TABLE OF CONTENTS
Can MSI Afterburner be used with non-MSI cards? If so, how? Does it have MSI-exclusive features?
I’m looking to address these core questions and more on MSI Afterburner in this article, so by the end of it, you should have a fairly good idea of how to make the most of Afterburner with your specific PC setup.
Let’s get into it.
What is MSI Afterburner?
First, let’s start by establishing what MSI Afterburner actually is.
MSI Afterburner is used for GPU control and GPU monitoring, including overclocking and performance benchmarking functionality.
Prominently, it’s also maintained by the GPU Manufacturer MSI, which leads to the question posed by the title of this article: can it be used with Non-MSI Graphics Cards?
Can MSI Afterburner Be Used With Non-MSI Graphics Cards?
Absolutely! MSI Afterburner works for just about any graphics card, not just MSI-made graphics cards.
Besides Afterburner, MSI has its own custom software solutions that are specific to its hardware (ie, Dragon Software). Afterburner can be used alongside MSI’s tools on MSI cards or just in general by people who want a great tool for monitoring and overclocking their GPUs.
What Is RivaTuner Statistics Server?
When installing MSI Afterburner, you will also be prompted to install RivaTuner Statistics Server.
If you want to make the most of Afterburner’s built-in Benchmarking and Overlay functionalities, I recommend installing RivaTuner Statistics Server alongside Afterburner, as this will enable the full feature set of Afterburner to shine.
Besides Afterburner functionality, RivaTuner Statistics Server also serves fairly well in its own right as a tool to control and cap in-game Frames Per Second (FPS), or framerate. This function can be applied globally or on a per-application basis.
RivaTuner also offers something called Scanline Sync, which is basically meant to serve as an alternative hardware FreeSync/G-Sync by forcing all screen tearing to occur on a single, controlled scanline.
Does MSI Afterburner Have MSI-Exclusive Features?
Within MSI Afterburner, you may expect to find MSI-Exclusive features, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Almost all of the core overclocking, cooling, and monitoring functionalities offered to MSI GPUs are offered to every GPU running MSI Afterburner.
You won’t start noticing anything particularly MSI-specific until you dig into the deeper Settings, specifically voltage control:
As shown in the screenshot above, MSI Afterburner has an option for unlocking voltage control. This option includes a dropdown window with four different Voltage Control options, two of which are only functional on MSI-supported graphics cards.
The “Reference” option is for reference cards (also known as Founders Edition cards, more on that here) or partner cards that share that PCB design, whereas “Third Party” is community-supported for other designs.
Standard MSI Voltage Control and Extended MSI Voltage Control are both MSI GPU-specific options within MSI Afterburner but also the only MSI-specific options that I could actually find. Pretty much everything else is GPU brand-agnostic.
So to really answer the question, yes: MSI Afterburner can be used with non-MSI cards, and there aren’t any real compromises to doing so.
There may be some cases where you would want to use your GPU manufacturer’s tweaking software instead, but Afterburner is an industry-leading overclocking tool for very good reason.
Let’s get into how MSI Afterburner actually works now, starting with how to install it.
How To Install MSI Afterburner
Fortunately, the MSI Afterburner install process is pretty simple.
Head to MSI Afterburner’s landing page and click “Download Afterburner” to get a quick install of the latest version of Afterburner.
You’ll get an MSIAfterburnerSetup.zip file, which you’ll want to extract and open to get to your actual Setup executable.
Launch the executable, and proceed through it, selecting your language of choice and choosing whether or not to install the Riva Tuner Statistics Server (RTSS) with Afterburner.
I recommend installing RTSS alongside Afterburner to make the most of Afterburner’s monitoring and benchmarking features, but it isn’t strictly necessary for the overclocking or other GPU control functionalities.
Once you’ve gone through your basic install process, it’s time to actually use MSI Afterburner.
Launch it, and let’s get into the basics before we start wrapping up.
How To Use MSI Afterburner
Fortunately, MSI Afterburner will present itself and its controls to you pretty much right off of the bat.
Without even leaving the main screen, you can make adjustments to your GPU’s Core Clock, Memory Clock, Power Limit, Temperature LImit, Fan Speed, and even Voltage.
You’ll also see a real-time reading of your current GPU Clocks and Temperatures up top.
On the right side, you’ll see dedicated Number buttons, which are toggles for their respective GPU profiles.
GPU profiles will save your GPU clocks, fan curves, or both depending on your settings. Be sure to use this functionality to make testing and saving different clock settings as easy as possible.
Clicking the monitor in the lower-left corner will also reveal the active monitoring window, screenshotted separately below but usually attached directly to the main window.
By default, this will list your basic GPU Temperature and GPU Usage, as well as a few other statistics. You can adjust the number of metrics for this window to track in the Properties Window— more on that in Settings to Check.
While Fan Speed, Temperature Limit, and Power Limit are all somewhat self-explanatory, GPU Core and GPU Memory Clocks may require a bit more explanation.
GPU Core Clock refers to the clock speed being maintained by your GPU’s processing cores, which has the greatest direct impact on graphics performance.
GPU Memory Clock refers to the clock speed being maintained by your GPU’s dedicated VRAM (Video Random Access Memory), usually something like GDDR6 or HBM2 memory.
This doesn’t always have an obvious direct impact on graphics performance by itself, but increasing it alongside GPU Core Clock seems to help stabilize performance for both metrics.
When adjusting GPU clocks and voltage, it’s very important to check for stability.
Overclockers and undervolters should always test with iterative bumps to core and clock speed using software like OCCT or Furmark alongside Afterburner’s Profile functionalities to easily make and revert changes.
Want a more detailed breakdown of GPU Core and GPU Memory Clocks? Head here for an extended guide!
Other Settings To Check In MSI Afterburner
Click the Gear Icon on the left side to open up your deeper Settings and Properties menus.
Most options are self-explanatory or explained with tooltips, but I’ll still breakdown each of the categories below:
- General — Most general settings, including the aforementioned Voltage-related settings and settings controlling other basic functionality.
- Fan — Fan curve control window.
- Monitoring — Choose various monitoring settings, including what to track in the graph and in the On-Screen Display overlay, if it’s enabled.
- On-Screen Display — Configuration of the OSD Overlay, namely hotkey toggles for OSD-related functions…and framerate limiters, for some reason. Head to RTSS for more OSD options.
- Benchmark — Benchmark configuration settings.
- Screen capture — Screen capture settings.
- Video capture — Video capture settings— I wouldn’t generally use Afterburner for video capture, though.
- Profiles — Determine profile hotkeys, what settings are saved by profiles, etc.
- User Interface — Various interface tweaks and options, including skin selection. If you prefer the older MSI Afterburner interface or just want to try another look, this is where to go.
How To Use RivaTuner Statistics Server With MSI Afterburner
Once you’ve installed MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner Statistics Server, you can start using them together! By itself, RivaTuner Statistics Server can be used to apply global or per-game FPS caps, as well as a unique alternative to V-Sync and other -Sync technologies called Scanline Sync.
Either of these technologies serve as a direct method of controlling or improving the fluidity of whatever games you happen to be running under RivaTuner.
So, what purpose does RTSS serve when run alongside Afterburner?
Mainly to help manage the OSD (On-Screen Display) overlay that you might’ve noticed in MSI Afterburner’s options. In RTSS, you’ll see more options for tweaking your OSD, but you’re also now able to set these options globally or change them on a per-game basis.
MSI Afterburner’s Monitoring options tab is where you’ll want to go to change most of your OSD settings, especially relating to what metrics are actually shown in the OSD. RTSS by itself really only reports framerate. The OSD options you can change in RTSS are:
- OSD Support – Self-explanatory.
- OSD Rendering Mode – Vector or Raster 3D. Shouldn’t matter, but Raster recommended.
- OSD Coordinate Space – Shouldn’t matter. Use Framebuffer if Viewport doesn’t work.
- OSD Shadow – Shadow beneath active OSD. Remove if you want a clearer image in game.
- OSD Fill – Fills OSD with background color.
- Show own statistics – Needed for all of your MSI Afterburner diagnostics to be shown in the OSD as well. Enable this!
- OSD Palette and Zoom – Self-explanatory. Zoom is a slider that you can use to adjust the relative size of your performance metrics.
OSD Preview and Adjust – At the bottom of RTSS’ window, you’ll observe a rectangle with a 60 in the top-left corner. This is actually a rough preview of your OSD, including all above settings. This is also where you can choose which of the four corners of your monitor your metrics will originate from, with top-left being the default. Click the corner you want in order to change this.
How Do You Lower GPU Temperatures?
The first and most obvious step since you’re on the Afterburner article is to recommend you disable your overclock if you have one running.
But that isn’t the only way to reduce your GPU temperatures, and ideally, you would still want to reduce the temperature that a stable GPU overclock runs at.
So, how can you do that?
I’ve written a more detailed guide to lowering GPU temperatures already, but the short version of my advice is to improve your case airflow, clean your GPU with compressed air, and even consider replacing your thermal paste if it’s been enough years since the initial GPU purchase.
All of these steps will help improve your GPU temperatures, even with an active overclock.
Can You Lower GPU Temperature In MSI Afterburner?
Yes, actually, and you don’t even need to touch your GPU core and GPU memory clocks.
The easiest way to do this is by simply making adjustments to your fan curve to improve your temperatures, albeit at the cost of louder GPU operation.
A more in-depth solution to reducing GPU temperatures in Afterburner can actually be found in the process of Undervolting, though.
Undervolting is when you keep your GPU clocks the same, but find a safe, lower voltage to operate your GPU at while still achieving those clocks.
This will keep your performance about the same, potentially even improving its consistency, while also reducing power consumption and heat exhaust.
Undervolting will serve to slightly reduce GPU temperatures and usage across the board while still maintaining solid performance, but takes some tweaking in order to do properly.
That’s a bit out of the scale of this article, so I’ve embedded PCWorld’s Undervolting Guide below:
What GPU Brands Besides MSI Should I Be Looking At?
Since MSI Afterburner isn’t exclusive to MSI GPUs, you may be wondering what other GPU brands you should be looking at. Fortunately, I’ve written a detailed breakdown of what the best GPU brands are and what they’re known for in the market, so you can head there if you want a detailed breakdown.
If you’re curious as to how MSI stands out among GPU brands, they’re actually pretty highly-favored in my book. MSI makes great GPUs for both Nvidia and AMD, usually budget-oriented but not afraid to flirt with high-end cooling designs, either. MSI doesn’t really make GPUs with unconventional or blower style cooler designs, though.
Why Should I Use Frame Rate Limit in RTSS?
Since MSI Afterburner and RivaTuner Statistics Server are both directly tied to GPU performance and performance metrics in general, you may have some lingering questions relating to RTSS’ Frame Rate Limit feature.
RTSS’ Frame Limit feature serves to limit framerate on a global or per-app basis according to your preference. If you set this to match your native refresh rate, it should ensure that you have a smooth, screen-tearing free experience in your games without introducing the lag caused by V-Sync. Add G-Sync or FreeSync support on top of a solid FPS cap (in-game or RTSS), and you’ll have a superbly smooth visual experience.
Click here for more on monitor refresh rates and response times in gaming.
Over to You
MSI Afterburner, despite its name, is still perfectly usable with other GPU brands.
I wrote this entire article and took all its screenshots with a Gigabyte GTX 1070, which I’ve used with Afterburner without issue for quite a while now. In the past I’ve also used Afterburner for other GPU overclocks, like my old GTX 760.
I hope this article helped give you a solid start to using Afterburner, with or without an MSI GPU. Leave a comment below or in the Forums and let me know: how is Afterburner treating you? What overclock or undervolt have you managed to achieve with it? I’d love to know!
Until then or until next time, have a good one. Until then, happy GPU tweaking, and don’t forget to install RTSS too!