Turning Intel SpeedStep on or off in BIOS: Safe?

Here’s everything about turning Intel SpeedStep on or off in your BIOS being safe to do so:

If you turn off SpeedStep, the processor will run faster at the cost of consuming more energy and creating more heat. 

If you want a faster computer and are ok with these trade-offs, it might make sense to turn it off. 

If you value power efficiency or want to extend the lifespan of your CPU, it’s best to leave it on.

So if you want to learn all about how Intel SpeedStep affects your computer exactly, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

Turning Intel SpeedStep on or off in BIOS: Safe? (Impact?)

What Is Intel SpeedStep?

If you really want to understand when you should or should not turn off SpeedStep, the process starts by learning more about what it is

You might have an idea—it’s something that throttles CPU power. But, going a little deeper will likely prove illuminating.

Specifically, SpeedStep is a software controller for Intel processors that works with the central processing unit (CPU). 

This controller can adjust the voltage provided to the processor. Doing so allows the processor to adjust its capped frequency.

To put all of that in simpler terms, SpeedStep can put a limit on how fast the processor runs. 

That limit can change according to many different conditions relating to the computer, and SpeedStep can adapt accordingly.

Ultimately, capping the CPU’s speed limits power consumption and helps to save the battery life of a laptop. 

It can also be used to manage heat, allowing you continued use of the processor when it otherwise might run too hot and force the computer to shut down.

When Should You Turn Intel SpeedStep Off? (3 Requirements)

Ok. Now that you know more about SpeedStep, we can dig into the ideas of turning it on and off. 

If you turn it off, your CPU will not be capped. 

That leads to faster total processing at the cost of more energy consumption and higher temperature generation.

You can already intuit what situations merit turning off SpeedStep, but again, we can go in a little deeper to remove any mystery or ambiguity.

Generally speaking, you want to meet three conditions before you try to turn off SpeedStep. 

First, the computer needs sufficient cooling. 

Second, you don’t want to be limited to battery use. 

Finally, you need to be in a situation where the increased processor speed makes a difference.

#1 You Need More Power

Let’s start with processor power and speed. 

If you like the idea of having a faster processor, that’s not actually a good reason to turn off SpeedStep. 

We’ll get into this more later, but there are costs to taking this action.

Instead, it makes sense to remove the CPU throttle when the improved CPU speeds will actually make a difference. 

In most cases, hardcore gaming won’t benefit from a faster CPU (although there are exceptions). 

Cryptocurrency mining, web browsing, watching videos, editing videos, and the vast majority of ways you use your computer won’t really benefit from turning off SpeedStep.

Let’s clarify for a bit. 

Technically speaking, a faster CPU can help with any of those tasks, but for the most part, none of those listed tasks primarily use the CPU. 

Those are more graphics-intensive tasks. 

For any such task, it’s rare that throttling your CPU will lead to a noticeable difference in performance.

The handful of tasks that genuinely benefit from turning off SpeedStep largely revolve around computer programming. 

If you are trying to test or run a program that takes a long time and can’t offload work to a graphics card or really make use of the multiple cores on your computer, then throttling the CPU can make a huge difference.

Tasks that require the computer to sort through large numbers of files also benefit from a faster CPU. 

So, if you’re going through deep data entry, testing malware scanning software, or performing similar tasks that require the computer to go through many lines of information, then CPU throttling matters a lot more.

For most of you reading this, the primary tasks you give to your computer don’t require you to remove SpeedStep.

#2 You Have Sufficient Cooling

Let’s say that turning off SpeedStep will make a difference for you. That’s one checkmark, but we need to get through the whole list.

If de-throttling your CPU is going to lead to overheating, then it’s not worth making the change. 

So, how do you know if your PC has sufficient cooling?

There are two checks. 

If it’s a desktop, you can pay attention to whether or not you’ve ever received warnings about the computer running hot. 

Generally speaking, desktops have much better heat management, so you’re more than likely fine on this front.

If it’s a laptop, then you can run the computer while it literally sits in your lap. 

If it gets uncomfortably hot, you probably shouldn’t turn off SpeedStep. If it feels fine, you’re probably ok to give it a try.

Don’t put your laptop in the freezer when things get hot, though.

You can also use a temperature monitoring tool to see. 

If your CPU runs at 120℉ (48℃) or lower, while doing the tasks you care about, then turning off SpeedStep should be ok. Remember that a CPU should not run above 160℉ (71℃).

#3 You Aren’t Operating Off of a Battery

Ok. You’ve been through two of the important items on the list. 

The last is battery power. 

If you use a desktop, then this is a non-issue. 

Turning off SpeedStep will increase your computer’s overall electricity consumption. 

As long as you’re ok with that, then it’s fine.

If you’re using a laptop, then you want to think about battery life. 

Removing SpeedStep will considerably shorten how long the battery can run the computer between charges. 

If you typically have access to an outlet and a charger, then that’s fine. 

If not, this might prove to be a mistake.

When Should You Keep Intel SpeedStep On? (2 Things)

You’ve been through the checklist for when it’s reasonable to turn SpeedStep off. 

Are there times that you should leave it on? 

Aside from taking the default position that it’s better to leave it on when you can, there are two scenarios where leaving it on makes extra sense.

#1 You Have Limited Battery Capacity

Above, you read about why laptops need regular access to a charger and outlet if you remove SpeedStep. 

Let’s look at that a little more closely. 

People often get laptops for their portability. 

If your laptop is regularly on the go, SpeedStep might prove problematic.

More importantly, if you need to perform critical tasks on the laptop and you’re not sure about charging access, turn SpeedStep back on (the steps are listed in a section below). 

This is a feature that can be toggled, so don’t be afraid to turn it back on when battery capacity is more of a concern.

#2 You Value Longevity

This is probably the biggest reason to think about leaving SpeedStep on. 

Because it increases power consumption and heat generation, it allows the CPU to operate under higher levels of stress. 

Over time, that stress adds up, and the longevity of the CPU is affected.

If you’re in a situation where extending the life of the computer is important, then take advantage of SpeedStep and leave it on. 

It’s helping the CPU, one of the vital components of the computer, last a lot longer.

How Do You Turn Intel SpeedStep On or Off?

You should have a good idea as to whether or not you want SpeedStep running on your computer. 

Let’s go ahead and talk about how to turn it on or off. 

Regardless of which direction you’re going, the steps are the same.

Starting off, this process requires you to access the BIOS for your computer. This is a basic control environment that exists outside of your operating system. 

Every computer/motherboard has its own way to get into BIOS, so you’ll need to look that part up for your specific machine.

Once you can get into BIOS, computers that run SpeedStep have a setting here that is specifically designated for this function. 

Where you’ll find the setting depends on the motherboard you are using. 

Each BIOS environment is different, but you should have menus. 

You can browse those menus until you see a mention of “SpeedStep.”

When you find it, there will be an option to disable/enable it. Use that option to turn it on or off as you see fit.

If you can’t find SpeedStep, then it might not be in use for your device. This might mean that you don’t have an Intel processor. 

It also might mean that your particular Intel processor doesn’t support SpeedStep.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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