What Is CPU Boost, and Should You Enable It?

Key Takeaways

  • CPU boost is a technology that dynamically increases CPU clock speed when necessary.
  • Turning off CPU boost can be beneficial for certain scenarios, such as increasing battery life on laptops or reducing temperatures on handheld devices.
  • AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) is different from CPU boost and allows the CPU to boost more aggressively, but with potential risks.

Have you ever noticed that processors and graphics cards have two clock speeds listed on the box? There’s a base and boost clock, but what do these numbers mean?

What Is CPU Boost?

CPU boost is a type of dynamic frequency scaling technology that increases the CPU clock speed if it runs cool enough and a program demands it. It’s enabled by default on all devices. The base clock is the clock speed at which the CPU runs under light loads or when idle. The CPU frequency can even drop below the base clock if you have one of the power-saving technologies enabled.

Dynamic frequency scaling is used in conjunction with dynamic voltage scaling, and together, they’re called dynamic voltage and frequency scaling (DVFS). In layperson terms, CPU boost allows your processor to consume more electricity to run your applications faster, as long as it’s not getting too hot. The exact opposite of CPU boost is thermal throttling, which slows your processor down when it gets hot.

The maximum boost speed you see in the CPU’s specifications is for single-threaded tasks that only use one CPU core. You might notice that your processor almost never runs as fast as advertised, which is expected. Most programs and games today use more than one core. CPU boost can dynamically increase the clock speed of multiple cores to achieve optimal performance depending on the workload.

Intel Turbo Boost and AMD Precision Boost/Core Performance Boost (CPB) are trademarked names for their respective performance-boosting technologies and algorithms. They might use different algorithms, but the outcome is comparable.

Should You Turn CPU Boost On or Off?

CPU boost provides a substantial performance boost without the need for an overclock. You can get most of your CPU’s maximum performance without ever having to open the BIOS. Since it’s all automatic and temperature-dependent, upgrading your CPU cooler leads to an automatic increase in performance up to the limit of the boost range.

“Who in their right mind would want to turn off CPU boost?” is probably the question running through your mind right now. While that’s a valid question, there are a few scenarios where turning off CPU boost makes sense.

If you have a powerful laptop but only use it for light tasks, turning off CPU boost could increase your battery life by quite a bit, especially before a trip. Another legitimate use case is for handhelds.

YouTuber Filterless did some tests with CPU boost on the ASUS ROG Ally and found that turning CPU boost off leads to a longer battery life, lower temperatures, and even better performance.

That being said, Intel doesn’t recommend turning Turbo Boost off unless you’re troubleshooting or benchmarking, and I agree. Your CPU is excellent at managing its temperature by dynamically adjusting its clock speed and voltage, so there’s no downside to keeping it on at all times.

If you want to quickly save battery life or make your CPU run cooler, switch your power plan from “High Performance” to “Balanced” or “Power Saver.” This way, you can still benefit from the boost clock speeds when needed, and you won’t have to mess around in your BIOS.

What Is AMD Precision Boost Overdrive?

Don’t get confused by the name AMD uses for their Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) technology—this isn’t the same as CPU boost. PBO increases the motherboard’s power limit threshold. It allows the CPU to boost more aggressively within its specified limits than “stock” settings, but it won’t exceed the maximum CPU boost clock.

For example, if your processor’s Thermal Design Power (TDP) is 65W, it increases to 88W when you turn PBO on. In other words, PBO allows your processor to consume more power and generate more heat. If your CPU has a maximum boost of 4.2 GHz and you previously saw 3.8 GHz on all cores, you might reach 4.0 GHz after enabling PBO.

I recommend turning PBO on or setting it to auto if you have an aftermarket cooler or don’t mind the extra fan noise. It’s an easy way to increase your CPU performance with minimal risk.

CPU boost is one of the best parts of modern CPU technology, and it means most people don’t have to bother with overclocking anymore. So unless you have a good reason, leave it alone, and enjoy that sweet free performance.


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