Overclocking is a great way to eke a bit more gaming power out of your computer, and Windows users have quite a few tools to help them do it easily. Our favourite of the bunch is the insanely easy to use, feature-filled MSI Afterburner.
- Change your core clock, shader clock, memory clock and fan speed using simple sliders
- Works on nearly any video card, not just MSI-manufactured cards
- Turn on voltage tuning for super high overclocks
- Built-in access to MSI’s Kombustor benchmarking tool
- Monitor your clocks, voltage, fan speeds, frame rate and more from the app’s drawer or from an on screen display during games
- Save your settings to five different profiles for quick loading
- Take screenshots and capture videos from your games with hotkeys
- Fine tune the automatic fan control so you stay at the temperatures you want
- Multiple different skins for changing the interface
- Start with Windows or apply settings at boot, so your card is always overclocked
MSI Afterburner is so easy, a caveman could use it. Even without delving into the settings, you can overclock your card just by tweaking the sliders on the main window, hitting apply and moving on to your game. The built-in access to a benchmarking program is great too, and being able to see your fan speeds and FPS levels in-game is super useful, especially when you first start overclocking. MSI Afterburner has just about everything you could want from a modern overclocking program.
My only beef with Afterburner is that the interface is very large. Many people probably won’t find this to be an issue, but as someone who uses dual monitors to keep an eye on other things while I game — including my overclocking settings — it irks me that it takes up so much space. The interface also seems a little hard to read at times, what with all the cool colours jumping out at you. It also only has five profiles, and while that’s more than I’ll ever use, its competitors offer more. These are very tiny nitpicks, though, and would only really apply to people in specific situations.
EVGA Precision is nearly identical to MSI Afterburner in every way. It has all the same features (save the one-click access to Kombustor), but it’s branded with the EVGA logo instead of the MSI logo. I prefer it for its interface, which takes up half the size of MSI’s and looks a little better. However, Precision’s voltage tuning is buried in the settings rather than on the main window of the app, which is kind of weird. Afterburner’s better placement of the voltage tuner and its one-click access to Kombustor is why we think it just edges out Precision, though they both have their perks. And seriously, other than that, they’re the exact same.
ATITool is another popular program, though it isn’t quite as powerful as Afterburner or Precision. It has simple core and memory clock sliders, as well as a built-in benchmarking tool, but neither are as good as the above. I’ve included it for completeness, but unless you’re having problems with the other two, I’d skip ATITool.
Lastly, if you have an older card, you can try RivaTuner. RivaTuner was long the king of overclocking programs but hasn’t been updated in a few years, so it doesn’t work with newer cards. And, while Afterburner and Precision are built off RivaTuner, RivaTuner has a lot of advanced options like plugins for CPU monitoring, monitoring cheat programs and others. Its interface is not nearly as good as the others, though, so unless you see RivaTuner features you absolutely must have (and have an older video card), Afterburner is still your best bet.
These are the best tools out there for overclocking, but you’ll need more than just an overclocking program to make it happen. Check out our full guide to overclocking your video card for more information, and share your own tips and favourite programs in the comments.
Lifehacker’s App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.
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