When it comes to building a computer or upgrading its components, choosing the right CPU is crucial. One of the most important CPU factors is whether the processor is locked or unlocked.
The Locked ones can’t go beyond the boost clock speed, whereas you can overclock the Unlocked processors. This article will show you the core differences between the locked and unlocked CPU to help you pick the better one.
So without wasting any further, let’s jump in.
What’s the Difference Between a Locked and an Unlocked Processor?
A locked CPU, aka locked multiplier CPU, is a processor with a fixed clock speed. It can’t go beyond the turbo-boost frequency. On the other hand, you can easily overclock the Unlocked CPUs if you have a proper cooling system with a good power supply unit.
But how do you know whether your CPU is unlocked or locked?
Well, in this section, I will show you the core differences between a locked and an unlocked CPU. It will help you find the suitable one.
Here are the core differences between locked and unlocked CPUs:
|Aspects||Locked CPU||Unlocked CPU|
|Usual Manufactures||Intel||Both Intel and AMD|
|Best Fit For||Usual PC builds||Game/Editing or customized PC build|
|CPU Life||Long-lasting||Low life if you overclock|
|Cooling Options||Usually Stock ceiling is sufficient||Need High-cooling system|
|Overheating||Usually won't overheat||Has a risk of Overheating|
|Risk of Burning||Very Low||Very High|
|Power Consumption||Low||More than Locked CPU|
The Intel Corporation only makes both locked and unlocked CPUs. Their Pentium and Pentium Gold series are well-known among the locked CPU segment. And if we talk about unlocked CPUs, the Intel Core-i K series is the market leader.
In short, the key difference is that you can not overclock a non-K CPU, but K chips are good to go.
On the other hand, all the AMD Ryzen processors are unlocked from the beginning. So you can overclock them without any issues.
Which One Should You Choose, a Locked or an Unlocked CPU?
Ultimately, the choice between locked or unlocked CPUs depends on your budget and whether you intend on overclocking or not. If overclocking is your main focus, and you don’t mind spending extra bucks on the CPU-motherboard combo, the unlocked CPU will be the better choice.
Not to mention, you must choose a compatible CPU and motherboard.
But if you want stability over performance and building a budget PC, the locked CPU will also serve your purposes. Now, Intel is the only company that still manufactures locked desktop CPUs.
Usually, processors with an X or a K modifier at the end of their model name are unlocked and overclocking-capable. Even without overclocking, most unlocked CPUs will have higher boost clocks and can reach those clocks more consistently. But their TDP is also high.
See the comparison between the Intel i9 12900 and a 12900K processor:
As you can see, the 12900k has more turbo-boost speed than the looked version i9, even if you don’t overclock it. And the TDP is also higher. That’s why the i9 12900k costs more than 12900.
In the following section, I will show the advantages of both locked and unlocked CPUs. It will help you to determine your needs.
What’s a Locked CPU Best for?
You can’t typically increase the speed range of a locked version. So these kinds of processors are best suited for persons who prefer safety and longevity.
In this portion, I will show you some highlighted features of a Locked CPU. After reading, you can determine if the CPU is well-suited for you or not.
Here are the features of a locked CPU:
- The Locked CPUs are a great option for new PC users.
- These processors have a long shelf life.
- You don’t need any aftermarket cooling accessories for locked CPUs.
- The cost is lower than the unlocked version.
- Safer to use.
These are some main features of locked CPUs. If those qualities fulfill your need, you should go for it.
What’s an Unlocked CPU Best For?
Unblocked CPUs have no other competitors if you want to squeeze every last bit of performance. It gives you more flexibility and options to increase the base performance. So, for people who like to play with their hardware, an Unlocked CPU is a perfect choice.
This part will show you some features of Unlocked CPUs. It will help you to know your CPU better.
Here are some key features of unlocked processors:
- You can overclock the locked processors.
- Even without overclocking, most unlocked CPUs will have higher boost clocks.
- It requires more power to run and has more TDP than the locked CPUs.
- You require a high-performance cooling system to make your processor stable.
After reading this, I’m sure you can choose which processor you require for your new PC build.
Can You Unlock a Locked CPU?
Well, yes, you can overclock a Locked CPU. But it’s impossible to unlock a locked CPU using the normal method because the manufacturer imposes some software limitations during the building process. All you can do is use the BCLK overclocking method, which is a very risky process.
Now you can ask, is BCLK overclocking safe? The answer is no. The process is very risky, and It can even fry your CPU like potato chips.
These are some risks of the BCLK overclocking method:
- BCLK overclocking increases CPU heat generation drastically.
- It can make your processor performance unstable.
- The overall performance boost won’t be noticeable as you thought.
- It reduces the shelf-life of your processor.
That’s why I won’t recommend you use the BCLK overclocking method or try to unlock a locked CPU.
What does a locked CPU mean?
Locked CPUs are those processors that won’t let you change your CPU seed. These processors typically don’t have features like overclocking.
What is an unlocked CPU?
Unlocked CPUs are the CPU without any restrictions on clock speed. You can easily overclock these kinds of processors from BIOS, which will significantly increase the performance.
Are all Ryzen CPUs unlocked?
Yes, AMD unlocks every Ryzen processor from the factory. So you can easily tweak them and boost their performance.
Picking the right CPU for your gaming rig can become a headache if you don’t know your processor’s speed capabilities. A locked CPU gives you a stable, safe Clock speed and has a low power consumption. But an unlocked CPU gives you more performance but consumes more power.
After reading the article, I’m sure you know which one is better for your new PC build. Comment if you need any other information regarding PC hardware. Peace!