Ask a PC expert: Is air cooling or liquid cooling better for your CPU?

We answer a common question from our Full Nerd community!

Credit: Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Keeping your PC’s high-end processor cool used to require heavy metal: A CPU cooler with a massive heatsink smooshed between big fans. But closed-loop all-in-one cooling has come up fast in recent years, swapping out those huge metal towers for tubes full of liquid (and big metal reservoirs at the edge of your case). Which is the better CPU cooling method: air or liquid?

There’s no right or wrong answer, and viewpoints vary even among our tiny Full Nerd gang. PCWorld CPU guru voices his opinion in the video below, breaking down the advantages (and disadvantages) of each cooling method. We also dig into whether you should fear a liquid cooler potentially spraying your pricey PC parts, and if the generalization that you can achieve higher overclocks on liquid coolers is true or not. Knowing is half the battle, after all.

If you decide to invest in a liquid cooler, be sure to check out our guide to installing a closed-loop cooler.

We’re trying out a new format here, responding to common questions we receive on our Full Nerd podcast. If you like it let us know!

Have a PC- or gaming-related question? Email thefullnerd@pcworld.com and we’ll try to answer it in the future. You can also join the PC-related discussions and ask us questions on The Full Nerd’s Discord server. And be sure to follow PCWorld on FacebookYouTube, and Twitch to watch future episodes live and pick our brains in real time! 

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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