Explosive Overclocking

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
So that's where the MythBusters put that monitor.

Not to be confused with Ramping Slo-mo in explosive action scenes.

Sometimes "normal" Overdrive is not enough. Almost any piece of Applied Phlebotinum can be made to work a little harder, at the cost of an increased risk (or certainty) that it will eventually explode. A Necessary Drawback to show why it shouldn't be used this way very often.

The idea probably comes from the notion of red-lining a car engine, which will give you extra speed, but puts so much strain on the engine and produces so much heat that its weaker parts are liable to break (or in the literal overclocking of computer processors, see real life examples below). But in Science Fiction, this ability is available to just about everything, without making massive time-consuming modifications to the equipment. (Go ahead, try to make your tablesaw run faster.)

Your chief engineer will Techno Babble some stuff about "bypassing the safety protocols", but this will not require laying new cables or replacing clock chips—it just requires a few pokes at the control console. This is often achieved by applying more power.

It's even possible to do it by accident: give a computer a sufficiently hard math problem, and it will grind out an answer just before it overheats and expires from the effort. Also, being overclocked causes a system to work at increased efficiency and then stop dead—in real life, an overclocked computer will run faster, but has an increased chance of making (typically small) mathematical errors.

In general, overclocked phlebotinum will last exactly long enough to solve your problem, exploding right after you've shot the big gun. Alternatively, it may solve or delay your immediate problem, then break down, leaving you stranded in space with a seized engine.

Overclocking an Energy Weapon (sometimes called "hotshotting") is a good way to create the equivalent of a One Bullet Left scenario: "I can boost the power of your weapon, but it'll only last long enough to give you one shot."

One popular use of Explosive Overclocking is as a subversion of Tim Taylor Technology.

It may also cause Explosive Instrumentation, although enemy attack or Percussive Maintenance will usually do the same thing. Especially if your vessel is not properly grounded.

Compare with Overclocking Attack, where you do this because you want something to explode. This can happen when you use the Forbidden Chekhov's Gun. See also Flawed Prototype, which usually can be overclocked to match a "perfect" model, and Cast from Hit Points, where instead of a chance of complete self-destruction there is a guarantee of partial self-destruction.

Note that hobbyists have been overclocking computers for years, but an overclocking that causes a computer to work much faster for five minutes and then explode is generally considered to be a failure. Extreme overclocking can be actually explosive, enough to force their users to keep their CPUs cold with liquid nitrogen! Most of the time, though, the computer will simply shut down, due to hardwired safety measures that are not sensible to circumvent.

It should be pointed out that in settings where the designated Good Guys' hardware is barely adequate to some of the tasks it is called on to perform, such hardware might be explicitly designed to include an 'emergency overload' function. The idea is to get improved (and therefore adequate) performance out of it for a few critical moments. If you can't build a spaceship fast enough to escape the Negative Space Wedgie, maybe you can build one fast enough to get ahead of it for a few minutes using Explosive Overclocking like a jet engine's afterburner. Better than nothing, right?

It's usually safer to Reverse Polarities, but that wouldn't result in a pretty fireball from your automatic Self-Destruct Mechanism, would it? See also No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup.

This particular form of the trope will often be expressed in terms of disabling the safety features or "exceeding design specifications", which, again, has some basis in the way certain devices work, but acts from the assumption that, as a general rule, the way you build a high-assurance system is to take a low-assurance system, and add a sizeable safety margin.

Applied to The Hero himself, Heroic RROD may be an organic counterpart to this trope (usually due to excessive use of a Dangerous Forbidden Technique or Super Mode).

Examples of Explosive Overclocking include:

Anime and Manga

  • Li Kohran in Sakura Taisen can do absolutely miraculous things with an iron/coal/steam technology base, but almost everything she makes beyond simple utilitarian items blows up after one incredibly successful use. Or during that use.
  • In Blassreiter, Sasha dies shooting down nuclear missiles, firing the main cannon on Bow Rider long after the supplementary cooling systems failed, and long after she was informed that the heat would BURN HER ALIVE INSIDE.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there is a card called "Limiter Removal" that will double the attack strength of all Machine-type monsters on the field, destroying them all at the end of the turn.
    • Another such card called "Power Bond" is used as a substitute fusion card for Machine-type fusion monsters; it doubles the attack strength of the monster summoned by its effect, but the player of the card suffers damage equal to the original attack strength of the monster summoned after the next turn.
      • Since the character who usually uses this card in the anime uses it for a Fusion monster whose base attack points equal the starting starting life points (this is only true in the anime; in the real-life game life points start at 8000 instead of 4000), he normally uses this combo as a One-Hit Kill. Since the duel ends there, the "next turn" never comes and he avoids the damage.
      • Though you would still kill the opponent in one shot if you could get a direct attack in.
    • The trap card "Overworked" (pictured above) takes this straight to its conclusion by destroying all monsters with increased ATK.
  • As of the third season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, five simultaneous Starlight Breakers on Blaster Mode Level Max is Nanoha's most powerful attack. Unfortunately, it also puts enormous strain on both Raising Heart and herself, causing Raising Heart's entire frame to crack and damaging Nanoha's body from one use.
    • Also the case with Excellion Mode in A's. Fate is also warned about similar upgrades, though she's more powerful and thus can handle it a lot better than Nanoha can.
    • The last of the three Aces, Hayate, is so powerful, she destroyed eight Devices by simply channeling more than a fraction of her own energy through them. In other words, she has to underclock to avoid Explosive Overclocking in the Devices not specifically designed for her.
  • Similarly, Rock Lee in Naruto uses a forbidden technique which involves essentially an "explosive overclocking" of his body by disabling its natural 'safety features'.
    • Shockingly, this is the most realistic technique in the entire show: replace "heightened chakra flow" with "consciously controlled adrenaline output" and you've basically got someone with their Fight or Flight switch constantly stuck on Fight. See the "human body" listing down in Real Life.
  • Guld Goa Bowman does this in Macross Plus when he disables the limiters of the YF-21 to be able to fight the Ghost on equal terms. He succeeds, but destroys his aircraft in the process and expires from the extreme G-forces involved.
  • Done in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (the movie) where Kushana, faced with an advancing horde of Ohmu, activates the nascent God Warrior prematurely and sends it into battle. It fires several rounds, then falls apart.
  • The EMS-04 Zudah from Mobile Suit Gundam: MS IGLOO has a powerful new engine, called the 'Jupiter Engine', which had a substantial power output and an AMBAC manoeuvring system built into the Mobile Suit. The problem was, the engine heats up quickly at higher speeds and vibrates so much that the Zudah's frame can't take it, and it would blow up. One Red Shirt dies when he gets too cocky, redlines the engine and blows up during testing, and Jean Luc Duvall dies when he redlines the engine when he lures away a GM team from the Zeon forces retreating after Operation Odessa.
  • The titular Super Prototype of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 initially suffered from a design fault in that it couldn't go Trans-Am for more than a few seconds or its GN Drives will belch smoke and shut down with "Error S0557". It was eventually corrected by real-time fine-tuning of the drives from the 0-Raiser - and how.
    • The Movie showed us that Trans-Am itself can be overclocked but doing so will detonate the GN Drive. It gets used several times against the ELS; most importantly, Tieria's Raphael Gundam, Graham's Brave and Andrei's GN-XIV all check out this way.


  • In the film Final Fantasy the Spirits Within, General Hein overrides the control for Zeus, an orbital laser cannon. Firing it continuously eventually causes the destruction of the entire satellite due to a system overload.
  • Near the end of Back to The Future 3, Doc Brown overclocks a steam train engine (with three special fuel log packages) in order to reach the necessary speed to activate the time machine. There's only a minor, insignificant drawback: the third package blows up the boiler.
  • The submarine in Das Boot was only rated to 100 metres. However, they ended up being forced to 220 metres. And hitting the sea bed.
    • It's quite common in movies that take place under water for the submarine to be taken below safety depth at some point. Subverted somewhat in The Abyss, where liquid breathing enables a diver to go much deeper than a human can whilst breathing air.
      • It was also quite common in real life for WWII submarines to go far deeper than their test depth. That's right, 100 metres was merely the depth the boat was tested at, not the maximum safe depth. Submarine engineers are always conservative on paper as to the hull strength of the boats they build.
  • In Real Genius, the kids create an overclocked laser that is only good for one shot before it utterly consumes its expensive Bromide-Argon fuel source.
  • Wing Commander: The human fleet is running their reactors at full blast in order to reach the enemy hyperspace exit in time, but it's not enough, so the captain orders the fleet to run the reactors above 100% (being that this is not a random quantity scale, but is explicitly stated as a percentage, one has to wonder exactly how a reactor goes over 100% energy production). At a certain point, a member of the crew informs him that they've lost a number of ships due to reactor overloads. He repeats the importance of getting there in time, and orders the reactors' power to be increased even further.
    • This comes from common maritime terminology, where Full power is the maximum safe speed of a ship and Flank is at risk of damage to the ship's engines, reactors and superstructure. Levels of power are also represented by percentages of Full Power so Flank is 115%, not 100%.( Also, engine power and reactor power are used interchangeably since one never goes to max power except when going to max speed).
    • Flank Speed may very well be its own trope, related to Explosive Overclocking and Tim Taylor Technology, where a captain of a ship is compelled to overclock her engines, risking flying her apart. Consider:

Sulu: Come on, come on.
Helmsman: She'll fly apart!
Sulu: Fly her apart, then!

      • Captain Tupolev pushes the attack submarine V.K. Konovalov to catch up with the Red October.


  • To send something back in time (in Isaac Asimov's short story The Red Queen's Race), someone overclocks a nuclear power station, making it a bunch of scrap.
  • In E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series, the bad guys invent a new devastating weapon on the fly at the beginning of the second novel by Explosive Overclocking of their energy weapons into Wave Motion Gun territory. Eventually, both sides figure out how to do this "safely," and future wars are fought by with "primary beams" that blow up entire gun mounts in Explosive Overclocking reminiscent of Real Life bomb pumped lasers.
  • Mentioned rather nastily in Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards Of Honor.

Aral Vorkosigan: "You'll make it in five days, boosting six points past emergency max the whole way. If the engineer's been doing his job, the engines won't blow until you hit eight. Quite safe."

  • In Alastair Reynolds's Redemption Ark, Skade tries to overclock her inertia-suppressing engine to go faster than light. It fails, kills her technicians, and blows up.
  • The Mule from Foundation stated he had the ability to force a human brain to work at top capacity, effectively, as he stated, a state of permanent hunch. One known case resulted in a superweapon (an imperfect one), another allowed a man to replicate (in part) a genius mathematician's lifetime work. Death in a few weeks was the usual side effect.
  • Anakin Solo experienced one of these in order to save his sister Jaina, and defeat The Voxyn Queen, then experienced a Superpower Meltdown.
  • In the book version of The Hunt for Red October, the Russian Alfa subs are desperately attempting to catch up to the titular escaping sub, redlining the reactors and working the engines for all they're worth. The engine room technicians notice a possible problem and want to slow down in order to perform a repair, but the political officer doesn't want to waste time and orders the Overclock to continue. It doesn't take long for things to go badly. The process is meticulously described in an epitomical example of Technology Porn.
  • Averted in The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke, when the radio operator needed to boost the output of a transmitter. Gibson, who had been expecting sparks to start flying, was disappointed. [...] Bradley, who knew better, looked at his meters and bit his lip savagely.

Live Action TV

  • Knight Rider: "Trust Doesn't Rust". Bonnie enhances KITT's X-ray laser to fight KARR, but the weapon will only be able to fire twice before KITT's batteries are drained.
  • Stargate Atlantis: In order to relay a critical message to Atlantis, the Daedelus crew overdrive their engines, at the risk of burning them out.
    • Another time, Rodney overclocked the alternate Daedelus' 'time reactor'. Though we never actually saw it explode, it was strongly implied that the jumps would happen faster and faster until it burnt itself out.
  • Star Trek did this in all sorts of ways over the course of the franchise, overloading phasers, the engines, the main deflector, pretty much whatever.
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there's at least one instance of a handheld phaser being rigged to overload, basically turning it into a fairly powerful grenade. It was a Shout-Out to the same thing happening to phasers occasionally on Star Trek: The Original Series.
    • Note that in the Star Trek universe in general, this seems to be an explicitly designed feature of energy weapons, given that triggering an overload takes only a few seconds using the built-in controls. This goes all the way back to the original Star Trek pilot where Number One intentionally sets her phaser to overload to prevent the away team's re-capture. In TNG's "The Next Phase" a Romulan disruptor is overloaded just as easily, showing the idea isn't limited to Federation weaponry.
    • One of the novels had a particularly unique use: Deep Space Nine is attacked by a bunch of aliens with reflective armor that renders them and their ships immune to phaser fire. They make do, running around with bags of phasers and using them as grenades, until someone finally thinks of replicating a good old fashioned gun.
      • By which point all the damage from the fighting has made the replicators break down. So Everybody Dies. They Get Better.
    • O'Brien once rigged a tricorder to explode upon command, making it a matter of MacGyvering to remove safety features preventing that type of thing from happening.
    • At least one TNG episode implied that all Federation technology is designed to be overclocked to some extent. Which makes a certain degree of sense when one considers how often Federation characters have to jury-rig their tech into different configurations, realignments, polarizations, etc to solve the Space Wedgie of the week. This is practically the Federation's Hat.
    • Averted in the TNG episode "Relics," Scotty chides Geordi for not padding his estimates, and later tells Geordi that he knows a particular component can take a lot more stress than the manual says it can, because he wrote the manual, and "A good engineer always leaves a safety margin."
  • Red Dwarf: "White Hole". The crew develops a technique which increases Holly's intelligence by several orders of magnitude, but they discover that this has reduced her lifespan to six minutes.
  • In the start of the third season of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the rangers were getting pounded by new foes, and tried this to give the Thunderzords more power to resist them. It fails, resulting in the Command Center's power going out, their Ranger powers irreparably damaged (not destroyed, as we see in later seasons), and their zords destroyed.
    • Power Rangers in general does this quite a bit. Apparently, megazords have independent power supplies for each of their independent systems (weapons, shields, whatever "auxiliary power" is supposed to do). They often will talk about siphoning power from one system into their weapons systems for one final "fry all weapons systems" blast. Whether it's overclocking or simply filling one battery by draining another depends on circumstances.
  • Suprisingly, shown to be (in extreme cases) as Truth in Television by the MythBusters in their attempts to duplicate the results of various myths. This includes such things as CD-ROM drives (to test whether CD-ROM disks can explode - they had to use a router motor for the spindle, but did indeed show that the disk COULD fragment when spun fast enough, with painful results from the shrapnel) to washing machines (the machine destroyed itself rather spectacularly on cue with Buster in it - the secondary explosion didn't happen though).
    • The washing machine stopped looking like a washing machine long before- the outer panels had to be removed to A)Defeat all the safety features, and b) Provide sufficient power to spin Buster's weight by replacing the stock motor with one meant for an electric car.
      • They didn't dub it "Franken-washer" for nothing.
  • Home Improvement: Most examples of Tim Taylor Technology actualy made by Tim Taylor have this result in one way or another.
  • Airwolf has an absolute top speed of around Mach 2.5. However, anything approaching Mach 2 is straining on the copter, so the computer auto-limits the turbos' power. In one episode, String has Dom "remove the cap", allowing Airwolf to reach her potential top speed.
  • In one episode of Scrappy Races, the Barley Pickers' captain attempted to overclock their huge lorry / tractor hybrid. The nut he was adjusting came off in his hand, and the engine tore itself apart.
  • Kamen Rider Double rarely uses the right sided memories for the Maximum Drives save for the Prism Bicker and the Memory Gadget, for it puts the user at risk. As seen in this fight against the Weather Dopant
    • Although the overclocking attack isn't the using the right sided elemental memories for Maximum Drives (As shown later on), but using both memories for two Maximum Drives at the same time. The only exceptions to this are Kamen Rider Accel's Engine Memory which is said in supplimentary materials to use the power of the current memory and the Prisim Memory, which allows up to four to be used at the same time, although more may be possible

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40,000 does this multiple times, with both machines and living things - the Tyranids biologically "overclock" broods of monstrous mooks that are even more dangerous than normal, but die messily within minutes after being deployed, the Imperium's Eversor Assassin ramps up his metabolism to the point that his blood explodes if he dies. This is also represented in-game with "turbo-charged" Rhinos (which go faster, but may break), plasma weapons that can overheat (up to 4th Edition rules, they had a greater chance of overheating the more shots they fired), and in Dawn of War by supa-charging Ork Meganobz, making them go fasta but damaging them.
  • Pretty much any Skaven "wonder weapon", as they tend to be souped-up equivalents of other races' weapons but with a higher chance to go wrong, but total embracing this trope with the ratling gun - a two (rat)man-portable multi-barreled rifle. You get as many shots as you roll on a dice and can either stop there, or roll again. And again. And again. But if at any time you roll the same number as one you rolled before then it has funny and most likely lethal consequences.
  • BattleTech has its 'myomer accelerator signal circuitry' (MASC for short), which will allow a 'Mech equipped with it to run faster than it normally could at a risk of suffering critical leg hits that goes up the longer it is used. And of course, BattleMechs not generously supplied with 'heat sinks' risk building up significant internal heat levels from simply moving about and using their weapons too often, which progressively impedes their performance and can in extreme cases lead to automatic emergency shutdowns, ammunition explosions, or microfusion core meltdowns.
    • There's also an optional rule that allows a player to overcharge a PPC. This gives them extra damage but instantly ruins the weapon, possibly causing it to explode as well.
  • In Genius: The Transgression, a Genius can superchange any piece of technology, but doing so can result in heavy damage or even destroy it.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons cosmology, "Positive Energy" makes the boo-boos go away--as long as you're not undead. However, on a Positive Energy Plane itself, unprotected living being first heals, then "heals" more, then overdoses and explodes like a firework, not even leaving any remnants to raise. Inert matter jumps right to the last stage, for that matter.
  • In Paranoia, you can keep firing a laser pistol or rifle past its normal six-shots-per-barrel rating, but the chance of malfunction starts going up pretty quickly.
  • In GURPS: Ultra-Tech beam weapons can be set to fire "hotshots" at the price of gaining a ridiculous Malfunction rating. In High-Tech loading early firearms or any automatic ones with Extra-Powerful ammunition increases the risk of failure.
  • In Star Fleet Battles, one of the Hydran's heavy weapons, the fusion beam, can be overloaded for 1.5x damage. It also is capable of a "Suicide" overload that doubles the damage to the target in exchange for destroying the weapon and scoring an additional point of damage on the firing ship. X-ships have a similar ability to fast-load heavy weapons, but this can destroy them.
  • Fifth and Sixth Editions of the Hero System rules had the option of "Boostable Charges". You could pump extra power through a weapon (or any other power that could be bought with charges), but the more you did the greater the chance of burning it out.

Video Games

  • In the Halo series, the plasma pistol can be "overcharged." This will overheat the weapon and gulp a disproportionate amount of battery power, but will short out any energy shields it hits.
    • And in the third game, holding it in overcharge slowly drains its battery.
  • In the Marathon series, the fusion pistol can be overcharged similarly, but if it is overcharged for approx. one minute (only likely due to a stuck key as it beeps and shakes alarmingly for most of that time), it explodes, instantly killing the character regardless of health or invincibility. This was, however a very powerful and accurate attack if charged for 4–5 seconds, and can damage otherwise invincible enemies (in multiplayer).
  • Usable on many FPS weapons, but the strangest occurrence is the Mag 60 from Turok 2 onwards, which uses its alt-fire instantly, blasting an oil drum-sized hole in the torso of the enemy soldier and using 15 shots automatically. Despite that, it looks like a typical automatic handgun (resembling the Time Crisis guns but realistically painted, even with the same gunfire motion) and you pick up small boxes of bullets. So...what the hell is it? Note that there's a recovery time afterwards, while you can fire all 60 shots without reloading normally, meaning they must all be loaded in at once. It's pretty much nonsensical on all fronts.
    • In System Shock 2, The Argon Laser Pistol can be configured to fire in Overload mode. The same game also allows you to overload your brain when using the Psi Amp.
      • In the original System Shock, all energy weapons feature an "Overload" option, with the realization that the weapon will instantly overheat when fired (requiring two to four seconds before it can be fired again) and that it will take a large amount of your global energy to fire. Still, using the powerful Ion Rifle on overload will kill almost anything in one shot.
    • Also, in the game Blood and its sequel, there's a Tesla Gun you can Overclock to shoot a much more powerful and ammo consuming shot with alternate fire, but you can't shoot it again in a few seconds afterwards, while in the normal shoot mode it shoots at automatic rate. It is powerful enough to kill even some Bosses in a few shots.
    • The best game example I can think of is Take No Prisoners. One of the last weapons is a Plasma Cannon that can be charged for more powerful shots at larger ammo costs. But if you charge it long enough, the gun explodes with you.
  • EVE Online features a system called "Heat", whereby one can overload certain shipboard modules. The tradeoff for significantly improved performance is that the heat accumulation from running them like this for an extended period will damage the module and others adjacent to it, resulting in repair costs at the least, and inoperative modules if you overload it too long. Totally worth it if you know when to use it. This ability is made available by training the skill "Thermodynamics" which also reduces the heat produced by overloaded modules.
  • A low-tech variant (albeit taking place in 2035): Dmitrii of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow uses his doppelgang-ing abilities to copy Soma's soul-absorption abilities. However, during the final showdown, his own soul is not strong enough to contain all of Soma's power and HIS HEAD A SPLODE!!!!!! Phlebotinum Breakdown ahoy!
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus's Phazon corruption and PED suit allow her to overclock herself by sending her into Hyper Mode whenever she wants, which uses health as ammo and causes total corruption if she stays in it for too long.
    • Strangely enough, there are some enemies that will induce this mode in Samus as a form of attack. The logic behind it is essentially taking an enemy that can already overpower herself and pushing the berserk button, on the off chance she'll lose herself in rage before she can blow your face off.
    • In Super Smash Bros Brawl, Samus's Final Smash (while wearing her Power Armor) is "Zero Beam", which fires off a blast of energy powerful enough to destroy her suit afterwards. Instead of outright hurting her however, this just leaves Samus in her Zero suit.
  • In Persona 3 Aigis (a robot girl) can go into Orgia Mode (releases the limiters on her body) for three turns, but after the three turns she requires a cool down period before being able to do anything.
    • In FES Metis (Aigis' robot sister) can stay in Orgia Mode for a significantly longer time.
  • This is how Half Life begins (We boosted the anti-mass spectrometer to 105% - bit of a gamble but we need the extra resolution...)
    • Half Life also has the Gauss Gun, a prototype weapon that you can charge up for a more powerful shot. Attempting to charge it past its maximum power will make it explode, reducing its hapless user to Ludicrous Gibs. The player first gains the weapon after a security guard accidentally demonstrates this rather glaring design flaw.
  • In Command & Conquer Generals the Chinese nuclear power plants can be forced to provide 50% more power, but you better get started building more because overloading the reactors leads to the building slowly destroying itself. This can even be used offensively, by hijacking opponents power plants and deliberately putting them into overload mode. When they blow, they'll contaminate a large area and damage any troops/vehicles in it.
    • In Command & Conquer Red Alert 3, many units, such as the Soviet Dreadnought or Kirov Airship can be ordered to fire their weapons faster or move faster, at the detriment of the unit's health.
  • The BFG 9000 from Doom 3 is a chargeable weapon with five levels. Level 1 will take out any zombies in the area and cost one BFG unit. Level 2 will include imps and take two units. Level 3 will take out hell imps and regular hellknights and take three units. Level 4 will kill anything short of bosses and take four units. Level 5 will explode the gun and kill the user and anyone nearby.
  • And then there's the high explosive bullets for your sniper rifle in Mass Effect. Sure, you only get one shot before it overheats, but that one shot is a 4m radius explosion with the animation of a 10 cm explosion. Nothing like watching a itty-bitty explosion sending a geth trooper flying, while being incinerated.
    • There's actually a couple more ways to overclock your weapons in Mass Effect, including installing a larger barrel in the gun. But the explosive rounds will make everything overheat almost instantly. Even the New Game+ ultimate sniper rifle will overload after its second shot with the explosive rounds.
    • On the other hand, it finally means you have something close to Shepard's Cutscene Power to the Max Pistol Of Doom. Just pick your shots carefully.
  • Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries: 'Reactor critical, shutdown immin- EMERGENCY HEAT SHUTDOWN OVERRIDDEN.' Not advisable.
    • In Mechwarrior 4, overriding the auto shutdown when overheating in combat is easy. What most players don't realize when they're pushing their 'Mech to the limit is that the fusion reactor shielding can fail without warning when overheating, causing the chest of the mech to spontaneously explode.
  • Quake's Thunderbolt gun + water = full discharge of cells and instagibbing of everyone in the vicinity including you.
  • Rocket launchers in the Unreal series have multiple barrels (as many as six in Unreal and Unreal Tournament, reduced to four in Unreal II the Awakening and to three in the remaining games) which can be loaded sequentially by holding down the primary fire button. Releasing the fire button will fire all of the loaded rockets. The downside is that when the launcher is fully loaded it will immediately fire, with predictable results if the player happens to be facing a wall or looking at the floor.
  • In Dawn of War Chaos can make their heretics (worker unit) work themselves to death, they work faster but will die pretty quick, best to use lots of them, you can always get another one.
  • Anybody that has played Descent knows that the Fusion cannon plays this one perfectly straight. While a decent if somewhat slow weapon normally, it can be charged for about 3 seconds for incredible damage; one ship can instakill anything with a fully charged fusion shot. Go beyond 3.5 seconds and you start taking damage, and the damage goes back to normal.
  • Reisen Udongein Inaba can drink potions to increase her attack and defense in Scarlet Weather Rhapsody. The effects stack for each potion drunk, up to three. If she drinks a fourth one, however, she explodes; this doesn't harm her, but it can be devastating to her opponent. It's generally a really bad idea to do this since it makes her lose the effects of her Status Buff and the explosion is somewhat easy to avoid, but it could be useful as a surprise attack in the endgame when the loss of the buff won't make much of a difference.
  • Overclocking the ARS in Vanquish by removing its limiters can have unpleasant effects on the user. In-game, if Sam takes too much fire from enemy troops, he passes out, and the suit's attempts to repair and compensate for the damage result in its engine overloading and exploding.
  • In Free Space, the weapons on the GTVA Colossus are overcharged to the point that the beam emitters start melting in order to match the firepower of the Sathanas. As a result of both this and damage incurred to its armor, the ship was to spend the next few months drydocked for repairs (this was the ship the Alliance was hoping would Curb Stomp the opposing armies).
  • Medicalat is based on absorbing enemy bullets or enemies themselves, but overdoing it will make the weapon explode, costing you a health point and all power.
  • In Team Fortress 2, apparently the Medic's ubercharge requires the implant of a mega baboon's heart because trying to use it on a normal heart will cause it to explode from the voltage from the machine that allows the subject to undergo the ubercharge's effect.
  • In Fate/stay night, technically any Servant can overload their Noble Phantasms with magic, causing them to take a massive power hike but in the process they are also Lost Forever. Given that most Servants only have between one to three Noble Phantasms (which are artifacts such as Excalibur), and Noble Phantasms represent the solidified history of each Servant the very idea is unthinkable. Archer cheats his way around this as his Noble Phantasm (Unlimited Blade Works) makes infinite copies of the Noble Phantasms of EVERY OTHER SERVANT, allowing him to use Explosive Overclocking with no real downside. It's one of the reasons most Servants would be terrified of him, if they found out.
  • A literal case in Tron 2.0 where Jet overclocks an archaic Encom mainframe to upload Ma3a to it in order to get her to relative safety. Said ancient mainframe does not survive for very long after he does this, forcing him and Ma3a to retreat to the open Internet.
  • Final Fantasy XII sees the Archadian Empire test the power of deifacted nethecite by putting it in a warship's boiler. It produces so much energy that not only does it blow out all the safety systems, they can't shut it off. A few minutes later, the warship blows up, taking the entire fleet surrounding it out with it.
    • The Monk class has an ability to store energy For Massive Damage. You can do this twice, but if you try on the third time, the monk have a good chunk of his/her health taken off.

Web Comics

  • Dave from Real Life Comics has a tendency to be overzealous with his overclocks as seen here.
  • Largo from Megatokyo is this trope personified. If he sees a computer, he will overclock it, and he will do it spectacularly. Even so, it should be noted that he takes measures to prevent it from exploding on its own: He wears "minimal clothing" while at the computer (if that), and he fills rooms with fans to prevent overheating. This may seem excessive, but his measures turn out to be Properly Paranoid: a single spark of static electricity has been shown to turn his systems into high-yield explosives.
  • In Sequential Art Art manages to make his old computer explode by trying to run a game with too high minimum requirements here. Granted he's a Walking Techbane but he didn't know it back then.
  • Girl Genius, surprisingly for comics about mad scientists, doesn't use this frequently, but Agatha was shown skipping warm-up mode and go for full power while reactivating decrepit machinery, with expectable (and desired) results.
    • There's also the Smoke Knights' "Movit" potions. Movit #6 is the most potent one that your average schmuck can safely use; even Smoke Knights, whose training includes conditioning to be able to utilize the potions, tread carefully with the higher numbers. Zola (spoiler warning: not a Smoke Knight) somehow managed to steal a vial of Movit #11, the most potent one period; it gives her a massive energy boost, but Violetta explicitly says that it'll kill her in short order as her body burns up from within.
  • Yehuda Moon and The Kickstand Cyclery has Arboritum, a super-light alloy that would be ideal for making bike frames if it didn't have a tendency to break under stress, normally resulting in severe injuries for the rider.
  • Vexxarr got it straight:

Carl: Well, I have bad news. We're currently accelerating with 110% efficiency.
Vexxarr: And that is bad why?
Carl: Because in engineering, values above 100% round down to BOOM.

Western Animation

  • Subverted and mocked in "Futurama" episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before" when, in an attempt to save the members of the Star Trek cast, Fry suggests they do a crazy reconfiguring of the ship like they had done on the fictional show in the past. Leela suggests shifting power around and reconfiguring the weapons to the villain's frequency to create an energy ray that may overload his quantum structure. Then there's a shot of Bender with a blow torch working on the ship, and after a few moments of work he says, "Ok. I'm done reconfooballing the energymotron, or whatever."
  • In the pilot for Disney's Tale Spin, the Sea Duck was equipped with an Overdrive that made it jet-fast, but would fry the engines if used for long stretches. Was burned out for good after the second episode and never mentioned again. (Why Baloo didn't just have it replaced is never explained, but can be handwaved as Rebecca not knowing about it when she had the Sea Duck rebuilt after its destruction.)
  • In Mission Hill, Kevin uses his friend's computers to try and crack the SAT exams by finding the supposed repeating string of correct multiple-choice answers. His attempts to get more and more processing power out of them eventually causes them to explode.
  • Subverted in an episode of Megas XLR. Megas' photonic stabilizer is damaged and in danger of exploding if Coop overworks Megas, and a fight breaks out while Coop is trying to find a new one. Just when Megas is on the edge, a Eureka Moment provides Coop with a method of fixing the stabilizer, allowing Coop to resume fighting normally; duct tape.
    • Not-so-subverted in the episode where he goes to an alternate dimension.

Real Life

  • The ultimate real-life example of explosive overclocking (and possibly the original one) is the one machine/power supply that can be made to operate faster at increased risk of exploding, and even shakes, develops dangerous leaks, and sends dials into red zones as the danger point is reached: the steam engine, which makes this as close to Older Than Steam as possible without actually being so.
  • The folks over at Project E.U.N.U.C.H. and their remarkable accomplishment in accidentally overclocking a 33 MHz 486 chip to 247 MHz. Such things happen when tequila, vodka, and other hard liquors are used as a coolant for both computers and humans at the same time. Yes, it melted down quite spectacularly after boiling off the entirety of the alcohol (to the dismay of the testers) in approximately three minutes.
    • In fact, the main reason that PC hardware is less tightly coupled to clock speed these days than it was a few years ago is that continuing to increase chip clock frequency would eventually drive on-chip heat density higher than that of nuclear reactors, fusion warheads, and some lesser stars.
      • A good example is the canceled Intel Tejas. Tejas was supposed to be built on the Pentium 4 Prescott, which was already melt-your-PC hot. The highest stock speed for a Prescott chip was 3.7 GHz, while Tejas was supposed to start at 7 GHz. Thankfully, saner minds prevailed, and chip manufacturers instead decided to focus on cores, cache and architecture.
      • To put in perspective, the heat density produced by a processor can be hotter than that of a clothing iron, which already is meant to vaporize water.
      • It's probably best to not increase the clock speed of parts anyway. These parts will give off some kind of electromagnetic radiation. 7 GHz? That's in the microwave range.
        • Doesn't work that way. 7 Ghz can generate serious heat sure, but it only refers the amount of cycles per second being increased, it has little to do with controlling wavelengths. The CPU already runs hot enough when it's NOT being overclocked with the a decent cooler, nearly doubling the amount of cycles by pumping more wattage into it obviously isn't going to lead to the coolest CPU in the world.
    • One computer-related real-life example of the "safety margin" effect is the RAID disk array: this model treats several discs as a single unit. A RAID can be configured to sacrifice disk space and performance to increase availability (by effectively storing a second copy of everything), or could be configured to improve performance, though in its highest-performance configuration, a failure on any drive could render the system unusable.
  • Early attempts to use GSh-6-30 on aircraft (mainly MiG-27) suffered from the price of BFG's performance—vibrations caused by recoil, which proven to be too strong. This led to lots of various damages—from broken lights to breakages of various onboard devices to jammed gear doors to really wild cases, like failed locks causing spontaneous removal of the cockpit canopy or dash-board dropped right onto pilot's knees. In short, bursts longer than half-second shook planes so hard they just gradually fell apart, until either they were out of ammo, failed to shoot any more or gun overheat exploded ammo. It Got Better in CIWS, of course.
  • Any pulse power device that can survive it at all. E.g. "100 Tesla Multi-shot Magnet" at Los Alamos Pulsed Field Facility can produce 100 Tesla field... "although the equipment is only rated for a 85 Tesla safe user operation". And when such powers are considered, "above safe limit" usually means "you want to stand behind really good concrete wall".
  • The more energy a chemical battery can store, the more energy it can release... sometimes explosively. Exploding lithium ion laptop batteries got a lot of press in 2006; the cause in most of those cases was metal impurities inside the batteries causing a short circuit.
    • Lead-acid batteries can explode when overcharged; overcharging electrolyzes the water inside them, creating free hydrogen. All you need then is a spark... and it is a battery, after all. Many other battery types, including lithium-ion, can also explode due to overcharging, although they commonly incorporate safety features (or "smart chargers") to prevent this.
    • Metal-cased lithium-ion cells are relatively tame. You can get them to blow if you really try (by, say, puncturing them), but they have passive internal protection that'll kill them harmlessly if excessive pressure forms inside them. In contrast, lithium-polymer cells meant for radio-control models are insanely dangerous, not having any safety whatsoever. Shorting, overcharging, overdischarging, puncturing, bending... all activities that can cause them to emit a foot-long jet of flame that you can't extinguish with water or fire extinguishers (the only good way of killing a lithium fire is to smother it with sand).
  • While probably not creating a higher risk of explosion than normal, a MiG-25's engines could be convinced to propel the plane to mach 3.2, which is and was comfortably higher than any combat plane field save for the YF-12. The downside? This would bypass the fuel pumps, resulting in the loss of any throttle control, and would also more than likely start expelling important bits of engine, rendering it an "oh shit" contingency rather than a viable tactic. It was, however, sufficient to convince NATO that the Soviets had produced some sort of superpowered fighter jet, rather than a really heavy plane with really big engines.
  • War emergency power was like this, though its short duration made it work more similar to a Nitro Boost, unless you really wanted to damage the engine. The modern equivalent, afterburners, also merit a mention here as well as under Nitro Boost; they use several times as much fuel as full military power and paint the infrared equivalent of a bullseye on the aircraft in return for a large burst of extra thrust.
    • Water-Methanol Injection on supercharged engines. They add up speed momentarily when needed - such as for a heavily loaded van when overtaking a semi on the road - but when used continuously, will damage the pistons.
  • The amateur car tuning scene is all about this trope. You can significantly increase the horsepower of your ride if you're willing to spend a good deal of money and risk voiding the warranty. Performance tuning can be as simple as hacking into the engine CPU (e.g. to force an increase in the amount of fuel injected into the cylinders during each cycle) or as complicated as replacing pistons, installing ram air vents or even tossing in a nitrous oxide injection system. As can be expected, this significantly increases the temperatures and pressures involved - and not every engine is capable of functioning so far beyond its design specs, which is where the term explosive comes into play...
    • Boost controllers are notorious for this. These simple, cheap devices allow one to adjust the maximum boost of a turbocharger by turning a knob. As these can be used without upgrading engine internals to handle this extra pressure, it's very tempting and easy to increase boost pressure to a point well above what the engine can handle resulting in catastrophic failure.
      • In motorsports, an engine that sacrifices reliability for extra power, like the above example, is called a "hand-grenade engine" due to their likelihood of exploding into any number of pieces from the excessive pressure.
    • Tractor Pulling is a very specialized form of drag racing where the goal is to get as much torque as possible, resulting in very large, very powerful engines, and many explosions.
  • Oliver Ackermann of the guitar effect pedal company Death by Audio got his start trying to upgrade distortion pedals he felt weren't "extreme" enough, and ended up designing pedals with radically different circuitries from typical mainstream manufacturers. Said distortion pedals can, if you're not careful, actually blow out and damage your amplifier, fulfilling both Overdrive and Explosive Overclocking simultaneously.
  • The human body itself has this in a fashion; when the "fight or flight" instinct kicks in, the body releases massive amounts of adrenaline. This allows ordinary schlubs to pace Olympic sprinters, lift/push something a dozen times their own weight, keep running from something chasing them long past when they should have collapsed from exhaustion, and in some rare cases even see things in slow motion and high detail that would make Hollywood special effects artists faint. Of course, the body isn't like this all the time because it tends to tear muscle and sinew, break bones, dislocate joints, cause heart attacks...
  • An old programmer's joke: the "HCF" machine-language instruction (link goes to the Jargon File) causes a computer to Halt and Catch Fire. Never intentionally designed into any real CPU, but has been known to appear as a consequence of insufficiently defensive hardware design and/or abuse of factory test mechanisms.
  • Subverted with the Space Shuttle. Its thrusters routinely went to something like 105% output. However, 100% output was the spec that NASA required, and it just so happened that the thrusters could reach 105% output of that spec safely.
  • This was a design flaw in the RBMK Nuclear Reactor. When the control rods, used to slow the reaction down, were inserted, it had the effect of slowing down neutrons, increasing the chances of fission. This means that for a brief moment, control rods would increase the output power of the reactor. When Chernobyl operators running a test saw the reactor producing too much power, they inserted the control rods thinking it would slow the reaction down. Only, this increased the power output to explosive levels.
  • A mild example is driving your car until you run out of gas. If you run on fumes without stalling out, you get to your destination faster than if you stop and fill up. Interestingly, gas gauges are built to read "E" when there is still a gallon or so in the tank.
  • +P ammo increases parts wear for MORE POWER while many cheaper firearms not rated for it and can explode under the pressure. This is especially so of so called "++P" ammo: While +P has an industry standard like normal loads, ++P has none.