While you don't have anything to worry about if you bought your computer from a big-box retailer or straight from a manufacturer like HP, you'll be faced with a potentially crucial decision if you're building (or custom-buying) a fire-breathing, benchmark-eating computer: Should you chill your PC with a traditional air cooling solution or a pricier, yet more efficient liquid-cooling system? That question has many aspects to consider before you can answer it.
Cooling methods explained
The secret to harnessing the cooling power of air lies in fans—lots of fans. Your typical air-cooled PC is packed with case fans, graphics card fans, and a CPU fan or two—positioned atop a big metal heat sink—to keep your expensive components nice and frosty.
A water-cooling system, on the other hand, employs a series of coolant-filled tubes, a radiator, water blocks (the equivalent of heat sinks), and a couple of other components to keep your PC feeling refreshed. You'll even need a few fans to push around all the water! Our guide to setting up a liquid-cooled PC explains a basic (ha!) system in exacting detail.
Got it? Good. Defining air cooling and liquid cooling is the easy part. The trickier bit is making the decision to use one or the other.
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