The Raspberry Pi 3 is a great little computer, much more powerful than the models before it. But did you know that you can squeeze even more energy out of it? Here’s how to overclock your Raspberry Pi and take it further than you ever imagined!

Why overclock your Raspberry Pi?

The standard Raspberry Pi 3 boasts a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, and a Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU as part of the Broadcom System on a Chip (SoC) BCM2837.

Overclocking the CPU will increase the Raspberry Pi’s default clock speed from 1.2GHz to 1.5GHz, depending on your cooling solution (such as a heatsink). Please note that since the Raspberry Pi uses an SoC, you will need to set up the RAM for overclocking.

What’s the point of overclocking a Raspberry Pi? Well, it’s simple: you want to get the most out of it. Several popular tools will perform better than intended when overclocked.

Retro games. If you have experienced difficulty running Sony PlayStation 1, Sega Dreamcast, or Nintendo N64 games on RetroPie, RecalBox, or any other retro gaming solution you have chosen to overclocking can help a lot.

Kodi: Video streaming performance issues in Kodi can be overcome by overclocking your Raspberry Pi. If you’re also using a VPN, a higher clock speed will also help here.

Exagear: Trying run windows software on raspberry pi? Even with the right preparation, overclocking can help here.

Desktop: Raspberry Pi 3 can be used as a standard desktop. Who doesn’t need extra performance from an overclocked processor?

Overclocking the Raspberry Pi 3 is a practical answer to some of its shortcomings (though they were addressed in the later Raspberry Pi 3 B+.).

Overclocking is always risky

Overclocking your Raspberry Pi is easy, but not without risk.

overclocking raspberry pi what why and how

Heat generated: cooling solutions required if you are planning to overclock your Pi. Heat is bad for computer systems because it slows down processing, which in turn generates heat.

Component failure. Excessive heat can also cause component failure.

Data corruption. Using a higher clock frequency often results in data corruption. If you are using a hard drive for your Pi’s operating system, this shouldn’t be a major issue. However, if your Raspberry Pi uses a microSD card (most do), you may find flash media becoming increasingly unreliable.

Reliable power supply: you should already be using a good quality Raspberry Pi power supply. Anything less than the recommended 2.5A power adapter is not suitable for overclocking. Data corruption will quickly occur with low power consumption.

At one point, overclocking your Raspberry Pi will void your warranty. However, as of September 19, 2012, this is not the case, thanks to built-in overclocking tools; however, there is one setting that will affect the device warranty, which we will discuss below.

How to overclock Raspberry Pi 3

Still want to overclock your Raspberry Pi? While you can overclock other distributions, we’ll cover the process on Raspbian Stretch. Start with a full refresh and update:

sudo apt update && sudo apt install upgrade 

After that, install the sysbench tool:

 sudo apt install sysbench 

You will need this later to check how overclocking has improved performance. For now though, run sysbench to get a baseline:

 sysbench --test=cpu --cpu-max-prime=2000 --num-threads=4 run 

Record the results or add a target file to output the results for later comparison.

 sysbench --test=cpu --cpu-max-prime=2000 --num-threads=4 run > benchmark-before.txt 

Next, you need to edit the config.txt file. You’ll find this in the boot directory, which is best accessed through a terminal.

Start by switching to the root directory

 cd / 

Then change directory to boot.

 cd boot 

Confirm that you are in the correct location by listing the content.

 ls 

You must define config.txt. At this point, it’s worthless that the boot directory is the only part of your Raspberry Pi’s operating system that is accessible from Windows. We will return to this later. For now, just copy the file:

 sudo cp config.txt config.old 

You should now have two configuration files. The first one is the one you can edit, config.txt ; your second backup, config.old .

To edit config.txt:

 sudo nano config.txt 

Here you will find a list of settings in the format «name=value». Look for «overclocking»; You should find the line that says «#Uncomment to overclock the hand». Remove the hashtag from the first line under # arm_freq = 800.

To significantly overclock your Raspberry Pi 3, you will need to enter values ​​for the following four conditions:

  1. arm_freq
  2. core_freq
  3. sdram_freq
  4. over_voltage

For Raspberry Pi 3, overclocking is most often done with the following:

 arm_freq=1300 core_freq=500 sdram_freq=500 over_voltage=600 

These settings are the highest stable clock speed you can get. Lower options are available, but are somewhat pointless. However, as noted elsewhere, the software you use will determine if you’re happy with the overclocked speed or not.

Check overclocking performance with sysbench

Now the system is overclocked, you should run the sysbench tool again:

 sysbench --test=cpu --cpu-max-prime=2000 --num-threads=4 run > benchmark-after.txt 

Comparing this difference should show the performance improvements you can expect from overclocking your Raspberry Pi.

overclocking raspberry pi what why and how

Once you’ve figured out what max clock speed you’re comfortable with, you can continue as normal… or you may prefer to use the force_turbo setting to keep the Pi running at its maximum speeds. While you can do this, it is one of the Raspberry Pi overclocking factors that will definitely void your warranty.

How to repair a faulty overclock

If you’ve rebooted your Raspberry Pi with overclocked settings and found that it won’t work, or it freezes, freezes, or behaves in some other undesirable way, you’ll have to revert the changes. This is easy to do:

  • Turn off your Raspberry Pi.
  • Remove the microSD card.
  • Insert the card into your PC’s card reader.
  • Rename \boot\config.old in config.txt .
  • Open file \boot\config.txt .
  • Enter the correct clock frequency and save.
  • Carefully remove the microSD card, insert it into your Pi and boot up.

Everything should now be back to normal.

Can other Raspberry Pi models be overclocked?

Overclocking is an option for older versions of the Raspberry Pi. As always, take precautions to keep your device cool. Take advantage of our comparison to check the correct clock speed of your model and do not increase the speed by more than 10 percent.

To overclock your old Raspberry Pis, everything you need is built into the Raspbian operating system. Start by opening the configuration tool either on the desktop (» Settings» > «Raspberry Pi Configuration» ) or from the command line.

 sudo raspi-config 

After the warning appears, select » Acceleration» .

overclocking raspberry pi what why and how

In the next menu you will find a list of options. The overclocking option currently selected is None, but you will have up to five options to choose from, depending on your Raspberry Pi model. The figure below shows the Raspberry Pi 2 overclocking screen.

overclocking raspberry pi what why and how

While on other devices overclocking is a bit of an increase and a test, with preset options it’s not really necessary. All you have to do is select the overclocked preset you want to use, then press OK, to apply it. However, if you’re trying to use a custom overclock that’s not available with the preset option (using the config.txt file as described above), make small careful adjustments and check the results.

Please note that overclocking can also affect the performance of connected hardware such as Adafruit’s PiTFT display. As such, you will need to take extra precautions (such as manually tweaking the config.txt file after setting a new clock frequency in the menu).

Overclocking is never an exact science. As such, you should spend some time evaluating its impact on your Raspberry Pi and any regularly used software. Our general guide to PC overclocking CPU overclocking overclocking provides a lot of background information.

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