Most users pay little mind to the cooling systems inside their work computers, and for a good reason. Common productivity tasks such as text editing, viewing spreadsheets, sending emails, and browsing the internet put very little strain on modern hardware, so there’s little need to go beyond the stock coolers that come preinstalled with most desktop computers.
But what if you work in an industry that utilizes specialized software suites that are designed to take full advantage of the available hardware? Animators, video editors, graphic designers, photo editors, and programmers are just some of the many professionals who are directly dependent on the ability of their computers to execute complex tasks without a hitch.
In these applications, making sure you have the right cooling solution and that this solution is properly maintained can have a dramatic effect on a computer’s performance and longevity. To learn more, read on to the end of this article, or click here if you’d like to consult directly with an expert.
How does cooling affect a computer’s performance?
Almost everything a computer does is performed by its processor (CPU) and its graphics card (GPU). Like all electrical devices, these components generate heat during use, and can become damaged or break down completely if allowed to operate at high temperatures for a prolonged period of time.
In order to prevent component malfunction, hardware manufacturers have implemented a feature called Thermal Throttling. When a CPU or a GPU reaches dangerous temperatures, this feature automatically adjusts their speed so as to decrease the temperature and prevent component damage or a system crash.
While thermal throttling is crucial when it comes to keeping your valuable hardware safe, it also slows down your computer, and may introduce stuttering and other problems that make it harder for you to effectively do your work. A quality cooling solution is necessary to maintain safe temperatures during heavy workloads and avoid thermal throttling.
Air vs liquid cooling
There are two types of computer cooling: air and liquid. An air cooler consists of 1-3 fans, a metal heatsink, and heat pipes that transfer the heat into the heatsink. All stock CPU coolers are air coolers, and all modern GPUs come with a proprietary air cooling solution preinstalled on them.
Most all-in-one (AIO) liquid coolers consist of a radiator, a water block filled with coolant, 1-3 fans, and a pair of reinforced tubes. Liquid coolers can also come in the form of fully or partially customized loops, but these are do-it-yourself solutions that aren’t normally used in business applications.
Pros of air cooling
- Price. Air coolers tend to be cheaper.
- Reliability. The only part of an air cooler that can break is the fan.
- Safety. An air cooler can’t leak and damage the other components in your computer.
- Better for prolonged operation. Air coolers are the preferred cooling solution for servers and other systems that are designed for around-the-clock operation.
Pros of liquid cooling
- Lower temperatures. Liquid coolers tend to be better at transferring heat than air coolers, which reduces the risk of thermal throttling.
- Quiet operation. Liquid coolers often have fewer fans and, due to the reduced temperatures, these fans don’t have to be ramped up as much. This greatly reduces the noise during demanding workloads.
- Size. High quality air coolers tend to be bulky, which can create clearance problems and make installation difficult. Liquid coolers don’t have these problems.
The best CPU and GPU in the world aren’t going to make for smooth sailing if your cooling solution is unable to keep them at reasonable temperatures during heavy work sessions. When planning system upgrades, always consult with an expert to ensure your cooling solution of choice will be able to keep up with your intended workloads.