Even AMD Is Confused By Their Processors' Recent Behavior

But they want you to trust them

  • Some AMD Ryzen owners have noticed their processors overclocking automatically.
  • AMD has acknowledged the issue but hasn’t shared any details or reasons for its occurrence.
  • Experts ask users to trust the safeguards built into Ryzen processors to prevent damage until AMD releases an official fix.
A closeup on a processor with 200 percent overlaid on it to indicate overclocking.

Christopher Burgstedt / Science Photo Library / Getty Images

If you think your Ryzen PC is speedier than before, watch out—it could be suffering from a rather peculiar bug. 

Several AMD Ryzenowners took to Reddit to share that their Ryzen processor had increased its clock speed on its own. Technically known as overclocking, the process has its advantages when carefully managed by experts but will usually have a detrimental impact on the PC under such automatic unsupervised circumstances.

"Overclocking can reduce the lifespan of the device due to running at much higher temps, especially with inadequate cooling because a person did not plan to overclock,” Samantha Zeigler, who works as a security researcher at Tripwire, explained in an email to Lifewire.

Changing Gears

Overclocking forces the processors to run at speeds higher than that intended by the manufacturers. The most immediate impact of this accelerated performance is that it generates more heat because the processor draws more electricity.

Some users overclock their CPUs to squeeze out more computing power from their processors. However, if care isn’t taken to properly dissipate the excess heat, an overclocked processor can not only cause irreparable damage to itself, but to the other pieces of hardware in the PC as well.

Overclocking can reduce the lifespan of the device due to running at much higher temps, especially with inadequate cooling because a person did not plan to overclock.”

Typically, people have to fiddle around in the BIOS settings to overclock the processors in their PCs. However, AMD saves its users the trouble by allowing them to overclock using a Windows desktop app known as the Radeon Adrenalin Software Suite. In September 2021, the app introduced a new option to allow users to overclock supported AMD processors automatically to cope with an increased workload.

Notably though, the app displays a warning before it allows users to modify the processor’s performance settings. 

That’s because if the additional heat isn't ventilated at a sufficient rate, the processor will overheat and eventually slow down and become less efficient. Overclocking the processor to speeds beyond the recommended values can also make the PC more unstable and cause the dreaded blue screen of death.

The bug caused the Ryzen processors of several people to overclock on their own, without any visible indication, and more importantly bypassed the warning cautioning them to the dangers of the process.

AMD has confirmed the issue in a statement to Tom's Hardware pinning the blame on "an issue in the AMD software suite." The company however didn’t respond to Lifewire’s email seeking more details, such as a list of the impacted processors and a timeline for the fix.

Closeup of a cooling fan on a circuit board.

Patrick Daxenbichler / Getty Images

Save Your Hardware

Like Zeigler, Vivek Khurana, Head of Engineering, Knot Offices, doesn’t think it’s wise to run unsupervised, overclocked processors. However, he says people don’t need to worry about voiding their warranty since the overclock resulted from a mistake made by AMD and not the result of a deliberate mishandling by the people. 

Of course, there's still the risk of overheating and shutdown, which could disrupt operations and increase the chances of data loss due to PC freezes.

Based on testing by Igor's Lab and by folks on the AMD subreddit, the bug seems to only overclock AMD Ryzen CPU/GPU combo chips, known as APUs. PCs using AMD GPUs with Intel CPUs won't be affected since AMD's software won't overclock Intel's processors.

For the time being, the safest option for Ryzen users is to avoid processor-intensive tasks like gaming, live streaming, or video editing. LifeHacker suggests using a third-party, open source utility called Radeon Software Slimmer, which was created to "trim down the bloat" in the expansive Radeon Adrenalin Software Suite, such as the auto overclocking feature. 

Note, however, that Radeon Software Slimmer isn’t an official AMD software, nor is the tool endorsed by AMD, nor does the company suggest opting for this workaround. In fact, AMD’s response is conspicuous by its absence, and the company isn't offering any advice on avoiding the automatic overclocking. 

But Khurana believes the automatic overclocking is unlikely to cause any damage to the processor because Ryzen CPUs have advanced self-protection features. 

"I think the situation is under control, especially since AMD has confirmed that they're actively working on mitigating the issue," assured Khurana.

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