PC Cooling System Buying Guide

Having a cooling system for your computer is one of the most important aspects to consider for your build. Without a cooling system, the hardware inside of your tower is at a high risk of malfunctioning. To keep your parts safe and your computer running at its maximum performance benchmarks, it is important to know which cooling system is the right fit.

Types of Cooling Systems

There are many different types of cooling systems, but here we will cover the ones that are the most common, cost effective, and efficient.


The fan is the most commonly used way to cool off a computer. Generally towers come with large fans taking up one side, the back, or the top of the tower as a stock feature. Cooling fans come in all different sizes and with the right amount of space can be easily added into any computer case. Adding in additional fans does take some planning around other hardware inside of your tower, but with the wide variety of sizes available to customers it is easy to find the space to add them. A general rule of thumb, the more power your hardware is producing, the more cooling power you will need. Some fans can also be overclocked with the rest of your system as well as monitored by your computer via software built specifically for controlling your motherboard right from your monitor. They are easy to install and easy to program, while being a cheaper option than other cooling systems.

Heat Sinks

A heat sink is a passive device installed inside of a computer that's made of a high conductive metal. Heat sinks work by displacing the heat generated by hardware from said hardware and onto themselves. Heat sinks cannot work on their own, often needing other methods of cooling in order to remove the excess heat completely from your device, but do help to save space that would otherwise be taken up by other cooling agents. CPUs come with a heat sink already in place, but if you are upgrading other parts before upgrading your CPU the built in heat sink may not be large enough to properly do its job. Heat sinks are slightly harder to install than extra fans, but their added benefit is that they do not make any noise.

Liquid Cooling

Liquid cooling systems are very popular for users who push their personal computer to their highest performance benchmarks and beyond. This type of system was originally designed to cool off mainframes, but has gained popularity for consumer use over the last decade. Liquid cooling systems are comprised of a water pump and a series of tubes that carry the water all throughout your tower, absorbing the heat and carrying it to a radiator that then expels the heat out of your system. Liquid cooling kits are widely accessible and easy to install, but are among the more expensive of the cooling systems. They are not without risk either; if a tube springs a leak you are putting your entire system at risk if you cannot quickly fix the problem. That being said, liquid cooling is the most efficient way to keep your computer cool when you're filling it with high end hardware.

Pay attention to


Determine first how much power your hardware is generating before choosing a cooling system.

Tower space

Cooling systems come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure you know what will fit and what won't, as most of them have very specific ways they need to be installed.


If you are planning on upgrading your system in the future, it's best to be prepared. Know what your plans are for the future of your build and invest in the safety of your hardware sooner rather than later.


It's best to make sure your computer case has the proper exit points for the type of cooling system you choose. All the cooling in the world won't make a difference if the heat has nowhere to go.


Some cooling systems are louder than others because they are constantly working to maintain optimal temperature. Make sure you know how much (or how little) of it you can live with to help make your decision.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Zalman CNPS9500A

This particular part is both a fan and heat sink in one. It runs silently and helps maximize space for the rest of your hardware.

Swiftech H220-X

A self-contained all-in-one liquid cooling system. This particular system is very affordable compared to other liquid cooling systems and is expandable, meaning it is built to be able to accommodate future computer upgrades without having to replace the system.

Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

This fan is a complete steal. It is one of the cheapest on the market for the punch it packs. It's compact and lightweight, keeps a constant airflow for optimal cooling, and is compatible with just about any processor.