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Liquid Cooling

Liquid cooling is a more effective way to cool PC components. It is a superior alternative to air cooling systems which feature only heatsinks combined with fans. You might be totally fine using the stock heatsinks and fans that your system comes with but if you want optimal performance you will want to go with liquid cooling.

The basic idea is that a water block ( like a heat sink ) will be attached to the component. Coolant will pass through the water block and transfer heat into the liquid. It will then be pumped away through tubes to a large radiator which will have multiple fans blowing across it. This dissipates heat extremely effectively. The CPU and GPU are commonly cooled with these systems but you can also cool other components including RAM, hard drives, and even the system board.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Liquid Cooling

Advantages

Disadvantages

There are advantages and disadvantages to liquid cooling. It is, of course, going to be quieter than air cooling. The fans on a powerful gaming system can be pretty noisy and switching to a silent, liquid cooled system can be a lifesaver. Ultimately, it is also much more effective at transferring heat which is probably the most important thing to consider. This leads to cooler components that perform better so you can play games on higher settings with more frames per second. This also opens up the possibility of overclocking with very little risk. Traditionally, overclocking was considered relatively risky and could lead to components being damaged. Now, with liquid cooling, it is much safer. Components that are liquid cooled will tend to last longer. This is always a big plus as you want to take care of your investment. The tubes generally tend to look nice and are a whole lot nicer than attaching large fans directly over your CPU and GPU. CPU fans always get dusty/dirty and are such a pain to clean. With a liquid cooling system, this becomes a non-issue.

Liquid cooling systems aren’t for everyone. They do have disadvantages. First of all, they will cost more, even for the cheaper pre-built systems. The custom loops will cost even more than that. The sky ‘s the limit. They also take a lot more work to set up. Exactly how much work does depend on what type of system you decide to build. Pre-built systems are actually relatively easy to set up but custom loops can be a big project. Also, don’t forget that there is a risk of having your system leak. If this happens the result could be a huge mess inside your case. If you overlook something, or if one of the fittings comes loose, you could be looking at a disaster.

Types of Liquid Cooling Systems

There are generally two types of liquid cooling systems. First you have the prebuilt, all-in-one systems. There is also the option of much more elaborate, custom built loops.

Pre-built - AIO (all-in-one) Solutions

Prebuilt, all-in-one systems basically consist pre-assembled system that just needs to be installed in your case. First and foremost, these are going to be a whole lot easier to install and setup. You won’t have to worry about measuring tubes and tightening fittings. They make the entire process really easy. These systems also tend to take up less space than custom loops. This may be important if you don’t have a huge amount of space in your case. They are also going to be much less expensive. If you are on a budget and want most of the benefits of liquid cooling, this might be the solution for you. It is a great alternative to a standard CPU fan. All that said, AIO systems are less efficient. If you want optimal cooling, this not really the way to go. AIO systems also tend not to be customizable. They are very common for CPUs and there are even some options for GPUs these days. If you want to liquid cool other components like your RAM, SSD, or motherboard, you are probably going to want a custom loop.

Custom Loops

Custom loops are much more elaborate and take much more planning than the AIO systems. They will take more effort to set up. They generally require a fair amount of planning. Even with planning, you will probably want to opt for a larger case if possible. All that said, these systems are what you will want to go with if you really want the most effective cooling solution. Custom loops are, as the name would imply, more customizable. They can be built to fit your needs. If you want to cool other components, such as RAM or SSD, you can add these to your loop. You have the option to build your system any way you want. This opens up the possibility of larger radiators, better pumps, and even cosmetic improvements like colored fluids.

Custom Loop Parts

“Optional” Parts

Tips

CPU Cooling

This is probably the easiest component to setup a liquid cooling system for. It is easy to find prebuilt cooling loops that are ready to install. This is one of the first components that people think of cooling even though the GPU should really be a higher priority.

GPU cooling

GPUs tend to reach higher temperatures than CPUs. They also tend to have more of an impact on your PCs performance when running games. For this reason, it makes even more sense to use liquid cooling for a GPU than a CPU. If you want to learn more about GPU liquid cooling systems, look here:

Other Components ( RAM/SSD/MOBO)

While the GPU and CPU will probably be your first targets when setting up a liquid cooling system, it doesn’t hurt to consider other components as well. If you are looking for a pre-built cooling system and want to cool your RAM or SSD, you will probably be out of luck. If you are looking to build a custom loop, this will be a whole lot more feasible. If you are building a custom loop anyway, you are already halfway there. Going beyond the CPU and GPU to cool additional components will increase your budget. It will also make your setup a bit more complex.