One-Click Overclocking With The Intel Performance Maximizer
A Simple, Easy, and Effective Tool for Automated Overclocking, But Only for a Select Few Processors
Intel today is launching the Intel Performance Maximizer (IPM), a new utility that gives users one-click overclocking of their recent high-end processors. The Intel Performance Maximizer is targeted at new and less experienced PC enthusiasts, who want to squeeze a bit more performance out of their CPU despite a lack of comfort with manual overclocking.
The good news is that IPM is free. The relative bad news is that it’s currently limited to just a handful of Intel’s most recent 9th Gen Core desktop processors:
You’ll also need a motherboard with a Z390 chipset, at least 8GB of RAM, 16GB of available space on an internal drive, and Windows 10 1809 or newer. Intel provided us with a pre-release copy of the tool, and we were able to test it on a 9900K-based system. Here are our impressions of the new Intel Performance Maximizer.
Intel Performance Maximizer Overview
First, a brief overview of how the Intel Performance Maximizer works. Like other automatic overclocking solutions from companies such as ASUS, ASRock, and Gigabyte, IPM automatically increases clock speeds in small steps, testing after each change to ensure stability. It repeats this process until there’s a crash or error, at which point it drops back down to the previous clock or multiplier setting, tests for stability again, and then starts to tweak other factors such as voltage. This repeats until the tool establishes a maximum safe overclock. Depending on your CPU and system setup, the process can take an hour or more.
All of this is handled automatically by the IPM, so the user just needs to sit there and let it do its thing. This contrasts with other overclocking tools like the Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, which gives the user access to a plethora of overclocking configuration options, performance status, and stress testing that must all be manually tweaked or executed.
Intel Performance Maximizer Setup
Once you’ve verified that you meet the minimum hardware requirements listed earlier, you may also need to prepare your system prior to running IPM. The layout and terminology of each motherboard’s UEFI/BIOS varies depending on the manufacturer, but Intel reports that you’ll need to find and configure a few important settings:
- Processor Core Overclocking must be enabled
- All Processor cores must be enabled
- Hyper-Threading, if supported on the processor, must be enabled
- Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 mode must be enabled
- Boot mode must be UEFI
- Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology must be enabled
- Intel Watchdog Timer Driver (Intel WDT) must be enabled
Assuming that’s all configured properly, you’ll then download and install the Intel Performance Maximizer from Intel’s website. Doing so will install the basic IPM end-user GUI along with custom drivers for your CPU. You’ll find the drivers listed in Device Manager > Software Components, with one entry per processor thread.
Intel Performance Maximizer Usage
After rebooting your PC following the IPM installation, launch the tool via its desktop or Start Menu icon. The Intel Performance Maximizer presents a very basic interface, with effectively no end-user options or settings. A brief disclaimer delivers the usual warnings about the potential dangers of overclocking, and invites users to consider purchasing one of Intel's "Performance Tuning Protection Plans" (more on that later).
As mentioned earlier, IPM runs via a separate bootable partition, so users must next designate a 16GB portion of one of their internal, non-removable drives. The IPM setup will automatically create and resize the drive’s partitions accordingly.
Once that’s done, there’s just one big Continue button, which reboots the system and begins the tests. The only other preference or setting is the ability to hide or show the IPM icon in the Windows System Tray. When Intel says “one-click” overclocking, they mean it.
The Intel Performance Maximizer process can take quite some time to complete. Your PC will reboot in between each test and validation, so it's probably a good idea to disconnect any external drives or devices that might hinder or slow down the system's boot sequence. If you've already overclocked your PC manually or via another overclocking utility, you'll also want to reset your overclocking-related BIOS settings to their defaults before running the IPM, as they may conflict with the tool's testing process. For example, we had our test system's Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB memory configured with the XMP profile prior to starting IPM, which caused the tool to fail. Setting our memory back to default speeds solved the issue, and we were able to return the memory to its faster speed after IPM had finished.
If all goes well, you'll eventually be booted back into Windows where the IPM window will report your new safe overclock. Your result will vary depending on the processor type, system cooling, and your luck in the "silicon lottery." In our case, IPM got our retail 9900K to an all-core boost of 4.9GHz at a max of 1.296v.
We know from past efforts manually overclocking this particular chip that it can hit 5GHz all-cores at 1.35v, but IPM nonetheless produced a very good result for an automatic overclocking tool. That's because many of the overclocking tools already available from motherboard manufacturers go notoriously too high with voltages. It's far too common to see results from these tools that have frequencies several hundred megahertz below where they should be, at voltages way higher than necessary.
And that's where the Intel Performance Maximizer really stands out. If anything, it takes a conservative approach to voltages, which makes it a safer option in the long run, especially for the type of user who would choose to use IPM over XTU or manual tweaking in the BIOS.
Uninstalling Intel Performance Maximizer
Once you've run IPM and established an automatic overclock, you won't want to run any other overclocking tools or make changes in your motherboard's BIOS. In our testing with a Gigabyte Z390 AORUS Master, any changes we made in the BIOS to frequencies, voltages, or multipliers were ignored and reset when booting back into Windows. Therefore, if you'd like to try another overclocking method, or remove the overclock altogether, you'll need to uninstall IPM.
Fortunately, this is as simple as uninstalling any other standard Windows application. Just find the Intel Performance Maximizer entry in Settings > Apps > Apps & Features and select Uninstall. You'll need to reboot to complete the process.
Performance Tuning Protection Plan
While not new, Intel is revamping its Performance Tuning Protection Plan alongside the introduction of the Intel Performance Maximizer. This plan, now available for $19.99 for any of the CPUs compatible with IPM, covers the user for the duration of the processor's standard warranty period against a single failure due to catastrophic end-user overclocking. Or, as Intel puts it, "operating the eligible processor outside of Intel's published specifications."
For those either concerned with the risks of overclocking in general, or those wanting to really push their OC, the combination of the IPM and the revamped Performance Tuning Protection Plan gives users some assurance that they won’t lose their expensive new CPU for good if something goes wrong. Experienced enthusiasts will likely pass on the program, and its value is less obvious on the lower-end parts, but it’s not a bad option to have if it means saving a $500 9900K, for example.
Intel Performance Maximizer Benchmarks
To examine the effectiveness of the Intel Performance Maximizer, we ran a brief series of tests on three configurations with our 9900K-based system. The IPM is targeted at more novice users, so the goal with our testing was to compare a likely scenario for a first-time PC builder. Experienced users would almost certainly never use completely stock settings, or overclock their CPU without addressing the RAM, but experienced users probably wouldn’t opt for a tool like Intel Performance Maximizer in the first place. That said, here are our configurations:
Stock: Completely stock settings for all components, exactly how it would appear to a user booting a new PC for the first time.
IPM: The Intel Performance Maximizer result of 4.9GHz all-core boost at 1.296v. However, since IPM doesn’t touch system memory at all, the system memory remains at its default speed of 2133MHz.
Manual OC: A basic manual overclock achieved by using the XMP profile (3200MHz), and CPU multiplier for a 4.9GHz all-core boost at 1.236v. This manual overclock was simple enough that a novice user could feel comfortable with it after a few minutes of tutorial articles or YouTube videos, and has the advantage of slightly lower voltage and faster memory.
The complete system specifications:
As the benchmarks show, it's possible to achieve a further small increase in performance over the IPM result with just very basic manual overclocking, with larger increases obtainable via practice and experience in most situations. But if learning to manually overclock isn't an option, the Intel Performance Maximizer is arguably the best one-click solution of its type, as long as you have one of the few compatible processors, of course.
Other automatic overclocking utilities offer more features, such as the ability to tune system memory or case fans but, as mentioned they almost all produce less than optimal results for the CPU, with high voltages and lower-than-expected frequencies. IPM may be focused just on the processor, but it does a great job achieving a respectable overclock at a surprisingly normal voltage. Yes, you can get better performance with basic manual overclocking, but those eager to go that route will probably want to skip IPM anyway.
We're eager to see if Intel adds additional processors to the compatibility list, but if you already have a compatible processor and Z390 board and haven't done any serious overclocking, it's worth checking out the Intel Performance Maximizer.