What Is Liquid Cooling?

What is Liquid Cooling?

Liquid cooling, also known as water cooling, is a CPU cooling technique that uses liquid. Now, it may be called water cooling, but that doesn’t mean that you can just use tap water, as tap water still has elements that are corrosive and could damage the tubing over time. What you want in a liquid cooling system is purified, de-ionized water, or other specialized liquids. Now, liquid cooling is significantly more expensive than an air cooling solution. The main reason behind this is the additions of specialized tubing and a radiator. While you will most certainly get better cooling performance from a liquid cooling system than you ever will with an air-cooled system, liquid cooling is much more expensive and can be more difficult to set up and maintain over time.

All that being said, let’s talk about the benefits and the downsides of it.

Liquid Cooling’s Pros And Cons

Liquid cooling is primarily known in hardware enthusiast circles for its great cooling performance which allows people to get more out of their hardware, especially CPU and GPU overclocks. Let’s take a moment to talk about those.


  • Increased cooling performance. Keeps your system from overheating and allows your components to more comfortably stretch out to their full capabilities, since they aren’t being throttled by high thermals.
  • Less noise. Nobody likes a noisy computer, especially not people who do frequent voice chats or professional voice recording. A noise-free setup can be a godsend to some, and liquid cooling can be near silent in some setups without sacrificing performance at all.
  • Getting the most out of your overclocks. An overclocker’s dream is a chip that can handle being pushed as far as possible without overheating. Liquid cooling makes that dream possible and allows people to get a higher level of performance out of their hardware than would otherwise be possible.

However, liquid cooling isn’t without its downsides, either. Let’s go into those.


  • Significantly more expensive. A low-end watercooling system can cost $50 US dollars. Higher-end solutions go to $150 and beyond. All of the benefits above come at a price – a very real, very tangible price out of your wallet.
  • More difficult to set up and harder to fit into some cases. A stock Intel or AMD heatsink is pretty easy to apply to the CPU. Watercooling solutions require removing pre-existing cooling, applying your own thermal paste, and setting up a place to mount the radiator inside your case. For most smaller cases, this is a no-go.
  • Maintenance, when necessary, is more difficult overall. PC maintenance is actually easy, usually. Open it up now and again, do some dusting and make sure everything’s in place, and you won’t have any thermal throttling. Water-cooling setups often have to be cleaned and refilled once every six months or so, however, and this process can be quite a pain.

Who Is It For?


Finally, let’s talk about who it’s for. Liquid cooling definitely isn’t for most users. It’s prohibitively expensive and can be very difficult to work with. That being said, tech enthusiasts who want the most out of their hardware (PC gamers, video editors, etc.) will see very real benefits from liquid cooling, and even though it isn’t for everyone, it’s definitely cool.

Are you interested in liquid cooling? Do you have it or know someone who does? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Bjorn3D

Christopher Harper Christopher Harper

I'm a longtime gamer, computer nerd, and general tech enthusiast.


  1. “Significantly more expensive.”
    When you have a $5,000 – $10,000 gaming system with a $900 video card and a bleeding edge CPU, what’s few $hundred for liquid cooling?

    “More difficult to set up and harder to fit into some cases.”
    When you’re building your own system, you should know what size case you need. People who want/need liquid cooling do not buy preassembled PCs.

    “Maintenance, when necessary, is more difficult overall.”
    If you build your own, you know how to maintain them and don’t mind doing it.

    1. This article was made to explain liquid cooling. For most people- myself included- liquid cooling is somewhat impractical to implement. Also, what gaming system are you buying that costs 5K to 10K? If you’re spending any more than 2K you’re pretty much wasting your money.

      I can max most games at 1080p60 easily, and my components are only $900. I think you’re greatly over-estimating the required budget for a gaming setup.

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