Liquid cooling in a PC happens mainly through a cool liquid passing through the heat sink adjacent to CPU processors. The said liquid passes through these pipes touching the heated processors and the heat transfers to the liquid. Then the liquid moves onto a case adjacent to the outside and releases the heat into the air. Then the cooled liquid again travels back, cooling the processors a second time.
Now, this is a very simplified explanation of the liquid cooling process. In this article, we will see in detail what other hardware and technology ensures liquid cooling in a PC. Well, if you’re out here reading about liquid cooling, you must love your gadgets huh? Check out these dope gaming laptops while you’re at it.
External parts of liquid cooling in a PC
We prefer liquid cooling systems for a lot of reasons, one of them being their size. The external system mainly consists of two parts or two types of fans basically.
- Impeller: This is the fan that mobilizes the fluid so that it travels through the heat sink transferring the heat from the graphic cards and the processors.
- The fan: This fan basically cools the liquid again. It is located at the exterior of the CPU(Central Processing Unit) so that it can blow the heat into ambient air and the fluid in the system cools down.
None of these fans run at a very high speed.
How does liquid cooling work in a PC?
The primary focus of both air cooling and water/liquid cooling in a PC is the same. There are a lot of options you can work with when it comes to liquid cooling that you can divide into two main categories–AIO or All-in-one coolers and custom cooling loops. We will discuss the engineering of a custom cooling loop later in detail. For now, we will check out how the AIO coolers work.
There is a layer of thermal paste on the IHS(Integrated Heat Spreader) of the CPU to connect a baseplate with the IHS. The use of a baseplate is the same as an air cooling system. The thermal paste is a brilliant way of transferring heat quickly without damage. The baseplate’s metal exterior is part of the heat sink or the water block. The liquid is also called coolant and this heat sink contains the coolant.
The IHS transfers the heat to the baseplate through the thermal paste then the baseplate’s metal surface heats up and transfers it to the coolant. There are two tubes for the liquid to go to a radiator and then come back. The radiator does the final work by expelling the heat into the atmosphere. The procedure is much more complex than it sounds but happens rather quickly.
Why your PC needs liquid cooling?
As the age of technology advances, the pressure on CPU and graphic cards is also increasing. The intricate mechanisms of a computer are expected to work faster and longer, therefore, generating more heat. Water cooling has been groundbreaking in relieving the pressure of the processors. So, you should definitely consider liquid cooling if,
- You are overclocking your CPU
- You are working on an old PC.
- You want your CPU components to last longer.
- The processors can’t keep up with the time or the workload your PC is taking.
- You’re regularly playing games that are demanding for the CPU, or, editing video files.
The list is really long, but you get the point right?
Benefits of Liquid cooling Vs Air cooling in a PC
The debate of Air cooling vs. Liquid cooling is everlasting. But let’s see why liquid cooling is definitely worth it, shall we?
Generally, a basic version of an air cooler will cost you less than an entry-level liquid cooling system. The cost will vary in both cases on the features you need. There are premium and basic versions of both air coolers and liquid coolers. But there are reasons why liquid coolers might cost a little more. Even in an entry-level liquid cooling system, you will get better fans, a high-quality heat sink, and a larger radiator. Unlike air coolers, in liquid coolers, you will get function customization options like software to control fan speed and lighting.
A liquid cooler is way more subtle than a bulky air cooler. The system in liquid cooling is spread out through your system. Though you will need space to install a radiator it is nothing compared to the space an air cooler will take up. If you are working from a small establishment or your home an AIO liquid cooling system will be way better to keep it neat. Keep in mind that the alignment of the water block and tubes and proper orientation are imperative for your liquid cooling system to work properly.
We all have had noise problems due to the big fans in bulky air coolers, especially the ones in a CPU heat sink. In an AIO or All-in-one liquid cooler, you have much less noise, if any. You can customize your fans and choose them accordingly to make less noise in air coolers but it won’t be as quiet as a well-installed liquid cooler. The fans in liquid cooling have less RPM(revolution per minute) so they are quieter too.
The engineering of an air cooler is much simpler than the complex parts of a liquid cooling system in a PC. So naturally, the installation process of an air cooler is simpler. But the process of installing a liquid cooler is also pretty straightforward. Most AIO liquid coolers consist of a radiator, a water block, and two pipes. The installation of the water block is the only extra work you have to do.
Even though the air cooler is a little easier to install, a liquid cooler needs much less maintenance after installation. Installing a custom loop liquid cooler can be a bit difficult but complex custom loops support systems of various capacities with little to no supervision.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to temperature regulation. We can assure you that liquid cooling in a PC is way more efficient in distributing the heat using less power. If you are overclocking the CPU or gaming regularly, liquid cooling is the only way to go. Air coolers expel the heat inside the case while liquid coolers disperse the heat in the environment, keeping the insides of your CPU much cooler.
Cases for liquid cooling in a PC
A PC case is what accommodates your cooling systems be it air or liquid along with the components of CPU and graphic cards, etc. The space inside a case, its build, and its features, like radiator support and fan slots, are essential to determine how big of a liquid cooling system you can accommodate. Our friends over at esportsheadlines covered a buying guide, and picked out some of the best PC cases for liquid cooling, with the Corsair Obsidian 1000D acting as the flagship model.
Hardware to build a custom liquid-cooling loop in a PC
As we have said before, liquid cooling can have two categories–1. AIO and 2. Custom loop. We have seen how an AIO liquid cooling works in a PC. Building a custom liquid cooling loop is a bit more complex but can be really healthy for your CPU. Let’s see what you need to build a custom loop now.
A water block is attached to the component of the CPU which needs to be cooled. This block is conducive to heat. So, when the component heats up, the heat transfers itself to the water block and from there to the liquid.
Radiators are situated in the outer part of the CPU or GPU to release the heat from the liquid into ambient air with the help of fans. The tubes, which we are going to discuss later, carry the liquid to the radiator. The radiator then transfers the heat to the fins of the fan. The fan disperses the heat into the air. These fans are part of the radiator and the cost of the radiator varies according to the fans’ sizes and numbers.
The coolant is stored in a reservoir. The liquid travels through the pipe to the radiator. Then the fans of the radiator expel the heat into the ambient air. But in this process, we lose a certain amount of liquid to vaporization. You have to situate the reservoir in a way that you can fill the liquid easily.
Pumps push the liquid into the reservoir so that it can travel easily through the pipes. As you can probably understand that the pump has to be adjacent to the source of the liquid, aka, the reservoir. So, you can collect reservoirs with the pumps already installed in them but they cost more. You can also buy a separate pump.
Tubes and tube fittings
Tubes, as you can guess from the name, are used to carry the coolant or the water up and down the whole system. They are mainly built with flexible PVC. There can be two types of tubes–
- Soft tubes are made out of rubber, silicone, or PVC. They are bendy and fit tight spaces. You also can install them easily.
- Hard tubes mainly consist of acrylic, glass, or carbon mainly. They are not flexible but sturdier and can give you a cleaner design.
Tube fittings have to be chosen according to the size and breadth of the tubes and the water block. These are used to connect the pipes to the water block. Barb fittings are usually used to fit soft tubes. But for fitting hard tubes, you have to go for HD or push-in compressors. These are mainly made out of silver or nickel.
For coolant, you need to use distilled water, don’t ever think of using tap water, and some biocide. The biocide protects the components from corrosion and prevents bacteria. You will need to change the liquid every six to twelve months. Companies like PrimoChill and Mayhems can sell you pre-mixed liquid for coolants.
Liquid cooling is preferable to air cooling because it occupies less space, makes less sound, and cools faster and better.
It depends on how much load your CPU takes and how long you work on your computers. But for each liquid-cooled component in your CPU, you should have a 120 mm radiator section and then an additional section.
Liquid cooling is more complex than air cooling. Hence, it can be harder to maintain. The main problem with liquid cooling systems is leaks. If you can avoid leaks it is not dangerous at all.