This is part of the noob’s guide to water cooling!
First off if you’re asking the question then it probably isn’t for you!
Water (or liquid) cooling is one of many ways of more cooling your PC in a more thermally efficient way that can lead to any or all of the following:
– better overclocks
– cooler components
– lower noise
It can lead to a longer lifetime of a part as high heat can lead to shorter component lifetimes. Of course this assumes you don’t have any accidents that also kill parts. Liquid cooling can also look way cooler but it’ll also cost you. However water cooling isn’t the only way to get better cooling – you can use sub-ambient cooling systems including phase change coolers, bong or evaporative coolers as well as more temporary cooling used for benching such as dry ice or liquid nitrogen.
Some myths to dispel:
Water cooling is safe – many avid water coolers will tell you that they’ve never killed a part or had an accident. The same people will also tell you that you only need barbs without clamps. The truth is, that if you’re super careful and cautious you can probably avoid an accident, and certainly if you’re lucky and change parts often then you can avoid many even while not being cautious. However false confidence leads to cutting corners and when you add in a dose of bad luck it means that you will have a leak and it *may* cost you. I’ve been water cooling for years and consider myself experienced however I’ve still killed parts because of leaks. If you can’t afford the time or money that an accident will cost you then simply don’t do it!
Water cooling is unsafe – many air coolers or people who’ve had bad experiences will tell you it’s dangerous and only a matter of time before you get a leak and your $5000 (or whatever) of hardware is just a large paperweight. The truth is that your success depends on following good practices, maintenance and as always luck. This is just like with driving a car you can be a risky driver that has never had an accident, or a safe driver that still gets in an accident.
Water cooling is always quieter – well not if you have a poorly managed system with loud fans or pumps. A well setup air cooled system can be very quiet these days, particularly when tuned and used with power efficient yet still powerful parts like the 4670K or a GTX780.
Water cooling will give you better overclocking – this is usually true for CPUs which these days are often thermally limited on an air cooler before they are voltage limited, but again you may not be willing to push the voltages that will cause you to hit a thermal wall on a good air cooler.
Water cooling has no more maintenance than air cooling – this is not true. Air cooling just requires dust removal and re timming every so often. Water cooling on the other hand has this but also requires periodic replacement of tube, coolant and a strip down and clean every few years. It’s not that much work and it’s like changing your oil, if you aren’t going to do it yourself then you should pay someone to do it or simply not buy a car.
Water cooling needs maintenance every week/month – this is also not true – a properly setup system doesn’t need to have work done any more often than every two years apart from dust removal.
Distilled water is non conductive and so if you have a leak you won’t kill anything – Pure water is pretty unconductive, but as soon as you put it in contact with your loop you will have ions become part of the solution and it will be conductive. This is not to say that a part can’t survive a minor leak. I’ve had parts survive all sorts of minor leaks, when I’ve actually killed something it’s normally the third time something has happened and I haven’t realized that there has been a leak. Leaks can be hard to see particularly if they the coolant is collecting underneath a block.
So if you’re new and you’re sure you want to go down this path my advise is to be cautious and realize that no matter what your budget is that you will end up spending a lot more!