Objective

Overclock your AMD Ryzen CPU using Linux and your motherboard's BIOS.

Distributions

This will work with all Linux distributions running kernel 4.10 or better.

Requirements

A working Linux install running kernel 4.10 or better with root privileges running on an AMD Ryzen base machine.

Difficulty

Medium

Conventions

  • # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
  • $ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Introduction

AMD's Ryzen CPUs were designed to be overclocked. They're excellent at it, and they benefit greatly from it. Most Ryzen CPUs can even overclock a few hundred MHz using a stock cooler. That's impressive no matter how you look at it.

Windows users got a convenient graphical tool to overclock Ryzen when it launched. Linux users can still overclock Ryzen, but they need to do it the old way, through the BIOS.

There are temperature monitoring and stress testing tools available on Linux too, so you can test out your overclocks once you've set them.

Install The Sensor Modules

Before you touch your BIOS, you should set up temperature monitoring capabilities for Ryzen. We have a complete guide that will walk you through the entire process.

Once you have the sensors set up, you can use a utility like gkrellm, Conky, or even just a script that uses the sensors command. It doesn't matter which you choose, but you do need to have some method of temperature monitoring.

Overclocking In The BIOS

Every motherboard has different BIOS. No guide can cover them all. Instead, this one will use the basic names of the settings you need to modify. Most BIOS utilities are arranged with a section specifically for overclocking. The majority of the settings can be found in there.

Set The Clock Speed

Ryzen BIOS clock settings

Find the clock speed setting on your motherboard. This might be just a multiplier setting on your board, or it could ask you to set the final frequency. Don't adjust the base clock.

It's possible to overclock that way, but it can cause loads more problems than it's worth. Multiplier overclocking is easier and has fewer complications.

Multipliers are usually based on a base clock of 100MHz, so a multiplier of 36 would give you a 3.6GHz total clock speed.

There are two philosophies to determining the max clock speed. First, you can start to incrementally increase your multiplier one step at a time, testing each one, until your computer locks up, and you need to set the voltage. The other option is much quicker. Pick a "reasonable" clock speed and voltage. Test it out, and adjust accordingly. This guide will go with this option because it is faster, easier, and won't cause any problems unless you pick a ridiculous value. For a Ryzen CPU, try starting with a total clock speelected clock speed. That meansd around 3.5GHz or 3.6GHz.

Adjusting VCore

Ryzen BIOS voltage settings

Depending on your board, you may have a whole array of different voltage settings available to you. For CPU overclocking, you only need the VCore(sometimes CPU core).

This setting can be dangerous. Voltage generates heat, and heat kills components. Do NOT go over 1.45v. 1.4v would be the maximum safe voltage for regular daily use.

You should start out around 1.325v or 1.35v. That will probably be enough to reach a clock speed around 3.8GHz.

Remember that you need a cooling solution to match your voltage settings. Don't try to hit 1.4v with the stock cooler. The chip will heat up way too fast. That territory is reserved for high end air coolers and liquid.

Turn Off Problematic Features

There are some features that might be good for making your system more energy efficient but get in the way of a stable overclock. You have to turn them off in order to make your overclock as stable as possible. It's hard to say exactly what features your motherboard has, but these are some of the more common problematic features.
  • AMD Cool N' Quiet
  • C States/C6
  • Spread Spectrum
  • Core Performance Boost
  • Power Saving Modes

A Note On RAM

You can also overclock your RAM. DDR4 RAM overclocks fairly well, actually. Just make sure that your motherboard can support the voltages that you're sending.

RAM overclocking is more complex than the CPU. You need to keep RAM timings in mind. They will determine the stability of the clock. As you raise the clock speed, you may need to bump up the timings too.

Different RAM is rated for different voltages. Some DDR4 is only rated for around 1.2v. Others can go up to 1.4v. Most of the time a voltage of around 1.35v should be alright, but never go too far beyond the recommended voltage.

You may need to increase the SoC voltage to overclock the RAM too. Again, this is a very sensitive setting. Don't go beyond 1.2v.

Testing With MPrime

The easiest way to test out the stability of your overclock is with a program called MPrime. It's also known as Prime95, for people coming from Windows.

It's a command line utility for searching for prime numbers, but it also includes a stress test. Download and run the program in the terminal. When you first run the program, MPrime will ask you if you are just stress testing. Say "Yes." The option for stress testing is 15. Use the defaults for the following questions. Press Ctrl+C to exit after the test.

Keep an eye on your temperatures as you test. Do not let your CPU go above 75C. It's probably best to be safe, and keep it below 70C.

If you CPU can go for several hours(ideally 6+) without overheating, locking up, or having workers in MPrime fail, you can consider your overclock stable.

If it does fail in some way, and it probably will, go back into the BIOS, and adjust your settings. The most common reason for failure is there not being enough voltage to support the selected clock speed. That means you either need to increase the voltage or decrease the clock speed. When you've reached either the max temperature or voltage, you know you have to drop the clock speed, and you've reached your CPU's limit. Most Ryzen CPUs can hit 3.7GHz-4.0GHz at a safe configuration.

Closing Thoughts

Overclocking a CPU isn't very difficult, but you have to be careful, or you're going to have a very expensive paperweight.

Just because something is the limit doesn't mean you should push all the way there. There's nothing wrong with running the CPU below it's absolute max for stability and the longevity of the chip.
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