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Locked VS Unlocked CPU – The Detailed Comparison Guide

You can find a comparison of Locked VS Unlocked CPU. If you don’t know what to look for when choosing a CPU for your new gaming PC, it can be difficult. After all, a CPU’s performance isn’t as easy to judge as GPU performance when it comes to gaming. Furthermore, there are a variety of factors to consider.

If you don’t know what to look for when selecting a CPU for your new gaming PC, it might be a difficult task. After all, overclocking a CPU has some drawbacks, including the fact that CPU performance isn’t as easy to measure as GPU performance when gaming. In addition, there are several considerations to consider.

Locked VS Unlocked CPU – Guide Book


What is Unlocked CPU?

An unlocked CPU has an unlocked clock multiplier, allowing it to be overclocked quickly and easily.

What is locked CPU?

A locked CPU cannot be overclocked in this way and must instead rely on BCLK overclocking. So, how does an unlocked CPU differ from a locked one? We’ll answer precisely that in this guide, so read on! One such feature is whether the CPU is locked or unlocked.

Locked OR Unlocked Processor

When we say “locked” and “unlocked,” we’re referring to the CPU’s clock multiplier. If the multiplier is unlocked, it can easily overclock the CPU by changing the multiplier. Even yet, if the multiplier is locked, it cannot be overclocked this way. “Unlocked multiplier” refers to the ability to overclock your system by changing both the multiplier and the CPU frequency under the CPU settings.

Look for a “K” letter at the end of the model number for regular Intel Core gaming CPUs. Unlocked is all Intel CPUs with the K category and two-letter assignments like “KF” and “HK.”

You won’t have to look for AMD Ryzen CPUs because they’re all unlocked, from the cheapest Ryzen 3 to the most powerful Ryzen 9 and Ryzen Thread ripper beasts. Furthermore, on some Ryzen models, the “X” designation at the end of the model number has nothing to do with the multiplier; it denotes that the CPU is somewhat faster and works better when overclocked.

Unlock and Overclock A Locked CPU

Fine, unlocking a locked CPU is impossible since it is a physical process that occurs during the manufacturing process. This means that a locked CPU does not just have a software limitation that can be overcome with the help of a certain tool or utility.

Locked CPUs, on the other hand, can be overclocked by altering their base clock speed, a process known as BCLK overclocking. BCLK overclocking works by increasing the CPU’s power limit, which in turn increases the base clock speed. However, there are some potential drawbacks to this approach of overclocking: it increases the amount of heat created by the CPU and can result in unsteady performance. The total performance improvement would be less evident than if the CPU were unlocked.

Overclocking Value

So we come to the crux of the matter: should you even be concerned about overclocking? For those who don’t know, overclocking is the practice of boosting the number of commands a CPU can process per second by increasing the clock speed (expressed in Hz) beyond the manufacturer’s limits. As previously stated, this enhances the CPU’s raw single-core performance while simultaneously increasing heat generation.

That said, there’s no doubting that overclocked CPUs outperform those with stock factory settings, but does the performance boost make a significant difference?

In most cases, the answer is no when it comes to gaming. Of course, this depends on how CPU-intensive a game is and whether the CPU is bottlenecking the GPU, but in most cases, the in-game speed increase from CPU overclocking is only a few frames. Not only is the performance boost limited, but overclocking also comes with an additional cost, since you’ll need to invest in a very expensive aftermarket cooler to fully exploit the CPU‘s overclocking capability.


This is true for both AMD and Intel processors. While the more powerful Ryzen models used to come with very good Wraith Spire and Wraith Prism coolers, Team Red took a step back in that respect, and the newer Ryzen 5000 units either come without cooling or come with Wraith Stealth coolers that aren’t particularly good for overclocking. 

Overclocking, on the other hand, is primarily a passion. As the adage goes, getting there is half the fun, so for an overclocking fan, the process of trying to squeeze every last bit of processing power out of a CPU is part of the excitement. For those who aren’t part of that group, this approach will most likely feel like a job with little payoff.

Overclocking a CPU can result in a more obvious performance improvement in certain CPU-intensive professional software, as well as make a CPU more future-proof and help minimize bottlenecks. It’s just that it doesn’t provide as much of a boost in terms of gaming as many individuals assume.

Last Verdict

So, should you get an unlocked CPU, or should you settle for a locked CPU?

If you think you’d benefit from the performance gain, such as if you plan to use CPU-intensive professional software in addition to gaming, or if you just have money to spare and want to build a high-quality, future-proof gaming PC, then an unlocked CPU is a good investment.

Overclocking shouldn’t be too high on the priority list for the average gamer, as stock clock speeds combined with technologies that allow for automated clock speed enhancements will provide more than enough processing power to run the latest games.

However, choosing the proper CPU for gaming is a more complicated topic, so if you’re looking for one right now, we recommend looking through our list of the best CPUs of 2021, where you’re sure to discover a suitable match for your demands.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is an unlocked CPU better?

Unlocked CPUs can be overclocked for faster than factory core speeds when paired with the right chipset, such as the Z-170, and in the hands of a qualified techie. Overclocking is not possible on locked processors.

Can you unlock a locked CPU?

Intel’s locked processor chips are physically locked from manufacturing. You can’t get past it with a hack or voodoo; you either have a locked (non k) or unlocked (k) chip. On a locked CPU, you can still boost the base clock, because base-clock (bclk) influences more than just the CPU.

Is an i7 better than an i5?

Multitasking, media-editing and media-creation jobs, high-end gaming, and other demanding workloads will often benefit from a Core i7. The majority of recent Intel Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs feature four or more cores, which we consider to be the sweet spot for most mainstream users.


Bobby Najar is an avid reader and tech enthusiast. He loves writing about the latest technology and writes reviews on laptops, graphic cards, motherboards, PC rams, etc.

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