Intel has just launched its 9th Gen processors, along with the new Z390 chipset. Core i9-9900K, i7-9700K and i5-9600K have also been introduced to the lineup. Compared to 8th Gen processors, Intel has increased the core numbers to compete with AMD. Core i9-9900K has 8 cores and 16 threads!

MSI has introduced 9 models of Z390 motherboards for the new 9th Gen processors too. For example, the MEG Z390 ACE motherboard, which is design with 13 power phases to support sufficient power supply for the CPU. Here we show you how to overclock Core i9-9900K to 5.0GHz+. This overclocking guide works for all MSI Z390 series. It is also perfect for entry-level overclockers. You can perform overclocking by simply following the steps in this blog.

↓ MSI Z390 motherboards

What is overclocking?

Overclocking means pushing the frequency of computer components higher than its default frequency, making it faster and better performing. You can overclock major components of your computer, like CPUs, memory or graphics cards. However, overclocking always has risks. It may damage your components or make your system unstable.

Intel® Turbo Boost Technology is overclocking supported by Intel itself. One of the features is to change the processor frequency according to the CPU load, e.g. switch it into power saving mode when in the standby state to balance power consumption and performance.

We are going to illustrate another way to perform overclocking, which enables you to manually adjust the settings

Intel® Z390 Chipset & Intel® 9th Gen CPU

Intel 9th Gen processors include i9-9900K, i7-9700K and i5-9600K. All of them are overclockable. Compared to 8th Gen processors, the 9th Gen processors use Solder Thermal Interface Material (STIM) instead of thermal paste. It’s to be expected that the 9th Gen processors have better heat dissipation and better overclocking capability. Thanks to the STIM, Core i9-9900K has the max turbo frequency clocked at 5GHz.

Differing from the Z370 chipset, the Z390 chipset comes with an Intel Wireless-AC module and native USB 3.1 Gen 2. Compared to 8th Gen processors, 9th Gen uses Solder Thermal Interface Material (STIM), which provides better thermal performance than before and allows overclockers to push their systems further.

Intel® 9th Gen CPU includes i5-9600K, i7-9700K and i9-9900K. All three feature 95W Thermal Design Power (TDP) and Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. There are more cores than last generation: 6 cores for i5-9600K and 8 cores for i7-9700K and i9-9900K. The i9-9900K is the only one with Hyper-Threading Technology, which enables the processor to execute two threads, or sets of instructions, at the same time. This can improve processing performance.
Processor Number Hyper- Threading Cores/ Threads Thermal Design Power Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Intel Smart Cache
9th generation Intel®Core™ i9-9900K   8/16 95 W 5.0 GH 16MB
9th generation Intel®Core™ i7-9700K x 8/8 95 W 4.9 GH 12MB
9th generation Intel®Core™ i5-9600K x 6/6 95 W 4.6 GH 9MB

Intel 9th Gen Processor OC capability overview

Several factors may affect your max overclocking frequency, such as motherboard VRM design, MOSFET heat sink, and the most important: CPU overclocking capability. Every CPU has different overclocking ceilings. Good chips can reach a higher frequency than bad chips. Plus, good chips need lower core voltage than bad chips.

We binned some 9th Gen processor samples and came out with the frequency-voltage relation. We divided the samples into grade A, B, and C, according to the binning result. A is the best at overclocking, B is in between and C is not good. The graphs below show the percentage of each grade. As you can see, 20% of i9-9900K is good at overclocking.

 ↓  According to the binning result, A is the best at overclocking, B is in between and C is not good.


The frequency-voltage relation of Intel 9th Gen processors

We binned a number of Intel 9th Gen processors and came up with the frequency-voltage relation curve below. This curve is based on the processors we have and thus your CPU may vary. You can refer to this table and start with this frequency and core voltage curve. This will reduce your time in finding good frequency-voltage settings.


i9-9900K overclock via BIOS

There are different methods with which to overclock: BIOS, MSI’s overclocking software "Command Center" or with GAME BOOST. We are going to perform overclocking with BIOS for this article. Start with the following steps:

1. Enter BIOS

The first step to overclock is to press the "Delete" key to enter MSI Click BIOS.

2. Press F7 to go to Advanced Mode

Click BIOS offers Easy Mode and Advanced Mode. EZ Mode puts frequently used options on one page. In Advanced Mode, you can find all settings. Press the “F7” key to go to Advanced Mode. Advanced Mode is recommended for overclocking.

3. Go to OC settings

Go to the "OC" page where you can see all overclock related settings. Switch "OC Explore Mode" from the default "Normal" to "Expert". Then you can see everything you need for overclocking, such as CPU ratio, memory frequency, CPU and memory-related voltage.

 ↓  BIOS default mode is EZ mode. Press F7 to enter Advanced Mode.

 You can see a lot of items on this page.


4. Adjust CPU Ratio & Ring Ratio

Ring Ratio
To overclock i9-9900K, you first need to start CPU Ratio. Our target is 5GHz, so just type in “50” for the CPU Ratio. Then change Ring Ratio to 47. You can try your own Ring Ratio, but we suggest a Ring Ratio that is 3x less than the CPU Ratio. Ring frequency is the frequency of non-core parts of the CPU, such as memory controller and cache. Higher Ring frequency is helpful for better benchmark performance.

CPU Ratio Mode
CPU Ratio Mode includes "Fixed mode" and "Dynamic mode." Here we suggest going with "Fixed mode." In Fixed Mode, CPU frequency will be fixed so either the CPU is idle or under load, which performs better. In Dynamic Mode, CPU frequency is dynamic depending on whether the CPU is idle or under load. For example, when in sleep mode, the CPU frequency will be lower than normal.

5. Adjust CPU Core Voltage

CPU core voltage comes next. Higher voltage is needed or higher frequency. Our recommendation is: 1.32v for OC i9-9900K 5GHz, 1.37v for i7-9700K 5GHz and 1.43v for i5-9600K 5GHz. Each CPU needs different core voltage for stability. If you’re lucky to get a good chip, you may need lower core voltage for a stable 5GHz than what we’ve suggested. You can try to lower or increase the voltage to find the best settings for your chip.

Auto Core Voltage for your CPU frequency
If you have no clue about how much CPU Core Voltage is needed for your chip, you can just leave CPU Core Voltage set to Auto. MSI BIOS will automatically determine the recommended Core Voltage according to your CPU’s overclock capability. The auto Core Voltage is based on MSI testing data and it varies according to CPU. It's lower for a good chip and higher for a not-so-good chip. You can increase or decrease the voltage later according to the result of your stability test.

However, although the MSI Z390 motherboards have an auto core voltage mechanism, it does not ensure that the voltage value given will be 100% perfect for your system. There are other factors that may affect the result. For example, the figures below show two i9-9900K CPUs with different voltages for overclocking to 5GHz (one requires 1.345V, while the other 1.38V).

 Different CPU needs different voltage

CPU Core Voltage Mode
There are 5 CPU Core Voltage Modes available.
- Override Mode
- Adaptive Mode
- Offset Mode
- Override+Offset Mode
- Adaptive+Offset Mode

Override Mode keeps core voltage fixed so either the CPU is idle or under load. Adaptive Mode will change the voltage depending on whether it’s idle or under load. Offset Mode adds the offset voltage that you set to default voltage. Override+Offset Mode is the Override Mode plus Offset voltage, while Adaptive+Offset, as the name implies, is Adaptive Mode plus Offset voltage. "Override Mode" is recommended for overclocking. It's also the BIOS default mode for overclocking.

CPU Loadline Calibration Control
It is typical for CPU behavior that when the CPU load increases, the core voltage decreases. This situation is called "Vdroop." "Load line" is the line or relation of load and voltage. Vdroop may cause system instability when you’re overclocking. CPU Loadline Calibration improves Vdroop and is helpful to achieve better stability. The recommendation is to keep CPU Loadline Calibration set to “Auto” (Mode 3). BIOS will apply the optimized setting when you’re overclocking. If you would like to know more about this topic, visit the link provided here for more details: LLC, WHAT IS IT AND WHY ARE MSI Z370 MOTHERBOARDS THE BEST CHOICE FOR OVERCLOCKING?


6. Disable Intel C-State (C-State: CPU State)

Intel's power management features like C-State and Package C-State may have negative effects on overclocking stability. We recommend disabling C-State for better stability.


7. Done! Press F10 to save and exit

After performing all the settings, press F10 to save the settings you modified and exit. When you press F10, there’s a pop-up message notifying you that the settings were changed. Check again and press "yes" to exit BIOS and apply the changes.


Stability test for your overclocked system

After finishing the overclock settings in BIOS, it's time for the stability test. If the system is stable then you can try to push a higher frequency to get better performance. Or you can try to lower the voltage to decrease the CPU temperature. If the system is not stable, then try to increase the core voltage or lower CPU frequency.

Suggested software for the stability test
Here is the list of some frequently used software for the stability test:
- CPU-Z to check the CPU frequency
- Core Temp or HWiNFO to check CPU temperature and CPU package power
- Cinebench R15 to do a quick stability test and check performance scaling
- AIDA64 or Prime95 v26.6 (non-AVX) / Prime95 v27.9 (AVX) for a stress test

Stability test with Cinebench R15
Cinebench R15 is a useful tool to do a quick stability test. CPU-Z is recommended for checking if your CPU Ratio setting in BIOS works. Core Temp is used to check CPU temperature. If the system is not stable, you can try to increase Core Voltage or decrease CPU Ratio. If the temperature is above 90° C, you should lower the Core Voltage.

Cinebench R15 performance scaling for 9000 series processors
Here is the Cinebench R15 performance scaling for i9-9900K, i7-9700K and i5-9600K. You can refer to this data to check if your CPU performance scales with CPU frequency.

 i5-9600K Cinebench R15

 i7-9700K Cinebench R15

 i9-9900K Cinebench R15

This is the overclocking guide for Z390 CPU with MSI BIOS. The data and results in this article are recommended values that were tested from our end. If you are a new player in this field, you can follow the steps and directly adopt the values to test them yourself. Those with more skills who wish to explore may fine-tune them manually to overclock according to actual requirements!

Learn more about MSI Z390 Motherboards:

*Disclaimer: You are liable for any risks that occur during overclocking. Poor overclocking operations may result in damage to your components. Figures in this article are subject to configuration with BIOS version E7B10IMS.100, dual-channel memory DDR4-2133MHz X2, DIY water cooling. Data and function may vary depending on the BIOS version. Heat dissipation and performance may be subject to system differences. Player discretion is advised.