How to Cool a PC

September 23, 2015 | By @IVANZXT | PCDIY

There’s more than one way to cool a PC and the method you choose will depend on a variety of factors including hardware, budget, and aesthetics. But no matter which route you take, you’ll need to know how each cooling solution works and why (or why not) you should use it. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your PC or destroying it all together.

Why You Need to Cool a PC

PCs are full of electronic components that generate heat the more they are being used. If you’re using a PC for intense computing like gaming, more heat will be conducted that requires more cooling. Therefore, it’s extremely critical to know how much cooling you need and the best way to use it.

The two main hardware components you need to worry about are the CPU and GPU because they generate the most heat. This is why CPUs and GPUs generally include a stock cooling setup when you purchase them. These cooling solutions are good enough for some people, but PC gamers should consider upgrading to something more powerful.

There are essentially two ways to cool a PC: with air or with water. However, each of these methods has different options and most of the time you’ll end up using a combination of both. I won’t tell you which one you should use, but I will tell you the pros and cons of each along with how they work.

Air Cooling Solutions

NZXT Case Fan

The simplest of all air cooling solutions is the fan. Installing more fans inside a PC case will guarantee that air flows throughout the entire system while cooling down everything that’s inside of it. Generally, you’ll want to arrange these fans in a “push-pull” configuration that pulls in cold air and pushes out hot air.

Most stock CPU and GPU cooling solutions use fans placed directly on top of the components to keep them cool. For CPUs, this typically involves a heatsink made out of metal that uses pipes to provide a stream of cool air. For GPUs, it’s usually a pair (or more) of fans attached to the card that constantly blow cool air while it’s being used.

Air cooling PC hardware is the simplest and most affordable option available. This method is highly recommended for consumers on a budget or those that are new to PC building. It’s also advisable to install more fans than the ones included with your PC case to maximize air flow.

Air Cooling Options

NZXT Case Fans

CRYORIG Air Coolers

Air Cooling Pros

  • most affordable cooling solution
  • often come included with CPU, GPU, and case purchases

Air Cooling Cons

  • may not provide enough cooling for extreme temperatures
  • can be loud if case isn’t optimized for multiple fans

Water Cooling Solutions

NZXT Kraken X31

Air cooling is definitely a requirement for all computer users but enthusiasts will often find themselves looking for more. This is especially true for PC gamers who like to push hardware to the limit and demand more out of their system. For these users, water is the answer.

Water cooling involves a pump that moves liquid through tubes inside the PC case. These tubes absorb all the heat being generated by the PC while a radiator pushes hot air out and away from the hardware. While this method is extremely efficient, it’s also difficult to setup and should only be attempted by experienced builders.

For those interested in water cooling without the hassle, an all-in-one liquid cooler like the Kraken series will provide your PC with everything it needs including the pump, radiator, and liquid. All-in-one liquid coolers are easy to install and recommnded for computer users who demand better cooling but don’t want to spend a lot of money (or time) on a custom water cooling setup.

Water Cooling Options

NZXT Kraken Series

EK Water Blocks

Water Cooling Pros

  • the best cooling solution available
  • perfect for PC builders who want a unique computer

Water Cooling Cons

  • custom water cooling loops are not easy to setup
  • can get expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing

How to Monitor PC Temperatures

NZXT CAM - PC Monitoring Software

Regardless of the PC cooling methods you choose, you should always install PC monitoring software like CAM to understand how all the hardware is performing. Temperatures will vary greatly depending on the hardware and what it’s being used for, but PC monitoring software will guarantee everything is working the way it’s supposed to. It’s also a good practice to use PC monitoring software to shutdown your PC if temperatures reach a certain level.

If you’re installing multiple fans inside the PC case, a fan controller like the Grid+ V2 allows you to regulate the speed of each fan while carefully adjusting temperature levels. These speeds can be fine-tuned to your liking and possibly eliminate the need to spend money on more expensive cooling solutions you may not need. Don’t underestimate the power of fans – they’re a lot cooler than you think.

If all of these cooling options are still not enough to keep your PC from getting fried, you can always dump it inside a fish tank – but we’ll save immersion cooling for another blog post!


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Ivan is the community manager at NZXT. He likes to build computers and play video games. Chat with him on the official NZXT Discord server.

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