How to overclock your Raspberry Pi?

Finished project
Raspberry Pi code interface

Have you ever wanted to boost the capabilities of your Raspberry Pi without the need for additional hardware or components? Do you want to increase the CPU and GPU speed of your Raspberry Pi for better performance? If so, this project article will show you how you can alter the CPU and GPU clock frequency from the Pi’s built-in command prompt to possibly increase your Pi’s overall performance. Do note that by overclocking your Raspberry Pi, you are voiding its warranty so please only do so at your own risk. Do also keep in mind that your Raspberry Pi’s default CPU and GPU clock frequency settings may differ according to the variant (e.g. the Raspberry Pi 3 & Zero has a default CPU clock speed of 400 MHz compared to the 250 MHz default clock speed of the Raspberry Pi 1/2), so it is advised to not overclock your Pi to the extreme as there will be a significant risk of the chip burning out. Therefore, it is highly recommended that when overclocking your Raspberry Pi, ensure that there is a method of active cooling applied to your Pi. I have had a positive experience using dual fans that are placed on top of the Broadcom CPU chip and USB Ethernet controller chip via thermal tape/adhesive, allowing my Pi to be overclocked without worrying about overheating or throttling. Furthermore, a ceramic heatsink with thermal paste is added directly on top of the Broadcom WiFi/Bluetooth chip at the rear of my Pi for additional cooling. Other common cooling methods for computers typically include conventional heat sinks, fans, as well as more complex water-cooling methods. This article will explain how to overclock your Raspberry Pi’s CPU and GPU clock frequency, in addition to how you can check your Pi’s internal temperature and current operating frequencies from the Terminal (command prompt).

Step 1

The first step is to access the Raspberry Pi’s configuration file and this can easily be done via the Terminal by entering the following command: sudo nano /boot/config.txt

Step 2

Once you have entered the configuration file, scroll to the bottom of the file and enter the below two commands. These commands ensure that when the Pi is overclocked and in idle mode (no task running), the Pi does not detect any damage:

force_turbo = 1

boot_delay = 1

enter command

Step 3

Now you can press Control + X, then Y and finally Enter to save and exit from the config file. For the changes to be applied to your Pi, reboot your Raspberry Pi by performing this command in the Terminal or by using the Pi icon to the top right of your screen: sudo reboot

Step 4

Before starting the overclocking process, it is recommended to take some baseline readings from the Terminal. This is achieved by entering these three commands one at a time to measure the current operating CPU clock frequency (in Hz), GPU clock frequency (in Hz) and internal temperature:

vcgencmd measure_clock arm

vcgencmd measure_clock core

vcgencmd measure_temp

Get benchmark data

Step 5

To start overclocking, enter the Raspberry Pi’s configuration file once again using the command from the Terminal (sudo nano /boot/config.txt) and scroll to the bottom again where you will enter the following commands to overclock the Pi’s CPU & GPU clock frequency, in addition to the Pi’s memory (SDRAM):

arm_freq = 1200

gpu_freq = 400

sdram_freq = 500/pre>

Step 6

Once you have entered those commands, save and exit the configuration file via Control + X, Y and Enter. Reboot your Pi via sudo reboot to apply those changes.

Step 7

To verify that your Pi has been overclocked, go back to the Terminal and enter the same three commands as last time to measure the new CPU and GPU clock frequencies. Ensure that the temperature of your board is still at a safe value and that it is not overheated. Some boards can exceed 100°C without proper cooling when overclocked and then are at risk for serious damage.

vcgencmd measure_clock arm

vcgencmd measure_clock core

vcgencmd measure_temp

Step 8

If you wish to overclock your Pi more, you can experiment and increase the arm frequency to 1500 MHz. However, if you are facing any overclock issues, which typically will present themselves during the bootup, hold down Shift while the Raspberry Pi boots up to access the configuration file immediately. From there, alter or delete any lines that you have added for the overclocking to revert to default settings.

Summary

From this tutorial, you should be able to overclock your Raspberry Pi successfully and safely. Once again, it is important to keep in mind that overclocking your Raspberry Pi does void the warranty and should be done in a controlled manner. FS Tech would recommend overclocking in small increments to gain a better understanding of what your Pi can handle and to gauge whether your current cooling method is sufficient. Another essential point to make when overclocking your Pi is that the required power consumption will increase due to the greater computing power that your Pi is equipped with. This means that in order to ensure a stable performance when overclocked, a high-quality and stable power supply should be used. Also, these frequency values will definitely differ depending on your Raspberry Pi model and therefore should be modified to what your Raspberry Pi can handle safely. Overclocking is an excellent tool to boost your Pi’s performance and can undoubtedly be of great benefit to maximize project results. However, it definitely isn’t something that all Pi users need to perform, especially since there is always a risk of permanent damage to your Pi. 

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