Liquid Cooling vs. Air Cooling, Which Cooling System Is Best For Your PC

CPU Cooling System

Without a doubt, a cooling system forms one of the most important aspects of a PC, particularly when you want to push it to its limit. What’s more, it doesn’t matter if you use your PC for gaming at max settings or video editing, the components of the PC can really heat up that too pretty quickly.  Therefore, it is essential to ensure the use of the right temperature control solutions to prevent overheating and cooling components. What’s more, using a customized solution is another great way to enhance the output efficiency of your system. 

Usually, there are two widely used ways when it comes to cooling your PC- liquid cooling and air cooling. We are going to discuss both types of cooling in this piece; we will compare them and divulge essential details about both of them, including their pros and con, to help you decide which among the liquid cooling system or air cooling is best for your PC. Let’s start our discussion with air cooling. 

Also Read: All You Need To Know About Different Display Technologies.

Air Cooling

Air cooling, as the name suggests, is the method of reducing air temperature by dissipating heat. This process provides lower temperature by increasing the airflow with the help of cooling fins, fans, or finned coils. This equipment can efficiently disperse the hot air out of a casing, in our case, the computer case. 

Moreover, this method increases airflow over the targeted areas, the areas that need to be cooled, or it increases the surface area of the targeted area to help disburse heat. In some cases, both of the previously-mentioned techniques are deployed. 

How does Air cooling work?

Cooling with air
Image Credit: Intel

The working principle of the PC air cooling system is pretty easy to understand. In this method, heat is transported from the CPU’s IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader), through the thermal paste, into a conductive base plate, which is commonly made of copper or aluminum. After that, the heat passes through attached heat pipes. These heat pipes are specifically built in a way to move heat from one place to another.

The heat is transferred to a heatsink that is lifted off the motherboard. The energy is sent to the thin metal fins that make up the heatsink through these pipes in the form of heat. These fins are placed to offer the most exposure to cooler air, which absorbs the heat from the metal. The warm air is then pushed away from the heatsink by a connected fan.

Air cooling pros

Here are some advantages of using Air cooling system on your system:

  • One of the most basic and most asked advantages is its affordability. Air cooling is very much affordable and costs less than liquid cooling.
  • In air cooling, there is no risk of leaking. A leak from a liquid cooler could cause major destruction to your PC components.
  • In air cooling, there is no risk of leaking.
  • Air coolers are easier to install than liquid coolers.

Air cooling cons

Below are some disadvantages of the air cooling systems:

  • High-performance air coolers are generally bulky in size, and sometimes it gets hard to fit them inside some PC cases.
  • Not ideal for peak performance. When using your PC for cutting edge gaming or performance-intensive workloads, air cooling might not be enough to cool your components. Overheating can limit the potential of your PC and even cause components to fail.
  • One of the significant drawbacks is they are louder than liquid coolers, and they make a lot of sounds when under the load.
  • They are generally less attractive in the eyes of the user, and also, the cooling potential they provide is limited than that of liquid coolers.

Also Read: TV Buying Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a TV.

Liquid Cooling

The next cooling process is liquid cooling. Let’s start with discussing how does it work. 

How does liquid cooling works?

Liquid cooling process
Image Credit: Intel

Before talking about the working of PC liquid cooling systems, it is essential to note that there two major types of options available in this segment: All-in-One Coolers and custom cooling loops. Nevertheless, the fundamental principles of both All-in-One Coolers and custom cooling loops are essentially the same. 

The process of liquid cooling starts with a baseplate that is linked to the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader) of the CPU with a thermal paste layer, which is similar to air cooling. It is done in order to promote better heat transfer between the two surfaces. Plus, the baseplate has a metal surface that is a part of the water block. The water block is there to be filled with coolant. 

The coolant is responsible for absorbing the heat from the baseplate as the heat moves through the water block. Plus, there are a couple of tubes; the heat then moves throughout the system and upward through one of the two tubes, which is connected to a radiator. This radiator will expose the liquid to the cold air. And the fans attached to the radiator will move it away from the cooler. After that, the coolant will again enter the water block. And this cycle repeats.

So, that’s all about the working of liquid cooling. Now, let’s talk about the benefits of using liquid cooling. 

Liquid cooling pros

The following are the advantages of using a liquid cooling system on your PC:

  • One of the most significant advantages of liquid cooling is its better cooling potential. It will offer you a better degree of cooling.
  • The form of the liquid cooler is small, so in turn, it gives fewer clearance issues. It becomes easier to fit them in all types of PC cases.
  • They are visually more appealing with built-in RGB lighting that can sync with radiator fans and the rest of the system for visually appealing looks.
  • This type of system is more efficient because it is a proven fact that heat can be easily and efficiently transfer through water than air.
  • They are also quieter than air cooler as they don’t have fans constantly running at a high RPM.

Liquid cooling cons

Below are some of the disadvantages of using a liquid cooling system:

  • Liquid coolers with being more efficient, are also costlier than air coolers. In other words, they usually cost higher than different types air of coolers.
  • Liquid coolers generally require more maintenance cost than air coolers.
  • There is a possibility of a leak with the liquid cooler, which could cause major destruction to PC components.

Also Read: Confused About Which One To Choose Among Laptop and Desktop? This Guide will Help You.

Passive cooling

The next type of PC cooling system on the list is passive cooling. Passive cooling uses a heat spreader or a heat sink to maximize the radiation and convection heat transfer modes, which in turn provides high levels of natural convection and heat dissipation.

Overall, passive cooling is a less expensive, cost-efficient cooling measure. It relies on heat sinks, heat spreaders, heat pipes, or thermal interface materials (TIM) to maintain optimal operating temperatures.

However, performance of the systems is limited (compared with actively cooled PCs of the same size), since high performance requires a bigger heat sink.

Which on is right for you?

There is no definite answer to this question; it all depends on the circumstances. Both the PC cooling systems work pretty well, provide they are being used in the right environment. Anyways, here are some of the things that might help you to make a better choice while looking for a cooling system for your PC.


Air coolers are not extremely expensive as a result of their non-sophisticated functions, but they are sold at different prices. It depends on the features one is looking for.

Starting from the most basic of designs and functions, the air coolers go up to expensive, high-ended, beautifully created machines. The ones which are sold at a higher price have options to customize like an app to control the fan speed. It might also have a bigger radiator, a powerful fan, and a big heatsink. The lower-priced ones have basic options that just about do the work.

Again it totally depends on you and what you are looking to buy.

Temperature Regulation

Liquid cooling is for people whose CPUs are frequently overclocked. Rendering videos, streaming, etc., exert a lot of load on the CPU, so; liquid cooling is the way to go.

Intel’s mechanical engineer Mark Gallina says “efficiently distributes heat over more convection surface area (radiator) than pure conduction, allowing for reduced fan speeds (better acoustics) or higher total power.”

The installation process is a little elaborate in liquid cooling, but the cooling process is highly efficient, and the fans make a lesser sound. Liquid cooling is used in complex machines to keep the temperatures low, which means it will work on your CPUs for sure.

Air coolers works pretty well when it comes to relocating heat away from the CPU. However, this heat is distributed within the case, which can increase the overall temperature of the system. On the other hand, liquid coolers disperses heat outside of the system through the fans on the radiator.


Size is an important thing to consider because air coolers are heavy, big, and take up significant space but only in one place but an All-in-one system requires smaller spaces at multiple locations. The radiator needs space; you have to keep in mind the coolant tubes and the water block.

Overall, if you have a smaller build, it is better if you don’t go for a bulky air cooler. Instead, the best option for you will be a low-profile air cooler or an All-in-one AIO with a small radiator, in such a case.

Note: When you are looking to buy a new case, make sure that you choose a case with sufficient space for your cooling solution. Plus, also ensure that the case supports the hardware that you are using or will use.

Ease of Installation

If we go into details of installation of different types of PC cooling systems, the easiest one to install is a standard air cooler. On the other hand, the All-in-One liquid is relatively complex with some extra installation steps, but still, they are pretty straightforward.

Most of the All-in-One coolers include just a waterblock, the radiator, and two hoses that cycle the coolant. The additional steps in the case of this cooling system involve attaching the waterblock. It is a process that is quite similar to installing an air cooler. After that, you just need to connect the radiator and the fans so extra heat can quickly exit the PC. Moreover, this type of cooler features a self-contained coolant, pump, and radiator, so it doesn’t require much oversight or maintenance after installation. 

The most challenging cooler to install is a custom loop; it requires a proper education about the builder. Plus, the installation process can be time-consuming, particularly at the beginning. However, this type of cooler provides you with additional customization. Plus, you can add more components such as GPU in the loop, if required. Furthermore, the custom loops support builds of all shapes and sizes, provided they are correctly implemented. 


The sound produced in the case of liquid cooling systems is negligible when compared to the air cooling system. The former is a lot quieter than the fan on a CPU heatsink. However, there are air coolers available in the market with fans especially designed to offer a noiseless experience. Moreover, the fan selection and the fan speed can affect the amount of sound produced. 

All in all, the liquid cooler produced less sound because their pumps are well insulated, and the fans on their radiators run at lower RPM than the CPU heatsink. 

Also Read: Planning To Build Your Gaming PC? Follow Our Gaming PC Build Guide.

Which one is right for you?

As earlier discussed, the answer depends on your circumstances; how you use your computer, the workload of your PC, and the performance. 

That said, if budget is not a constrain for you and you want the best PC cooling system that money can buy, you should go for liquid cooling. It offers the most efficient cooling and most silent operation.

However, if you don’t feel like spending much and you are looking for entry-level pricing and simple installation, air cooling is right for you. 

In any case, before you buy a cooling system for your PC, do consider how you use your PC and how do you plan to use it in the future. Both the systems offer excellent results if they are used in ideal situations. In other words, they are designed for slightly different use cases. So, choose the one which fits your requirements perfectly. 

Also Read: Everything There’s To Know About Google Stadia.


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