Introduction: 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
 - 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.

Step 2: Create a Config.txt File

Picture of Create a Config.txt File

Once you have Notepad++, install it with the default settings and open it. Here you'll have to go to Settings>Preferences>New Document/default directory and tick the Unix checkbox that appears, rather than Mac or Windows. Once this is done, open a new file and type the following: 


If you're feeling bold you can adjust them a little higher, but if you're going to go to 900 you definitely need a heatsink as well as bring the GPU down about 50mhz to make up for the power being supplied to the unit.

Once this is done, save your file to the boot partition of your SD card as "config.txt". The boot partition will be the only partition that shows up on Windows usually(about 60mb in size) - if it doesn't show up, you'll have to put your config.txt on a usb and transfer it onto the SD card with a Linux machine like Ubuntu. 

Step 3: Finishing Up

If you bought the heatsink, now's the time to grease up your CPU and firmly press it down. Let the grease solidify a bit before continuing, so that it doesn't slide off. Once this is done, boot the Pi.
If it doesn't boot, or has a kernel panic, don't worry - just edit the config.txt file and bring all the values down a bit until it does boot. Remember the default CPU clock frequency is 700mhz. 
You should notice about a 15-20% increase if you run any benchmarks, more if you bought the heatsink and took it to 850mhz or 900. If you take it over 900 without a boost in voltage, it probably won't boot, and conservative old me isn't going to ruin my warranty by screwing with such things. If you run into any problems, then you can just wipe the config.txt file to get it back to normal.
Sorry for the lack of pics on the heatsink, I ran at 800 without one for a little bit but as soon as I get one (probably this weekend), I'll upload it.
You can do all this on the pi itself too, and just reboot it.
Good luck!


jeffeb3 (author)2012-09-19

1) should that be gpu_freq?
2) Can you edit it with the pi itself, then reboot?

baskaranvV (author)jeffeb32016-08-17

Motherboard wifi

aeszok (author)jeffeb32012-09-19

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

Wendell247 (author)2015-01-13

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_carins (author)2013-05-11

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_carins2014-02-08

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

mechagen (author)2013-12-31

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

jrg3ni0us (author)2013-03-16

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?

nerd7473 (author)jrg3ni0us2013-04-13

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.

nerd7473 (author)2013-04-09

Will it make the internet and games run faster?

jcksparr0w (author)2012-10-05

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)jcksparr0w2012-10-10

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_de (author)2012-10-08

For a nice set of 3 heatsinks go here:

ellisgl (author)2012-09-28

Don't forget the heat sinks!

maroelawerner (author)2012-09-27

Just go to the official Raspberry Pi site and do it the approved way.

franson (author)2012-09-20

cpu is faster and faster, bottle neck is not only cpu freq but also memory etc.
a10 solution called uputer is faster:

aeszok (author)franson2012-09-24

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.

mbainrot (author)2012-09-24

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)mbainrot2012-09-24

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.

Computothought (author)2012-09-20

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.

Eirinn (author)Computothought2012-09-24

How odd... I ordered mine from a Danish distributor that gets them from element14 and I had mine after 2 days....

Computothought (author)Eirinn2012-09-24

Ours are finally in transit.

aeszok (author)Computothought2012-09-21

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.

darrennie (author)aeszok2012-09-23

I would agree, I bought mine ( living in Canada) from Element14 in July and had it with in the month.

Computothought (author)aeszok2012-09-21

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. .

Instructable_James (author)2012-09-24

I bought mine in February and received it in June. LOL

aeszok (author)2012-09-23

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.

MK3424 (author)2012-09-23

no need now they have introduced the turbo mode:

elizle (author)2012-09-23

You can do this by running raspi-config in Raspbian "wheezy"

Slayertaz (author)2012-09-20

Does anyone know if we can still buy & if so could you provide where?

craigthecoder (author)Slayertaz2012-09-23

Adafruit has had some 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.

Nxtfari (author)2012-09-23

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.

clinzey (author)2012-09-20

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...

Stephenverstraete (author)2012-09-21

waiting time in Belgium is about 17 weeks, i'm now in week 7 I guess...:(

AndyGadget (author)2012-09-19

Look what's just appeared on Raspberry Pi News - literally an hour ago!
(I'm still waiting for my Pi #;¬(

aeszok (author)AndyGadget2012-09-19

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.

AndyGadget (author)aeszok2012-09-19

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)AndyGadget2012-09-20

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.

AndyGadget (author)aeszok2012-09-20

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.

aeszok (author)AndyGadget2012-09-20

Yeah that might be a good idea. Good luck!

tacticalninja (author)2012-09-20

Why create a new config.txt file? isn't there already a premade config.txt on the /boot directory? and all you have to do is uncomment the carm_freq=800 line.

aeszok (author)tacticalninja2012-09-20

I think depending on what distro you have installed, there often won't be one or it might be empty. If that works for you, go for it.

querry43 (author)2012-09-20

I don't think you need to do this anymore. Just grab the most recent firmware and it should adaptively overclock itself.

About This Instructable




Bio: I'll do just about anything if I have the materials and tools handy.
More by aeszok:Build your own speaker from scratch!Project Benchtop - Cheap Workstation for InstructablesOverclock your Raspberry Pi - Squeeze more power out of your $35 computer
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