Is Custom Liquid Cooling Worth It?

Custom liquid cooling is becoming increasingly popular for those who build PCs. Not only does it look incredible, but it also provides top-notch cooling for almost any computer setup. However, the steep price leaves many wondering whether it’s worth it.

Custom liquid cooling is worth it for those who prefer optimal cooling with reduced noise output. While costly, it pays off in performance value and long-term overheating prevention. However, it could be too much of an investment for casual gamers.

When Are They Worth It?

Custom liquid cooling is often worth it for those who spend much time on their computers. Your PC could greatly benefit from a custom liquid cooling system if you have high-end GPUs, CPUs, and other components.

The proper placement is key (keep the radiator above the pump) if you want to get the most out of your custom liquid cooling. That being said, getting familiar with the ups and downs of these new-age systems is a good idea. After all, they’re not the cheapest cooling solutions on the market.

An example of a custom liquid cooling system.

Below, you’ll find everything you need to know and the pros and cons of custom liquid cooling for your PC.

The Pros

  • According to Intel, custom liquid cooling is much quieter than traditional fans. This is because the pump is insulated, and the fans don’t have to run at such high speeds. Liquid cooling allows the fans to move cold air throughout the PC without whistling or buzzing.
  • Most custom systems provide much better temperature regulation. You can choose what and where to cool your PC’s components, allowing you to use your computer to its fullest potential. Furthermore, you can prevent it from getting too hot and warming the surrounding work area.
  • Custom cooling often comes with unique LED lights for an incredible appearance. While you can get similar lights with AIOs, they’re far better than traditional air cooling. Each tube carries LED lights throughout the PC for an unparalleled appearance that you can design from scratch.
  • Custom liquid cooling is much more customizable than an AIO. AIO liquid cooling focuses on the CPU directly while the remaining parts are cooled via air circulation. On the other hand, you can make a custom liquid cooling setup that directly cools the GPU, CPU, motherboard, and anything else.
  • Most custom liquid cooling systems provide better value. Cooling systems are used to preserve your computer parts. If your sole goal is preservation (with a little bit of unique style), custom liquid cooling beats the rest of the competition.

The Cons

  • Custom liquid cooling is much more expensive than air and AIO cooling. If you’re on a strict budget, you likely want to shell out on GPU and CPU, not liquid cooling. Furthermore, many air systems can do the job without costing nearly as much. However, it doesn’t mean they’ll be as effective.
  • It isn’t easy to install, especially if you’re a beginner. AIO systems are sometimes harder to install than traditional air cooling systems, and custom liquid cooling is exponentially more difficult than AIO. You must know each part to use and where they’ll go without damaging your computer.
  • You have to choose all the parts you want to use, which can be disastrous if you choose the wrong ones. These components include (but aren’t limited to) tubes, radiators, pumps, and fans. You’ll also need thermal paste and retaining screws, which the pump’s manufacturer should recommend.
  • Tech4Gamers explains that you must change the liquid frequently if you choose a custom liquid cooler. They don’t come sealed like AIO liquid cooling. Since they’re not machine-sealed, there’s a higher chance of contamination, air bubbles, etc. Draining and replacing the liquid can be quite time-consuming.

Is It Better Than Air Cooling?

Custom liquid cooling is better than air because it cools more efficiently by putting cold air directly on the GPU, CPU, and motherboard. Air cooling might be better because you’re on a budget and don’t want to spend the extra money required.

Here’s a list of reasons why custom liquid cooling is better than air cooling:

  • Kingston explains liquid cooling is up to 10 times more effective than air cooling. There’s no need to look further if you simply want the best of the best.
  • Custom liquid cooling provides a much more unique experience. It looks way better to most PC users, not to mention the reduced need for airflow around the edges.
  • Custom liquid coolers are the best for cooling specific PC parts. Decide what needs to be cooled, then apply the thermal paste and place the cooling pump nearby.

While there are a couple of drawbacks, not much air cooling can do better than liquid cooling regarding overall performance.

You can hire a PC technician if you’re worried about the installation process, and this decision would also eliminate any incompatibility issues.

Read on if you’re still on the fence about getting a custom liquid cooler for your PC due to the increased price, installation process, or maintenance concerns.

Should You Get Custom Liquid Cooling? 

You should get custom liquid cooling if you’re a hardcore gamer, a crypto miner, or someone who puts their GPU and CPU to their highest capabilities. It also lets you target which components need to be cooled (and how much), putting your PC’s longevity in your hands.

Consider these reasons you SHOULD get custom liquid cooling:

  • Hardcore gamers will almost always benefit from custom liquid cooling. It lets you use your CPU and GPU without overheating, which lets them work as hard as possible. If your PC parts can handle the specs, you can set all your games to their maximum settings.
  • Crypto miners need to cool their GPUs, which is much easier with custom liquid cooling than AIO or fan cooling. This is because custom liquid cooling lets you choose which parts need to be cooled. If you go with another form of cooling or ventilation, you won’t be able to focus on the GPU.
  • Custom cooling is worth looking into if you have hobbies or jobs that strain the GPU or CPU. It could be the difference between smooth work projects and overheating slow computers. It is also a nice upgrade from AIO liquid cooling for those who have experience building computers.

Next, consider these reasons you SHOULDN’T get custom liquid cooling:

  • Custom liquid cooling might be overboard if you’re a casual PC user. Not only does it cost a lot, but you’ll have to put a lot of work into the PC. You’ll also have to deal with much more extensive maintenance procedures. Casual users typically don’t care enough about reaching their PC’s full potential.
  • Those who use their computers for virtual meetings, writing, and similar tasks don’t need the high-end capabilities provided by custom liquid cooling. While custom liquid cooling is better than air cooling, you won’t do anything that makes it necessary with these guys of hobbies and careers.

Knowing what to look for is important if you’re determined to get custom liquid cooling. After all, choosing the wrong parts or sizes could wreak havoc on your PC.

Read on for all the details you should look for when building or buying a custom liquid cooler.

What Should You Look for When Buying One? 

When buying a liquid cooler, you should look for the right radiator size, pump speed, and fan speed. Choosing the correct tubes for your liquid cooling system is also important, and all the parts need to be compatible. If anything doesn’t fit, there will be leaks and overheating.

Here’s a breakdown of each of these factors:

  • Choose a radiator that suits the pump. Make Use Of claims custom loop radiators come in 120 to 360 mm (4.72 to 14.17 in), with the biggest radiator being the best option if there’s enough room. However, most PCs don’t have enough room for a 360 mm (14.17 in) radiator. Check your PC’s dimensions and available room to know which size you should get.
  • Make sure your pump has enough RPMs to move the liquid quickly. Choosing your custom liquid cooling pump depends on the size of your computer, the radiator, the liquid housing, and many other factors. Contact the manufacturer or use a compatibility checker to know which pump RPM is best for your PC.
  • Get fans that reach the desired speed to circulate cold air throughout the PC. Your custom liquid cooling fan should range between 1,500 to 2,000 RPMs. While 2,000 RPMs are the best choice for cooling purposes, these fans tend to be a bit noisier. For most radiators, 1,500 RPMs are often enough.
  • Check if all of the parts are compatible before assembling the custom liquid cooler. EKWB makes it easy for you to check which parts you need to create your custom liquid cooler. This process prevents you from getting incompatible parts, which could cause leaks or prevent them from working properly.

While they’re not as important, most custom liquid cooling systems come with fun lights.

These are worth considering when you’re buying a liquid cooler, but they’re not vital components in the system’s functionality.

Any custom liquid cooler light setup will work since compatibility isn’t much of an issue in terms of illumination or color scheme.

Note: Available space is perhaps the most important factor. While you might want the biggest pump, radiator, and fan for optimal cooling, there’s no point if there’s not enough room.

After removing its current cooling system, measure the available space in your computer, then decide which parts are best moving forward.

How Long Do They Last? 

The inside of a gaming computer with custom liquid cooling built out inside it.

Custom liquid cooling will last up to five years, depending on the manufacturer, how often you use it, and whether or not you chose the correct parts. Leaks, spills, and other user errors can drastically shorten the lifespan of custom liquid cooling. Replace parts to make it last as long as needed.

Tech Guided reports that most custom liquid coolers will last three to five years. Proper maintenance will help you get up to half a decade before you need to worry about replacement parts (not too bad for PC components!).

However, you can replace every part of a custom liquid cooler and use it as long as needed.

For instance, you can replace the pump, impeller, cooling plate, or motor whenever needed. You can also dismount the radiator and get a new one of the same size or a different one if you need to adjust it to your computer’s needs.

Additionally, you can get new liquid cooler tubes if yours are leaking or always trap air bubbles.

The five-year timeframe simply refers to how long the whole setup can go without needing replacements. I highly suggest following a regular maintenance routine that includes the following: