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Air Cooling vs Liquid Cooling Your PC Components

PC Components can get hot… really hot; graphics cards (GPUs) and processors (CPUs) especially can reach temperatures of around 90°C, or 194°F. Now, this is extremely hot for just about most things in the world, and if these components are left at these kinds of temperatures for long, they will no doubt break and become unusable – as these components can costs hundreds of pounds, this is something which you cannot let happen, no matter how rich you may be.

In order to prevent something like this from happening, all modern graphics cards have fans attached to them which help to keep them cool. Processors have heat sinks, which are metal heat exchangers which transfers heat generated by the components and acts as a funnel which drives the hot air away from the component. You can opt to have a fan at the very end of this heat sink to further help drive the hot air away from the CPU, which is something I highly recommend you do so.

Practically all PC cases have additional fans at the front, back and sometimes on the very top of the case to help expel even more hot air which may be made from the components at work. This is a great way to help keep your computer and its vital organs cool, but did you know there is also another way gamers and PC enthusiasts keep their systems cool…

Water and electronics do not go well together; something is going to break, and it certainly won’t be the water. Keeping your PC components cool using water sounds like a really ridiculous, and downright risky idea, but water cooling is actually a thing. But is it better than air cooling? What are the pros and cons to liquid cooling (or water cooling as it’s also known as)? And does air cooling have any cons which will make liquid cooling a better alternative.

In this post, we’re going to pit air cooling against water cooling and find out which type of cooling is the better one for you.

The Pros of Air Cooling


  • It’s Far More Cheaper Than Liqud Cooling

Grabbing a spare GPU fan, CPU fan or an additional case fan online will cost you pennies compared to liquid cooling solutions. If you’re building your gaming PC from scratch, opting for air cooling will be far easier on your wallet than water cooling, especially if you aren’t looking for top-of-the-range power from your computer as there wouldn’t be any point for liquid cooling as it’s more suited for high-end components.

With mid-range computers and components, air cooling will be more than ideal as liquid cooling is more suitable for high-end components which can have more strain put on them without them begging for mercy from the demanding graphics of the particular game you’re playing.

  • The Setup Is Easier

All modern GPUs come with fans built into the card, as does some PC cases, so you won’t have to worry about setting them up before using them. While CPUs do not come with a fan cooler, they can be pretty easy to install above the processor to keep it cool and safe from harms way by the heat. Water cooling is another story.

GPU water coolers come separately, and requires more than just screwing in a few screws in the setup. CPU water coolers are the exact same; they come separately and the setup is more complex than just tightening a few screws in. Before you decide to choose liquid cooling as a method to keep your PC and its components cool, you will have to decide if you are ready for a more finicky setup or not.

  • Fans Don’t Leak Water When They Break

If there’s one thing which a fan won’t do that a water cooler will no doubt do if not installed properly is leak. Improper setup of a liquid cooler may result in the water leaking and dripping onto the components, which will cause them to break or in the worse case scenario cause them to catch fire.

If you don’t want to risk setting your computer alight, and aren’t confident enough in setting up a water cooler without a possible leak, then using a fan to cool your computer will be the better option for you. Furthermore, if a fan breaks, you can easily get another one to replace it; fans are cheap, and it won’t have too much of an impact on your bank account when compared to a liquid cooler.

The Pros of Water Cooling


  • It’s Far More Quieter Than Air Cooling

Fans make a lot of noise when they’re spinning around inside your case, especially GPU fans. Using a liquid cooler to cool your components and PC will be as silent as a mouse, mainly because there aren’t any moving components when it comes to water cooling.

When you’re using spinning fans to cool your components, they will sure make a lot of noise and will no doubt become a nuisance unless you properly manage to drown out their sound by using headphones… or you can just turn your games up really loudly. 😉

  • Takes Up Less Space

One great thing about water cooling, especially if you are somebody who likes everything neat and tidy and not cluttered, is that it takes up less space inside your case than fans. Traditional fans are large and bulky and take up a lot of space inside your case, especially when you open it up to regularly clean it free of dust and dirt that may clog up the components.

When it comes to liquid coolers, they are more tightly compact and don’t take up as much space inside your PC, allowing you a lot of room to move about when cleaning your system.

  • Better Cooling of a Specific Component

Another huge benefit to liquid cooling is being able to focus entirely on a specific component and cool it far easier and better than with using air cooling. We’ve already been over about how much space liquid cooling a component can save inside your computer when compared to air cooling, but with liquid cooling you can choose which component to keep cool without having to move or adjust anything.

When it comes to fans, you will have to place them in specific areas to keep certain components cool; these areas can either be hard to reach or take up a ton of room inside your computer. With liquid cooling, you won’t have to worry about these areas as the water will be able to cool just about any component you’d like.

  • Better Potential to Overclock

Many PC enthusiasts overclock their components – typically their GPU and CPU – in order to get just a little bit more power out of them by raising the frequency of the chips. While doing so can make them run better than their stock levels, this does have a few consequences, mainly that the components run hotter than they did beforehand.

As liquid cooling cools components more directly when compared to air cooling, this is another great reason why liquid cooling is a solution many people go for, especially if they’re an overclocker, and want to make their graphics card or processor run as best as it can.

Conclusion


Whatever you choose to ultimately cool your PC and its components will be entirely based on your tastes and preferences. For example, if you want a neater PC setup and don’t want large and bulky fans littered everywhere inside your case, then you may be better of with liquid cooling.

Or, if you don’t want to face the hassle of the complex setup of liquid coolers and simply want something basic to cool your PC, fans will be the much better option for you.

I hope this post has helped you to decide which solution will be the better one for you. And for the people who are already familiar with air cooling and liquid cooling PC components, please feel free to jot down some other pros and cons of the cooling solutions that I may have missed in the comments below. 😉

Happy gaming!

Jamie – the PC Gaming Nerd

Jamie

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