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Staying Cool: A Brief Guide to PC Water-Cooling Maintenance

Keeping up on routine PC maintenance (defragmenting the hard drive, deleting unused files, cleaning out dust from the case, etc.) is important, but not always properly practiced. For hardcore gamers, liquid cooling is essential for getting the most power out of your rig—without worrying about it overheating.

This simple guide will help explain the necessary steps to clean out and maintain your liquid cooling system, so you can keep gaming at a high-performance level without slowing down.


The first step in maintaining your water-cooled rig is draining the old fluid. This is (obviously) a critical step—thankfully it’s also a fairly simple step. You’ll first want to hold one of the system’s tubes high up in the air, with another tube at the opposite end of the setup in a lower position, preferably as close to the ground as possible. The lower tube should be going into a bucket of some sort, as this is where the liquid will be exiting. Once the tube is tilted downward and the opposing end is held in the air, the system will begin to drain.

The draining process is even easier if you have a closed water-cooling setup, such as a system that utilizes a T-line. In these systems, air pressure will remove a majority of the liquid. You can also grip up the free tube and blow inside of it to expedite the draining process.

Reservoir systems will add a (slight) layer of complexity to the process. The liquid inside of the reservoir will only drain until it falls below the unit’s output hole. You’ll need to actually tilt your entire case at this point to remove excess liquid from the reservoir. It is possible to remove the entire reservoir, but you could run into dripping issues when you take this approach.


Alright, now it’s time to get dirty…well, clean. You have two options when cleaning your water-cooling system: a quick cleanse and a deep cleanse. The quick cleanse will only require some hot water in a container and an additional container for draining. Simply dip your tubes into the container so they suck up the hot water, and then drain them into the second container. You should do this for at least 30 minutes.

If you really want to get your hands dirty, you’ll want to disassemble the entire water-cooling setup. Once everything has been taken apart, you can begin scrubbing each individual component with some warm, soapy water. (I recommend shelling out the extra few bucks  -- approximately $5 -- to replace the kit’s tubing when going this route.)


Now that your kit is reassembled and squeaky clean, it’s time to test it for leaks. Start by laying out some paper towels and placing the entire cooling kit on top of it. Next, unplug your power supply and stick one end of a paper clip into the green connector, and the other end into the black connector. Then, before plugging it back into the wall, rig the pump and a few fans up to draw some power from the unit so you don’t burn out the power supply. Let this run for a few hours to determine if your system has any leaks. If your kit doesn’t turn into a sprinkler, you’re in good shape!


We’re almost done! Finally, after you’ve cleaned, reassembled, and checked your system for leaks, it’s time to fill it with new fluid. If you’re using a system with a reservoir, simply pour the fluid into the bay and let the system take care of the rest. Once the fluid is moving through the pump, you should be ready to turn on your system. If you are using a T-line system without a reservoir, the process is the same, but be sure to slowly pour the coolant into the system.

If you notice any bubbles slowing down the flow of the coolant, simply remove the cap from the reservoir and let the system run. The bubbles will automatically leave the system over time.

A Look At HydroLux

A new alternative to these older liquid-cooling systems will help to ease some of the maintenance requirements, without a trade-off in performance. Digital Storm’s new HydroLux combines liquid and airflow cooling with an extensive, customizable control suite for maintaining proper system temperatures. One of the kit’s coolest (ha!) features is its use of LED lights to monitor the system’s temperature. As the internal temperature rises and falls, the lights will change from red (high temperature) to blue (low temperature), so you’ll never have to open up a separate program to determine temperature again.

Maintaining the system is also a breeze. The HydroLux features quick disconnect valves at strategic locations, so you won’t have to disassemble the entire system to clean and maintain it. The HydroLux is perfect if you’re looking for a cooling system that offers high performance and simple maintenance.

So, there you have it, a simple step-by-step guide to maintaining and cleaning your cooling system. Do you have any additional tips for keeping your cooling system running like new? Let us know in the comments below!

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