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Undervolting Graphics Cards: What It Means and How It Works?

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Most graphics cards are usually not ideally configured right out of the box. While overclocking makes the maximum possible performance available, undervolting goes in the opposite direction. In our instructions, we reveal step by step how graphics cards from AMD and NVIDIA can be undervolted.

Undervolting graphics cards reduces power consumption, noise emission and temperatures. You can save money by reducing the voltage. And that doesn’t even have to be at the expense of the available performance.

In addition to other values, the clock rate of a graphics card provides information about its performance. This can be increased by overclocking the graphics card to get the last bit out of the hardware.

However, if you are satisfied with the given performance, you have the option of reducing the power consumption and thus the energy consumption, as well as reducing the volume of a graphics card at the same time. By reducing the voltage, so-called undervolting, this can be done comparatively quickly and easily.

Note: Be careful with undervolting, because an incorrectly set voltage can lead to system instability and even irreparable damage to the graphics card. ViCadia is not responsible for any modifications or damage done to your hardware. You have been warned!

What are the advantages of undervolting?

Anyone who now believes that undervolting impairs performance is not necessarily correct. With undervolting you can actually retain the same rendering performance, yet decrease your GPU’s overall power consumption by dozens of watts. In principle, undervolting a graphics card offers three core advantages:

  1. This saves electricity costs
  2. As a result, the graphics card works more quietly
  3. Ideally, the performance remains the same

However, undervolting is a process that takes a bit of time and involves the occasional errors that may result in the PC freezing or becoming unresponsive. But the effort is worth it.

Note: How difficult the undervolting turns out to be ultimately also depends on your own graphics card. Models whose factory clock rates deviate from the standard clock rate of a graphics chip (usually marked as an OC model) require more fine-tuning when undervolting in order to achieve the best possible result.

What do you need to undervolt a graphics card?

In order to be able to undervolt a graphics card, it is no longer necessary to go into the BIOS of the graphics card in most cases, as was the case years ago. Undervolting can be done in a simpler form, especially with AMD graphics cards, using the AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition drivers.

With NVIDIA graphics cards, on the other hand, the free tool MSI Afterburner is mandatory, which can be downloaded free of charge from the MSI homepage and also offers significantly more potential for owners of AMD graphics cards. Incidentally, the same tool is also required to overclock the graphics card and thus increase performance.

It is also advisable to install at least one of the free graphics card benchmark tools in order to be able to compare the performance values ​​before and after undervolting. Alternatively or additionally, there are also comparison tests with the preferred games, in which you should keep an eye on the temperature fluctuations and performance.

Undervolting NVIDIA graphics cards

Basically, the undervolting of NVIDIA graphics card, such as the GeForce RTX 3060, the GeForce RTX 3080 or other models, is somewhat more complicated than is the case with the competitor AMD. However, the process is not really complex here either.

Step 1: Test graphics card and determine stock values

Before you start the actual step of undervolting, you first have to find out the necessary values ​​and subject the graphics card to a stress test. While various free tools also allow an insight into the values ​​here, it is advisable to use a benchmark tool such as FurMark or alternatively to run a GPU-intensive game.

This result, together with the information from MSI Afterburner, then provides information about the clock frequency of the GPU and the heat development under load. You should remember or write down the GPU clock values in MHz.

Step 2: Launch MSI Afterburner and show Curve Editor

Once you have downloaded MSI Afterburner, start the application. The voltage of the graphics card is displayed in the lower left area under the item Voltage. In addition, open the Curve Editor via the corresponding button in the lower left corner or by pressing the key combination CTRL + F.

In a graph view, you will see the clock frequency of your graphics card in megahertz (MHz for short) on the Y-axis and the GPU voltage on the X-axis.

Note: Voltage adjustment may need to be enabled first. To do this, click on the gear icon in the left bar of MSI Afterburner. There you will find the items Enable voltage control and Enable voltage monitoring, both of which must be ticked and activated.

Step 3: Gradually adjust the values

Now you can use the Curve Editor to gradually increase (overclock) or decrease (undervolt) one or both values ​​on the graph view. To undervolt, start gradually reducing the Voltage value corresponding to your graphics card.

Additionally, press the L key to freeze the value on the graph. The entire curve can also be moved up or down by holding down the Shift key.

Tip: In order to make it easier to use, it is advisable to adjust the size of the Curve Editor window.

Now the fun or difficult part begins, because finding the best values is more of a matter of trial and error than entering in the right numbers straight away. Changes to the curve must also always be confirmed within MSI Afterburner using the checkmark button (Apply). You can find it at the bottom of the main menu.

Step 4: Test, adjust and test again

Now it’s time to try different values within the curve and test them using a benchmark. It is important that you approach the goal slowly and step by step. The values ​​for each graphics card sometimes vary greatly, even with (at least on paper) identical graphics chips.

Start decreasing the voltage in 5 to 10 mV increments. Save the values ​​and run a benchmark stress test for at least 15 minutes to see if the system runs stable.

If this is the case, you can lower the mV value by 5 to 10 points again and then test again. With the free tool HWiNFO you can also check at any time what effects your adjustments have on the power consumption, temperature and clock rate of the graphics card.

Repeat the adjustment of the voltage until you reach the desired value or the system becomes unstable. The latter is not an issue: simply revert to a previous value afterwards that did not cause any problems.

Step 5: Be sure to validate the values ​​against multiple sources

So once you have reached a voltage where everything runs stable in a specific benchmark and no graphics errors occur, you should definitely check the values ​​with other benchmarks or stress tests. Just because the PC works without problems in one test, it doesn’t mean that the same is the case with other tests.

Undervolting AMD graphics cards

Undervolting an AMD graphics card such as the AMD Radeon RX 6900 series is much easier than it is with NVIDIA models. In principle, of course, you also have the option here of making adjustments using the steps described in MSI Afterburner. However, the procedure is much easier with the AMD Adrenaline software.

Step 1: Open AMD Radeon Software

The corresponding AMD driver software can be opened by right-clicking on the desktop. There you will find the item Performance in the upper navigation bar. In the submenu that opens, switch to the Configuration tab.

There you will find the menu item Tuning Controls which needs to be set to Manual. Now activate the GPU tuning via the slider.

Step 2: Undervolting by moving the slider

You now have the option of using sliders to set both the maximum clock frequency in MHz and the maximum voltage (mV). Now run a benchmark test in the background and slowly, little by little, reduce the graphics chip’s voltage.

Confirm the adjustments by clicking on Apply changes in the top right corner of the software. Repeat this process until the benchmark crashes in the background or system becomes unstable.

Step 3: Increase the voltage again and run more tests

You should then increase the voltage by around 50 millivolts to ensure that the system also runs stable in other benchmarks or games. To be on the safe side, test the set value again using other programs or games. If everything works fine, you have successfully undervolted your graphics card.

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About author
Frank is the Editor-in-Chief at ViCadia. He is an avid PC gamer, as well as a tech enthusiast. Besides being a tireless writer, he is also ViCadia’s web developer.
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