Intel is a top brand in the CPU industry and makes many different types of CPUs. One thing that Intel does differently than other CPU companies such as AMD is making locked and unlocked CPUs.
So, what is the reason behind this? Why does Intel Lock some of their CPUs?
Intel makes locked CPUs to prevent people from damaging their CPUs from overclocking. They manufacture CPUs to run at a specific performance level and clock rate that is stable and functional. Overclocking a CPU can increase its performance, but can make the CPU unstable. For that reason, Intel locks their CPUs.
When you overclock a CPU it can become very unstable and can cause damage to both your CPU and your system. Intel locks their CPUs in order to prevent this.
With this being said there is still a good portion of Intel CPUs that are unlocked, but these are targeted at more experienced PC gamers, who know how to overclock and have a system built for overclocking.
Many people who build a PC just want it to run at the normal settings and don’t have a reason to buy an overclockable CPU.
Is There a Performance Difference between Locked CPUs and Unlocked CPUs?
There is no performance difference between a locked CPU and an unlocked CPU if they are both performing at the stock settings.
Obviously, an Intel i3 isn’t as powerful as an Intel i5, but if you have a locked Intel i5 and an unlocked Intel i5 with the same base performance then there will be no difference.
The only performance difference you will see out of this is when the unlocked CPU gets overclocked, If you are not looking to overclock your CPU then there is no reason for you to purchase an unlocked CPU.
You will most likely find that higher-performing CPUs such as Intel i7, Intel i9, and some Intel i5 processors are more likely to be unlocked than locked for the reason that most people buying these CPUs will already have overclocking experience because they are more high-end.
For the people who build lower-budget PCs, Intel assumes that they will buy lower-end processors. These CPUs usually don’t meet Intel’s standards for overclocking and they don’t want people to have performance issues after overclocking these CPUs and that’s why they keep them locked.
Can You Unlock a Locked CPU?
With older generation Intel CPUs you were able to unlock locked CPUs so that you can overclock them. However, after every new generation of CPUs Intel has made it harder and harder for someone to bypass the locked CPUs in order to overclock them.
To be honest I am not too sure why Intel does this because whether you have a locked CPU or an unlocked CPU once you overclock it then the warranty is gone and if your CPU gets damaged there is nothing Intel can do to help you.
Intel might just use this as a strategy to make money because even though they say it is not safe to overclock a locked CPU, their competitor AMD allows overclocking for every single one of their CPUs made.
Intel makes you pay a lot extra just so you can purchase an unlocked CPU with the same performance level as the same CPU if it was locked.
With AMD you do not need to worry about this because every CPU is at a decent price range for its performance level and does not require you to pay extra in order to overclock it.
Are AMD CPUs Locked or Unlocked?
All AMD CPUs come unlocked right out of the box. You don’t need to worry about paying an extra fee or doing any extra steps in order to overclock your AMD CPU.
One thing to keep in mind with AMD Ryzen CPUs is that even though every processor is overclockable there are certain processors with more overclocking potential than others.
Ryzen CPUs that end with an “X” have better-overclocking potential than Ryzen CPUs with the “X”. Even though a Ryzen 7 4800 and a Ryzen 7 4800X are basically equal the Ryzen 7 4800X has more overclocking potential.
Why Do Manufacturers Lock Their CPUs?
Many times companies make these decisions not based on their audience but based on their own ideals.
Most people would argue that every CPU should be unlocked because it is up to the user to decide whether they want to take the risk of overclocking their PC or not.
Some speculate that Intel is doing this as a marketing trick to make more money because they are making people pay extra just to overclock their CPU.