How Liquid-cooled PCs Work

PC Liquid Cooling Liquid

In an operational system, tubes carry coolant to and from water blocks.
In an operational system, tubes carry coolant to and from water blocks.
Image courtesy Darrin Gatewood

The final component of a liquid-cooling system is the liquid itself. Many people use distilled water, since tap water contains contaminants that can cloud the system or clog the channels in the water blocks and radiator. Specialized additives can add color to the fluid, making it more visually appealing when used in a clear case. They can also lower the freezing point or surface tension of the water, making it a more effective coolant. Finally, some additives have antimicrobial or anti-corrosion ingredients, which can increase the life of the system.

If you decide to install a liquid-cooling system in your computer, it's a good idea to let the pump circulate the fluid for a while so you can check for leaks. Keep your computer turned off during this test period so you'll be less likely to damage your hardware if a leak does occur.

Once you're sure that everything is watertight, boot up the computer. You can check the temperature of your components in your computer's BIOS menu or by using a third-party application that monitors temperature. If necessary, you can also apply smaller heat sinks to RAM chips and other higher-temperature components in your system.

If you like the idea of liquid cooling but don't want to research individual components, you can buy a ready-to-use unit or kit. Self-contained units can plug directly into a computer's expansion slots or power supply and provide liquid cooling to one specific chip. Kits include all the parts you need and instructions for assembling them - just make sure the parts included are compatible with your computer's hardware. Some companies also sell high-end PCs with liquid cooling factory-installed.

Check out the links below to learn more about PCs, thermodynamics, liquid-cooled computers and related topics.

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More Great Links


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