Having trouble cooling your PC? Don’t know where to start cooling your PC? Today, we’re giving you a basic rundown of everything you need to know about cooling your computer.

Where Does Heat Come From?

Your PC’s heat comes from five main components, including:




RAM (especially high performance RAM, less so for slower-speed RAM)

Voltage regulator modules (VRMs, which are located around the chipset)

All of the components in your PC produce some heat. But the components above produce the most heat.

The Relation Between Power Consumption and Heat

In general, heat comes from power consumption. The more power your PC consumes, the more heat it will give out.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, a power supply can consume 1000W or more from a wall socket, but that power supply won’t generate the same amount of heat as a 250W video card.

What About TDP?

If you’ve shopped around for PC components and cooler components lately, then you may have seen the acronym “TDP”. That acronym refers to Thermal Design Power. That acronym isn’t perfect because there’s no real standard, but it does provide a general guideline.

TDP refers to the amount of heat energy a cooler must dissipate to allow the processor to run significant workloads for extended periods of time.

If you don’t want to learn much about TDP, then just remember these two things:

Lower TDP usually means lower power consumption and less heat generation. However, it does not necessarily mean lower operating temperatures. Two parts can have identical operating temperatures, but the cooler for the higher-TDP component would have to work harder to maintain the same temperature.

Lower TDP does not always mean less power consumption. TDP refers to heat energy, not electrical energy. Just because both measurements are rated in Watts doesn’t mean they’re referring to the same thing.

Heat Has Long-term Effects on your System

Heat can be a very destructive force on your PC over time – even if you have decent cooling.

High heat accelerates wear and tear on your system. It decreases the reliability of your components. That’s why PC cooling is important.

On the other hand, thermal stress is also a damaging force. Thermal stress builds up when your components frequently heat up and cool. When components get hot, they expand. When they cool, they contract. When this happens thousands and thousands of times, it leads to material fatigue, which can lead to cracking and breaking.

Basically, this means you can’t just counter high temperatures with extreme cooling and expect to have long-term stability in your system. If you’re running at a high level of performance and have noticed stability problems over time, then thermal stress may be to blame.

Best Types of Cooling

The two most popular types of cooling are air cooling and liquid cooling. Here are the pros and cons of both (along with a couple types of cooling you might have never heard of).

Air Cooling (Heatsink, Heat Pipes, and Fans)

This is the most popular cooling system in the PC industry. Fans blow cool air over your system and blow hot air away. Heatsinks and heat pipes soak up heat from your components and dissipate it into the air.

air cooled pc 2

Pros: Air cooling is basic and inexpensive.

Cons: Fans are loud. Heatsinks and heat pipes may provide inadequate cooling for higher-powered rigs.

Liquid Cooling (Pumps, Radiators, Reservoirs, and Heat Blocks)

Liquid cooling systems are no longer just for elite PC makers. They’re for anyone. Liquid cooling involves running a type of coolant (usually distilled water) through your system’s components to cool it down, then transferring that liquid to a radiator to cool it down.

liquid cooled pc

Key components of a liquid cooling system include the heat block (attaches to your PC’s components and lets liquid safely flow past that component using heat sinks), pump (the part that pushes liquid through your system), the radiator (the part that cools down the liquid), and the reservoir (holds the liquid in your system and increases your cooling capacity).

Pros: Effective, quiet, and awesome-looking.

Cons: Expensive and more difficult to install.

Liquid cooling can involve a closed loop system, an open loop system, or a submerged system.

Phase Change Cooling

Liquid and air cooling are used in 99% of PCs. But there are two more types of cooling, including phase change cooling.

phase change cooling pc

Phase change cooling works in a similar way to a refrigerator or air conditioner: liquid or gas is vaporized, drawing heat away and dissipating it elsewhere.

You know when you turn over a can of compressed air and spray it? Phase change cooling is like that. Phase change cooling can actually cool components to below freezing temperatures.

The reason you’ve probably never heard of phase change cooling? It’s very expensive and rarely seen outside of overclocking competitions.

Pros: Extremely effective and powerful on high-performance rigs.

Cons: Expensive and difficult to install; you have to “know what you’re doing” when using phase change cooling

Peltier Cooling

Peltier cooling is the rarest type of PC cooling out there, and it’s not because it’s expensive. Peltier cooling relies on a core thermoelectric principle: when you apply electricity to a Peltier cooling module, one side heats up while another cools down. The heat transfers from the component to the cooler, cooling it down.

Uniden Digital Camera

Unfortunately, Peltier cooling can lead to extreme temperature differences, which can burn out a unit on the hot side and cause condensation on the other side.

Pros: You get to watch your friends’ eyes widen when you tell them you use Peltier cooling.

Cons: Condensation, price, and the fact that you need another cooling system (like liquid) on top of everything.

Dust Out your PC

Keeping your PC cool probably isn’t as tough as you think. If you don’t want to install a new heatsink, fan, or liquid cooling unit, then just give your PC a quick dust out.

dusty pc

Dusting out your PC can free up airflow and give you just enough of an extra boost to avoid overheating.

Your PC might not look dusty – but the individual components and their fans can be very dusty. Concentrate on your video card and CPU and see if that solves your PC overheating issues.

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