Q&A: Can I overclock my mini PC?

setcpuQ: Can I overclock my mini PC?

A: Possibly. It depends firstly on having the right kernel features. Clock speeds in ARM processors – in fact, in most processors – running under Linux are controlled by the cpufreq driver, which governs how the clock speed is managed. Apps such as SetCPU (available in Google Play or free if you’re a member of xda-developers.com) can allow you to overclock or underclock the CPU rate by working with this driver.

However, there are risks with overclocking – the first is instability. The further you push a CPU beyond its stock rate, the more likely you are to run into issues where the system will freeze, lock up or reboot. The other issue is heat – overclocking a CPU makes it run faster, which increases power consumption and heat production. Mini PCs will come with sufficient heat-sinking to handle their set clock speeds, not necessarily what you try to overclock it to. Overheating a CPU is one way to possibly cause it permanent damage.

There’s also no guarantee that apps like SetCPU will actually work with your device. First, you must have root access. If not, it won’t work – that’s your first problem. The other issue is it needs those hooks into cpufreq in order to get the frequency up. If they don’t exist, it won’t happen either.

If you’re needing more speed, you might find it easier and cheaper in the long run to just consider one of the many quad-core mini PC models floating around for around $70 and up.

It’s not to say you can’t overclock, but you need all of these ducks to line up before it’ll work.

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