FREAK Shots: Why Would You Do That to Your Computer?

My brother Misha, 18, has just outfitted his computer with a water-cooling system, which consists of tubes with cold water running through them.

Here’s what it looked like before the installation:


Here’s what it looks like now:


According to Misha, water cooling (versus the heat sinks and fans that cool most PC’s) allows his computer to run 25 percent faster (or “overclock”).

But the system is dangerous: if one tube springs a small leak, the whole computer can be ruined; and it cost Misha about $1,200 of his own money to build. (Though he says he “went overboard a little.”)

Water cooling in PC’s is still a niche market. As my brother puts it: “only us geeks take the time to set it up.”

Though more companies are offering similar, prebuilt technology, like water-cooled computer cases.

Computer makers like IBM have started introducing water-cooled servers, which can cut data center energy costs by 40 to 50 percent, according to ITWorld.

And researchers at IBM’s Zurich laboratory have been running experiments water cooling stacked computer chips, and are looking into using the water heated up by computers to heat houses, an Economist article reports.

My brother still lives at home and doesn’t have to worry about footing the energy bills; so besides a faster computer — and considering the costs and dangers — what’s the primary motivation for Misha and his water-cooling friends?

Pretty much just bragging rights to be honest with you.

There are, incidentally, competitions for people like my brother — sponsored by the people really cashing in on this hobby: PC hardware companies.


@ 49 Jeff G - /nod, indeed good sir ^^

and by

The problem isn't the water, gas, or oil it's that there is so little space in the processor itself for heat distribution so the best solution is to increase the size of the chip, but that would sloooow it down, and raise the price. So then you are stuck trying to get the heat generated out of the way by fanning or pumping.

Personally I use distilled water, the radiator from a old honda, a dishwasher pump, and a hand made heat sink. it cost me $2.50, just kidding.

Eric M.

Water cooled computers have been in existence since the 1970’s. IBM had and still has mainframe systems that are water cooled. If you really want to take your computer to the next step, try using a refrigeration system or if you really want to go crazy, use liquid nitrogen. And yes, both techniques have already been done and are in use. Not only will you keep the CPU even cooler, those little electrons will move even quicker. Ah, what am I talking about? You are all just a bunch of geeks.


It's Funny, as many women will never understand a mans love for his electronics. I think you should be happy your brothers knowledge will be put to good use in any field.


I think it looks really cool! I used to have a computer with a bad fan, and I would cool it by taking off the side covers and putting a big box fan on each side. It worked well, but it was really noisy. But thats why God made headphones.


All I want to know is, what do John McCain and Barack Obama think about water-cooling your motherboard? Do they consider it torture?!


I'd install water cooling for one reason:

Noise reduction.

The case fans on my machine are quite noisy. Completely getting rid of the fans would make working at my computer much more pleasant.

PC Police

Wouldn't liquid nitrogen work better?


@ #40 praxis22 - Yes, full immersion cooling is the current cooling solution used to cool the latest quantum processors. It is highly effective and safe. You do need, however, a lab and a pressure sealed basin along with a filtration system to keep it running.

People have tried the whole 'convert minifridge to chiller/cooler' idea. 95% of the time it fails. Mini fridge compressors are meant to dissipate the initial heat caused by placing an object in a fridge, however, a computer produces a CONSTANT amount of heat into the 'system'. This being said, the compressor will stay on ALL THE TIME and will eventually blow out the compressor.

The correct way to do this would be to use the Evap-tray in a mini fridge as an added 'chiller' to a reservoire of a watercooled system and have the fridge operate on low. The water in the reservoir must first be allowed to cool down before the computer can be turned on. This would but less stress on the compressor and lengthen its lifespan.



@ Everyone - It has been sort of a dream of mine to install water cooling on one of my computer builds. When I built my most recent build, I figured; If I have already spent so much on it, why not go ahead and spend a little more to make it run a bit faster? It was the perfect opportunity for me to finally go ahead with my 'dream' to water cool one of my PCs.

@ #2 Matt - Yea, the one benefit of me buying this water cooling system is that I can reuse it on my future builds. Although I spent a lot on the parts right now, I believe it was a good investment for the long run.

@ #3 discordian - Unlike a spoiler that does nothing for you, water cooling has done MUCH for me. Not only can I re-use it, as stated in post number 2 by Matt, but I have gained performance on my CPU, GPU, and ram. This performance boost allows me to run games and applications at higher settings while maintaining a high FPS for screen recording programs such as Fraps. It has also increased my encoding/decoding times in various programs and allows me to render the videos I make quicker.

@ #4,10 Joel,Tim Dellinger - Exactly, heading into this project I understood exactly how much I was going to gain, performance wise, and I knew how much I was going to be spending. I do feel a sense of satisfaction, one can say it may be considered pride, from completing such a task. It was not easy. It is dangerous. A lot is at stake, but if done correctly the outcome is phenomenal.

@ #14 Joman - FLCL all the way man. I am a Subb man; Can't stand Dubbs. They ruin the emotion and original intentions of a character.

@ #24 Imo - Although dusting and keeping components does increase its LIFESPAN, it does not increase its PERFORMANCE. It is true that some dust may reduce contact between some components or a system may have an integrated 'down clock' feature if your CPU is running too hot. However, there is no way cooling and dusting alone will increase performance as opposed to actually overclocking.

@29 james - The thought has crossed my mind. However, mineral oil is NOT a good way to cool a PC. Unfortunately, there is no way to take the heat out of an oil system. It will keep a low-end computer cool for a while, but eventually more and more heat will be added to the 'tank' until the ambient temperatures of the oil rise above what is safe to operate at. There is no way of dissipating the heat in the system. Another downfall of oil cooling is that the liquid is very thick; It does not move. So the oil near your CPU will stay very very hot. You can add a fan, but again it is only a matter of time before the ambient temperatures in the 'tank' rise above what is safe. Water cooling setups rely on Radiators to dissipate the heat into the air.

@ #34 Dan - Although my PSU is at the bottom of my case, there would be no way for any droplets of water to actually enter the chassis of the PSU were all the sensitive parts are. Regardless, if I have a leak the PSU is the LEAST of my worries. Components with no such chassis such as my video cards or motherboard are MUCH more sensitive and susceptible to shorts.

@#8,17,19,32 Mike B, Tucker, Heavy D, Ian McKay - I will address all of you at once. These fluids that are you are suggesting are all good and well, however, they are in no way going to increase performance of my water cooling loop in ANY WAY. In contradiction they would probably slow the flow rate of my loop and cause it to run hotter. More flow rate = more turbulence = more heat transfer = better temperatures. These fluids are only used in systems that reach sub-zero temperatures because they have freezing points that are very low. (IE: used in conjunction with a chiller or compressor.) Regardless, there needs to be additives in the fluid to prevent corrosion of your water blocks and to stop the buildup of organisms from growing inside your loop.



@ #40,41 praxis22, PC Police - Indeed, you will get better temperaters with peltier (TEC), phase changing, or liquid nitrogen however neither of them are practical for what I am doing. If I were to isntall any of the suggested systems I would have to insulate my socket, board, and tubing. This must be done because the temperature of the liquids is much cooler than the ambiant temperatures of the room. This being said, condensation would form on my tubing and waterblocks and would eventually drip onto some of my components. I did not want to go through the process of insulating everything with dielectric grease/foam.

Another dissgretion I am having is the fact that some CPU's litterally max out. I think I've hit that max on water cooling.

Liquid nitrogene is not a permanent sollution to cooling a computer. You would need:

1- a permit to even work with it.

2- a lot of money to keep buying it.

3- an insulated board.

4- Running components at very high voltages(what i would be doing if i would even consider using liquid nitrogen) will eventually kill out a processor very quickly.

My water cooling setup is actually set up in 2 loops. I have not included a chiller because of condensation problems. The setup of my loops are posted in the link in the original blog post, posted by my sister.

Technically there are an AMASS of things I could do to my computer that would produce cooler temperatures. None of these, however, are PRACTICAL in any way. I dont want a tank of No2 in my room, I dont want a loud compressor humming away under my desk(not to mention the ammount of heat it would produce) and I dont want to include a peltier device in accordance to a watercooling loop to cool the heat produced by the TEC device just so it doesnt melt down; I would, again, also have to insulate it. Water cooling produces temperatures that do the job for me. It is perfect for the magnitude of overclocking that I am doing.



You all need a reality show.."Pimp My 'Board".

Kevin H

Very similar mentality to people who fix up cars, spending much more money than they could reasonably expect to get back from the car. Even the whole fashion industry is built around "Pretty much just bragging rights"


Use mineral oil instead.

Alex B

I just realized. It was probably my use of the word bad-*synonym for mule*. ha ha ha!

Rich Wilson

I met a guy online who Siberian-Winter-Air-Cooled his PC. He litterally pulled -30C air from outside through his PC.

Caveat, you have to live in Siberia, and it has to be winter. Winter in some US States might work as well.


The power of your system makes a big difference. If you want to have nice detailed environments, high resolution, rain effects, accurate reflections and ripples in water or other reflective surfaces, 3D grass and trees (rather than ugly 2D cardboard cutouts), 100% view distance (rather than a constant fog that limits your view), and lots of other little niceties, you need a high end system.

For you non-gamers, it's like choosing between a big HD-TV and good speakers versus an old rabbit ears TV with radio quality mono speakers.

Plus I use my computer for work, so it's a productivity benefit as well :)


But does it run Crysis?

Couldn't help myself, sorry. Anyway, for serious multi-genre geeks, the computer system is the centerpiece of his lair. Might as well make it interesting to look at. Just need a wall of screens, an antique globe, a black cat... and you're good to go.


I've been thinking of water cooling mine, having trouble getting a stable overclock, so I may need more cooling.

Besides which, water cooling is "normal", the extreme stuff uses TEC's (Thermo Electronic Cooling) Phase Change, (basically a condenser unit with a cold plate, like a fridge) or things like liquid nitrogen or Dry Ice.

Then of course there are full immersion systems using non conductive fluorocarbons, used in the cooling systems of old Cray supercomputers.

Not to mention oddities like people placing the innards of the PC in a fridge.

Like I said, water cooling is tame & "normal" by comparison to what you can do if you want extreme cooling.

One of the better systems I've seen runs two water loops, and has an auxiliary chiller unit to cool the water.

Alex B

I wonder what it was about my post that got censored since it was only about my justification for water cooling in the first place.