Liquid

Cooling

PC user's guide to liquid cooling

Why liquid cool?

Here are some reasons why you might want to liquid cool

Better Overclocks

Get the most out of your hardware

Quiet Operation

Optimize your setup for minimum noise

Lower Temperatures

Keep your PC running cool even under load

Component Lifespan

Reduce thermal stress on your hard-working components

Keep it Compact

With the right parts, you can get powerful cooling in a small package

Aesthetics

Let's Face it, you want your PC to look great!

Learn More

Learn the basics of liquid cooling.

Radiators

A radiator moves heat from the coolant in your water cooling loop into the air that passes through it. Because of this, your radiator, or radiators, determine how much you can cool with a given loop at steady-state performance. A loop with an undersized radiator might keep your processor and graphics cards cool for a while, but without a properly-sized radiator to remove the heat, the fluid will get warmer until it no longer cools as effectively and might even damage heat-sensitive components like pumps. Radiators come in different sizes and shapes to fit different applications, and can be optimized for higher or lower speed fans. In general, though, the more surface area you have, or the faster the fans attached to the radiator, the cooler your processors and graphics cards attached to the loop will run.

Radiator

Blocks

A water block is a piece of metal, generally copper, which can be attached to a processor, graphics card, or other component, and which allows water to pass through it. Heat is transferred from the object being cooled into the copper as with any other heatsink, but instead of then being transferred into the air, it passes into the working fluid of the loop. CPU and GPU water blocks frequently feature specialized designs such as jet plates and micro-channels for increased performance, though many water blocks for other less demanding applications are less complicated. It’s important to check for compatibility with the hardware you’re trying to cool, particularly for anything other than the CPU for which standard heatsink mounting is a given.

CPU Block

Fittings

A fitting is a small, usually brass device for converting from one connection type to another. Most common in PC water cooling is converting G ¼” threaded female ports, found on most blocks, radiators, pumps and reservoirs, to one of the various soft or hard tubing standards. Fittings such as rotary, 90 degree, or T type, which typically have several G ¼” male or female ports, can make running tubing in your system easier in tight spots, or allow for drain lines and fill ports.

Fittings

Tubing

Tubing allows you to connect the various components in your water cooling loop. There are many different sizes and materials of tubing. Broadly speaking, tubing is either rigid or flexible, and then for each there are many different sizing standards. These two factors will determine the types of hose fittings you will need to connect your tubing to all your parts. None of the commonly available tubing sizes for PC water cooling have any noticeable impact on flow rates or cooling performance, but different tubing will achieve different aesthetic effects and have different characteristics when it comes to things like bend radius and durability.

Tubing

Reservoirs

A reservoir serves several functions. Primarily it provides a store of fluid against slow evaporation through tubing or tiny leaks in the system. A reservoir also allows for a place for air bubbles to come out of the loop and collect, allowing them to be “bled” from the loop far more easily than in a system without a reservoir. It also has a small benefit in increasing the total heat capacity of the loop, which might be useful to smooth out sudden spikes in heat production, but won’t affect steady-state performance. A reservoir is perhaps the one common water cooling component that can actually be done away with if desired or if space isn’t available, though the benefits in convenience are hard to ignore.

Reservoirs

Pumps

The pump moves fluid through a water cooling loop. A simple CPU only loop will usually work fine with any pump on the market, but as you add more blocks, radiators, and even greater lengths of tubing or more fittings, you will eventually need a certain amount of head pressure to overcome the restriction in the loop. Particularly complicated loops often use multiple pumps in series, or break the system into several isolated loops in order to overcome this issue. It is worth noting that flow rates make little difference in performance until they become very slow, so a more powerful pump doesn’t result in better temperatures unless the previous one was actually undersized.

Pumps

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  • Reservoirs
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