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How to Use MSI Afterburner – Detailed Guide

Hardware components on a computer turn on or off with the entire system. They normally do not have their own switches save for the Bluetooth and the WiFi buttons and most changes that you can make to hardware from inside the OS are benign e.g., change the volume, change the brightness, turn Bluetooth On/Off, etc.

An average computer has quite a few hardware components and the most popular desktop operating systems do not give users access to settings that can modify how any of those components run. Their settings are preset from their manufacturers and you won’t be able to change much if all you have at your disposal is your operating system’s settings’ panel.

Dedicated GPUs

Many laptops and desktop systems come with dedicated GPUs or dedicated graphics cards. They’re mostly found on systems that are meant to be used for graphic-intensive tasks e.g., gaming, animation, video processing, etc.

Their capabilities vary based on their model but generally, a GPU isn’t always configured to run at its highest capabilities.

Most GPUs on a system, whether the system is custom-built or pre-built, are set to perform below their maximum performance levels. This includes how fast they can run, how much power they can draw from the system, how fast the fans on the GPU spin, and more.

All these settings can be changed and often, they result in the GPU running more efficiently and the system working better. The only trick is finding a tool that can manage these settings.

What Is MSI Afterburner?

MSI Afterburner is one of the most popular, and capable apps available if you’re looking to change how the GPU on your system works.

This app can work with both AMD and Nvidia GPUs and it supports newer and older models from these manufacturers.

It’s been developed by MSI, a company that manufactures its own hardware components including GPUs and if you happen to have an MSI GPU, this app will let you customize its settings i.e., underclock or overclock various aspects of the hardware.

Features

  • Monitor GPU health; temperature, core speed, clock speed, voltage/power consumption, usage.
  • Benchmarking; stress test the GPU to see how well it performs when put through its paces.
  • Video capture; record gameplay in various framerates and save it in a variety of formats.
  • Overclocking/underclocking: increase or decrease the memory clock speed of the GPU.
  • Undervolting: reduce power consumption for the GPU.
  • Customize fan speed and create different profiles.

How to Use MSI Afterburner

1. Monitoring with MSI Afterburner

The MSI Afterburner monitoring tool allows you to get a live look at the vitals of your GPU. As you overclock or underclock the memory clock and/or voltage of the GPU, you can use the monitoring tool to see the impact.

To use the monitoring tool;

  1. Open MSI Afterburner.
  2. At the bottom, you will see a small graph. Double-click inside this graph to separate it to an independent window of its own.
  3. Go through the various graphs for temperature, usage, VID usage, BUS usage, memory usage, etc. The monitoring tool will also show you vitals for the CPU in addition to the GPU, and the on-board graphics card.

2. Benchmarking with MSI Afterburner

In order to run benchmark tests on your GPU, you need to use the Kombustor app. This app has been developed by MSI as well and it works with Afterburner however, it needs to be downloaded and installed separately.

Kombustor app

Download the Kombustor app from the MSI Afterburner website. Install it. If you have MSI Afterburner open, close and open it again once Kombustor has been installed.

Run benchmark tests

  1. Open MSI Afterburner.
  2. Make any changes you want to the GPU. If you’d like to run the tests on its current settings, move to the next step.
  3. Click the K button at the top.
  4. The Kombustor app will open. Click the RUN stress test button.
  5. Allow the tests to complete and see how well your GPU performed.

3. Video capture with MSI Afterburner

In order to use the video capture feature, you need to set a keyboard shortcut that will start it.

  1. Open MSI Afterburner.
  2. Click the settings button.
  3. On the settings window, go to the Video Capture tab.
  4. Record a keyboard shortcut for ‘Video capture’.
  5. Click Apply and then use the shortcut whenever you need to record the screen.

4. Overclocking with MSI Afterburner

To overclock the GPU, follow the steps below and remember to do this at your own risk.

  1. Open MSI Afterburner.
  2. Set the Power Limit and the Temperature to maximum from their respective sliders.
  3. Move on to the core clock speed slider and increase the speed. Do this in small increments so that you can tell when you’ve set it too high for your system to handle.
  4. Check the performance of the system, and increase the speed further if you want or need to. If you’re happy with the boost you’ve gotten, don’t push the GPU to higher clock speeds needlessly.

5. Undervolting with MSI Afterburner

Undervolting a GPU reduces how much power it can draw. It may seem counter-productive but it actually boosts the performance of the CPU.

  1. Open MSI Afterburner.
  2. Click the settings button.
  3. On the General tab, enable ‘Unlock voltage control’.
  4. Apply the change and restart the app if needed.
  5. Use the Core Voltage and Power Limit sliders to reduce the GPUs power’s consumption.

Supported GPU

Before you can use MSI Afterburner to undervolt a GPU, you should know that it will only work with Pascal GPUs. You can view a list of all Pascal GPUs here. If your GPU isn’t a Pascal GPU, you can’t use MSI Afterburner however, you can look for other tools that might be able to undervolt your GPU. For AMD GPUs, find their equivalent Nvidia cards and check the linked list.

6. Set custom fan speeds with MSI Afterburner

In order to set custom fan speeds with MSI Afterburner, make sure your GPU model has fans of its own. GPUs that are used in laptops generally do not have their own fans and instead are kept cool by the CPU fan.

  1. Open MSI Afterburner.
  2. Click the settings button.
  3. Go to the Fans tab.
  4. Enable “Enable user-defined software automatic fan control”.
  5. You’re going to see a curve that maps fan speed against GPU temperature. The warmer the GPU is, the faster the fans will run. The points on the curve can be moved. Move them to change how fast the fans run at a particular temperature.
  6. Click Ok and save the fan profile.

Can I use other tools?

MSI Afterburner is the go-to tool for changing how the GPU works but it’s not the only tool for the job. There are plenty of apps that can change how a GPU works.

If you find your GPU model isn’t supported by MSI Afterburner, try other tools that might work. Keep an eye on the specifications of your GPU when using these tools.

Conclusion

A high-end GPU isn’t the only way to get more out of a system. If your GPU model isn’t too old, you might be able to run newer games on it simply by changing its settings.

Invest a little time and figure out what settings are best for your system, and for your particular usage. You may be able to hold off on buying a new GPU or upgrading your laptop for a few years.

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