Luckily, there are ways to stress your PC for a while doing something productive. I used to mine Bitcoin or Litecoin back when doing it with your PC’s CPU, or GPU was viable, but these days you’re not likely to get a payout for your effort. Other, perfectly good options include the Boinc project and Folding@home, where you essentially become a node in a supercomputing network to solve scientific problems by donating your computing resources. Noble endeavors, to be sure, and cool alternatives to the tool I’m discussing here. The stress test I’ve been using for a while gives you something personal and aesthetically pleasing to mark your PC’s stability and functionality after it’s over, and it’s called Mandelbulber.
Mandelbulber, named after the Mandelbrot fractal set (and the shape that particular fractal makes in three-dimensional space), is a visualization program for 3D fractals. As you can imagine, all the math involved in building them up and making them pretty is very computationally intense, making it perfect for stress testing your CPU, especially at high (read: wallpaper) resolutions. It does a variety of tasks that run the gamut of computational workloads, including voxel-based 3d rendering, volumetric lighting, ray tracing, and (obviously) a shitload of math. So if your PC is going to lock up under duress, this will give it plenty of different opportunities to. Plus, it’s free and open-source, so you can install it on anything and everything without paying a dime.
Everything down to the formulas defining the fractal can be adjusted, so if you spend a few minutes setting up the test, you can come out the other side with a beautiful abstract wallpaper, evocative of early psychedelic art, and the satisfaction of ‘making’ it yourself. Just tweak the settings until you’re satisfied with the preview’s appearance, set the render to your desktop resolution, hit go, and come back in a couple of hours. If your overclock survived the ordeal, you’ll have an interesting conversation piece to show for it. To vary the workload and keep the test long enough to ensure stability, I recommend using most or all of these settings:
- At least one volumetric light source.
- Depth of field with a value between .05 and .7.
- Enable material reflectance, or transparency with 2 or more ray tracer reflections.
- Enable SSAO with lightmapping.
- Use fog and/or glow.
- Colored materials, and bump-maps or normals.
If this seems like a lot to remember, I’ve made a preset you can play around with, available here.
They take several hours at 1080p on most modern processors. Disable a few of the above settings if you want a 1440p or larger wallpaper. If you want to learn more about Mandelbulber and what it can do the project page is here, and there’s also a community devoted to this kind of art here. Sure, it may not be strictly necessary, but it beats wasting power on nothing to achieve the same result.