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Sunday, 23 June 2013


Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling

Every computer today from the very basic educational computers in schools to the most hulking of gargantuan Gaming PCs that you buy or custom build generate a lot of heat--Its something that can kill and obviously melt all your precious parts that constitute your system!!
While you don't have anything to worry about if you bought your computer from a big-box retailer or straight from a manufacturer like HP, you'll be faced with a potentially crucial decision if you're building (or custom-buying) a fire-breathing, benchmark-eating computer: Should you chill your PC with a traditional air cooling solution or a pricier, yet more efficient liquid-cooling system? That question has many aspects to consider before you can answer it. 

Why a Cooling System?

As you know that all your computer parts are electronics so, electronics turn energy into calculations, and the byproduct is heat. The hotter your processor, the worse it performs--modern CPUs will clock themselves down and finally shut off before they damage themselves, but in the old days it was easy to fry your CPU by running too hot. You can increase the performance of your CPU (and your RAM, and your GPU) by overclocking and overvolting, but that requires more energy, and thus puts out more heat. Basically: the better you cool your components, the better they'll perform and the longer they'll last.
If you recall from thermodynamics lectures, heat likes to equilibrate. So if you put something with the capacity to absorb heat next to something that is hot, and as long as there's some way for heat to transfer between them, the hot thing cools down and the cool thing warms up until they reach equilibrium.
That something is what we call the cooling system along with the coolant that it uses.
Cooling Methods
Traditionally now a days there are two and only two primary ways to keep any kind of a Computer cool and well below the danger levels anything apart from these like a hybrid of heat-sink with tubes etc is just another variant and not a type of cooler in its own way:
1-Air Cooling
2-Liquid Cooling

The secret to harnessing the cooling power of air lies in fans—lots of fans. Your typical air-cooled PC is packed with case fans, graphics card fans, and a CPU fan or two—positioned atop a big metal mesh heat sink—to keep your expensive components nice and frosty. 
A water-cooling system, on the other hand, employs a series of coolant-filled tubes, a radiator, water blocks (the equivalent of heat sinks), and a couple of other components to keep your PC feeling refreshed. You'll even need a few fans to push around all the water!  
Now that we are well versed and familiar with the basics of both the world lets get down to how to choose the right one for you and which one is better.

1-Air Cooling

The best thing about air cooling is that its quite hassle free making it easy to use and maintain. Most of the times you get a decent or at-least well enough air cooling system from the manufacturer itself with a fan on the front to take in all the cool air available outside and a rear fan to push out the heated up air soaked with the heat decipited by the components inside with a boost.
Graphics cards and computer processors pretty much always ship with powerful stock fans—you know, the ones that sound like a plane taking off when they roar into action. Those, combined with case fans, make up the pentacle of air cooling within a typical desktop PC.
So why should you go for air?? Well there are two reasons:
  • Cheap: An air cooling setup is definitely cheaper than any other setup available. Even if you want to go with an aftermarket cooler for your CPU or GPU, you’re going to be paying far less than you would for a liquid cooling setup. You can certainly purchase bigger, better, more efficient fans if you want a quieter rig, or even fans that light up if you’re into that sort of thing. Sure, you'll have to pay for them, but you’ll still spend far less cash upgrading or building a nice air-cooling setup than you will on a typical water-cooling loop. 
  • Easy to setup: Also consider the sanity factor! It’s a lot easier to use four screws to attach a fan to your case than it is to build your own water cooling setup.
And why should you not use an air-cooling setup? Traditional air cooling has three major downsides, though:
  • Fans aren't as efficient as water cooling, which can pose a problem with severely overclocked processors or in particularly beefy rigs filled with multiple graphics cards.
  • The heat sinks on powerful CPU coolers can get big and i mean real BIG! This would in-turn sacrifice your compact cabinet factor or even occupy too much space inside leaving lesser room for other components that can be substantial in size like a big graphic card.
  • They are loud and create some disturbing noise sometimes. The mobility of the component can even shake your rig sometimes making it unsteady.

2-Liquid Cooling

The act of switching from air to liquid cooling represents a personal milestone in one’s computer-building life. It can turn you into an inventor and your just a gaming rig into the gaming rig!
Let’s start with the pleasant bits:

  • One of the key benefits of a strong liquid cooling setup is that it allows you to cool specific system components to a greater degree than if were you to use fans.
  • Liquid Cooling can help lower your PC's sound output. Water cooling is much quieter than stuffing your case full of fans.
  • A huge heat-sink/fan combination might perform well enough, but the best CPU coolers eat up a ton of real estate inside your case. Liquid cooling requires much less space, and it looks a lot niftier to boot
  • It has the Wow factor, you can't discount the cool factor of a case full of colorful, liquid-filled tubes!
Now the darker side. The cons of Liquid-Cooling:
  • One big downside of water cooling is its comparatively high cost, especially if you’re looking to build a custom setup. While most traditional upper-end CPU coolers cost somewhere between Rs 500 and Rs 1500, building a liquid-cooling setup can cost far more like around Rs 4000 to Rs 15000!
  • Quality matters in a liquid-cooling setup. You don’t want to buy cheap parts to save a few bucks and end up drowning your pricey PC components in brightly hued coolant.
  • The homework involved is another drawback. You'll have to make a long list of matching parts like tubes, radiator, reservoir etc After that the work required to setup the whole system in a functional and obviously in a non-destructive fashion requires more time, practice, expertise and a lot of patience with the testing and trying outside the actual cabinet to make sure its leak proof and flowing properly.

The conclusion:

So, which is better? Air cooling or water cooling? The answer depends on your particular usage needs. 
One size does not fit all when it comes to case cooling, but most people can get by with fans alone. If you just use your PC with a single GPU and never over-clock or slightly over-clock your components, mainly used for gaming and graphic designing then go for a simple air-cooling system. It's easy, and it's cheap.
If, on the other hand, you’re an enthusiast who needs the best cooling possible for your flaming CPU and a gaggle of graphics cards to run a multi-monitor setup on a triple or double SLI conifugration along with a severly over-clocked GPU and processor, a water-cooling setup is in your future. Its recommended that you first try a self-contained or closed loop cooling system like Corsair’s Hydro H-series or NZXT's Kraken-series coolers which are cheap and easy to use giving you a nice sense of advancement and laying a base for future improvements.

Well that was all that I had to say on this. IF you have any suggestions for improvements then please feel free to leave a comment and do send us your queries if you have any regarding the same or if you are in a dilemma to choose the one for your own custom configuration.

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  1. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)

    1. glad that you liked it, keep visiting.