Empowering the Circular Economy through Semiconductor Hyper-Customization

When end-users overclock and undervolt their processors, they contribute to the goals of the European Circular Economy Action Plan.

European Circular Economy Action Plan

The European Circular Economy Action Plan aims to promote sustainable resource use, reduce waste generation, and foster economic growth by embracing a circular economy model. This model encourages extending the lifespan of products, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling to minimize waste and environmental impact.

circular economy

In this context, the seemingly niche hobby of overclocking and undervolting processors can play a pivotal role in advancing the goals of the European Circular Economy Action Plan.

What is Semiconductor Hyper-Customization?

Overclocking and undervolting are both types of semiconductor hyper-customization. PC enthusiasts use these techniques to capture extended value beyond the performance warranted by the vendor. The end-user can improve the compute performance and lower the power consumption through advanced semiconductor hyper-customization.

Semiconductor hyper-customization can help further the European Circular Economy Action Plan in several ways.

  1. Extending Product Lifespan: Overclocking and undervolting processors enable users to breathe new life into older computer systems. By boosting a processor’s performance or optimizing its energy consumption, these techniques can enhance the user experience and extend the useful life of the hardware. The European Circular Economy Action Plan’s objective of increasing product longevity is directly supported by encouraging users to upgrade and replace less frequently.
  2. Reducing E-Waste Generation: When PC enthusiasts overclock or undervolt processors, they can salvage older components that would otherwise end up as e-waste. Reusing these components preserves valuable resources and reduces their overall environmental impact.
  3. Energy Efficiency and Resource Conservation: Undervolting and underclocking processors involves reducing the voltage supplied to a chip, leading to lower power consumption and heat generation. As a result, the processor operates more efficiently, and the overall system requires less energy. By minimizing energy consumption in computing, the circular economy’s goal of resource conservation and reducing the environmental footprint is advanced. Here’s an article which explains the benefits of undervolting.
  4. Responsible Consumption: Overclocking and undervolting processors promote responsible and conscious consumption. Rather than purchasing new, high-performance processors, enthusiasts can make the most of their existing hardware through these techniques. This reduced demand for new products aligns with the circular economy principles, which prioritizes using existing resources responsibly.
  5. Community and Knowledge Sharing: The overclocking and undervolting community fosters an environment of knowledge sharing where enthusiasts freely exchange information and experiences. This community-driven approach aligns with the circular economy principles, emphasizing collaborative efforts, networking, and collective learning for sustainable development. Examples include: /r/overclocking subreddit, Actually Hardcore Overclocking YouTube channel, and the overclock.net community
  6. Economic Growth and Job Creation: The circular economy is about environmental benefits and creating economic opportunities. The hobby of overclocking and undervolting processors can continue to spur the growth of a niche market for specialized hardware, software, and services. This emerging sector can create new jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, contributing to a more sustainable and diversified economy. Examples include: Intel’s XMP program, Yuri Bubliy’s Hydra software, and ICC’s overclocked servers.

Challenges for Hyper-Customization

Legislation and government incentives will be crucial in enabling semiconductor hyper-customization. Semiconductor designs deeply integrate technologies, requiring advanced or proprietary customization tools inaccessible to the everyday end-user. This integration trend requires semiconductor companies to initiate product designs with hyper-customization in mind, or else such hyper-customization will not be available.

Another topic to explore for hyper-customization is providing end-users with the ability to enable functional parts of the their chip which were disabled by the semiconductor company for commercial segmentation. Past examples include: core unlocking on AMD processors and enabling masked hardware units on NVIDIA graphics cards.

While some semiconductor companies have put much effort into providing end-users with the ability to hyper-customize their semiconductor, others actively prevent such hyper-customization. They do this by requiring the use of proprietary tools unavailable to the public, or they implement technologies which actively prohibit hyper-customization by shutting down the part if any modification is detected.

Legislation and government incentives may be crucial in encouraging semiconductor companies to consider end-user semiconductor hyper-customization when designing their chips. However, there is still a long road ahead.


Semiconductor hyper-customization tactics, such as overclocking and undervolting, may appear unconventional when considering its connection to the European Circular Economy Action Plan. However, the potential positive impact on extending product lifespan, reducing e-waste generation, promoting energy efficiency, responsible consumption, knowledge sharing, and economic growth make it a compelling case.

By encouraging and supporting sustainable computing practices, policymakers, and businesses can harness the potential of this hobby to drive progress towards a more sustainable and circular future for the European economy and beyond.