locked vs unlocked processor

Locked vs Unlocked CPU – Final Comparison In 2023

If this is your first time, looking forward to building your new computer. Then you may be confused in deciding which component to buy in the middle of thousands of products available in the market.

According to me, the most crucial choice you are going to make is the choice of the processor.

You might be confused at first in deciding which processor to go for. After selecting which model of the processor to go for, one of the most common confusion which people get into is whether to go for a locked or the unlocked variant of the processor. 

This article will focus on explaining the comparison between locked vs unlocked processors and their differentiating characteristics. 

As you already know, processors take up a large chunk of your budget, so it’s only necessary that you know all about the product you are buying.

What are Locked and Unlocked Processors

Whenever the terms locked and unlocked are used, the perception created in an average person’s mind is of the locked processors being protected by some security locks whereas the unlocked isn’t. 

Well, let me tell you that it’s not the case here and matter of fact it’s something else. A locked and unlocked are the terms used to describe the custom tweaking capability of the processors.

The term unlocked processors means that the user can change its memory settings like the voltage, power, core, and memory speed settings according to his will, whereas the locked processors lack this capability. 

Very detailed video by GamingScan. Worth Watching

Locked vs Unlocked Processors

So what does it mean to be able to change the processor’s settings? Does it make any difference? Well, it does make a difference in terms of performance. 

1. Unlocked Processor.

Because being unlocked – also referred to as overclockable – means that you can increase its clock’s speeds which basically lets your processor run faster than normal for as long as you wish to.

It lets you run games faster or run other applications a bit faster which would otherwise run slower without overclocking.

1. Locked Processor.

Locked processors, on the other hand, cannot be overclocked as per your requirements. Neither can you unlock them by any means because being able to be overclocked is a change made at the time of manufacturing the processor. 

So, with a locked processor, you will have to just stick with what your processor can achieve and you cannot push it to perform any better than what it is supposed to. 

Identification of Locked and Unlocked Processors

Let’s take Intel Processors, for instance, their unlocked or overclockable processors have either of the three letters, i.e, “K”, “KF”, and “HF”.

The processors which have either of these letters in their names are unlocked and have the ability to perform better than their locked variants and are, therefore, more expensive than the locked variants.

On the other hand, the AMD processors do not have such letters in their names because all of their processors ranging from Ryzen 3 to the latest Ryzen 5 are unlocked or overclockable.

Price Comparison

Between unlocked and clocked processors, there is a substantial price difference. This is due to the unlocked processor’s ability to run and work faster than the locked processor. 

Are Unlocked Processors Worth It?

After going through the above part of the article you may think that although unlocked processors are expensive, their capability to outperform their relevant variants makes them worth the extra bucks. However, that is only one side of the picture.

Making a processor run faster by your choice means that you are forcing it to perform faster than usual. 

There may be short periods of time when it doesn’t seem to affect anything at all. You can overclock a processor permanently, but this drastically reduces its life.

The higher clock speed than normal will require much higher voltage and hence generate more heat which will be shown on the temperature monitors. 

Even with an efficient processor cooler, the processor will still be affected because you are forcing it to work more than it is normally supposed to do. 

If you somehow control the temperature and the lifelong damage to the processor, the amount of performance boost it gives you is also not that much. 

For gaming, since most of the games are GPU intensive, it only gives you a boost of a small number of frames and hence, It can be easily argued that it is almost nonsignificant for gaming. 

While it has been noticed through multiple tests that overclocking surely boosts your performance when running applications or other software. 

However, According to my experience, the extra bucks and the risk to the processor are not worth the performance bump it has to offer.


Now you’re more educated on the topic and have a clear goal in your mind for which processor to go for. 

In my opinion, if you are inclined on using CPU-intensive apps and work on your computer and can afford the extra bucks, you should go for the unlocked processors. 

But if you are a gamer and will only be using your computer majorly for gaming, you should go for the locked processor, and save the extra bucks for a future upgrade of your processor.

In the end, I hope this article explained everything simply and helped you understand what the differences are between the two variants of the processors i.e “Locked vs unlocked processors”. 

How to unlock processors?

You cannot unlock a processor that is already locked by the manufacturer. It is physically locked at the time of manufacturing and there is no software or application of some sort that can help you unlock it.

Is overclocking done from the bios?

Yes, for the unlocked processor you can access its settings from the motherboard’s bios, from there you will get complete control over your overclockable settings.

Scroll to Top