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Locked Vs Unlocked CPU: Which Is Better?

CPU is the first thing you check when you purchase components to build a custom PC. But do you know that there are different variants in the CPU? Yes, it might come as a surprise to many that there are locked and unlocked CPUs available in the market.

The CPU we generally purchase is a locked CPU. But an unlocked CPU has more potential to make your computer powerful.  The question is, which one should you go for? We have stated their differences on every parameter and concluded which will likely be better for you.

What Is Meant By Locked CPU?

locked cpu  Most CPUs are locked CPUs, and they have a particular clock speed. It does not allow users to adjust the clock speed as per their requirements. Due to its fixed clock speed, it does not get heated up massively. That is how it can perform consistently throughout its operational time.

Besides, a locked CPU is more compatible with motherboards. It does not need any special configuration. Due to greater demand, it is widely available in the market, and hence, you can get it at a reasonable price. On top of that, the warranty period is likely to be higher due to no overclocking and overheating issues.

What Is Meant By Unlocked CPU?

unlock cpuAn unlocked CPU is a special type of CPU that takes away the limitation on the clock speed. This means you can overclock or manually increase the clock speed as per your requirements. Therefore, if you are into gaming and video editing, you will need a greater clock speed at times than the base clock speed.

An unlocked CPU offers you flexibility to increase the clock speed so that the performance of your computer does not suffer in critical moments. Therefore, unlocked CPUs are more expensive and have specific compatibility with certain motherboards. But overclocking draws more power and can lead to overheating if the cooling system is not up to the mark.

What Parameters Make Locked and Unlocked CPUs Different?

Now that you know about locked and unlocked CPUs, we will compare them to all the critical parameters. The comparison will help you understand which one of these two CPU types is best suited for you.

1. Compatibility

Most motherboards are built for locked CPUs. From that perspective, locked CPUs have wider compatibility. However, locked CPUs need specific motherboards based on their version and brand.

On the contrary, unlocked CPUs need motherboards that support overclocking. There are relatively fewer motherboards that support unlocked CPUs. Besides, unlocked CPUs need certain hardware configurations for compatibility.

Better: Locked CPU

2. Performance

With a cap on the clock speed, the performance can be consistent but not extraordinary. Naturally, unlocked CPUs are better than locked ones in terms of performance because of overclocking.

But a locked CPU can beat an unlocked CPU only when you purchase a high-end locked CPU with a higher speed than an unlocked CPU with its boost speed. But generally, an unlocked CPU outperforms a locked CPU with the same base speed.

Better: Unlocked CPU

3. Speed

Everything finally comes down to the clock speed when purchasing a CPU. You can overclock an unlocked CPU to boost the clock speed when there is a need for better performance. A locked CPU comes with a fixed clock speed with no overclocking option. You cannot increase the speed even when any application needs a higher speed for consistent performance.

Better: Unlocked CPU

4. Power Consumption

When your processor has a higher clock speed, the higher will be the power consumption. A locked processor has limited power consumption due to the limited speed of operation. But an unlocked processor consumes more power than usual when it is overclocking. So the unlocked one will consume more power than the locked one.

Better: Locked CPU

5. Heat Generation

Every CPU generates heat, so that you will find a cooling paste and a fan on top of the processor. But the heating goes beyond the normal limit when you overclock. Since you overclock an unlocked processor, you have to deal with more heating. That is why an unlocked CPU will need a better cooling system.

Better: Locked CPU

6. Stability

When you do not overclock, the operation of a processor stays stable. When an unlocked CPU overclocks, the heat generation is high. Due to high heat, the stability decreases, and that is why computers can crash and hang during overheating. A locked CPU provides consistent performance, and hence, the stability is consistent as well.

Better: Locked CPU

7. Costing

Locked CPUs are less expensive for obvious reasons. But if you choose a locked processor with a very high clock speed, it can cost you more than the unlocked ones. But if you keep the base speed the same, locked processors will always cost you less. The absence of an overclocking option is the main reason.

Better: Locked CPU

Which is Better – Locked or Unlocked CPU?

The locked CPU is suitable for those using computers for regular applications. If you use the computer for coding and photo editing, you can purchase a high-end locked CPU with high clock speed. However, if there is a budget constraint, a locked CPU should be your preference.

But an unlocked CPU is better for heavy-duty gaming and video editing. It can over-perform to meet the demands of the processor. It can overcome the lag in performance that is generally an issue with a capped clock speed. However, you should have a better cooling system for consistent performance.

Locked Vs Unlocked CPU – FAQs

1. Can a user overclock a locked CPU?

Ans: No, you cannot overclock a locked CPU. A locked CPU does not provide you the option to overclock. If you need to overclock, you have to purchase an unlocked CPU.

2. Is there a way to understand if I have an unlocked CPU?

Ans: You have to check the CPU’s SKU number. If the SPU number has K or X suffix, the processor is unlocked. For example, the Intel Core i7 9700K is an unlocked CPU that ends with K.

3. Is it safe to overclock the CPU?

Ans: There is a safe limit of overclocking beyond which it can be dangerous. If you overclock up to ten percent of the base clock speed, it will be safe. But extreme overclocking leads to overheating, and it may damage motherboard components.

4. How much CPU can be overclocked?

Ans: The overclocked clock speed can be nearly 10%-20% of the base clock speed. However, you need to check your CPU to get the exact overclocking percentage, as it differs from one model to another.


If you are debating whether to purchase a locked or an unlocked CPU, the article must end the debate logically. We have thoroughly differentiated both the CPUs so you can understand the strengths and weaknesses. But the operations you will do on your computer will decide if you need to overclock. Yes, you need to overclock; an unlocked CPU is the only way out. Under general circumstances, a locked CPU should suffice.

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