CPU Cooler: Liquid Cooling Vs. Air Cooling

As with any other powerful piece of a computer hardware component, the PC CPU creates the heat it produces when operating and must be adequately cooled for optimal performance.

According to Mark Gallina, System Thermal & Mechanical Architect at Intel, “During normal operation, the CPU’s transistors change electrical energy to thermal energy (heat). The heat is a way to increase the temperatures of the CPU. If a reliable route to the heat isn’t present, it will reach its maximum safe operating temperature.”

What’s the most efficient way to ensure your CPU runs at a perfect temperature? There are many methods to cool a CPU; However, most laptops and desktops employ liquid or air-based cooler.

We’ll discuss liquid cooling and air cooling, how both function, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and which could be best for your specific configuration.

How a CPU Cooler Works

Both liquid and air CPU coolers work similarly and do the same thing: take the CPU’s heat and then redistribute this away from hardware.

The heat produced by the processor itself is spread to the lid made of metal that surrounds the CPU. This lid is known as the IHS or Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS). It then transfers the heat to the bottom of the cooler for the CPU. The heat is then dispersed through liquids or a heat pipe through a fan. It is blown away by the cooler and then entirely from your PC.

Although the fundamental mechanics are the same, the two methods can achieve this heat distribution differently.

Let’s begin with an air cooler.

Cooling using air

When an air-cooler is used, temperatures are transferred to the IHS in the CPU through the thermal paste that is applied to the baseplate, which is typically made of aluminum or copper. From the baseplate, the heat energy is transferred to the heated pipes.

The heat pipes are constructed to transfer heat from one place to another. In this instance, the heat travels to a heatsink elevated above the motherboard, which frees up the space to accommodate other parts like RAM. The pipes transmit energy through the heat to the fins made of thin metal that comprise the heatsink. The fins are made to be exposed to cool air that absorbs heat from the metal. An attached fan helps to push warmer air from the heatsink.

The performance of an air-cooled cooler could be different depending on factors like the material used for construction (copper is more efficient than aluminum, for example, but aluminum is less expensive) and the dimensions and number of fans connected in the cooling system of the CPU. This is why there are variations in the sizes and designs of air-based CPU coolers.

The larger air coolers generally disperse heat more efficiently. However, there’s no need for an extensive cooling system, particularly in the case of a more miniature form factor PC.

We’ll discuss the advantages that air-cooling offers; however, first, let’s look at liquid cooling in the interest of comparison.

Cooling using Liquid

Like cooling systems that use air, you can find a broad choice of options available. However, the majority can be classified into two groups: All-in-One (AIO) coolers and custom cooling loops. We’ll mainly focus on All-in-One (AIO) coolers in this article; however, the basic principles of how liquid cools your CPU are identical.

Like air cooling, the process begins with a baseplate joined directly to the IHS of the CPU with the help made of thermal glue. This permits better thermal transfer from the baseplate to both surfaces. The baseplate’s metal surface forms part of the specifically designed block to hold coolant.

The coolant absorbs heat from the baseplate while traveling throughout the water block. The coolant then moves through the system and upwards through one of the tubes before reaching the radiator. It exposes Liquid to the air, which allows it to cool, and the fans attached to the radiator transfer warmth away from coolers. The coolant is then returned to the water block, and the process begins all over again.

Which Is Right for You?

The two cooling methods are highly efficient when they are correctly used. However, they are not the best in all conditions. Here are some things to take into consideration when making your decision.


The price can be wildly different based on what features are focused on. In general, air coolers are less expensive because of their less complicated operation.

There are basic or premium variants of the two. The premium versions of an air conditioner could include a more oversized heatsink, higher-quality fans, and come with different designs. A premium All-in-One (AIO) liquid cooler could consist of a bigger radiator and offer functional and aesthetic customizations like software that can regulate fan speed and light.

Both liquid and air CPU coolers can be purchased for an extensive range, based on the specifications you’re seeking.

Ease of Installation

Although it’s true that an All-in-One (AIO) liquid cooler can be more challenging to set up than an air cooler, it’s relatively simple to install. It’s usually comprised of just the water block, two hoses that circulate the coolant, and the radiator. The additional steps include attaching the water block to the PC, which is similar to installing an air conditioner, and attaching the radiator and the fans so that any heat generated can easily escape the PC. Since the cooler, pump, and radiator are all self-contained within the unit (hence”AIO” in the title) “All-in-One (AIO )”), it requires minimal oversight or maintenance following the installation.

However, the process of creating a custom loop will require more effort and knowledge for the developer. The initial installation process may be extended and time-consuming; however, the additional flexibility permits for greater customization and the option of incorporating other components like the GPU in the loop if you want. When adequately designed and implemented, more complicated custom loops can also support designs of all sizes and shapes.


Air coolers are often bulky; however, that weight is restricted to a single area instead of spread throughout the entire system. In contrast, when you have an All-in-One (AIO), you’ll require space for the radiator, and you’ll also have to consider issues such as the proper alignment and orientation of the coolant and water block tubes.

If you’re working in an area with a smaller footprint, a bulky air cooler may not be the ideal choice. A slim-profile air cooler and an All-in-One (AIO) that has small radiators might be the best fit. If you are planning an upgrade or selecting your case, ensure there is enough room for your chosen cooling option and that your case is compatible with the equipment you’ve chosen.


Liquid cooling, mainly when used with an All-in-One (AIO), has a lower noise level than a fan of the CPU heatsink. It is also possible to be different since some air coolers come that have specially designed fans that are specifically designed to cut down on noise. Additionally, the settings or selections will affect the amount of noise generated. However, liquid cooling tends to produce less noise since the pump’s small size is generally well-insulated. Radiator fans can operate at lower RPM (revolutions per minute) than those found on the heatsink for CPU.

Temperature Regulation

If you’re serious about overclocking or planning on undertaking intensive tasks that require CPU power, such as streaming video or rendering liquid cooling may be the right choice.

It’s more efficient and typically quieter. If you’re looking to get the lowest temperatures possible, or if you’re looking for more quiet operation and aren’t opposed to a more complicated installation procedure, liquid cooling is the best choice.

Air coolers are very effective in transferring temperatures away from CPUs. However, it is essential to remember that heat will be scattered through the case. This could increase the temperature of the entire system. Liquid coolers do a superior job at transferring the heat out of the system by using the fan at the radiator.

Make Your Choice

Now, let’s return to the initial argument: Liquid cooling or air cooling. Which is superior?

The answer will depend on the method you employ to use your computer and the workload and performance you anticipate facing.

Liquid cooling is the correct requirement if you look for an almost quiet operation and the most efficient cooling and don’t mind a costlier price.

Think about how you use your PC and what you intend to do with it shortly before selecting your option. Although both are excellent options, they’re made to be used in slightly different ways. It’s your responsibility to determine which is the more appropriate choice for the way you utilize your computer. Visit our website Star tech Reviews.


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