Overclock your Raspberry Pi - Squeeze more power out of your $35 computer

Picture of Overclock your Raspberry Pi - Squeeze more power out of your $35 computer
After recently purchasing my Raspberry Pi, I found many of the Linux distros to be slow and often sluggish. Unless you are using it as a pure media centre, you'll definitely want to try this method to make browsing the web and typing up documents a smoother experience. This method is totally free, involves no soldering and, if you stick with clock rates and don't tamper with the voltage, doesn't even void your warranty. I am in NO WAY an expert, especially with hardware, but this is very commonly done among the Raspberry Pi community and reasonably safe as long as you follow the instructions well.

Step 1: Requirements

Picture of Requirements
You won't need much for this to work, unless you really want to push the Pi to its limits.

 - A Raspberry Pi
 - A Windows PC with Notepad++ installed http://notepad-plus-plus.org/download/v6.1.8.html
 - A small heatsink and thermal paste (If you're going to go past 750 or 800mhz)

The heatsink can be bought from Jaycar (if you're in Australia) or Radioshack (If you're in America) or where ever else you can find a  Pin grid array (PGA) heatsink. http://www.jaycar.com.au/productView.asp?ID=HH8580
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jeffeb32 years ago
1) should that be gpu_freq?
2) Can you edit it with the pi itself, then reboot?
aeszok (author)  jeffeb32 years ago
Yeah sorry, ill fix that, and you can as far as i know, in fact its probably faster doing that, i just thought people are more comfortable in a windows environment
Wendell2477 months ago

Overclocking does indeed give some extra power, heatsinks are typically very cheap (think 10% of the price) and can help a little bit, as outlined here:


ryan_carins2 years ago
you don't need heat sinks at all as the chip can take the heat of 85 Celsius i think so its pointless
aeszok (author)  ryan_carins1 year ago

I don't think I'd particularly feel comfortable with my $25 ARM CPU hitting 85C.

mechagen1 year ago
I know that the processor has a default frequency of 700mhz but what is the default for the other clockable parts like the gpu and such
jrg3ni0us2 years ago
I'm not super familiar with Linux (especially Raspbian) but don't you need to put "sudo" in front of any command unless the user has sudo privileges?
not sure you could ask that question on this site or google it. I have a Raspberry Pi and i use sudo every now and then for commands but I am still not sure.
nerd74732 years ago
Will it make the internet and games run faster?
jcksparr0w2 years ago
This make me think a bit more. I'm thinking you should liquid cool the rasberry pi so it will work even better. it looks to me like the most practical computer to liquid cool. Small, Easily containable, it seems perfect
aeszok (author)  jcksparr0w2 years ago
Um, liquid cool the rasberry pi? I don't see how that would be practical, or why it would be necessary at all, but I suppose it would be a nice project.
Nick_de2 years ago
For a nice set of 3 heatsinks go here:
ellisgl2 years ago
Don't forget the heat sinks! https://tindie.com/ellisgl/raspberry-pi-copper-heat-sink-kit/
Just go to the official Raspberry Pi site http://www.raspberrypi.org/ and do it the approved way.
franson2 years ago
cpu is faster and faster, bottle neck is not only cpu freq but also memory etc.
a10 solution called uputer is faster:
aeszok (author)  franson2 years ago
If you read through it, the instructable shows how you can increase the SDRAM and GPU frequencies, I didn't go into great depth with those because I'm unsure how far you can push those up. As far as the bottleneck situation goes, I really don't think that the RAM is much of an issue, and the GPU only gets pushed up by smaller increments. You only have to look at dedicated chips to see the difference: An intel i5 3570 can be pushed from 3.7Ghz to 4.5 with a nice cooler, but the highest you can push most graphics cards is only 50 to 150mhz as they operate differently . The same goes for the SDRAM, normal RAM can only be clocked up by about 20 to 50mhz.
mbainrot2 years ago
Great instructable, would definitely considering doing this to my raspberry pi.

Just a side note is that the pin grid array heatsink shown has a 5.9°C per watt thermal resistance, that means the device will be 5.9 * thermal power above ambient.

Whist it will prob do the job when I do this I will definitely monitor the device to insure the temperature doesn't get above 85°C
aeszok (author)  mbainrot2 years ago
Thanks for clarifying that, I don't think you really need the heatsink at all if you're going to go to just 800, but I like to have something there because I'm a bit paranoid, especially at higher frequencies.
Also, as some of the other comments have pointed out, the day after I posted this the newest version of Raspbian was released and includes adaptive overclocking which is faster and much more efficient that this method. It overclocks both the voltage and the frequency, but as far as I know it only works with Raspbian, and I like to use XBMC with mine to use a media centre, so it's still relevant somewhat.
I have been waiting months and still do not have one yet. Credit card is ready. Wish I could get one to show what really can be done.

Most of the people I see doing linux demos for the raspberry, really do not know how to use linux in the sense of a lean machine. The early distros for the raspberry were not optimized for that unit. They are beginning to come out now. There is also allegedly ways to overclock the Raspberry Pi as seen from an earlier comment.
How odd... I ordered mine from a Danish distributor that gets them from element14 and I had mine after 2 days....
Ours are finally in transit.
aeszok (author)  Computothought2 years ago
I have found that element14 is much faster than RS.
I also totally agree with your statement that there have been no truly optimized linux distros for RasPi, although Raspbian seems to be getting better. It is true that the newest version of Raspbian offers dynamic overclocking, and manages voltage and frequency much better than this method without voiding your warranty, although it was not available at the time of posting.
I also don't like the idea of using the Raspberry Pi as a fully blown computer - it simply wasn't designed for desktop use. Rather, I like to use it as a torrent server or a home media player with XBMC, but if I had the knowledge I would most certainly use it for more advanced purposes, such as hacking other devices with it.
I would agree, I bought mine ( living in Canada) from Element14 in July and had it with in the month.
RS sells the rpi?

Installed xmbc on my desktop and the latest version seemed to do tracking of your media choices. I will have to check it out again to be sure. A real cop-out for an open source project.

I use the nslu2 as a daap compatible music server. It is a fraction of the power if the rpi. You do not have to use the gui to use a linux box as a regular computer. Speeds it up dramatically. There are a ton of text based apps. Supposedly there is a optimized debian for the rpi now/ Another new distro has come out for the rpi that usually been very optimized. Can not wait to try it.

If I use torrents, it is to download a free open source linux distros. Generally I use wget in the background to download stuff. Torrents can be very slow or even not available unless the download is popular.. Really do not waste bandwidth for media excepting open source training media.. it can stay on the web so my drives do not get clogged up with that stuff. . I just get out my gitbox for some live music if I want to hear something. have recorded some of that though. .
I bought mine in February and received it in June. LOL
oshondrom2 years ago
What is the limit?
Also, nice little project!
aeszok (author)  oshondrom2 years ago
Without upping the voltage, which I don't show here, you can get to about 900 or 950. You can also up the frequencies of the SDRAM and the GPU but I'm not really sure about how high you can get those. I would now recommend downloading the newest version of Raspbian from the Raspberry Pi's website - It includes dynamic overclocking up to 1Ghz in the latest version.
As far as I know, 1 GHz is as far as you can take it without voiding the warranty. But hey, if you're down to take it further, the sky's the limit.
MK34242 years ago
no need now they have introduced the turbo mode:http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/2008
elizle2 years ago
You can do this by running raspi-config in Raspbian "wheezy"
Slayertaz2 years ago
Does anyone know if we can still buy & if so could you provide where?
Adafruit has had some recently....in fact, they were giving away a "free" one with each purchase over a certain amount. At any rate, I managed to pick up 7 altogether though I only directly paid for 5. They had 85 in stock as of a few days ago. I don't know what their replenishment schedule is over there, but I definitely like working with Limor, Phil, Becky, etc. over there. They are doing a lot of innovation around expanding the Pi's capabilities and even have their own much-more-hacker-and-regular-user-friendly distro they've released.
clinzey2 years ago
WOW guys it takes a while for you all to get them i ordered mine on friday and got it on tuesday
In Belgium it takes about 17 weeks waiting period:( i'm now in week 7...
waiting time in Belgium is about 17 weeks, i'm now in week 7 I guess...:(
AndyGadget2 years ago
Look what's just appeared on Raspberry Pi News - literally an hour ago!
(I'm still waiting for my Pi #;¬(
aeszok (author)  AndyGadget2 years ago
Oh wow, thats fantastic, but makes mine pretty irrelevant. And depending on where you are, it takes about 3-4 weeks generally. It took me 3.5 weeks in Aus.
I've been waiting since early July and I'm in the UK!!!
I placed my order with one of the original suppliers (RS Components) but they are appearing in stock elsewhere now so I may well cancel that and go elsewhere (but now selling for a fiver more).
aeszok (author)  AndyGadget2 years ago
Have you contacted them? by phone is generally best, because you can put them on the spot, but most companies will often respond and check your order after an email.
It's just the way the pre-ordering worked - I was thinking I'd get one earlier before they started supplying distributors, but it hasn't worked out that way.
I'll cancel today and order from somewhere with them in stock.
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