Liquid Cooling vs Air Cooling-Which Should You Choose?

Overclocking has become much more popular these days than it was before even though it’s more used on graphics cards than on processors.

To be able to overclock and maintain low temperatures on your CPU and especially your GPU, liquid cooling is something you must have heard of and considered. But you are not sure how exactly does it work, why would you buy it and do you even need it after all?

Well, It’s hard to give a short answer to this particular question. But, we can certainly say that you should consider getting liquid cooling if you are planning on doing high overclocking and you have a PC case that has a lot of air flowing. For any other purpose than that, it would probably be best to use air coolers. With them, you will save a lot of money and they are much easier to set up and maintain.

How To Decide Which Cooler Do You Need?

Air cooler vs Liquid cooler

How Does Liquid Cooling Work?

Liquid cooling is a complex method of cooling and it consists of more key components. Those components are the pump, the radiator, the loops, and the fan.

While air cooling relies on air that is circulating around the heatsink, liquid cooling obviously relies on liquid.

Water is pumped through the loops that are connected to the component you are cooling down. But just circulating liquid around isn’t enough, so it needs its own kind of a heatsink and that is the radiator’s role. But this radiator needs some kind of cooler too, so there is a fan that spreads cool air around the radiator to prevent it from overheating.

How Does Air Cooling Work?

Now the air cooler works in a very simple way and it has two key components, and those are the fan and the heatsink. 

The heatsink is made of aluminum and its job is to drag all the heat away from your CPU. Also, there’s a fan that is keeping the cool air running around the heatsink so it doesn’t overheat.

Air cooler Cryorig

Cooling Efficiency

There is no other way to say it that liquid cooling is much more efficient and stronger than air one could ever be, mostly because of liquid can circulate much faster than the air.

If your processor is running at factory clock speeds, liquid cooling would be unnecessary and even if you plan to do some light overclocking, you are still good with an air cooler. So better save that extra money for something else.


As you would probably guess, air cooling is much more affordable than liquid one and that gives it a big advantage. It is mainly because it’s cheaper to produce and it can decrease the cost of hundreds of dollars. 

Also, another thing to note would be that high-end air coolers perform better than those all-in-one liquid coolers. So to conclude this matter, if you are not planning to spend around $100 or more on AIO cooler, than better stick with an air cooler. 

Installing Complexity

If you’re not a PC expert, you will probably have a hard time installing and maintaining your liquid cooling system, while air cooler is much more simple and suitable and you would probably figure it out very easily.


When it comes to maintenance, there is a big difference between liquid and air cooler. An air cooler doesn’t require a big effort to keep it clean and healthy. You just need to blow the dust from the heatsink of your CPU cooler and wipe the dirtiness from fans. You can find those details in this article about maintaining your PC.

While on the other side, liquid cooler requires more attention and it is much more complex to clean and maintain. In general, it is suggested to remove all the used water and refill it with fresh. This is mainly because dirt and some small particles may become loose from other components in the system or even mold or algae may start growing in it. In this case, you will need to change your fluid and fill it again with distilled water, or special coolants that you mix with distilled water.

These coolants help prevent corrosion, scale and biological build-ups. Doing that you will avoid possible clogging of your cooling system.

Sometimes you may just have to refill the water whenever the fluid drops under the necessary line. This is only for custom liquid cooling, not AIO.

Remember, you should never use tap water in your water cooler!

AOI or Closed-Loop Liquid Coolers doesn’t require any maintenance, because they are sealed and can’t be refilled.

Liquid AIO cooler

Liquid Coolers – Pros

  • High-end liquid coolers can achieve lower temperatures than air coolers.
  • Most liquid coolers look better than air ones. 
  • Less noise.
  • Offers cooling specific components.

Liquid Coolers – Cons

  • They have a much lower price-to-performance ratio than air coolers (much more expensive).
  • Liquid coolers require more maintenance and have a risk of leaking.

Air Coolers – Pros

  • You get a great performance for the price you pay. 
  • There’s little to no maintaining which means they last longer than liquid coolers.
  • They come at much more affordable prices

Air Coolers – Cons

  • Not suitable for setups that require extreme cooling (high overclocked systems).
  • Not as nice looking as liquid coolers. It’s not necessarily a con, but more of personal preference, so you may not even have a problem with this one.
  • Louder than liquid cooling.

Custom Liquid Coolers vs. All-in-one Liquid Coolers

If you have decided that you’re going to push your processor to its limits, then you’ll also have to figure out what kind of liquid cooling you are going to use.

A custom liquid cooling is gonna be much more expensive and harder to put together for sure. Although, if you manage to put it all together, you are going to be able to squeeze everything out of your processor to get the best possible performance it can give you.

The so-called ‘’all-in-one’’ coolers (AIO), or closed-loop liquid coolers, are cheaper than the custom ones and are ready to use right out of the box. The high-end AIO coolers are sure gonna get you great performance, but you will still notice a difference to it compared to the custom ones. 

Another important thing to mention is that AIO or Closed-Loop Liquid Coolers are in most of the cases sealed, and can’t be refilled which we already talked about in the text above.

Case Size Choice

The last important factor in this matter would be choosing a suitable PC case in which you are going to be able to fit the cooler of your choice. However, if you’re just upgrading and already do have a case, then your choice of coolers might be limited to the space you’re working within your case.

If it’s a mid-tower or full tower case, you’re gonna have a wide selection to choose from.

If it’s a smaller mini-ITX or micro-ATX, you will be much more limited with your choice then.

Another possible problem can be that your air cooler might be too big that you won’t be able to install your RAM. So keep that in mind too.

After all, it all depends if you have a stock cooler which is smaller and comes with the hardware (CPUs, Video Cards, etc..) directly from the manufacturer or you own a custom cooler which can be really massive and doesn’t fit your case.

So to conclude this, before you choose to buy any coolers, make sure it fits your case and isn’t in the way of your other components. 

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