How to undervolt your CPU and GPU? [Ultimate Guide]
Your computer’s Central processing unit (CPU) and Graphics Processing Unit rely on power (voltage and current) to execute the various tasks you throw at them. However, the voltage your CPU and GPU receive affects the energy consumed and how much heat they dissipate while processing commands.
The good news is that computers are designed with the option of undervolting the CPU or GPU. In this article, we will share what Undervolting a CPU or GPU is and whether it is safe to do so. We shall also share the procedure for undervolting your GPU and CPU. Without wasting any more of your time, let’s get started.
What is Undervolting?
Undervolting refers to the process of reducing the operating voltage of a CPU or GPU to reduce energy consumption and heat dissipation without significantly reducing the performance. Most of the desktop motherboards and laptops allow tweaking the voltage settings using third-party apps.
Computers are usually shipped with an optimum operating voltage to ensure your laptop maintains a good level of performance without dissipating a lot of heat. However, in a situation where you realize your computer dissipates a lot of heat, you can solve this issue by undervolting the CPU and GPU.
The idea behind undervolting is straightforward; when your CPU is getting more voltage (power), it will get hot much faster than when it is receiving less voltage. Undervolting reduces the amount of power directed to your CPU hence reducing the amount of heat it dissipates. Before going forward, it should be noted that undervolting your CPU may not have any significant side effects, but doing it wrongly can potentially damage your computer.
Now that you know what undervolting a CPU or GPU is, let’s look at whether it is safe or not.
Is Undervolting Safe?
Undervolting your CPU or GPU is very safe as long as you do it using the correct procedure (we shall share it later in this article). However, it is best to read your computer’s user manual to find out the recommended range of voltage within which the GPU or CPU on your motherboard has to operate.
Using the wrong voltage will damage your CPU and probably some other motherboard components. The good news is that most recent computers will not let you change the voltage outside the recommended range. Some people tend to confuse undervolting with underclocking, but these two processes have a couple of differences and will at times lead to different results. Let’s briefly look at how these two differ.
Undervolting vs. Underclocking?
As we have seen above, undervolting involves reducing the voltage of your computer’s CPU or GPU to reduce the amount of power it is receiving with the sole aim of reducing the heat produced. On the other hand, underclocking refers to the process of reducing the maximum clock speeds of your computer’s CPU or GPU. The goal for both undervolting and underclocking is to reduce the amount of heat dissipated by the CPU or GPU.
Choosing between which of the two strategies should entirely depend on your computer’s design and what you intend to achieve. If your primary problem is overheating, you can use either of the two methods. However, most people who have used the undervolting method find it more effective and doesn’t significantly affect performance when compared to underclocking.
So, before you choose whether to underclock or undervolt your CPU or GPU, you need to consider the side effects of each. I would only recommend underclocking if your computer’s CPU or GPU doesn’t support the undervolting option. But if it supports both options, then go for undervolting.
Whether to undervolt or not should entirely depend on what you want to achieve. If you are OK with your computer’s thermals and battery consumption (for laptops), then you may not have to go through the hustle of undervolting. However, if you are the type of person who wants to get the best out of your PC while consuming the minimum possible energy, then undervolting is one way you will achieve this. Below are some of the advantages of undervolting.
- Less energy consumption: If you want to reduce the amount of energy your computer consumes, then undervolting your CPU or GPU is an option. Undervolting is a perfect solution, especially for people with computers that consume a lot of energy.
- It lowers heat dissipated: When your CPU or GPU is given less voltage, the amount of heat it will dissipate will significantly be reduced. Reducing the heat dissipated is also good for your GPU or CPU’s life as it reduces the rate of wear and tear.
- More battery life: If you are using a laptop that is consuming a lot of battery, undervolting the processor could give some extra minutes or even hours of battery life. With undervolting, your processors will need less power to operate, which in the end lowers the pressure on your battery.
- Less noise: When the amount of heat dissipated by your processor is lowered, the fans will also spin at lower speeds, which leads to less noise. When the fans spin at lower speeds, the amount of energy they consume is also less, which leads to a much more efficient system as a whole.
- It increases the lifespan of your entire computer hardware: One of the catalysts of hardware failures is overheating. When the amount of heat generated by the GPU and CPU is lowered, the computer will generally be cooler, which reduces the rate of hardware damages due to heat.
- It doesn’t significantly affect performance: Unlike underclocking, which will directly limit your processor’s clock speeds, undervolting doesn’t have a significant impact on your processor’s clock speeds. Several people have reported getting no performance drops at all when they undervolted their CPU or GPU.
How to Undervolt Your CPU? [Throttlestop]
Step #1: Install Throttlestop
Step #2: Enable the “Speedshift – EPP” option
After running the downloaded file, the app will open, and you will have a couple of settings that you can change. One of the options you need to enable is the “Speedshift – EPP” because it will enable Intel’s speed shift technology, which enhances smooth performance and better battery life.
Step #3: Determine the base value for the temperatures
This step is executed by clicking the “TS Bench” button at the bottom section of the app menu. While running this test, take note of how the temperatures of your processors are varying. These values will be compared with the temperatures after undervolting the CPU
Step #4: Let’s start undervolting
To kickstart the undervolting process, click the “FIVR” button to open the undervolting menu. When this menu opens, enable the “OK – save voltages immediately” option. Enabling this option will ensure every change you make is saved immediately.
Step #5: Start adjusting the voltage
Adjusting your CPU’s voltage is done using the “Offset voltage slider” in the middle section of the menu. You should start by adjusting your voltage by -100mV. If your computer crashes, then the -100mV is too much for your computer. Wait till it restarts, and then try adjusting the voltage by -80mV.
Step #6: keep adjusting till you get to the voltage limit of your PC
Crushing is part of the process of determining the voltage limit of your CPU. If your computer remained stable after adjusting the voltage by -100mV, you need to keep adding -10mV until it crushes. The last stable adjustment before your computer crushes is regarded as the minimum voltage your computer can operate at.
The minimum value is not standard for every GPU; it varies based on the type of computer you have and the power rating of the CPU itself. After making your adjustments, click “Apply” and then “OK.”
Step #7: Run the TS Bench test again
To determine whether your undervolting efforts have created an impact, run a TS Bench test to determine the CPU temperature after undervolting it. If you get errors while doing the test, you should adjust (increase) your voltage value by 10mV and the tests again. If the errors persist, keep adjusting until you have no errors.
After running this test, the operating temperatures of your CPU should now be lower than the temperatures recorded in the first TS Bench test before undervolting the CPU.
Step #8: configure Throttlestop to permanently enable the changes
After making the above changes, you will need to configure Throttlestop to ensure your computer doesn’t restore to the default setting when you restart it. While on the main app menu, uncheck the taskbar option and then click the “options” button. A new window will be opened that has a couple of settings that you can change. In this new window, enable the “start minimized” and “minimize on close” options. After enabling these options, Throttlestop will always stay in the notification area rather than the taskbar.
Step #9: Configure throttle bar for the start-up
Open the task scheduler app on your Windows PC (you can simply search for it using the search menu at the bottom left of your desktop). While the app is open, click the “Create basic task” option on your app menu right under actions. You’ll be prompted to enter the name of the task; enter Throttlestop and click next.
For the trigger, choose the “when I log on” option and then click Next. For action, choose “start a program” and click next. You should then click the browse option and select the throttlestop.exe file that you downloaded. Click open and then select the “Open the properties dialogue for this task when I Click finish” option. After enabling this, click the “Run with the highest privileges” while in the properties tab.
How to Undervolt Your GPU?
The procedure below is for underclocking an Nvidia GPU using the MSI Afterburner. Before getting into the steps, here are two points you need to note
- You can’t undervolt your Nvidia GPU if it is under 10 series
- The voltage limit for every GPU is different and also depends on the motherboard it is installed.
Let’s now get into the steps.
Step #1: Download MSI Afterburner from here
Step #2: Determine the highest frequency
your GPU can attain using the HWiNF064 software. You can download the software from this link and run it in sensors-only mode.
Step #3: Run a graphics-intensive task to determine maximum voltage and frequency
Play a heavy video game or a 4K video render to determine the maximum frequency and voltage they run. These results will be compared to those after undervolting the GPU.
Step #4: Open the Voltage/frequency curve editor
Within MSI Afterburner, open press “Ctrl + F” to open the voltage/frequency curve editor graph.
Step #5: Start Adjusting the voltage
While on the graph, locate the maximum frequency node and look for the corresponding voltage on the horizontal axis of your graph. Drag the intersecting node of the highest frequency and corresponding voltage towards the left (by 100mV) to reduce the voltage. This process will take a couple of minutes because you will have to do it manually.
Step #6: Rerun an intense graphics task to test stability
After making the above adjustment, rerun the task to determine whether it runs stably. If so, go ahead and drag (vertically) all the nodes beyond the desired voltage until they correspond to your maximum frequency.
Step #7: Continue adjusting the voltage until you get some crashes
To determine the minimum operating voltage without altering the frequency, continue reducing the voltage (by 100mV) until the graphics hungry game you were playing starts to crush. The last voltage value or voltage before your game crushes is the minimum your GPU can operate at.
Step #8: Save the changes
After making the above changes, click the tick button to save them. You should then save your profile by clicking on the save button and selecting a slot of your choice. The next time you want to play a game or render a video using these settings, open your MSI afterburner app and choose the slot you saved these settings so that you reload them into the system.
That’s all you have to do.