Extreme PC cooling has been around for years and has easily been in play since the early 00s. However, apart from water cooling, the rest of the spectrum has been reserved for the elite overclockers and engineers, except for a few mainstream phase change units.
In this Extreme PC Cooling guide and overview I’ll take a look at the different ways you can choose to cool your overclocked gaming pc.
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If you are new to PC modding, extreme PC cooling and want to learn more about watercooling, check out Our Ultimate Guide to Custom Watercooling your PC which will give you the full rundown on how to build your own custom cooling loop.
Different Types of Extreme PC Cooling
Below you will find all of the different ways people have found to cooling their PC components.
Water cooling is the king of low maintenance 24/7 overclocking setups, having gained a strong foothold with the overclocking community as well as with manufacturers with lots of all-in-one units on the consumer market.
CPU Watercooling ranges from the inexpensive to very expensive. Due to the many different kinds of water cooling setups, AIO cooling units, like the Corsair H100i GTX, only cost a few hundred dollars. To the most insane, multi-thousand dollar setups that water cools every last thing in your PC, water cooling is the best and most practical way to get a good 24/7 overclock.
As water cooling can be quite expensive or very inexpensive, the main differences between custom water cooling and AIO solutions are performance and ease of setup. With an AIO, you need to attach the CPU block and then the radiator, and you are set to go.
It is much harder and a little more involved with custom setups to build the loop, but the cooling efficiency increases greatly, as do your overclocks.
Custom CPU water cooling is the best way to overclock your daily rig as you can add as many radiators as you can fit, as well as have shallow temperatures compared to similar AIO setups.
TEC / Peltier
Rarely seen solo, thermoelectric cooling aside from cooling processors is a technology commonly seen in small refrigerators and works using the Peltier effect:
TEC modules have two sides, a hot side and a cold side. TEC cooling works by transferring heat from one side of the module to the other. The more you cool the hot side, the colder the cold side allows you to pump more voltage through your chip. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to reach negative figures on the cold side, although that rarely translates to core temperatures. As a result, TEC CPU Cooling is slightly more effective than water cooling. However, to get the most performance out of TEC cooling its best used in conjunction with a water cooling loop.
For the cooling provided, TEC cooling drains a lot of power, resulting in higher bills.
Phase change works very much the same as your fridge or freezer by compressing a refrigerant gas into liquid form, which then passes through a condenser where it cools before being sent to the evaporator head attached to the CPU. CPU Phase change cooling is the only known cooling method to sub-zero temperatures 24/7 with little to no attention apart from initial insulation.
Temperatures can range from -5*c to -150*c depending on the experience of the person building the unit, gas used and current load. Some phase change units are suited to 24/7 usage as long as you take care when insulating the board.
Water Chiller Variation
Another variation that incorporates phase change CPU cooling is a water chiller.
Water chillers are reasonably cheap to make from second-hand parts and does not require that much time to make as long as you have an existing water cooling setup. It works very much the same as a phase change. Still, instead, the evaporator is placed into a coolant with a much lower freezing temperature than water, where it is pumped over components via the water cooling loop.
While you most likely won’t see negative figures, you will be able to cool to sub-ambient case temperatures allowing you to get to the closer side of zero degrees Celsius at the core. Liquid temperatures can easily reach minus thirty-three degrees celsius.
Liquid Nitrogen (LN2) / Dry ICE
LN2 and Dry Ice cooling are single-handedly the best possible way to get the most INSANE overclocks from your processor or GPU, although very short-lived.
This cooling method is by far the most extreme and sometimes can be very dangerous but allows for mind-boggling overclocking! Taking a CPU from 3.5 GHz to 8.8 GHz is amazing. This type of feat can only be reached with LN2. That being said, LN2 and Dry ice are both hard to use and require exceptional hardware to use such a specialist CPU pot.
LN2 / Dry Ice is not the kind of thing that you do as a main 24/7 rig because of the amount of attention required, but rather as a hobby or a job.
LN2 and Dice cooling, however, is possibly the most fun yet the hardest way to overclock. If you get good at it, you may be in the running to become a professional overclocker!
Submerged Mineral Oil
Some of you may have heard of this type of cooling before, with aquarium mods and people like Luke from LinusMedia Group doing this type of cooling. In a nutshell, Submerged Oil cooling uses non-reactive, non-conductive mineral oil to submerge your PC components.
Mineral oil cooling functions much like water cooling, but Submerged Oil cooling takes heat dissipation to another level. By surrounding your PC components in oil, you eliminate the issues of uneven heat dissipation. This means rock-solid stability for all your PC components, not just parts of them.
While mineral oil does keep temperatures stable, it’s not nearly as effective as water. In addition, because Mineral oil has a high heat capacity, it also means that it will take longer to cool when it does reach the radiator.
In short, submerged oil computers are more about looks than extreme overclocking. There’s nothing mineral oil can do that water can’t do better and, in the long, cleaner and cheaper.