So, I’m going to geek out a little today and show you how to overclock your Surface Book GPU.
As many of you know, I’m a bit of a gamer and while the Surface Book isn’t a high-end gaming rig, it is a decent gaming laptop. This is due, in no small part, to the inclusion of the NVIDIA GPU in the keyboard portion of most Surface Book Models (one of the i5 models and all of the i7 models).
That said, there are some games where the Surface Book GPU comes up a little short for performance. That’s where overclocking your GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) comes in.
Overclock Surface Book GPU: What Is Overclocking?
Simply put, overclocking is the act of increasing a computer component’s clock rate, running it faster than it was intended to be run. This is usually applies to the CPU or (in this case) the GPU.
If this doesn’t make sense to you, think of it this way: an electric fan spins at 1200 RPM, when you put 120 VDC into it; it will spin faster, if you increase the voltage up to 180VAC; and it will spin even faster at 240VAC. That’s how overclocking works.
If you want more detailed information on overclocking (along with an explanation of the benefits and downsides) check out this article on the How-To-Geek website.
Overclock Surface Book GPU: Is It Safe To Do?
If you’re careful, it’s mostly safe. If you’re careless, or if you adjust the setting too aggressively, then, you could very easily and irreparably burn out your Surface Book’s GPU.
To continue the fan analogy, if you increase the voltage too much, the fan will burn out or be torn apart by centrifugal forces. However, if you slowly increase the voltage and you carefully monitor how the fan is performing as you do so, you can find a sweet-spot where the fan is spinning as fast as it can without a significant risk of burning out or flying apart.
Well, a GPU is the same way. If you’re careful, and you watch to make sure nothing bad is happening as you speed up your GPU’s clock-speed, you can run it faster than it’s designed to be operated without too much risk of damaging it.
However, that doesn’t mean that there’s a 0% chance of damaging your Surface Book. It’s entirely possible that you could blow up your GPU with even a minor amount of overclocking. That said, it’s not too likely (so long as you stick to the instructions and settings below). It’s much more likely that overclocking your GPU will result in some system instability resulting in crashes and possible data loss.
So, as you might imagine, overclocking you GPU is very much a ‘TRY THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK‘ type of thing. You’re solely responsible for anything that may happen as a result of trying it. If you’re not comfortable with that, then simply don’t overclock your GPU.
Overclock Surface Book GPU: How To Do It
Now, on the plus side, overclocking your Surface Book GPU is pretty easy. There’s no complicated registry hack or arcane scripting language to learn. All you have to do is follow the instructions below:
- Make sure you’re logged in with admin rights.
- Backup your data, just in case (you should always have backups, anyway).
- Download MSI Afterburner (the PC version).
- Run the setup file contained in the Zip archive and install Afterburner as you would any other Windows program.
- Once it’s installed, run Afterburner and adjust the Core Clock (MHz) slider to the RIGHT until the number in the green box says +130. Alternatively, you can just select the green box and enter 130 to do the same thing.
- Next, increase the slider for Memory Clock (MHz) until the value in the green box is +300.
- Check the Apply Overclocking at System Startup box at the bottom left.
- Lastly, select the Apply button.
Now when you power up your Surface Book, Afterburner will automatically run and overclock your GPU with the values above. DO NOT adjust any of the other settings or use values larger than the ones listed. Doing so greatly increases the risk that you could damage the GPU. You’ve been warned!
Overclock Surface Book GPU: How To Un-Do It
If, after overclocking, you start having issues with your Surface Book (crashes, instability, or just general weirdness) it is probably because your GPU is overclocked by more than it can handle. In that case, you have two options:
- If you WANT to keep overclocking: in Afterburner, reduce the amount you’re overclocking the core and memory by 10%. If it becomes stable again, leave it there. If not, keep reducing it by 10% until it becomes stable. You may need to try it for a day or two each time you reduce the settings to make sure it addressed the stability issues.
- If you DON’T WANT to keep overclocking: Open Afterburner, hit the Reset then Apply buttons. After that’s done, close the program and uninstall it.
Overclock Surface Book GPU: Is It Worth Doing?
If you’re not a gamer (or just a casual gamer) then probably not. If you use the settings above, you’ll probably only get 4 or 5 extra frames per second (FPS) out of most games. However, if you are a gamer, then overclocking your Surface Book is well worth trying.
I know 4-5 extra FPS doesn’t sound like a lot but when you’re playing a game, where you only get about 25 FPS, boosting it up to 30 FPS is a full 20% boost and can make the game play much smoother.
As an example: I was getting about 22 FPS on average when I was playing The Witcher 2 (very GPU heavy game) without overclocking my GPU. When I overclocked my GPU with the settings above, however, I was getting a much more playable 27 FPS on average. Not smooth full motion video, by any means, but fast enough to be playable most of the time.
I hope my fellow gamers out there sporting Surface Books find this useful.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.