Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. For more information, please visit our Disclaimer Page.

Before your next computer build, doing ample research on components is essential. One of those essential components is a CPU cooler. You cannot run an efficient or high-performing computer without one.

Don’t invest in a CPU cooler for your computer until you know which one you need. There are different types available and different features to consider.

For an in-depth look into these devices, check out our list of the best air and liquid coolers on the market today.

Read Related Article: Best Liquid CPU Cooler in 2020 [Our Reviews & Comparisons]

What is a CPU Cooler?

So what exactly is a CPU cooler? In simple terms, a CPU cooler is a cooling system that removes heat from your central processing unit. This mechanism draws heat away from the central processing unit chip and other hot-running internal chips, such as graphics processors (GPUs).

The cooler is essential in keeping your computer at a safe, functioning temperature. If your components exceed the safe temperature, you could damage your computer.

As you might imagine, the more powerful your computer is, the more powerful you will need your CPU cooler to be. A proper cooling system is crucial to sustain a normal internal temperature.

So you’ll need to invest in a high-quality cooler to make sure your computer is operating at peak levels.

Most computers are designed to remove heat produced by the internal components. But you still need a separate cooling mechanism to remove all the excess heat from inside.

So how do you know which one is right for your machine? The first thing is to know the difference between the two main types of cooling systems.

What are the Different Types of CPU Coolers?

As of 2018, there are two main types of CPU coolers that can remove heat from your computer. These are air coolers and liquid coolers.

So what are the biggest differences between the two?

Air Cooling

Air cooling is the most common type of CPU cooler. It works as you might expect, by using fans to run cool air through your computer.

With efficient manufacturing practices at an affordable cost, these are some of the most popular central processing unit coolers on the market.

Air coolers work great and include devices called heat sinks. These devices absorb the heat produced by critical energy-producing components. This type of CPU cooler is efficient and cost-effective. It is able to handle the heat from even the most powerful computers.

Liquid Cooling

Liquid cooling is another way that you can regulate your computer’s core temperature. It can be a bit more complicated than what it’s worth, but it will keep your computer at an optimal temperature.

Liquid cooling devices rely on the principles of thermodynamics. Heat moves from warmer objects to cooler ones. Your critical power components generate heat, which transports to the water/cooling agent. From there, the heat runs through the liquid until it is cool.

Both air coolers and liquid coolers will keep your critical components at the proper temperature. But in order for either to function properly, you’ll need to make sure that you keep your CPU cooler clean.

How to Keep Your CPU Cooler Clean and Working Properly

1. Routine Maintenance is Essential for Proper Performance

As with any electronic or electrical device, proper care and maintenance are essential. You must service your cooler to keep it running efficiently, which will help your computer stay in tip-top shape.

To keep your central process unit cooler working properly, there are a few things you’ll need to do on a regular basis.

2. Always Keep Your Cooler Clean For Maximum Efficiency

Keep your CPU cooler clean at all times. Check it regularly to ensure constant airflow between all devices and parts so as to not overheat the system.

But keep in mind, even the cleanest cooler won’t be effective unless you’ve got the right one for your system.

To make sure you have the right CPU cooler for your computer, keep reading. We’re breaking down the details and features of the 6 best coolers on the market today.

The 3 Best CPU Air Coolers

Interested in an air cooler CPU? Check out these three air coolers from some of the best brands, Thermaltake, Noctua, and REVEEN.

1. Thermaltake Contac Silent 12

The Thermaltake Contac Silent 12 air cooler is compatible with the latest Intel and AMD sockets. Designed to run quietly and efficiently, it is able to handle some overclocking.

With a large heatsink and many aluminum heat pipes, it has a large contact surface area and includes a powerful 120mm fan.

This CPU cooler includes high airflow fan blades, which allows air to pass through the heatsink at various angles. A self-lubricating hydraulic bearing keeps it quiet and provides excellent thermal efficiency.

A low noise cable reduces 24% of the noise and 27% of the fan speed, allowing for quieter performance.

This Thermaltake model also allows for maximum heat dissipation and conductivity. The design of this model allows for cooling, while specially engineered fan clips make it easy to assemble the fan and cooler.

It connects with four pin PWM plus a low noise cable and offers 150w cooling power. Designed for a lifetime use of 40,000 hours, this central processing unit cooler boasts a fan speed of 500~1500 RPM, making it a powerful option for any computer.

2. Noctua NH-D15

Based off of the award-winning Noctua NH-D14, the Noctua NH-D15 is one of our top recommendations for CPU cooling. With its ability to fit some of the larger motherboards, the Noctua NH-D-15 air cooler is one of the best large air coolers you can find.

Its large size means it carries some extra weight. Weighing 1320g, the extra weight requires careful handling and careful installation. It features a six heat pipe dual tower design and provides excellent airflow and quiet cooling function.

The dual PWM fans provide automatic speed control to keep CPU temperatures low, while also minimizing noise levels. The asymmetrical design provides for easy compatibility.

It also includes a SecuFirm2 multi-socket mounting system. These features make the Noctua NH-D15 an excellent choice for anyone searching for a premium air cooler.


This air cooling unit is the best low profile model on the market today. Priced at only $40, this CPU cooler is affordable and quiet, and it rivals the performance of more expensive models.

It takes up far less space than other coolers, and it fits most ITX and SFF systems on the market.

A drawback of the REVEEN RC-1001b BRONTES air cooler is that it does not support the 130W CPUs including Intel LGA 2011x sockets. But with this cooler, you’ll enjoy easy installation and minimal noise levels, all at a height of only 59mm.

The quick-install mounting kit fits a range of CPU sockets and wide aluminum fins join with four heat pipes for better heat removal. It’s slim, streamlined, and lightweight at only 325g, making it easy to use with a variety of systems.

Still not sold on any of these 3 CPU air coolers? Check out the Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO as one final recommendation.

Related: read our reviews of the best PSUs on the market

The 3 Best Central Processing Unit Coolers for Liquid Cooling

If you prefer the technology of liquid cooling to air cooling, keep reading. We’re breaking down the details of the three best liquid coolers from Corsair and Thermaltake.

1. Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2

Related to the H60 model, the Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2 is more powerful and quieter than other models before it. It’s designed for extreme performance, and it’s an ideal choice for any powerful CPU. It also includes Corsair Link monitoring for added function.

This model has a large 240mm radiator and two fans that make it efficient and maximize cooling performance. It includes an RGB lighting for added style, and though it’s a more expensive model, it’s worth the price. It’s loaded with efficient features that justify the price.

Corsair Link technology lets you check temperatures and adjust performance from your desktop. Dual fans provide incredible heat dissipation, even for overclocked CPUs.

It provides twice the radiator width for twice the cooling area, and the fans can install against the radiators.

The Corsair Hydro Series H100i v2 is easy to install and designed to provide superior performance for your central processing unit. If you’re certain that a liquid cooling system is what you want, this Corsair model is an excellent choice.

2. Thermaltake WATER 3.0 Dual Riing RGB Edition

The Thermaltake WATER 3.0 Dual Riing RGB Edition CPU cooler is like the H100i model. Equipped with a 240mm radiator and two fans, this model is also available with a 360mm radiator.

With a slightly slower fan speed, this model is quieter and boasts an all-in-one water cooling design.

This central processing unit cooler uses a copper contact plate and aluminum radiators. It offers the ability to control fan speed and lighting options as well.

The fan can switch between five LED modes, including solid or cycled colors. It boasts a high-efficiency radiator for excellent function.

The Thermaltake Water 3.0 cooler includes a large surface radiator that doubles the cooling surface. For extra heat dissipation, it supports up to four 120mm fans.

A high-quality pump allows for maximum water circulation, and a rubber evaporation tube means you’ll lose less coolant.

3. Corsair Hydro Series H60

The Corsair Hydro Series H60 liquid CPU cooler is on the basic side, but that doesn’t mean it lacks in power or efficiency. Like other models, it comes with a copper contact plate for better thermal conductivity. It also includes a low profile aluminum radiator to draw heat away from your CPU.

This particular model features a closed cooling system, so it doesn’t need any filling. It provides better cooling and less noise, and it’s self-contained so that you don’t have to deal with complicated plumbing issues. With a multi-platform mounting bracket kit, it’s very easy to install.

It includes a 120mm radiator, one 120mm fan, and a fan speed of 2,000 RPM. It doesn’t include lighting and it’s not Corsair Link compatible. It does come with a five-year cooling warranty for peace of mind.

The Corsair Hydro Series H60 is a great entry-level liquid cooler. If you’re just learning how to do your own build or don’t need anything too intense, this model is an ideal choice.

CPU coolers are essential to the performance and function of your computer. Before you buy one, do your research to learn about the different types and which one is best for your system.

Air coolers are the traditional way of cooling your central processing unit and other heat-generating elements. They are efficient, cost-effective, and feature heatsinks and fans to keep cool air running through your computer.

Liquid coolers are a bit more complicated and more expensive. They use liquid cooling agents to keep your critical components at ideal temperatures instead of air.

Once you decide on the type of cooler, compare reviews and specs of various models to figure out which one is best for your machine. There are tons of CPU coolers out there, so be sure you’re getting the right one, especially if it has a large price tag.

Thermaltake, Noctua, and REVEEN make three of the best air coolers on the market. Corsair and Thermaltake make some of the best liquid coolers you can find. The six models detailed in this article should give you a good sense of what the different models have to offer.

Think about what you need. Decide how big you want your fans or radiator to be. Consider how much cooling power you need and how complicated installation might be.

With these ideas in mind, you’re sure to be able to find the CPU cooler that meets all your needs.

Once you buy and install your new CPU cooler, make sure you perform routine maintenance and keep your system clean. You can have the best CPU cooler around, but if you don’t conduct regular maintenance, it won’t do you any good.

If you keep your cooler clean, you’re sure to enjoy years of high performance and the efficient function of your computer.