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What is a Stress Test

Computer enthusiasts who want to get the most out of their machines and find out exactly what their hardware is capable of will often run stress tests. Stress tests are designed to test a hardware component to its limits, determining its reliability and performance by making it run at full load for a specific amount of time. Stress tests are often included as part of benchmarking software, a more general term for software that tests the performance of components. Unlike regular benchmarking software, however, a stress test is designed to test reliability as well.

There are various tools available which are designed either to test the overall performance of your computer or test the performance and stamina of a particular component. Running a processor stress test, for example, will keep the processor running at full load for a specified amount of time while running a graphics card stress test will have your graphics card rendering an extremely resource-intensive 3D scene. During the test, heat levels will be recorded as well as frame rates and other performance statistics. You can use these details to determine just how your computer's performance compares to others.

Hardware stress tests can be fairly risky. Even the most resource-intensive software rarely uses quite as much in the way of system resources as a stress test does. In normal use, the computer is unlikely to be using 100% CPU and graphics card power for a long period. However, stress tests keep everything running at maximum until the test is stopped. This causes the components being tested to heat up dramatically and this can sometimes lead to overheating. It also shortens the lifespan of the hardware. In spite of these risks, however, stress testing is useful for finding out exactly what your computer is capable of.

Overclocking a computer, or making a hardware component run faster than it was designed to, can be risky. Reliability of overclocked components is often a problem. Because of this, running a stress test for several hours can determine if an overclock was successful or not. If the computer overheats and crashes at some point during the test, then you'll know to change the settings back to default.


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