GPU overclocking is a scary concept for many people. But it doesn't have to be one. As long as you know how to do it and where to limit yourself, you can push the boundaries a bit and get better performance without actually harming your hardware.
In addition to being one of the best GPU overclocking tools in town, MSI Afterburner is a great resource for all of your GPU tuning needs, be it overclocking, underclocking, undervoltage and a long time, etc.
Still, it can be tricky to get into at first, especially if you're a beginner on this whole overclocking topic. What Exactly Is MSI Afterburner And How Is It Used?
What is MSI Afterburner?
MSI Afterburner is possibly one of the most widely used GPU overclocking tools available for Windows today. The first version of MSI Afterburner was released in 2010 and is being developed by MSI or Micro-Star International, a Taiwanese technology company specializing in computer hardware.
And yes, it is MSI that makes PC gaming devices, graphics cards, motherboards, and so on. So does MSI Afterburner only work on MSI graphics cards?
Not at all.
MSI's tool prides itself on being an all-in-one overclocking utility that works on any graphics card, whether it's an Nvidia card or an AMD Radeon card, and graphics cards that aren't MSI were manufactured. And best of all, it's completely free and has a lot of extra features besides being just an overclocking tool.
The overclocking part of MSI Afterburner is actually based on a pretty old overclocking utility called RivaTuner. It actually came out in 1997, but was last updated in 2009. RivaTuner provides the backbone for several overclocking programs, including EVGA Precision X and ASUS GPU Tweak, but also MSI Afterburner.
In its day, RivaTuner was a blast, but most people have chosen MSI Afterburner by now. RivaTuner is still around – while RivaTuner's main software is not maintained (although there's nothing technically stopping you from using it), RivaTuner Statistics Server, a frame rate and hardware monitoring tool that was originally a companion to the main RivaTuner tool was still actively waiting. and even comes with the MSI Afterburner installer.
How do I install MSI Afterburner?
You can download the latest version of MSI Afterburner from the MSI website. No need to look for specific versions or the like – just grab the installer and head to town. If you need an older version of the program, you can download older versions from FileHorse.
From there, run the installer. You will be asked if you want to install MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner Statistics Server or RTSS, which comes with the installer. RTSS isn't actually strictly necessary for the software to work, but it does allow you to see overlaid stats and frame rates while gaming, which is pretty cool functionality to have, especially when you're trying to document something. It's really up to you.
Once you've selected them, just run the installer, go through the rest of the instructions, and wait for it to finish. Congratulations! You have now installed MSI Afterburner on your computer.
How do I use MSI Afterburner?
MSI Afterburner can do a lot of things. Here are some of the things you can do with it, and how you can do them.
When you first open the program, you'll be greeted by a user interface that looks like a car dashboard. It has a heavy theme on top that kind of reminds me of the types of themes that Windows Media Player used in the Windows 98 era.
In addition, you will see statistics about your GPU – the current clock speed and the temperature at which it is running. The bottom part has a few sliders that we'll go into in a little more detail, but basically these sliders allow you to overclock, underclock your GPU and do other things with it.
You will see several buttons on the left. The spaceship-like logo opens the Afterburner website, the "K" logo opens MSI Kombustor, the information button shows you information about your CPU and GPU. From there we have the OC scanner tool that is supposed to automatically scan your GPU (with an algorithm created by Nvidia for cards of the RTX 20 series) and look for the highest possible overclocking and apply it to your GPU. From there we have the Settings button and the Monitor button which will show you a graph of the temperatures of your graphics card.
Then the right side has a series of numbers. These are called "profiles". Basically, you can save all optimizations that you make to your GPU as a profile so that you can simply click on them and apply them quickly at any time.
If the standard layout is not enough for you, you can change that too. Just go to settings, user interface, and choose one of the many pre-installed themes.
How to overclock your GPU with MSI Afterburner
There are two ways to overclock your GPU with MSI Afterburner. The first involves using the OC scanner function. As mentioned earlier, this is a tool that will automatically scan your GPU for the best overclocking settings.
First click that OC scanner and tap the scan Button. This process takes a few minutes. So sit down and have a coffee while you wait for it to finish. Once that's done, it will apply what it thinks the best possible settings for your GPU.
You can also manually adjust the sliders to overclock your GPU. To do this, move the power limit / temperature sliders up to leave room for overclocking (both sliders are pinned to each other by default, so moving one slider up moves the other).
Then turn the Core Clock (MHz) slider up. You can also optimize the memory clock. If you're doing this manually, it's best to make very slight adjustments and play around to strike a good balance between system stability and performance – without harming your hardware.
How to change your fan curve
You can also use the program to change your fan curve. You can optimize the speed of your fan and at what temperatures it will turn off. To do this, just go to settingsand click the fan Tab. Then switch Activate user-defined automatic fan control by software At. This will display the fan curve graph.
You can add up to eight nodes to the fan curve and customize it however you want. A steeper fan curve will keep GPU temperatures lower, but it can also wear out the fans themselves, so you'll have to strike a balance if you want to change them manually.
How to limit your GPU according to power consumption / temperature
We mentioned earlier that you can use the power limit / temperature sliders for overclocking purposes. But you can also use it to keep power consumption or temperatures under control without much loss of performance.
To do this, you should move the sliders down, not up. For example, if you don't want your graphics card to use a lot of power, you can move the power limit slider down to around 75% so that the card doesn't go beyond the limits you set.
MSI Afterburner opens the overclocking floodgates
MSI Afterburner is cool software that every PC gamer must have on their computer. It's lightweight and allows you not only to overclock your GPU, but to tweak it all the way to hell and back to make it run exactly how you want it to.
We've just given you a few tips on how to use it, but really, this is pretty much a craft tool. It might have a slight learning curve at first, but it's meant for you to play around and figure out what to do with it.
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About the author
(20 articles published)
Arol is a tech journalist and staff writer at MakeUseOf. He has also worked as a news and feature writer at XDA-Developers and Pixel Spot. Arol is currently studying pharmacy at the Central University of Venezuela and has had a soft spot for anything to do with technology since childhood. When you're not writing, you can find him either deep in his textbooks or playing video games.
By Arol Wright
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