What to do if your PC starts to leak

leaking cooler

You'd have thought that by now I'd have learned to listen to my PC, but better men than I have lost countless hours to PC repairs. Sometimes it's the crunch, crunch of a hard drive wearing out that's the precursor to disaster. Today's dilemma, however, should have been unavoidable, if only I'd opened my ears.

My PC sprung a leak.

Or, more precisely, my CoolIT Domino ALC (opens in new tab) water cooling unit sprung a leak. It's been keeping my main work machine running relatively quietly for about three and a half to four years now, and I've never had any reason to complain about it. I'm not convinced it was the best option for low noise or that it was particularly good at keeping CPU temperatures down, but it seemed to be doing the trick with an aging Core 2 Quad in a hot NVIDIA motherboard.

A couple of days ago, it started gurgling – like a radiator that needs bleeding. Being the sensible sort I am, I immediately ordered a replacement and a new motherboard too. I've been meaning to upgrade for a while, and this seemed like an apt opportunity. After all, if the water system is gurgling, it means air has got into it somewhere. These all-in-one coolers are supposed to be factory sealed units – so air isn't good. Nor is it repairable.

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Stupidly, I carried on using it while waiting for the new parts to arrive. This morning – half way through writing another post for the PCG blog – my PC shut down and the office filled with the smell of warm coolant. As you can see from the picture above, a gasket somewhere in the CPU block has blown, allowing hot water to bubble out.

So what do you do? The sensible thing really. First off pull out the power supply, then get the heatsink disconnected and out of the case as quickly as possible. Plenty of tissues around the CPU socket should stop the fluid from spreading too far, but your motherboard should be OK in the long term regardless. Just make sure it dries out thoroughly before turning it back on.

Finally, after boxing up the old heatsink for recycling or repair, make sure you wash your hands. That coolant isn't likely to do you any good if you inhale it or leave it on your skin.

And then you go back to air cooling. Or at least that's what I'm doing. There's comedy value in your PC springing a leak, but it's just an inconvenient risk I don't need. Plus, how do you dispose of an old water cooler safely and thoughtfully? I'm off to the recycling centre to find out.