PCs servers have been water-cooled for decades, but the debate over their worth is still going on. Water–cooling provides great cooling, but there is some debate as to whether it’s worth the hassle. Water cooling tends to be more expensive than traditional air cooling, and there is a constant fear that your PC’s most critical components could leak.
On the other hand, CPU air coolers have grown bigger and more efficient over the past decade, and GPUs now have sophisticated heatsinks and fan cooling systems. So is Water cooling worth it?
This article will give you a brief overview of what water cooling is, how does Water cooling works, how to cool it, and ultimately provide the main pros and cons of Water cooling along with a short comparison between Water Cooling vs Air Cooling so you can make an informed decision about your PC build.
What is Water cooling?
Water cooling uses liquid solutions, or certain coolants to draw heat away from the CPU or GPU. This is done using a water block and radiator system.
The cold water is pumped through a liquid block on top of the CPU or GPU to dissipate heat, flow through the tubes to the radiator, cooled by the fans, and then recirculated back. If you are familiar with vehicle cooling systems, this is a very similar concept.
Air cooling also draws heat from the CPU or GPU but is done through a simpler process in many ways that is slightly different than water cooling. Air coolers use heat sinks with fins that take heat away from the CPU and push it out by a fan. It is similar to a radiator in a liquid cooling system, but the only moving part of an air cooler is the fan.
Types of water cooling
There are two main cooling methods for water cooling: All-in-One (AIO) systems and custom systems. The two systems are similar in concept but have slightly different configurations.
Defrance between All-in-One systems and custom systems:
1. AIO systems are usually non-customizable, but closed-loop systems with little risk of leakage or evaporation. Many AIO systems are completely enclosed, so evaporation of coolant is minimal or non-existent. These consist of water blocks, pumps, coolant lines, radiators, and potential fans.
Reservoirs are minimal or non-existent as all coolant is already sealed in the system. It’s not too difficult to install than a traditional CPU air cooler since everything is already assembled. All you have to do is mount the radiator to the case, apply thermal paste to the water block and mount the block to the CPU.
2. A custom system, on the other hand, will be more complex. It still includes all of the same parts as the AIO system but may include a GPU cooler, coolant reservoir, additional pumps, and more. Custom options offer a higher level of versatility but may have a higher risk of leaks or mechanical failure.
It all depends on the experience level of the PC builder. Installation is more difficult due to its complex nature. Requires manual installation of coolant lines, reservoirs, pumps, radiators, and fans. This is only recommended for users who have previously installed water cooling systems.
Whether you plan to use an AIO or a custom cooling system, they both operate on the same thermodynamic principles. waters are superior to air at removing heat from critical systems.
How does water cooling work?
As with air-cooled chillers, there are many options available, but most fall into two categories: All-in-One (AIO) chillers or custom cooling loops.
The basic principle that water cools the CPU is the same for both, but we will focus mainly on the All-in-One (AIO) cooler here.
Similar to air cooling, the process starts with a base plate connected to the CPU’s IHS with a layer of thermal paste. This allows for better heat transfer between the two surfaces. The metal surface of the base plate is part of the water block designed to be filled with coolant.
The coolant absorbs heat as the base plate passes through the water block. Then it continues moving through the system and upwards through one of the two tubes to the radiator.
The radiator helps cool it by exposing the water to the air, and a fan attached to the radiator moves the heat away from the cooler. The coolant then re-enters the water block and the cycle begins again.
What are the advantages of water cooling?
Let’s look at some advantages of water cooling:
Water cooling systems are better for PC cooling. Waters conduct heat better than air. No matter how many fans you run, the cooling capacity is always preferred by air over liquid.
Extreme gamers and professionals can experience better performance with water cooling. Low temperatures are very important for PC users who use the system to its fullest.
This includes everyone from gaming to streamers and video editors. If you plan on overclocking, you can benefit from a water cooling system.
Water cooling systems, especially AIO systems, tend to be unobtrusive. If a clean and simple appearance is important to you, you’ll probably prefer water cooling. Water blocks are always much smaller than modern CPU coolers.
Water-cooled PCs tend to be quieter than traditional air-cooled systems. At least the radiator and PSU have fans, but no more noisy CPU coolers. When used with an 80 Plus Platinum or Titanium-rated PSU, your PC will be whisper-quiet.
A water-cooled PC may be less dusty overall. Dust and hair will continue to build up over time, but with fewer fans, it will build up at a much slower rate. This means you can reduce your airline budget. It’s a real victory.
What are the disadvantages of water cooling?
Water cooling promises a lot, but this cooling system has some drawbacks. We’ve listed the biggest downsides of water cooling.
Water-cooled systems tend to be more expensive than most CPU air-cooled coolers. Some AIO water-cooled options may be priced similar to mid-range and high-end air-cooled coolers, but custom solutions will likely be more expensive.
On average, you can expect to see a difference of at least $30 to $80 between an air-cooled chiller and an AIO water-cooled system. Premium custom systems cost between $200 and $500.
Water cooling systems require more maintenance than air-cooled systems. This can include everything from pump failure to corrosion or algae build-up if the liquid is used instead of coolant. After a year or two, all parts of the system should be inspected regularly to ensure there are no leaks or cracks.
Evaporation can be a common problem, especially for custom systems. Most systems can be refilled if the coolant level gets too low, but this is another cost and maintenance aspect of water cooling.
In rare cases, a water cooling system can leak. Improperly installed cooling lines, cracks in the water block, or simple corrosion can all cause leaks. This leak could be like a splashed motherboard and CPU if liquid gets on the board.
Although more common in custom systems, AIO systems are not susceptible to leaks. They are more solid evidence, but they can still fail due to user accidents or manufacturer defects.
Some water-cooled systems may be larger than air-cooled systems. If a cheaply built pump or inefficient fan is added, it can become a noisy system. While this is not a common complaint with liquid cooling, it is still an issue that has surprised some users.
Before purchasing a water cooling system, it is important to research the decibel levels of the fans and pumps. If you are planning to purchase a water cooling system just for noise reduction, make sure you do your research first.
Water Cooling vs Air Cooling?
The process of pushing a system beyond its default limits is called overclocking. By setting the CPU multiplier to a higher frequency, users can significantly speed up the processor and get the best performance from their PC.
Most users won’t be overclocking the CPU, but water cooling is ideal for such users. Overclocking can generate a lot more heat, which is because an air cooling system can’t handle it.
Air coolers take up more space in the center of the case, but water-cooler radiators can also be quite large. When purchasing an AIO water cooling system, make sure that the case has adequate space for the radiator and that the tubing can be connected to the CPU.
Similarly, when installing an air-cooled system, ensure that the case has adequate clearance. If you buy an air cooler that is too large, the case may not close or other components may not fit properly.
Water cooling offers endless ways to style your build. Small displays and colored fluids are just a few ways to customize your PC. Keep in mind that customization can quickly increase in cost and require more maintenance. If a full custom cooling system isn’t on your budget, you’ll be happy to know that you can also find many AIO water cooling systems with colorful RGB or LED elements.
Air coolers tend to have less flashy designs as they are primarily large heatsinks and plastic fans. Weak RGB accents can help make the air cooler more visually appealing, but it’s almost invisible.
One of the important things to consider with any PC build is cost. Knowing what a machine will be used for can be the key to avoiding overspending.
For example, if your PC needs to be powerful, but only runs at 1080p, air cooling may be sufficient, which will save you money.
On the other hand, if you’re using your PC to edit all your 4k video, water cooling might be a better option, allowing your components to cool to peak performance.
Final Words Water Cooling vs Air Cooling
Overall the Water cooling systems are the best option for those who have a high-end PC setup. On the other hand, the Air cooling systems are better for low-end PC setup.
Is Water cooling worth it in 2022?
If money isn’t an issue, water cooling is well worth it. Reducing the temperature of components is a great way to keep components running efficiently and extend their lifespan.
What are the best Water cooling systems for PC?
Here is the list of the top best budget Water cooling systems for your PC:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is water cooling safe in 2022?
Using water cooling is generally safe if done properly. For some users, leaks often damage parts, especially the GPU, CPU, and motherboard. Exposure to water, while the PC is running, will cause immediate damage to these parts.
How long does water cooling last?
1 to 3 years without any maintenance is sufficient. Of course, custom setups can also use AIO and beyond if properly maintained, which means regular cleaning and flushing.
Does water cooling improve performance?
Water cooling dissipates heat more efficiently over more convective surface area (radiator) than pure conduction, allowing for lower fan speeds (better acoustics) or higher total power. That is, more efficient and often quieter.
Is water cooling difficult to maintain?
Because it is a sealed unit, little or no maintenance is required. They also don’t need to be replenished as they don’t experience the same evaporation as DIY setups. To maximize compatibility across a wide range of systems, all-in-one units often leave more tubing than is needed.
How often do you change the water cooling fluid?
It is recommended to change the fluid in your custom cooling system every 12 months to eliminate particulate build-up and ensure optimal thermal performance.
Do Water Cooling Computers Leak?
Water-cooled PCs do not leak. Whether you use an all-in-one, kit, or custom type, you can use it for years to come. So even if you accidentally leak, your PC is safe.
What are the chances of a water-cooled leak?
I’d say it’s about 0.5% if not less likely to leak. They’re pretty safe, and should a leak happen, it’ll help the Corsair compensate for any damage it does.
How to prevent water cooling leaks?
How often should the CPU cooler be replaced?
You don’t have to replace it until it breaks down. A variety of free software and hardware are available to monitor CPU temperature. Check it about once every six months to make sure it looks the same as normal (give or take a few degrees.
Is water cooling toxic?
Water is inexpensive, non-toxic, and can be used on most of the Earth’s surface. Liquid-cooling provides higher thermal conductivity than air cooling. The coolant can be recycled through a recirculation system or used in a single pass once-through cooling (OTC) system.
Is water cooling necessary?
Depending on your CPU, you may or may not need it in any way.
Are PC water coolings expensive?
One of the big downsides of water cooling is its relatively high cost, especially if you want to build a custom setup. Most traditional high-end CPU coolers cost between $60 to $130, but building a liquid cooling setup can cost a lot more.
Overall water cooling is worth it. The only time water cooling isn’t worth it anymore is when you’re focused on a budget or considering the cost of a low-spec PC build. Water cooling is the best way to cool a component and is the only way to guarantee performance for some enthusiasts.
Liquid cooling can be very expensive and getting into a sophisticated, custom open loop requires additional skills and puts risks to the building process.
Regardless of the price and risk, water cooling looks incredible and creates the best aesthetics you’ll find in a PC build.