In the early days of computing, using a fan and a heat sink was the best way to keep a computer cool.
However, over time technology has evolved, and now we’re able to benefit from a wide array of modern approaches to prevent our devices from running too hot, including liquid cooling.
In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about liquid cooling in a PC.
What Is Liquid/Water Cooling In A PC?
Liquid/water cooling is an approach used to lower the temperature of a computer’s processor (CPU). A liquid solution is circulated between a metal radiator cooled by fans and a cooling block that sits atop the processor. This method is more efficient than air cooling since it dissipates heat more efficiently.
Liquid/Water cooling has become more popular in the past few years, as it is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to improve PC performance.
Unlike air cooling, which uses air to remove heat from the processor, liquid cooling removes heat from the processor by continuously circulating cool liquid through a cooling block that sits on the processor.
From the cooling block, the cooling liquid flows into a radiator located in the back, top, or bottom of your PC where the heat of the liquid is dissipated with the help of fans.
From the radiator, the liquid circulates back into the cooling block where it removes heat from the processor and the cycle continues.
This process allows the computer to run faster and more efficiently because the use of a radiator greatly increases the surface area of the cooling liquid and dissipates heat without the need of high pressure fans.
There are several types of liquid/water cooling systems you can choose from depending on your preferences and budget.
How Does Liquid Cooling In A PC Work?
Liquid cooling in a PC works by circulating cool liquid through a cooling block that sits on your processor, removing heat from the processor. From the cooling block, the liquid is circulated to a radiator at the back, top, or bottom of your PC where the liquid cools rapidly with the help of fans.
If you take a look at your motherboard, you will see that the back of your CPU is a flat, metal surface. This surface is called an Integral Heat Spreader (IHS), and it transmits heat generated from your CPU to your cooler.
Both air coolers and liquid coolers have a flat, metal surface called a baseplate that is designed to make flat, direct contact with the IHS on the back of your CPU.
Liquid coolers have a small cooling block, which is filled with water or coolant, that sits on the baseplate.
This cooling block stays very cool by constantly circulating the cooling liquid out of the cooling block and into a radiator at the back, top, or bottom of your PC via plastic tubing.
At the radiator, the liquid is dispersed through the metal radiator, increasing the surface area of the liquid and helping it cool very rapidly.
Typically, the radiator will have 1-3 fans that circulate air around the radiator, helping it remain cool so that it can efficiently cool off the circulating liquid.
From the radiator, the cool liquid circulates back into the cooling block and the entire cycle repeats itself. Since the liquid always stays cool, it can continue to suck heat out of your CPU through the cooling block.
One of the main benefits of liquid cooling is that it’s silent. Even when running strenuous applications, your cooling system will hum along silently, making it ideal for streaming or other quiet environments.
Liquid cooling can be used in several ways. Most of the time, “cooling system” refer to the system that cools the CPU, which is the cause of a lot of heat in a PC.
However, some cooling systems are designed to cool the GPU and other parts of the PC close to the CPU.
This means that the computer can run cooler and faster, while withstanding heat-intensive activities like gaming or overclocking your CPU.
Is Liquid Cooling Good For A PC?
Liquid cooling is good for a PC, but it’s not a must-have for most people. Liquid cooling is excellent for a PC if you want to overclock it or if your processor is particularly demanding. If you don’t care about overclocking, then there are other, cheaper ways to keep your PC cool.
Liquid cooling transfers heat away from your CPU and into a liquid-filled cooling block, which is cooled by a radiator.
This is more efficient than air cooling, which relies on fans to move air around the computer’s components.
Liquid cooling is quieter than air cooling and can look aesthetically pleasing too. So if you want to show off your PC, liquid cooling is the way to go.
Liquid cooling is becoming more popular for PC users as it offers a wide array of benefits. For one, liquid cooling is a much quieter option than air cooling.
This is especially attractive to streamers, as air coolers can get loud and cause a lot of unwanted background noise during gaming streams.
Moreover, liquid cooling can provide superior overclocking potential because the system can run at higher temperatures without risking damage to your CPU.
Does A Gaming PC Need Liquid Cooling?
A gaming PC does not need liquid cooling, but it depends on how you use your PC. If you have a power-hungry processor, or you are looking to overclock your processor, then you’ll get a lot of benefit from a liquid cooler. For most gaming PCs, however, air coolers will work just fine.
While liquid coolers look amazing, they’re unnecessary for most gaming rigs.
Although liquid coolers are more efficient than air coolers, this difference in efficiency won’t matter much unless you plan on overclocking your CPU, which generates a lot of heat.
Liquid cooling may also be necessary if you want your PC to run super quiet. Air coolers can make a lot of noise while you’re gaming, so if that’s important to you then you may want to opt for liquid cooling.
Is Liquid Cooling Hard To Install?
Liquid cooling is not hard to install. Most liquid coolers come as all-in-one coolers, meaning you simply need to attach the cooling block to your motherboard/CPU, then secure the radiator and its fans somewhere in your case.
If you’ve built a PC before, then installing a liquid cooler isn’t very challenging. Most liquid coolers come with the cooling block, tubing, radiator, and fans already assembled.
All you’ll need to do is secure the cooling block to your motherboard, plug it into the proper motherboard header(s), and secure the radiator and its fans to your case.
Before choosing your liquid cooler, make sure that the bracket on the cooler is compatible with your motherboard.
Most liquid coolers come with several mounting brackets, so you’ll usually have no problem securing it to your motherboard, whether you have an AMD or Intel system.
After installing the cooler, boot your system into BIOS. From inside your BIOS, you should be able to view the temperature of the cooling block and the fan speed of the radiator fans if you’ve installed the cooling system correctly.
If your system won’t boot after installing the new cooling system, then it’s possible you didn’t connect the radiator/fans properly.
Many motherboards will not boot if a CPU cooler is not detected, so you may need to research your motherboard to find out which header the cooler should be connected to.
I recently built a gaming rig with high-end liquid cooling and the process was really easy. It took about 15 minutes of work, and all it required was a screwdriver.
Most liquid coolers even come with the thermal paste already applied.
At this point, if you’re convinced you need liquid cooling, then you may be wondering how much it costs. Let’s find out.
How Much Does Liquid Cooling Cost?
A basic liquid cooling kit can cost around $60-$100. More advanced liquid cooling kits can cost up to $300. Some liquid cooling systems require installation by a qualified technician. This can add an additional $30-$100 to the cost
All-in-one liquid cooling systems can be installed in a matter of minutes and can significantly improve the performance of your computer.
The initial cost of a liquid cooling system can be high, but it lasts a long time and makes financial sense in the long run. It can be expensive, but it’s worth it if you want to get the most out of your computer.
Do your research. If you’re unsure whether liquid cooling suits you, ask around. There are many forums and websites where users can share advice and experiences.
Before you buy anything, do some comparison shopping. Find companies that offer competitive prices and shipping rates.
Liquid cooling products can be bulky, so make sure the retailer you choose has a good return policy in case you decide you want to switch brands later on.
If you’re lucky enough to have one nearby, then I strongly recommend checking out Microcenter. They have a lot of coolers available, and the employees are really knowledgeable.
When I bought a liquid cooler for my rig, they helped me find one compatible with my setup and gave me tips on how to install it.
Do You Need To Refill Liquid Cooling (if So, How Often?)
You need to refill liquid cooling. Depending on the make and model of your cooling system, you may need to refill it every 3-6 months or every 6-12 months. The frequency will vary depending on the type of liquid cooling system and how often the component is used.
To refill your reservoir, remove the lid and add more coolant until the solution reaches the fill line. Be sure to use the same type of coolant that you used when you first set up your system; mixing different types can cause problems.
Once you’ve added the coolant, replace the lid and turn your system on.
Can Liquid Cooling Leak?
Liquid cooling can leak, but this is highly unlikely. Leaks are incredibly rare and generally only cause minor inconveniences; however, bigger issues can also incur. A common cause of a liquid cooling leak is improper installation.
A quick search on the internet will turn up dozens of stories about liquid cooling leaking, often catastrophically. In some cases, entire systems have melted down due to uncontrolled leakage.
In other cases, users have experienced a rapid increase in temperature, indicating that their system is not operating as efficiently as it could be.
So how can you avoid this problem? The key is to make sure your system is properly sealed and managed.
If you’re using a liquid cooling system, make sure to keep an eye on the level of coolant and make any necessary adjustments as needed.
And if you’re ever worried about something leaking, don’t hesitate to contact a professional.
What Liquid Is Used In Liquid Cooling?
Water is the most common liquid used in liquid cooling, but other fluids can also be used. Other fluids used in liquid cooling include EGW, glycol, and deionized water. Water has high thermal conductivity and is inexpensive, making it an excellent choice in most applications.
However, water also freezes at a relatively low temperature. It can also cause corrosion, meaning it’s not always the ideal choice.
Each of these fluids boasts different properties that make them more or less suitable in certain circumstances. For example, glycol has a lower thermal conductivity than water but a higher boiling point.
Do You Need Fans With Liquid Cooling?
Most systems will still require fans with liquid cooling. Liquid coolers use fans to move cool air across the radiator, maintaining the radiator’s temperature and efficiency. The radiator fans are typically included with your liquid cooler. You’ll still need case fans in order to maintain the exchange of air flowing in and out of your PC case.
For the vast majority of PC builds, you will need fans somewhere in the build. That’s because, even in the case of liquid coolers, fans are still necessary to maintain airflow in and out of your case.
Additionally, liquid coolers typically have 1-3 fans secured to the radiator, these fans help the radiator dissipate the heat of the circulating liquid.
Depending on the model of your graphics card, you’ll probably have an additional 1-3 fans on your graphics card.
Is Liquid Cooling Loud?
Liquid cooling isn’t loud. This is because liquid cooling systems use a large volume of coolant to transfer heat away from the system. Liquid cooling systems are far quieter than other cooling methods, such as air cooling and fans.
Air cooling is known as one of the quietest forms of processor cooling. Since most of the heat is dissipated through a metal radiator, the fans don’t need to work very hard to maintain the CPU’s temperature.
Although liquid cooling is quieter than other types of cooling, it can still produce some noise if it’s not installed correctly or the system is overloaded.
Occasionally, you can also hear dripping or humming sounds from your liquid cooling system.
Is Liquid Cooling And Water Cooling The Same Thing?
Water cooling is a form of liquid cooling, but not all liquid coolers are water coolers. Some liquid coolers use liquids other than water to cool the processor. Common substitutes for water in liquid coolers include EGW and Glycol.
In the modern lingo, water cooling and liquid cooling are terms that may be used interchangeably.
Liquid coolers are very similar in that they all use a radiator and cooling block to circulate cooled liquid around the processor.
Many liquid coolers use water in the cooling block, but there are others that use EGW, glycol, or deionized water, instead.
Best Liquid Cooling Systems
Here are some of the best liquid cooling systems:
This system is perfect for gamers who demand the best performance possible. The H100i V2 features dual radiator fans and a built-in RGB LED light system for customization.
You can even mount the system on your chassis using the included mounting bracket or use it as a standalone pump/fan combo.
The Tower 900 is one of the most advanced liquid cooling systems on the market.
The cooler features a thick tempered glass for a stunning view and a dual block water cooler design that provides excellent thermal performance and protection against thermal throttling.
It also comes with an arsenal of features that allow you to customize its performance to your liking.
The Corsair H110i PRO is perfect for high-end gaming rigs that need top-of-the-line cooling performance.
Interested In Gaming? Check Out My Recommendations!
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|Best Cooling||NZXT Kraken X73 RGB 360mm (click to view on Amazon)|
|Best Power Supply||Corsair RMX Series, RM750x, 750 Watt (click to view on Amazon)|
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