Computers heat up when in use. If you’ll listen closely to your system now, you’ll hear the fans humming gently… or maybe really loud if you’re playing games or some other intensive process. In some extreme situations, fans can go loud enough that you’ll still hear them even if you’ve invested in some noise cancelling earbuds for your gaming rig.
While it’s technically fine for computer hardware to run at high temperatures (as long as it stays under its safe temp), keeping your PC cooler will not just ensure that it’s running at its tip-top performance, but it will also prolong its lifespan.
Of course, the best way to do this is with a quality liquid-cooling setup, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In this article, we’ll go into detail about 5 surprising benefits of liquid cooling a computer.
What is Liquid Cooling?
Before we start, let’s first define liquid cooling and then look at the key parts that make up a liquid cooler. We’ll also answer some of the most common questions about liquid cooling.
Liquid cooling, also referred to as water cooling, offers an optimal cooling solution to any computer system. It’s not just good at keeping temperatures down, it’s also generally quieter than a fan-based setup.
There are 3 types of liquid cooling solutions you can choose from (arranged from easiest to hardest to setup):
- AIO (All-In-One) – Just follow the manual and you should be good to go since everything is packed and pre-filled.
- Kits – As the name suggests, it comes with all the parts you need to build a full loop liquid cooling solution from scratch. Unlike the AIO, — which is basically a plug-and-play solution— everything you need is provided in the kit, so you don’t have to worry about leaving something out.
- Custom Water Cooling – You do everything from scratch and can fully customize the loop. You can even link the loop from your processor to your graphics card. More advanced customization includes the motherboard in the loop.
The potency of liquid cooling does come with some drawbacks: they are more complex than your traditional air cooling system. It’s like trying to listen to high-quality audio on a headset.
So, what’s inside a liquid cooling system?
1. Water Blocks
Water blocks are the water cooling equivalent of heatsinks. It consists of two main parts:
- Base– it’s what makes contact to the processor or graphics card.
- Top– it’s what ensures that the water is contained safely inside the water block.
The heat produced from the processor and graphics card is transferred into the cooling liquid or coolant inside the block.
Coolant is the cooling liquid inside the water block that loops around the entire liquid cooling solution to cool down the processor or the graphics card.
Coolants differ between brands, but they are usually a mix of additives and distilled water to prevent galvanic corrosion and the build of any living organisms; you don’t want nasty sludge water after a month or two. You can either buy a pre-mix or make a DIY by getting the additives.
As the name suggests, it acts as a reservoir or a water tank. This contains excess coolant in the loop to allow air bubbles to be replaced as it circulates.
Some reservoirs are standalone while others are attached to a pump.
These are meant to be connected to the reservoir to pump the coolant inside the water cooling system. This is extremely important since otherwise, your coolant doesn’t actually move around in the loop.
Tubings, also called the hose, connect all the components together and is what the coolant passes through in route between all of the other parts.
Because fittings vary in size, tubings come in different sizes; there are also different colors. Tubing can also come in different varieties, like soft and hard tubing.
Put simply, fittings are like the joints in your body. They connect tubing to tubing, tubing to water blocks, or radiators to reservoirs. Because of their variety of use cases, they come in various shapes, sizes, and material.
It’s also worth mentioning that when you buy tubings for your liquid cooling system, the inner diameter (ID) of the tubings should fit around the fitting’s outer diameter (OD).
7. Radiator and Fans
A radiator’s main function is to cool down the hot coolant that just arrived from the water block. When the hot coolant travels through the radiator, the radiator fins start to absorb the heat from the coolant with the help of the fans.
Most liquid cooling setups have the fans attached to the radiator. A good radiator fan must produce high-static air pressure.
Common Questions About Liquid Cooling
As we alluded to earlier, it is because of this complexity that liquid cooling costs more than air cooling on average. Now that you know a little bit about the fundamental parts of a liquid cooler, you probably have a few questions about the specifics, so let’s go over some of the most asked questions really quick.
1. Do You Have to Refill Liquid Cooling PC?
Yes and no. It depends on the type of liquid cooling solution.
AIO (All In One) liquid cooling solutions, also called Closed-Loop liquid coolers, are sealed coolers. Meaning they don’t require any maintenance at all since they can’t be refilled in the first place. But because water can evaporate through the tubing, some AIO coolers are built to be user-refillable.
Open-Loop liquid coolers, or coolers that you build from scratch, suggests that you’ll have to empty the system and refill it with another coolant when needed. Most setups can last over 12 months but it’s recommended that you at least do an inspection every 6 months.
2. How Does Computer Liquid Cooling Work?
The coolant is pushed out from the reservoirs and through the entire loop by the pumps. First, the coolant goes toward the water blocks to gather heat from your computer component. Then, it circles back around to the radiator to get cooled down so that it can then return to capture more heat. Rinse and repeat.
3. Are there Risks in Using Liquid Coolers?
This article is all about the benefits of liquid cooling, but there is one small, yet important, risk you should be aware of: water leaks.
Of course, as long as you thoroughly test your setup (especially if it is custom) and perform semi-annual inspections, you should be fine. The risk is minuscule compared to the efficacy of the procedure.
4. Do I Need Liquid Cooling?
Depends. If you find the following benefits mentioned in the next section appealing, then the answer to this will most likely be yes.
Benefits of Liquid Cooling
At this point, you should already have a general idea of what’s inside a liquid cooling solution. So, let’s talk about the good stuff now and cover the main benefits of using liquid cooling solutions.
1. It’s More Efficient than Air
Air cooling is nowhere near as efficient as water when it comes to keeping things cool because of water’s high thermal conductivity.
If you stream graphically intensive games or render videos and images for a living, you’re likely already pushing your rig– and consequently your cooling solution– to its limit. Even if they’re running at safe temps, just being elevated for extended periods will hurt your system after a year or two.
Using liquid cooling solutions will not just prolong your hardware’s lifespan but it also ensures they’re being cooled efficiently at all times.
2. Higher Overclocking Potential
When you overclock you are pushing your processor or graphics card to run over its normal clock speeds. More speed requires more power all of which gives off more heat. In other words, overclocking makes your components perform better, but also hotter.
Some AIO coolers and kits can handle basic to medium overclocking. However, advanced users will prefer to invest in a custom water cooling system just to push their overclocks to the limit.
3. Takes Up Less Space than Air Cooling Solutions
Air cooling solutions take up far more real estate than tubes and water blocks. And if you’re running high-powered processors and monster RTX graphics cards, you’ll have to settle with bulky air cooling solutions to keep it cool.
Liquid cooling solutions don’t just cool things more efficiently but they’re also small and easy to install. After all, good things come in small packages, right?
4. Perfect if You Live in a Location with Higher Ambient Temperatures
Since air cooling solutions push air over objects to cool them, they don’t perform as well when it is hot because all you are doing is blowing hot air around. If you live somewhere with higher ambient temperatures, this could be a real problem.
5. Aesthetically Pleasing
This last benefit is a subjective one, for sure; however, liquid cooling solutions look nice. This is especially true because many of them come with flashy RGB lights nowadays. It’s like a really pretty fish tank except you don’t have to clean it out every month or feed it.
Looking at all the points mentioned above, it’s safe to say that liquid cooling a computer makes it run more efficiently in the long run than it would on an air cooler. But it’s also worth noting that this isn’t for everyone.
So if you’re using your computer to run demanding programs or graphically intensive AAA games, then there’s no reason for you not to use a liquid cooling system.