Ask LH: Should I Water Cool My PC?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m looking to build a new PC that’s capable of running high-end video games and 3D graphics applications. In other words, it’s going to get pretty hot! I’m seriously considering a water cooling solution but don’t really know where to start. So my questions are: is water cooling worth the effort and what type of skills do I need to pull it off? Old Man River

Dear OMR,

Water cooling provides several worthwhile advantages including superior heat absorption, greater overclocking potential and much quieter operation. It basically works like a car radiator, with heat dissipated through vents to keep the water — and thus, your components — cool.

If you’re building your own PCs, you’re going to need some additional hardware to pull this off. This includes waterblocks (which attach to specific components like the graphics card and CPU), a pump and reservoir (for pumping and holding liquid in the loop), the aforementioned radiator (which allows heat to escape) and myriad tubes and fittings to make it all work. For best results, you can also add coolants and additives ranging from distilled water for less bubbles to anti-corrosive agents.

For step-by-step instructions on putting everything together, check out our in-depth water-cooling guide. As it’s your first time, we recommend enlisting the help of a more knowledgeable buddy just in case you hit any snags. You should also pay a visit to PC enthusiast sites like, Tom’s Hardware and Overclockers which have plenty of water-cooling tips for beginners. Here are a few articles to get you started.

So that’s water cooling in a nutshell — but is it worth it? This is obviously a matter of opinion. Water cooling PCs take more time to build and are considerably more expensive. In addition, there are more things to potentially screw up, especially for PC newbies. Our colleague in the US recently washed his hands of water cooled PCs — you can read why he turned his back on the practice here.

If you plan to push your machine to its limits, have plenty of time and money to spare and like the idea of near-silent operation, a water cooling solution is definitely worth considering. Otherwise, you should probably just invest in some higher quality fans.

We’re also going to throw this one over to our readers. Have you ever built a water-cooled PC? Was it worth the money and effort? Let OMR know in the comments section below.


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