Liquid coolers are the best way to keep your PC components cool under load. Using only fans just doesn’t cut it anymore. Plus, liquid cooling is a cleaner option because closed loop systems, whether they be all in ones or custom made, don’t allow dust to build up inside.
But this then begs the question, how long can a liquid cooler reasonably last? Will you need to replace it before you build your next computer?
How Long Will Your Liquid Cooler Last?
All in Ones (AIOs) usually last anywhere from 3-7 years if you take care of them properly. A custom loop will only last 1-3 years. Though you can extend that lifetime with appropriate care and maintenance.
AIO manufacturers will rate their machinery to have a certain number of hours they are good for, and the rough estimate for how many years that is. On average, the pump is rated to last roughly 8 years or 70,000 hours of use.
Though depending on how much you use your computer and what you use your computer for, you may experience getting more or less time out of the AIO.
Custom loop systems usually have a shorter lifespan than an AIO and this has to do with the amount of individual parts that goes into the loop. However, with appropriate maintenance, you can absolutely extend the life of the custom loop to rival the lifespan of an AIO. Some people report lifespans ranging up to five years.
Though something to be wary of is that most pumps only have a two-year warranty.
How To Extend the Life of Your Cooler
Regular maintenance is the best way to maximize the life of your cooler. AIOs are easier because everything is sealed, which means you just need to clean any radiators or fans. Dust likes to build up on pretty much everything it can inside a computer.
If your cooler has dust on the fans or on the radiator, it won’t be able to cool as efficiently. On average, you should do this annually.
Custom loop systems should have an annual flush of all liquid as well as a bi-annual inspection. Flushing means draining all of the liquid, disposing of it, and replacing it.
Over time, the coolant looses its efficiency and may even become cloudy or discolored. So for both practical and aesthetic reasons, annual flushes are the best way to stay on top of the system.
In addition to flushing the system, you will want to clean the reservoir, the fans, the radiator, and all related components.
You don’t need to take apart the whole loop and clean every part. Usually flushing the liquid with the appropriate cleaner will do for the inside parts. You do have to manage the dust on any fans and radiators however, just like you would with an AIO.
How To Tell if Your Cooler Needs Maintenance
This is easiest with custom cooling loops with transparent tubing because you can see the liquid. If the liquid looks discolored, is cloudy when it shouldn’t be, or has any flakes in it, it needs to be replaced. Some liquid is opaque, so you might not notice if it is cloudy.
Another way to see if your cooler needs maintenance is to check the temperatures of your components. There are ways to monitor your CPU and GPU temperatures, Windows 10 will even let you do it from Task Manager. Though there are other programs you may have that will tell you.
If the temperatures are idling high, you may have a fault in your cooling system. You may need to flush your custom loop, or your AIO may need to be replaced. Most companies have generous warranties on their AIOs and it may be covered.
On very rare occasions, you may experience a leak. People who build custom loops know to expect leakage and must run tests when setting it up to ensure all parts of the loop are secured properly. Stress to the system or faulty parts may cause a leak later. In the case of AIOs, leaking should not happen but it has been documented.
In the event of a leak, dry all parts with a lint-free cloth. This may require disassembly. Wait at least three days before reassembly and troubleshooting. If your AIO leaks, plan on replacing it. If your custom loop is leaking, anticipate replacing at least part of the system.
Water cooling is a very effective way to cool your computer and you should not be afraid to try out an AIO. For more ambitious computer builders who don’t mind extra the maintenance required, a custom loop build may be exactly what you’re looking for in a computer. Either option will get you several years of use with appropriate maintenance.