What PC Cooling Do You Use?

The 9 year old Corsair H100 AIO cooler that I am using is playing up. The pump is repeatedly getting airlocks. The cooler starts working again after rotating the radiator around the pump. I'm guessing the water in the AIO has probably evaporated. Looking for a way to refill it.

It's probably time for a new cooler anyway and am wondering whether I should go back to using an air cooler as they run forever. The difference in performance between an AIO and air did not seem to be huge.

What sort of cooling are you currently using?

Poll Options

  • 50
    Stock HSF
  • 229
    Third Party Air
  • 123
    AIO Water
  • 22
    Custom Water
  • 7
    Other (e.g. sub-zero)


  • +2

    Best choice depends on case and CPU

      • +2

        I am pretty sure he's not talking about HPE, Lenovo or Dell PCs.

        "Quality" is a spectrum.

      • +1

        LOL, Dell, LOL, Cooling

        • +2

          This, my previous work PC had an 8th gen i7 and would regularly hit 100 degrees under very light load. The damn thing was useless for my uses (data analysis) due to the poor cooling.

          When they replaced it I removed the cover expecting it to be caked over with dust but it wasn't bad at all, just really, really crap quality

      • +2

        Is this a joke? Throttling on those companies PCs is almost a guarantee

        • yup pretty sure that was sarcasm. It is well known how bad the cooling and cases are on off the shelf workstations, especially Dell.

  • +3

    I use Arctic Liquid Freezer II since it's reviewed as one of the best coolers by Gamers Nexus.

    But if I were to build a new rig inside a standard ATX case which isn't space-constrained? I'd just buy a Noctua. You can keep using the cooler basically forever so long as Noctua keeps supplying the required socket adapters to maintain compatibility.

    It's not like copper heatpipes will burst open or leak or require refilling, and if the fan stops working due to bearings wearing out, it's a quick $20 replacement that can be done easily without removing the cooler.

    • +3

      Been using a Noctua NH-D14 since 2011. Original fans and all. Still going strong. These things are built to last.

      • Nice, the U12A is a d15 performance for a smaller footprint, if you were to upgrade today. All of these are top tier coolers though. Just need to adjust fans speeds in bios and then forget for a decade or so.

      • Not only that, you can buy a new bracket for each new socket that comes out

    • Got one of those on sale for $109 a while back and can 100% vouch for that cooler. 5600x struggling to heat up past 65c under full gaming load.

  • +14

    The difference is negligible, people just get AIO because it looks cooler in their little pc window. True OzBargainer choice would be air cooler.

    • +2

      true ozbargainer would be take side of case off and cool with bedroom fan <insert eggplant emoji>

    • +2

      I have my pc in a parcel shelf in my desk. Got an AIO because it was cheaper than the $99 air cooler I was looking at and moving the AMD cpu heat away from other components was the main appealing factor with better overclocking a close second.

      The AIO is EVGA CLC 280 which cost me $89+PP if anyone is interested.

      Impressed at this price I am able to see the water temp in evga software whereas friends with AIO's don't have this feature.

      • +1

        Same one AIO, it's a good one

    • I have an Arctic liquid freezer II 240, and I've been very happy with it. The only reason I got it was due to insufficient cooling on my VRM's, It was getting toasty due to extended all core loads on my 5900x, it was worth it to draw as much heat out of that area as possible. Choice of cooler depends on lots of factors, and yeah in a lot of cases, it shouldn't make that much of a difference. OP should be researching the type of cooler they need/might need in the future or at least provide the specs of their PC and what their general workload is.

  • +3

    Question is, what are you cooling? For anything sub-enthusiast grade, AIO is overkill.

    I have an AIO, but that’s just because I think it looks cool. People pay more for aesthetics all the time.

    • +1

      This old Haswell has been overclocked 26%.

      Thinking of going a 7950X for the next build and want to run it stock.

      I used to own a D15 and was very happy with its performance and the support from Noctua.

      Had a good experience with Corsair support too.

  • +9

    I mainly use a 16 year old Daikin split system. Works well.

  • +1

    I wear my hat backwards and regularly participate in some dank dabbing and flossing

  • +1

    I walk around naked.

    • +4

      Hopefully indoors…

  • Always air, less can go wrong and if it does go wrong (I.e the fan breaks) the pc simply shuts down.

    I’ve had a custom water loop for overclocking adventures and the joy of building it, no reason to get cheap water cooling when there are great, quiet hsf these days.

  • Couldn't fit an AIO even if I wanted to since I'm in a mITX. Not running super power hungry or hot components either, so even when gaming my IS-55 does a good job of keeping an 13600K around 70c.

    • +2

      What case are you using?
      I have used a 120mm rad in a couple of mITX builds. It was always a bit of a shitshow, but I got it done in the end :P

      • +1

        I'm using a suuuper small Shiny Snake S300; it's a 8.1L case that even my brother's NR200 dwarfs it in comparison!

        I've been using a single slim Arctic P12 at the bottom for exhaust and of course the components' cooling systems themselves which have all worked well. The mesh sides of the case definitely help the GPU and CPU cooler to draw in cool air easily.

    • +3


      how great are mITX builds ..until you need to fit anything in HAHA

      • +2

        "It's ok, I don't plan on changing anything about it, I'll just build it once and leave it alone for the next few years"

        3 weeks later:


    • mITX doesn't mean you can't do AIOs or even custom loops.

      I've got the plans for a dual 360mm radiator mITX build sitting on my desk…

      • In fact I'd rather do AIO if possible in tiny cases; get the hot air away from the tiny internal space.

  • Got this back in 2021, no problems so far.


  • I'm using Thermalright Phantom Spirit for my CPU air cooler. I use to have a Premium AIO, but one year later it started to leak. Never again

  • I gave up on AIO's, always an issue

  • +7

    In my experience as someone who sold PC hardware, high and low end, over the years;
    I use a high end aftermarket air cooler.
    It's quieter, just as effective, cheaper, and more reliable than an AIO water coolers in my experience.

    My BeQuiet Dark Rock 4 has been phenomenal, I can't hear it even with stress testing the CPU, which never gets to an uncomfortable temp, and that's on a Ryzen 9 5900X with a gentle overclock.
    Been using it for the last 5+ years.

    Water cooling is great, but I find that 99% of users would be just as well, if not better, off with a good quality air cooler. And more importantly, I've had multiple water coolers fail on me, but never an air cooler.
    (For the record, the water coolers never had a catastrophic failure causing liquid damage, which some people are scared of but I've only ever seen happen once, and that was when a moron was tugging on the tubing)

  • +3

    Noctua NH-D15

    Best air cooler I've ever used

  • Noctua NH-D15 Chromax Black.

  • Tower fan for sure. Even the budget ones do a great job.

    Also look into undervolting. Better performance, less heat, less power usage.

  • -1

    Liquid Helium…🤣🤣🤣

    • +1

      I think you may have inhaled N₂O

    • Liquid Helium got nuthin on my uberl33t quantum refrigerator. Ma PC is practically a Bose-Einstein condensate homies.

  • I went thermaltake 240mm should have just gone air-cooler, the fans are loud and you can heard the pump every now and again.

  • Another Noctua NH-D15.

    I've used it with 3 CPUs. I put more effort into having a quieter system with my most recent build.

  • The closest I can get in the choices offered is "other".

    My Ryzen is air cooled by the standard convection cooler on it. No noisy fan or other moving parts are required when it only uses 15W.

  • I use AIO because of the case I have (DAN-A4H2O) Otherwise I'd just use a Noctua air cooler like other have mentioned. Cant go wrong with that.

    • Must've followed optimum. Why not got for Formd T1 case? Do you think temps would taken a huge hit if you changed to air cooling?

      • Yeah I could, I do like the look of the T1 but looks likes its sold out everywhere lol, also there is nothing wrong with my case so it would be a waste of money really. I think a 240mm rad probably would cool a bit better overall, but nothing drastically noticeable with a 13600k.

        • What gpu are you pairing it with?
          Which brand of AIO are you using?

          • @ar7ist: MSI 4080 & Phanteks Glacier 240mm AIO

            • @SoggyThief: Nice. I have been trying to get my hands on a Formd T1 and then would start ordering other parts - but the drops are quite rare these days.

              What motherboard did you end up with? Have a ppc list?

  • $35 ID-COOLING SE-224-XT on 5600x.

  • I went an Arctic Liquid Freezer II 420 AIO, got it for $139 and really like how quiet it is when I'm working.
    Tower coolers like the NH-D15 are great, though heat-soak a lot quicker and then need to blast the fans. If you don't mind the noise, a tower cooler will do you find for gaming.

  • -1

    D15 or D15S I bought one after wanting one for years for my next build, great piece of kit, I even was sent for free a vertical mounting bracket from Noctua for AM4/AM5.

    As others have said, your case CPU cooler height, other factors may mean an AIO is the preferred way, and given your experience 9 years isn't bad honestly if the next one lasts that long.

  • Air cooler, noctua u12a is my go too. It has the performance of the bigger d15 but a smaller footprint and just will works for as long as i live. I got it second hand for $100, set for life.

  • +1

    Like almost everything in a PC, there's trade-offs to make. All cooling options are a set of compromises, and which aspect of cooling matters most to you will determine the ideal solution in your particular situation.

    I'm currently running a Corsair AIO setup with 3 x 120mm fans, it's definitely quieter and more stable (temp-wise) than the old air cooling setups I ran (I ran a few over the years). I picked it as an introduction to water cooling, to see how it'd work with the style of usage my system sees (a real mixed bag - some "office" work, some gaming, some heavy CPU and GPU workloads that aren't gaming, running multiple virtual machine at times).

    Good air coolers will do very well - but they can be either very large (requiring a lot of space to operate), very heavy (requiring support or a lot of care when moving a system) or very noisy (as fans ramp up to manage temperatures), and then you also need strong case airflow to actually get the heat out of your case (if your in-case ambient air temperature climbs, your ability to cool drops). You also need to manage dust buildup and ensure your fans continue to work well - failing bearings can not only add to noise, but also reduce fan speed and airflow. And of course a dead fan will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of an air cooler.

    The main advantages of water cooling are size and weight (waterblocks tend to be small and weigh less than large air coolers, and the radiators can be remote), less variation in temperatures (as the water/coolant absorbs heat spikes) and quietness (as you can use bigger, slower fans in places that are remote to your heat sources and immediately expel the air out of your case).

    From an AIO vs custom-loop perspective, AIO systems are simple to set up and run (though you can get them wrong, there are a few things to think about to prevent air bubbles forming in the pump for example), have limits on how remote the radiator can be from your CPU (because they have fixed coolant hose lengths), and do absolutely lose coolant over time. There's nothing you can do about this last in most cases - once they've lost enough coolant, they're effectively dead). There's also the impact of corrosion/gunk build-up over time in a non-serviceable environment which can also be a limiting factor in lifespan.

    Custom loops are more complex than AIO coolers, they will generally cost more, and they will require maintenance (ideally you drain, clean and re-fill it with coolant once a year). They are also (a lot) more flexible than AIO cooling (I'm planning on putting a motherboard-specific water block on that cools not just the CPU but also the mosfets/etc around the CPU socket) plus you can include a GPU into the same cooling loop (and in my system, my GPU is by far the noisiest component in my setup at present). Evaporation/coolant loss is a real thing in custom loops as well - but unlike an AIO setup, you can generally replace the coolant in a custom loop and just keep going.

    For my next build (the current PC is ~4 years old now), I'm absolutely going for a custom loop. I've already got the case and distribution block (I prefer the distribution block method for various reasons) selected, and recently bought the initial GPU cooler (I plan to move my existing GPU over to my new system initially, then to upgrade it later as it's the most expensive single item in the system, and I'll offset that expense from the rest) when it came up on a 30% off sale recently.

    For your poll - I voted "custom water" because it's the direction I'm absolutely heading.

  • Kraken Z73 RGB 360mm Liquid Cooler with LCD Display

  • Stock cooler. I want to swap it for another, not for better performance, but I just want a quieter fan on it. Also a design that doesn't trap as much dust would be nice. I wish PCs used high performance ARM like Macs, instead of needing huge metal dust catching fins and noisy fans.

    • Trapping dust is a factor of the dust present, not the HSF really (narrower gaps between the fins will trap more dust - but if there's no dust, nothing gets trapped).

      Filtering the intake to your case and regularly blowing out dust that builds up is a much better solution than trying to find a heatsink design that traps less dust (because such a heatsink will likely be less effective in its primary role as a heatsink).

  • +1

    I used to run custom water-cooling and could go on and on about why it's no longer practical, and why AIO water-cooling is the worse if you're interested.

    The short version: AIO water cooling comes with many of the disadvantages of custom water cooling, but none of the usual benefits, which are:

    • Improved cooling over air cooling
    • Improved overclocking due to lower temperatures, which is now obsolete because CPU and GPU are no longer as thermo restricted
    • Lower noise levels due to use of multiple low speed fans vs the high speed fans on air coolers. However, unless one splurge on a very expensive GPU water cooling solution, an air cooled GPU will probably negate any noise benefits from custom water cooling the CPU

    TLDR; get a good air cooler. It'll work better than an AIO water for the same money or less.

    • +1

      "I used to run custom water-cooling and could go on and on about why it's no longer practical"

      I disagree that it's not practical, though I do concur that it's certainly not as cost effective unless quietness and lower/more stable temperatures mean more to you than price and complexity.

      "Improved overclocking due to lower temperatures, which is now obsolete because CPU and GPU are no longer as thermo restricted"

      I do not believe that's the case. Thermal throttling is still a very real thing.

    • The short version: AIO water cooling comes with many of the disadvantages of custom water cooling, but none of the usual benefits, which are:

      Isn't this demonstrably the opposite?

      AIOs are able to be quieter, run at lower temperatures, and (because of the lower temperatures) able to run higher overclocks. This is something that is very well tested and not just a random opinion.

      Also, aren't the major drawbacks with custom loops things such as the price, complexity and maintenance? These things which aren't really applicable to AIOs. Price has come down heaps in recent years. Price is not anywhere close to custom loops.

  • +2

    Noctua NH-U12P since LGA775 days. Still good today on my i9 9900kf.

    • I also have one of those on a LGA1366 Xeon system haha. Great coolers!

  • I run a custom 240mm alphacool loop from 2011 on my 10th gen, but bought a dark rock pro 4 for my server

  • After had everything, full custom loop, AIOs, lots of 3rd party coolers and included OEM coolers too. I am 100% on the air side. Cleaning up a loop is a huge pain in the butt, I cleaned up my custom loop 1 last time and sold the PC. Now I have a Noctua, I take my PC outside (a small ITX) and use a blower to gently blow the dust away. I would not go back to a custom loop.

    Honestly, I care more about room temperatures vs PC temperatures, so I now get a powerful CPU and GPU and I undervolted them both. Less consumption (I can probably get away with the OEM cooler) resulting in less heat in the room.

  • let me guess, you have the AIO radiator front mounted with the hoses at the bottom? always mount a AIO with the CPU block lower than the radiator hoses. top mount radiator preferred but you can front mount the rad if you put the hoses at the top. otherwise air bubbles can gather in the CPU block which sounds like what you are having problems with.

    as for myself I have a custom watercooled system. 3930k and GTX970 both with waterblocks, D5 pump and 360mm alphacool rad. i'll be upgrading to 7950X or 8950X sometime next year probably with a 3080/4080 and will be adding a second radiator to manage the extra heat load. probably a 480mm or 360mm. I have other systems with NH-D14 and a (very old) Thermalright tower air coolers. it is my understanding that a good air cooler will beat all but the very best AIO,the AIO will usually be louder, and the AIO has more points of failure than an air cooler.

    • I have a 240mm AIO and with my case I had to front mount it because if RAM but I did make sure the CPU block is lower than the radiator hose and I haven't had any problems with it

    • The radiator is top mounted and was working fine for 9 years. The hoses do drop down from the lowest part of the CPU before going up to the radiator though. Would enough air get trapped at the pump? If it were some other sort of blockage, why does the cooler run fine if I place the tower flat?

    • +1

      Interesting - Gamers Nexus did a whole episode on how having the tubes down is the best way to go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbGomv195sk.

      They did a bunch of experiments and called out the manufacturers for consistently showing tubes up because aesthetically that looks better.

      Really interested in seeing your source that tubes up is better.

  • arctic p12 pwm pst as they're cheap, quiet and keep the system very cool 😎

  • +1

    Stick to air. Fan breaks? Replace the fan. Boom another 10 years.

    I can't stand the pump noises (small itx pc, usually within arms length of me on the desk) of any aio I've ever tried and custom is a pain normally, let alone in ITX builds.

    (I do love me a good Noctua cooler but I understand they're too expensive for a lot of people.. But I've never had one of their fans die and getting brackets for new sockets is usually super cheap. Or free. Though the 'email them and they'll send you a new bracket' thing might be overseas only? I've not tried personally)

    • +1

      Noctua sent a bracket to me express international for free after I emailed them so it's not overseas only.

      • Oh nice. I should remember to do this next time.. I always just end up buying the brackets for 10 bucks or whatever

  • +1

    Noctua NH-D15s. Don't have to muck around with an AIO and performance is almost the same.

  • I use the stock cooler and play games. Should i change it ?

    • If you're happy with what you've got, no.

  • +1

    Noctua d15, big air means small problems (no problems really). My experience with AIOs was a nightmare.

  • Noctua D15

    I'm thinking of going to AIO though.

  • I've had water cooling in the past, but now I stick to a good 3rd party air cooler. Even the stock AMD coolers are more than enough. I also had two AIO water coolers die because of pump failure/leakage. Air coolers work 100% of the time, every time.

  • +3

    This one: peerless assassin. Awesome cooler, performs as good as ones twice as expensive


    • I second this. Even with one fan (on my mobo the second fan overhangs the ram slots), it keeps everything super cool.

  • I've been using an EK AIO 360 for a few years now and it has served me wonderfully. Also looks awesome.
    After setting a custom fan curve in bios it is very near silent and works great to cool my R9 5900X.

    Air coolers are way simpler and less to think about on the other hand though, and I probably would have gone for that if I hadn't already decided on an AIO. While installing the AIO I had to think about the radiator position, air bubbles, etc.

  • Noctua NH-D15. This cooler has cooled my CPUs for 9 years now.

    • Second this. It’s big but does an amazing job

  • 30cm kmart fan x 2

    Anyone in Sydney want to install an air cooler and a few SSD's for some quick moneys?

  • First gen Ryzen stock cooler, it's fine

  • I can't comment for recent Intel coolers, but AMD stock coolers are bad. I recently did a budget PC build to go along with my higher end PC. Being a budget build, I tried really hard to stick to the Wraith Stealth cooler my AMD CPU came with, but in the end it was just too noisy. I ended up buying a cheap tower cooler (it was a $29 DeepCool one: https://www.umart.com.au/product/deepcool-gammaxx-ag400-cpu-…) and was a huge upgrade over the stock cooler. While it isn't quite as quiet as the Noctua branded tower coolers I normally use, for $29 I feel it's a decent option for people that don't want to spend a lot of money. If budget isn't a concern, I would highly recommend a Noctua branded tower cooler, they're extremely quiet, have great cooling performance and last a lifetime.

    A lot of people want my opinion for PC builds, and personally, I never recommend going for an AIO water cooler. They're often more expensive, don't seem to offer a cooling advantage, while being noisier between the fans, pump and water moving through the loop. They're also less reliable and if your pump for example dies (which is a common problem), the whole unit needs to be replaced. With a tower cooler, the only thing that can really break is the fan, which is unlikely, but easy to replace if required. You also have the added risk of leaking with a water cooler, which usually results in expensive damage.

    At the end of the day, I simply recommend sticking to a good tower cooler. The one scenario where AIO coolers make sense is in a small form factor build where using a tower cooler isn't an option.

    • +1

      Wraith Stealth cooler

      I got this for my 5600x but this is only good for a door stopper, had to get a Arctic 34 cooler.

      • +1

        Haha, mine was making this 'ch ch ch ch ch' type of sound while the fan was running, I thought it was GPU coil whine at first but then discovered it was the Wraith Stealth cooler. Long story short, that sucker went straight to the bin.

  • +1

    If you want air cooling, the best bang for buck is the Thermalright phantom spirit 120 followed by peerless assassin.. https://www.amazon.com.au/Thermalright-Phantom-Computer-Cool…

  • Go an AIO setup. Stay away from large heat sinks, you’ll be cleaning them most of the time. Stay away from custom loops if you want to continuously upgrade your PC.

    Here’s my complete custom loop I completed in 2021ish. Liquid cool, hard loop and built it myself with my cousin. Great experience. Lessons learnt

    Never going Micro ITX Again
    Will get a bigger Lian Li case
    Hard to sell parts if you want to upgrade like the GFX card

    Other than that, the only mods after I made was I purchased the Res / Pump front face plate for my case a year later which required a complete change in the hard loop.


    B550i Aorus Pro AX
    GB Aorus RTX 3080 Waterforce WB
    Corsair 32GB Ram
    SFX 750w PSU
    2TB MSI Spatium
    Internal monitor mounted within side the PC to monitor temps.

    Using the Alienware AW3423DW
    Steel Series KB
    Steel Series head set
    Logitec g502 mouse

    Some shots from the time I had pump / res dildo combo and some shots from the pump res face plate. Didn’t take nice photos of the face plate.


  • Lianli 011 xl, 2x360 rads ones a 60mm cant remember what the other is, flat ek rez with a d5 pump, ek 1080ti block, ek cpu block. straight distilled water and hard tubing.

  • My Macbook Air is fanless!

  • +1

    I run a 7950X undervolted. When I built my PC I just picked the cheapest cooler which had AM5 socket support, the Deepcool AK400, which costs around $40. The case I use is the Antec P101 Silent which has 4 case fans installed.

    My undervolt settings has the CPU locked at 4.5GHz and the voltage locked at 0.96V. Using Prime95 stress test the CPU package power (reported by HWinfo) is 165W, the CPU fan speed is 1250RPM, the case fan speeds average 900RPM, and the CPU temperature is 82 C.

    Under a more realistic CPU heavy workload, the CPU package power is 125W, the CPU fan speed is 750RPM, case fans average 800RPM, and the temperature is 72 C.

    If you have a CPU that uses less than 200W then I think you'll be fine with a cheap air cooler, and if your CPU uses more than that consider power limiting the CPU to save money on your power bills and your cooler.

  • +1

    I don't see much point in AIO's when air coolers get so close with far less that can go wrong or go off - Aftermarket Air.

    5800X3D - Fuma 2
    NR200P case - Filled with Artic P12
    RTX3080 TUF - de-shrouded, fed air by bottom two P12 fans and 3d printed ducts to join the two.

  • Past 3 systems - Noctua NH-DH14, Noctua NH-DH15, Be Quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4.

    All have been great and given similar cooling performance where I've never run into any issues even with high OCs running.

    Ran my original 2700K @ 4.5Ghz stable for 8 years before upgrading.

  • I currently use Deepcool AK620 Air cooler (got for $88 from CentreCom) with 13900K at 288 W, but my case is a Fractal Torrent Compact with 2 * 180 mm fans.
    I have never used AIO or water cooling.

  • I used to use an AIO closed loop cooler but have changed back to air cooler. I prefer the air cooler.

  • Noctua NH-U12A because it performs well, reliable, quiet and minimal fuss. Have owned several AIOs in the past and the extra tubing/routing required hasn't really been worth it for me.

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