Dedicated PC gamers will overclock anything they can get their hands on: Graphics cards, CPUs, smartphones, and even RAM aren’t safe from those evil geniuses. It’s a shame, then, that so many don’t realize that they can overclock their display as well. Overclocking a monitor can improve your gaming experience significantly by increasing its refresh rate, and unlike all the other pieces of hardware gamers spend hours overclocking, that is a benefit that yields far more than some marginally improved back-end benchmarks. As is the case when overclocking anything, it’s far from a simple process.
You’re going to need detailed instructions and preemptive knowledge of some of the more common pitfalls, which is exactly what we’re here to provide. Sit back, get some coffee, and pay close attention to our comprehensive, step-by-step guide. Let’s get right into it.
Potential Dangers Associated With Overclocking A Monitor
Before you actually begin overclocking your monitor, you need to know of the dangers associated with the process. Overclocking isn’t something hardware manufacturers want you doing, and as such, there aren’t any guarantees in terms of end results. Because of that, you should view overclocking your monitor as a bit of gamble. You stand to increase your display’s refresh rate, but you’re also going to void your warranty. To be transparent, that means if you experience any manufacturing issues that Asus, Dell, Acer, etc., would normally be happy to fix, once you’ve overclocked your display, that will no longer be an option. It’s a rarity for monitors to exhibit serious problems later in life when they weren’t present out of the box, but it certainly isn’t unheard of, either. You have been warned.
Less Serious Dangers
Other dangers, thankfully, are less serious. Overclocking a monitor is a significantly less meticulous and difficult process then overclocking something like a graphics card, which means there aren’t many negatives associated with failure, aside from having a boring-old low refresh rate monitor. If your monitor breaks after being overclocked, its because you hit it with a hammer or something, not because you overclocked it. Every step listed is on the software side of things, which means you won’t need to worry about cracking your display open and tinkering with its insides. It’s a simple process, but one where you still need to be cautious when undergoing — the consequence for being sloppy is having to repeat the lengthy process in its entirety, which, while preferable to a broken monitor, is still a pain.
One thing to keep in mind is that in spite of your efforts, every monitor will respond to the overclocking process differently. Some can see refresh rate increases as large as 15 Hz, while others won’t change at all. It’s a gamble, but thankfully, the only thing you’re at risk of losing is your time (and warranty), so you may as well give it a shot.
The Benefits Of Overclocking A Monitor
As touched upon earlier, the benefit of overclocking your monitor is an increased refresh rate. Your monitor more than likely has a refresh rate of 60 Hz. A successful overclock can raise that number to something more along the lines of 75 Hz, which, for the uninitiated, is a night-and-day difference in terms of fluidity. If you’re currently working with a gaming monitor with a native refresh rate of 75 Hz or 144 Hz, those too can be increased by the same margin. Increased refresh rates start to deliver diminishing returns once you exceed 100 Hz, however, so the benefits of the process will be more noticeable the lower your default refresh rate happens to be.
Many Benefits To Be Had
The benefits don’t end there, though. High refresh rates help eliminate certain visual hiccups associated with mismatched refresh rates and frames-per-second. The most common of these issues is screen tearing, and it has been a thorn in the side of game developers and display manufacturers since PC gaming’s inception. Screen tearing occurs when your Rig is putting out frames at a faster rate then your monitor can refresh the image, which causes it “toss out” frames in an attempt to catch up. The result is an image that looks like it’s been torn in half for a brief moment, hence the name.
The common solution for this issue is V-Sync, an in-game graphics setting that forces your PC to match its framerate with your monitor’s refresh rate. This process, unfortunately, introduces input lag, otherwise known as the arch-nemesis of professional gamers the world over. Input lag means it takes longer for your inputs (button presses, keystrokes, mouse clicks, etc.) to be reflected in your monitor’s image. A high refresh rate avoids this by making your PC have to work harder to exceed your monitor’s refresh rate. If your PC is able to output Full HD or 4K signals at a rate faster than 75 FPS, then you’re working with a gaming PC that’s in the top 5% in terms of performance. For the rest of us, overclocking is our best bet when it comes to optimizing our gaming experience.
What You Need To Overclock Your Monitor
Overclocking your monitor will require you to download some custom software in order to be done successfully. The software required is slightly different depending on whether or not you’re equipped with AMD or Nvidia hardware.
If you’re working with AMD specs, you’re going to want to use a program called CRU, short for Custom Resolution Utility. The tool has been the go-to for display enthusiasts for years now, and it’s been fine-tuned to the point of being a simple program to grasp even for overclocking rookies. The CRU has long been used to create custom display modes and resolutions, and it works wonderfully for monitor overclocking as a result. That said, it’s highly, highly recommended that you stick to the basics and only use the automated features when running the program. The advanced functionalities may as well be hieroglyphics to the uninitiated, and the statistics being offered by them aren’t relevant to overclocking anyway.
Things are a bit simpler for those with Nvidia-based systems. It’s recommended that you use the CRU here, as well, but you may have just as much luck with the GeForce Display driver, something included with every Nvidia GPU. All you’re going to need to do is navigate to the Nvidia control panel, which can be accessed by right-clicking on your desktop and navigating to the “change resolution” tab. Once there, you can fiddle with the refresh rate at your own discretion. It’s a great tool for overclocking, and when paired with the CRU, can give you a lot of options when it comes to squeezing every last frame out of your display.
Once you have one or both of these programs installed and queued up, you’re ready to start overclocking. Godspeed, my frame-hungry friend, godspeed.
Overclocking A Monitor With An Nvidia PC
Generally speaking, it’s much easier to overclock a monitor’s refresh rate when you’re working with Nvidia hardware. This is for a number of reasons, with the most important being how thoroughly Nvidia’s drivers are integrated with your PC’s graphics output. It’s to a much more drastic degree than it is with AMD, a fact that works for the manufacturer’s benefit in this case. We’re starting with Nvidia since, statistically speaking, Nvidia GPUs are more popular, and thus, it’s what more people are likely to be working with.
First, open the Nvidia Control Panel. You can do so by right-clicking on your desktop and navigating to the section labeled Nvidia Control Panel. From there, select the Change Resolution tab. Here, you will be able to see all the resolution’s available to your PC, as well as what your graphics card is capable of outputting. Just to the left of this information, you will see your monitor’s current refresh rate. If you click on the tab, you can also see all the refresh rates your monitor is capable of supporting natively.
Before you mess with any settings, write down what your monitor’s default resolution is listed as — If you lose that value for whatever reason, it’s most likely to be 1920 x 1080p. From the resolutions tab, select the Custom Resolutions tab. Once the window is open, hit the button labeled Create Custom Resolution. After you’ve done so, you will see a window that lists your new resolution, and more importantly, your new refresh rate.
There are a few settings listed that are of note. If your default resolution has a ‘p’ at the end of it, it means that it’s a display that uses progressive scan rendering. This is the most common rendering method by far. Older displays, however, will use interlaced rendering, denoted by an ‘i’. In any case, make sure the tab is set to the appropriate option for your display. Next, make sure the timer is set to automatic. Once you’ve done so, you’re able to adjust your refresh rate. Here’s where the fun begins. Whatever refresh rate is listed, increase that value by ten — if the listed value is 60 Hz, raise it to 70 Hz, for example. Your screen will go dark for a few seconds, and when it comes back up, will ask you if you want to apply the changes made. — do so.
Moment Of Truth
There are two hurdles you may encounter before the Apply Changes prompt appears. The first is one where your monitor doesn’t turn back on straight away. In this case, simply wait for around a minute, and your monitor will return to its initial settings before these steps began. The second scenario is one where you monitor says there is a signal error. Here, too, all you need to do is wait for around a minute, and you will be returned to your default resolution. Both of these scenarios, unfortunately, mean your monitor is unreceptive to overclocking; You won’t be able to increase its refresh rate by any significant margin. You’re free to try smaller increments, but any increase below 10 Hz will produce results that are mild at best.
If your initial 10 Hz increase was successful, then congratulations, because you’ve just overclocked your monitor! From here, you can increase the increments at your leisure. If at any point past here the previously mentioned scenarios occur — an error message or a prolonged dark screen — then you have hit your monitor’s maximum refresh rate. Strive for 75 Hz and beyond; Anything nearing or exceeding 100 Hz, assuming a starting point of 60 Hz, is a resounding success in terms of overclocking.
Overclocking A Monitor With An AMD PC
Next up is AMD hardware. Open up the CRU, and delete all monitors listed that aren’t labeled as being active. Multi-display setups will see multiple monitors listed as active. In this scenario, you will have to disconnect any monitors you aren’t currently overclocking. If you want to overclock all of them, you will need to do them one at a time. Next, navigate to the Detailed Resolutions tab. Once there, click the Add prompt — from here, you’re going to be taken to a new window.
Within this new window, make sure you have selected Automatic – LCD. While this option isn’t clearly labeled, it’s actually just making sure your monitor is set to its native resolution. As with Nvidia, your resolution is probably 1920 x 1080p. The CRU has progressive scan listed as the default, so you won’t need to fiddle with that option — unless you’re using an interlaced monitor, in which case, you are going to need to change the setting accordingly.
Now we’re back in familiar territory. Resolutions are listed under parameters, with values being listed as either horizontal or vertical (resolution values always have horizontal first, vertical second), and refresh rates are listed under frequency. Underneath the default refresh rate, create a new one that is 10 Hz higher than the given default.
Create two other refresh rates underneath the one we just made, one 5 Hz higher than the previous value, and the next 5 Hz higher than that value. To be clear on this, if your initial refresh rate was 60 Hz, the first new value was 70 Hz. Then, the next two values will be 75 Hz and 80 Hz, respectively. Save these settings, and return to the previous tab. You will now have four custom resolutions under the Detailed Resolutions tab, each with a different refresh rate. The first is the original, the others should correspond with the new refresh rates we just created. Once this is completed, save the settings, and restart your PC.
Once the restart is completed and you have returned to your desktop, right-click and navigate to the Display Setting tab. All of your new custom resolutions will be listed. Click on the resolution that contains the value increased by 10 Hz. If successful, your screen will go black for just a few moments, then turn back on, with a prompt asking you whether or not you want to apply the changes you have made. Click on the apply button. Congratulations, you’ve just overclocked your monitor!
Moment Of Truth
If you were unsuccessful, you will either see an error prompt or a prolonged black screen lasting up to 60 seconds. If this is the case, then, unfortunately, your display cannot be overclocked to any significant degree. As was the case with Nvidia, you are free to try smaller increments, but the results won’t be significant.
For those successful, you are now able to incrementally increase your refresh rate at your own discretion. Once you are treated to the error prompts listed above, you will know your monitor’s maximum refresh rate. Shoot for 75 Hz and above!
Colors and Testing
If your overclock was successful, then you’re going to want to do some testing to make sure everything is in working order. There is a reason that monitors have the default refresh rate they do, and when they’re pushed beyond that limit, some issues can arise. To test your overclock, launch a webpage called TestUFO. Maximize the tab so that it fills as much of your screen as possible. At the bottom of the screen, you will see your monitor’s resolution displayed next to its target frame rate — you want these two values to be synchronized. If they are, then a green bar near the bottom of the screen will display a message reading “Valid”.
Next, we’re going to check for frame skipping. This is an issue where your monitor isn’t actually hitting the refresh rate it’s saying that it is, and as a result is outputting a jittery, nausea-inducing video signal. Take out your smartphone, and in the camera settings, set it to Auto. TestUFO has a small white square moving around the screen — take multiple pictures of the webpage while this is happening.
Now, for the real moment of truth: If there is a black box within the white rectangle in any of the pictures you took, then your monitor is skipping frames. In this case, unfortunately, you will want to lower your monitor’s refresh rate until this is no longer the case.
Lastly, overclocking a monitor is known to mess with its color settings. Find your monitor’s default color settings, either in its manual or via the manufacturer’s webpage, and readjust the colors accordingly.
And you’re done! Enjoy your newly overclocked monitor and all the smooth, immersive gaming experiences that come with it. Happy gaming!