Water cooled home computers - does anyone have experience with them?

I’m considering building a water cooled computer the next time I upgrade my home PC, mostly just to try something different. I’m a bit nervous over the whole idea of having coolant flowing around in tubes under my desk.

Does anyone have experience with them?
Have you had any problems with leakage? If yes, what do you do?
Is the sound level much lower then a traditional fan cooled?
Was it worth it? Would you do it again?
How warm does the coolant get, as it is leaving the computer.

(Besides just wanting to try it out, I’m tossing around the idea of inserting a cold plate in the line just outside the computer. Give me something to warm my feet on in the winter.)

I don’t have one myself, but there are a bunch of people I know who bring them to LAN parties. I can’t recall any of them panicking about leaks, and I imagine they’d be far more prone to it than a computer that’s going to sit in one spot instead of being dragged all over the city.

Worked on one for a bit. It’s expensive, fiddly to install and if you want to cool everything except for the power supply without fans you need a bunch of huge external radiators - that’s assuming you’ve got a high powered computer. IMHO it’s not worth it - a quiet case with a few large fans will be almost silent anyway.

The water shouldn’t be much warmer than 30/40 Celsius IIRC, otherwise it’ll just not cool the system enough.

I agree…

Liquid cooling is an ubergamer toy. You can theoretically pull more heat this way than air cooling but a well ventilated case will do fine for anything short of bleeding edge $10,000+ monster tri-sli overclocked gaming systems that run so hot they park them under hell to keep things toasty.

Oh, I know that a liquid cooled system is probably major overkill for me. It’s more a desire to muck with something I haven’t done before. Kind of like I’d love to build a computer where instead of jamming everything into a case, all the pieces are seperated and mounted on the wall. More cable, but less dust and heat.

Mine went bad quickly and fried the board. I cannot say that this is typical or not, but Dell replaced it with a non-liquid cooled system so they must have had a lot of trouble with them.

Mine was also very loud.

I wouldn’t think an open system would be better for preventing dust, but hey, if you want to try go ahead.

Just remember you’ll have to cool at least the CPU, the memory and the hard drives (maybe not the drives if you go for SSDs or slow drives), the video card and possibly the motherboard chips too. Around 250+ dollars just for the cooling blocks for those parts. Then you need the tubing, the pump (and pumps aren’t usually quiet), a reservoir and one or two huge big radiators - unless you’re going for fanned coolers, which kinda defeats the purpose IMHO. All in all you’ll be looking at roughly 400 to 500 dollars at least.

It’ll probably look cool if you build it right, though :slight_smile:

By the way, I just found a liquid cooled PSU. Only 500 bucks! and you’ll more than likely need a separate radiator and pump to cool it down.

You could always throw the whole thing in a bucket of oil to cool it. I’ve been considering something like THIS.

Not really transportable - but super cool.

I have a liquid cooled computer at home that I built myself (does not use water but some blue stuff).

I have a few particular issues that led me to do it.

  • The room is small(ish) where my computer is.
  • I am a power gamer so use high-performance stuff that tends to throw a lot of heat.

As a result my PC will literally heat my room. Sufficient that in the dead of winter I need not have any other heat supplying the room to keep it warm. As the air warms up the ability for air cooling to do the job diminishes. In my previous PC fighting the heat was an ongoing problem and I had enough fans that my PC sounded like a jet engine warming up. This despite a very concerted effort to get quiet fans (quiet and still moved a lot of air at the same time).

Putting it together was a little scary. I had to tear off the heatsink on my video card which for a bit seemed likely to tear out chips or snap the card. Once off it was a pain to clean all the chips of the heatpads they used glued to the chips so I could apply thermal grease.

As it happened I just barely had enough tubing on hand to complete the job. Was scared I was going to run out. I could of course buy more but when in the task of building it at 11p I did not want to wait and make a trip somewhere for the stuff the next day.

The first time you run the system you actually have to hot-wire the power so the computer itself does not turn on but powers the pumps and what not to prime the system and get fluid in there before the system itself can heat up. I had a little wire provided to do the hot wiring but it was likewise a little scary since I had never done it before.

On my first power of the pumps I sprung a leak. Was not bad but was dripping pretty good in my case. Since nothing else was under power there was no danger of a short but, again, scary to see liquid squirting around inside the case. A quick tightening of the connection and a thorough drying of the system and all went as planned and worked fine.

It has been banging along like a champ for the last two years without a hitch. I need to add a little more fluid (not much) maybe once every three months or so…that is easily accomplished.

My system uses an active radiator with fans so it is not silent but pretty quiet. Only one game when I run multiple instances and Excel and browser and music and what not really cranks the heat on the system sufficient to make the fans go into a higher powered mode which is louder. This is rare though and only when seriously stressing my system. There are passive radiators that can be had too.

Average temps of my CPU/GPU stay around 40C (give or take). Under heavy load maybe up to 50C once in awhile (which is well under tolerance of the chips).

Would I do it again?

I dunno. It is expensive…particularly the water block for the GPU. Putting it together was dicey but with care and attention not impossibly hard. It definitely keeps my PC zooming no matter what I am doing.

Close call for me but unless you have a specific need to have this level of cooling I suggest sticking with fans.

One of the nice things about fluid cooling is that you can put the radiators and fans where you want. This means that you can use bigger fans, which can rotate more slowly, thus more quietly.

Fluid cooling can achieve major noise reductions, particularly with video cards.

My Quad G5 is liquid cooled.
I have had no problems with it (it’s getting to be almost 5 years old), but there were many, many leakers, and Apple wisely moved away from liquid cooling.

This is definitely true, but it also really depends on what you’re going to use the machine for. The fan in my previous video card broke and killed the GPU. So I switched to a passively cooled nvidea card (8600 GT, that I bought 2 years ago, since I needed two DVI outs in a decent resolution). It cools down plenty with just the single case fan. I’m not at all bothered about great 3D performance, though, since I don’t play 3D games at all.

I had a friend that tried to make a homemade watercooler for his computer. After seeing the copper tubing he was soldering together I told him he was going to fry his motherboard. Sure enough, he fried it. Water plus computers equals problems. I definitely wouldn’t homebrew it unless you’re very skilled.

Thanks for all the comments. Sadly, it’s sounding like the hassle+cost factors overweight the “Cool, look what I did” factor.

I’ve seen that link before. I’m still pondering taking a fish tank, splitting it in half and keeping fish in water in the front and a computer in oil in the back. Added bonus, no need for a heater in the fish tank.

The thing about an open system is, it would be really easy to remove the dust. Hit it with a can of air and your done. Plus it wouldn’t be at ground or desk level, where most of my dust is.

Most of the noise from your computer doesn’t come from the fans, but from case vibration caused by the hard drives. The single best thing you can do to eliminate computer noise is to suspend the 3.5" hard disks in the 5.25" drive bay using elastic bands.


Not at all: there are plenty of pre-made fluid-cooling kits for CPUs. There’s the odd one or two for GPUs.


Complete and utter tosh. This is easily demonstrated by securing your PC tightly - e.g. between a desk and a wall - and noting no reduction in noise. Yes, you get some vibration, but the effect is trivial compared to fans. And rubber washers just about neutralise it anyway. It’s the fans - CPU, GPU, and PSU - that are the big culprits. This is immediately obvious to anyone who listens to a computer.

This is true in my case, but I have 3 180mm fans (front, top, and side) plus 120mm fans for the back, CPU cooler, and PSU. The smallest fan is my GPU fan.

This doesn’t make any sense. All the heat you’re generating is still going into the air in your room, unless you’re piping the coolant outside or something.