Water Cooling PC Basics
How it works & Why to do it
It really doesn’t matter whether you are using a laptop or desktop computer, they all use fans to keep them from
overheating. In the typical computer, the fan does a good job, but when gamers use higher end hardware to create
greater speed, a simple fan may not generate enough cooling capacity to do the job. If your computer is getting too
hot, and you have already added extra fans, you might want to think about investing in a liquid cooling system.
Water cooling systems for computers are similar to automotive cooling systems. Thermodynamics works on the
principle that warmer objects transfer heat to cooler objects. As water mixed with antifreeze from the radiator
passes through the engine the cool water picks up the heat and leaves the motor parts cooler. Back at the radiator,
the water is then cooled off again to circulate through the engine again. This same principle is used in liquid
cooling systems for computers.
Most computers use what are known as heat sinks and fans to cool them off, but when you have upgraded
or overclocked your computer to run faster and work harder, this system just may not be efficient enough.
Adding liquid cooling is the next step in the cooling process of gaining increased speed without doing harm to your
best friend. Water is far more thermal conductive than metal, which is the surface typically used to dispense
There are a couple of reasons computers could require the increased heat capacity and thermal conductivity
offered by water:
- The components of this electronic device produce greater amounts of heat than can be absorbed by the air
- Too much noise is created and far too much energy used by the amount of fans it would take to move the air
needed to effectively cool the machine.
How cooling PCs with Liquid Works
- Coolant is moved through the system by a pump
- Heat is dispelled into the air by a radiator
- Air is moved over the radiator by a fan
- A reservoir holds coolant which can be easily added to when needed
- The systems different parts are connected by hoses
Most components of electronic equipment will not accept contact with liquid, so just like with the engine on a
car, the design of liquid cooling systems for computers use water blocks with tubes running through them allow the
water to flow through and pick up the heat without ever touching the delicate microchips.
Some CPU water blocks are universal in nature, while others work just with specific chips. Small bolts and
washers are used to attach the water blocks to the correct circuit boards like video cards or motherboards. You
will find that most of the liquid cooling systems are very much like what can be found in the cooling system of a
Centrifuge pumps are the typical types that are used in liquid cooling pumps, and some are submersible while
others must remain dry. As you can probably tell, the pump is the most critical component of such cooling systems.
How fast it flows will make a big difference in how quickly it will move water through the system to maintain your
gaming system at a good temperature. The pump must also be able to move the water from a low level to a higher one
quickly without allowing it to become too hot.
Not all liquid cooling systems work with a fan, but many of them do to assist the radiator to dispel heat at a
faster rate. Likewise, they do not all have a separate reservoir. Some come equipped with a fill/bleed line that
allows for the addition of coolant or removing air from the system.
The tubing of liquid cooling systems can present a challenge for the users. If must be flexible enough to
accommodate odd angles when connecting components, but at the same time not prone to kinking. You would not want a
kinked hose to restrict fluid from flowing through the system correctly.
Simple systems have tube that connect the inlet from the water block to the pump, with separate tubing running
from the radiator and reservoir to the outlet of the water block. One more tube is connected t the back of the
reservoir to the pump. There are also water cooling systems that have multiple water blocks where tubing is
required to connect one block to the next.
One final component is required to make water cooling systems work correctly and that is the liquid. Distilled
water is often used because of all the contaminants and sediment in tap water. Some people choose to add special
products to the water to create a more appealing look through a clear case. The freezing point can also be lowered
as well as the surface tension of the water to provide better cooling. Others choose to add anti-corrosion and
antimicrobial ingredients to the mix to help increase the systems life.
It is always a good idea to check out a liquid cooling system prior to hooking it up to your computer so that
you can determine if there are any leaks present that could harm your computer. While you are performing this test,
keep your computer off and run the cooling system for awhile watching for anything you might think could harm your
When you are sure the system is watertight, go ahead, and boot your computer. The BIOS menu will allow you to
keep track of the temperature of the components to see if your cooling system is really working.
For those who are not comfortable working with individual parts, there are kits and ready to use units that can
be purchased which require very little know-how to set up. You just want to make sure that your selection is
compatible with the computer you are using.
Generally a cheap gaming pc will not need a water cooling system.
However, if you choose to overclock your CPU or grapics cards, adding a water cooling kit will keep heat generated
from being an issue.
A mid range gaming pc, will most often be fan cooled rather than water cooled. Or
as in the cheap gaming, rather than being completely water cooled, a kit for cooling the CPU is used. However, if
overclocking this build, look into water cooling it.
Hardcore, ultimate, high end gaming computers much more frequently rely on a completely liquid
cooling system than any other build type.