is to use BIOS to check if CPU is overclocked. This is a bit technical and it is advised not to fiddle around with the BIOS settings.
Also, depending upon what version of the BIOS you have, the interface may differ from user to user.
So here are the steps to this method
- The first step is to hit the “Delete” or the “F2” key depending upon what system to you have to access BIOS when the PC startups.
- Head over to the CPU Settings on your BIOS – different BIOS version have different name for this section.
- What you are essentially looking for are settings related to CPU clock, clock multiplier/clock Ratio and CPU VCore (CPU Voltage). If these have been increased from the default than your CPU is overclocked.
- To check the default values, reset this section of the BIOS to default. There is always a key in BIOS that you can press to change the section to its default values. If the CPU is not overclocked than this section will not change even if after pressing the reset to default key.
The following video should further explain how the overclocking process works through BIOS. This should give you further insight into whether your CPU is overclocked or not.
Also Read: What is CPU Throttling?
Why Check if CPU is Overclocked?
There can be many reasons why would want to check if CPU is overclocked.
If your system is performing erratically, then this could warrant looking into the frequency of the CPU.
Also, if you have gone through the process of overclocking your CPU and want to make sure if the process was a success then this could also warrant a check.
Here I talked comprehensively about how to check if CPU is overclocked by using three popular methods. There are many more ways in reality.
For instance, many mid and high end motherboards come equipped with their proprietary tools for overclocking the CPU. However, not everybody has access to such tools.
It should also be highlighted here that that certain low-end motherboards do not have the utility or the VRMs to overclock the CPU even if the CPU is overclockable.
So the motherboard model can play an important role in determining if your CPU is overclocked or not.
Also Read: Can B Series Motherboards Overclock?