5 Reasons Why a Raspberry Pi 4 Won’t Boot After an Overclock

The Raspberry Pi 4 is the most powerful little computer in the series to date, but there still may be times when you need to overclock it to get even more power and speed. What should you do if your Pi 4 won’t boot after an overclock? What could be causing this problem? And, more importantly, what can you do to fix it and prevent it from happening again?

Read on for a list of 5 reasons why your Raspberry Pi 4 won’t boot after an overclock. We’ll also discuss the risks and benefits of overclocking, as well as some tips for doing it without causing damage to your computer.

Raspberry Pi 4 Not Booting? 5 Reasons Why

If you’ve ever overclocked your computer, you probably know that overclocking is simply a way of getting more from your computer–more ram, more speed, more power overall. When you bought your computer, it was already set to a predetermined setting, known as “clock speed.” Overclocking means that you exceed that speed at your own risk.

Of course, there are a number of reasons why you might want to overclock your Raspberry Pi 4, some of which we’ll discuss a little later on in this article. But, as you may imagine, there are also a number of risks involved with overclocking.

Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 reasons your Pi 4 may not be booting after you overclock it.

May Have Overclocked the Computer Too Much

This first problem encompasses all of the ones that follow it, as it is the most common cause of a wide variety of overclock issues.

When you overclock your Pi 4, you can set it for different clock speeds. You do this by going into the terminal window and editing the config.txt file to increase the CPU. Default CPU speeds are going to be around 600 to 700 MHz.

When overclocking, you manually enter whatever CPU speed you want. The problem with this is, your computer may not be able to handle this new speed if you set it too high. Generally speaking, the higher your clock speed, the greater the chance your Pi 4 will overheat, corrupt files, or sustain other kinds of damage. These may all prevent the computer from booting.

So, what are the appropriate overclock speeds?

For a conservative overclock, set your CPU to 1.75 GHz, or 1750 MHz. This will increase your Pi 4’s performance with the least risk of sustaining damage.

If you want to go a bit faster, you can crank up your clock speed to 2 GHz, or 2000 MHz. It should still boot and run fine at this level, though it will certainly put a strain on your Pi 4, so you wouldn’t want to keep running at these clock speeds for long periods of time.

The top clock speed that’s considered safe for the Pi 4 is 2.147 GHz, or 2147 MHz. Any value above this level will almost certainly cause damage. Even running at this level may cause the Pi 4 to overheat or fail to boot, so if you decide to overclock at this speed, you need to be prepared for the potential consequences.

A good idea is to start with lower clock speeds and gradually “work up” to the higher speeds. This will give you a way to gauge how your specific Pi 4 handles the increased clock speeds and may help you to determine whether going up to maximum speeds is worth the risk.

How to Fix It

If you’ve sustained damage from “over-overclocking” your Raspberry Pi 4, you probably won’t be able to fix it. You’ll simply need to identify which components of the computer may have been damaged, then replace those parts. But we’ll talk more about that in the following sections.

If there was no damage but the Pi 4 simply fails to boot, there are a couple of things you can try. First, press and hold the Shift key the next time to try to boot. This temporarily disables any changes you make when overclocking and should allow you to boot under normal clock speeds.

You could also remove the SD card from the Pi 4 and insert it into another computer. This will enable you to manually change the overclock settings back to lower clock speeds. When you reinsert the SD card into your Pi 4, it should boot just fine.

You May Have Run Down the Battery

If you power your Raspberry Pi 4 with rechargeable batteries, then you may experience a power failure when attempting to boot. This may be the case especially if you successfully booted after an overclock and you attempt to boot again sometime later while still running at higher clock speeds.

Overclocking your Pi 4 uses up quite a bit of power, so if you’re running off of batteries you may drain the batteries much quicker than you expect. For this reason, it’s best to run off your power cord when overclocking your Pi 4.

How to Fix It

If your Pi 4 won’t boot simply because the batteries have been exhausted, then it’s unlikely that any damage has been done to the computer. Simply recharge the batteries and plug your Pi 4 into a power source, and you should be able to boot like normal.

The System May Have Overheated

Raspberry Pi computers have a tendency to run hot. Even without overclocking, it may run as hot as 185 degrees Fahrenheit or more! When you overclock your Pi 4, it will generate even greater levels of extra heat.

Of course, with so much heat being produced, there’s a good chance your computer may overheat, which in turn will prevent it from booting. Depending on how hot it goes, certain components of the computer may stop working and may even melt.

How to Fix It

If your Pi 4 fails to boot after an overclock, check to see how hot it feels. Be careful not to burn yourself! If it feels hotter than normal to the touch, there’s a good chance it may have overheated. Turn off the computer and allow it to cool down. Then press the Shift key or remove the SD card, as described above, to reset to the computer’s default clock speed.

To avoid overheating in the first place, consider using a case that features both a heatsink and a cooling fan. My personal recommendation is the Argon One V2 because it not only has a heatsink and fan, but it converts the Raspberry Pi 4’s micro HDMI ports to full size ports. This case may be a good idea even if you don’t plan to overclock your Pi 4.

The SD Card May Have Been Damaged

One of the risks involved with overclocking is that it can damage the Pi 4’s SD card, which is where it stores its information. If the SD card is damaged or corrupted during an overclock, the computer won’t be able to boot.

How to Fix It

You will simply need to buy a new SD card if the one you have becomes corrupted. To limit the chances of SD card damage during an overclock, make sure your card is fully compatible with the Pi 4, and always double-check before overclocking to make sure it is working properly and doesn’t have any existing damage.

One or More Essential Components May Have Failed

If not the SD card, some other part of the Pi 4 may have become damaged in a failed overclock attempt. As mentioned, overheating may damage or melt a number of different components. The sheer amount of speed and power may put a strain on other parts, particularly if you overclock your Pi 4 repeatedly.

It’s important to remember that the more you overclock, the more you’re reducing your computer’s lifespan. Anytime you overclock, it’s possible that one part or another may fail. The more you overclock, the more wear and tear you’ll put on the individual components, thus shortening your computer’s life expectancy.

How to Fix It

It may take some trial and error to figure out which part, or parts, of your Pi 4 have failed. If you can’t figure it out yourself, you’ll need to take it to a repair shop where a professional can inspect the computer, diagnose the damage, and suggest repairs.

Most likely, any damaged component will need to be replaced for your computer to boot normally again.

Other Risks Involved With Overclocking

In addition to the specific problems discussed above, there are also a few other risks of overclocking your Raspberry Pi 4. You may experience instability when running your Pi 4 after an overclock, and overclocking will almost certainly void your warranty.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these risks.

Overclocking May Cause General Instability

By instability, we simply mean that the Raspberry Pi 4 may be more prone to generalized damage and may run more unpredictably after an overclock. The computer will be under a lot of added stress, so even if it boots properly and runs great, there may be issues going on under the surface that you can’t see as easily.

Overclocking your Pi 4 will give it a tendency to crash, especially when running at higher clock speeds. It may also begin to overheat at any time, not just when attempting to boot, and any one of the computer’s components may become overstressed and fail at any time while running in overclock mode.

Again, overclocking your computer repeatedly will shorten its lifespan. That means that even when you’re not overclocking it, parts may fail randomly or unexpectedly because they have been worn out by previous overclocks.

Overclocking May Void the Raspberry Pi Warranty

The Pi 4 comes with a 1-year warranty, and in many cases overclocking will no longer affect that warranty. That said, if you don’t overclock using Raspberry Pi’s supported “turbo mode,” you are more likely to damage the computer and may void the warranty.

If you’ve had your Pi 4 for less than a year, and you’re particularly concerned about voiding the warranty, then always make sure you’re overclocking in turbo mode. Whether your device is currently under warranty or not, using turbo mode is the best way to avoid damage when overclocking.

On the other hand, if your Pi 4 is no longer under warranty, or your main reason for buying it was to experiment with different clock speeds and learn about overclocking, then it’s perfectly fine to use other overclocking methods.

Is It Safe to Overclock Your Raspberry Pi 4?

At this point in the article, you may have the impression that overclocking your Pi 4 is a really bad idea. We’ve discussed at length the risks involved with overclocking, and you’re no doubt aware that damage sustained through overclocking will cost you extra.

So perhaps you’re wondering if there are any cases when it would be considered safe to overclock your Pi 4.

The short answer is, yes!

In truth, there are many reasons you might want to overclock your Pi 4, and there are ways to do it that are completely safe and provide the smallest chances of damaging the device.

As mentioned above, overclocking in turbo mode is supported by Raspberry Pi and gives you the best possibility of safely and effectively overclocking your device. But even if you’re not using turbo mode, there are a few things you can do to help you overclock safely and avoid damage.

  • Don’t use maximum overclocking speeds very often or for long periods of time.
  • Use a cooling fan or heatsink to keep your computer from overheating. I personally love the Argon ONE V2 available on Amazon.
  • Check for damage periodically, and repair any damage if possible before it causes further issues.

Properly maintaining your Pi 4 and being cautious with your overclocking will go a long way in preventing overclock-related problems.

Benefits of Overclocking Your Raspberry Pi 4

But why would you want to overclock your Raspberry Pi 4 in the first place? What are the benefits of doing so, and do they really outweigh the potential problems?

Glad you asked!

Let’s take a look at some of the top reasons why people choose to overclock their Pi 4s.

Overclocking Gives You Greater Speed and Power

The Raspberry Pi is a small, relatively simple computer, but there are a lot of things you can do with it. Some users use it to power one or more desktop computers, create their own media centers, and play all types of games.

For many of these activities, having greater speeds and power capabilities will make the user experience much more enjoyable because programs will simply run better.

Overclocking Your Pi 4 is a Low-Risk Way to Learn About Overclocking

If you just spent $500 or $1,000 on a new laptop, chances are, you won’t want to experiment with overclocking on such an expensive, fancy device. Especially if you’re new to overclocking, learning how to do it on a Raspberry Pi 4 can be a much more low-risk endeavor.

That may seem counterintuitive when we just spent the majority of this article discussing the risks of overclocking a Pi 4. But the risks of messing up an expensive computer are actually much higher.

The Raspberry Pi 4 is a simpler, much less expensive computer that was practically made for learning and experimenting. There is a lot less damage you can do when overclocking a Raspberry Pi as opposed to a larger, more expensive computer. And any damage you do sustain will be somewhat cheaper and simpler to fix.

So if you want to learn about overclocking and experiment with different clock speeds, using a Raspberry Pi 4 is a great way to do it.

Overclocking Your Pi 4 is Fun!

As mentioned above, the Pi 4 is often used for experimentation, music and media storage, and gaming. There are so many different ways to play games using a Raspberry Pi 4, and overclocking the device will give you more power and speed to work with. In short, overclocking your Pi 4 will give you more ways to have fun!

In addition, those using it for experimenting and learning about overclocking will probably find enjoyment in discovering all the ways they can use a Pi 4, as well as learning new skills without risking more expensive or complicated devices.

Final Thoughts

To summarize, there are several reasons why your Raspberry Pi 4 might not boot after an overclock:

  • You may have overclocked the device too much;
  • The battery may be exhausted;
  • The system may have overheated;
  • The SD card may have sustained damage; or
  • One or more essential components may have failed.

Despite these and other risks involved with overclocking, there are ways to do it correctly and limit your chances of sustaining permanent damage. There are also a number of reasons why someone may choose to overclock their Pi 4. Some of the benefits of overclocking include increasing the speed and power, learning, experimenting, and having fun.

If you use caution when overclocking your Raspberry Pi 4, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do it safely and avoid causing damage.

Sources Used

The MagPi Magazine

Seeed Studio

Raspberry Tips

Smarthome Beginner



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