Where do you Connect Your AIO Pump on your Motherboard?

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   /  Updated 
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Where do you Connect Your AIO Pump on your Motherboard?

You did it. You finally caved in and bought a liquid cooler—if for nothing else than to shut up that one annoying friend that keeps bugging you to get liquid cooling.

And now that it’s finally here and…

NZXT 280mm AIO RGB CPU Liquid Cooler

How exactly are you supposed to use it without frying your CPU?

What Is an AIO Pump?

On most AIO liquid coolers, the pump is the part that you connect to the CPU.

The pump is responsible for pushing the liquid through the radiator.

When it comes to any liquid cooling setup, the pump is the heart of the system. This is especially true for a closed-loop system.

If your pump is on the fritz, your cooling performance will go down significantly, to the point where the default cooler you get with your CPU will do a better job of cooling it.

So you need to make sure that your pump is mounted and working well and that it’s not making any weird noises.

Where to Connect Your AIO Pump

Trying to figure out where to connect your AIO pump can get confusing, as there are so many headers for fans on a motherboard.

But it has gotten quite a bit easier these days:

You should connect your AIO pump to either the AIO_PUMP header or PUMP_HEADER, or something else similar, while the actual fans of the radiator should go to the CPU_FAN header — through a splitter like this if you have more than one fan.

AIO_Pump Connections on Motherboard

The basic idea is to have the radiator’s fan speed automatically ramp up or down depending on CPU temperature while retaining the ability to control its speed manually.

What if Your Motherboard Doesn’t Have an AIO Pump Fan Header?

Don’t worry; you can still make it work.

Here’s a little secret. Those pump-specific headers are all glorified SYS_FAN headers in disguise.

So if your motherboard doesn’t have any AIO_PUMP headers or what have you, you can always use SYS_FAN as a substitute to plug in your pump if you have a spare one available. It will work the same.

In Summary

And that was a short article on where you can plug in your shiny new AIO liquid cooler.

If you want a TL;DR on it, the gist of the matter is that you have many options when it comes to where you want to plug in your pump.

You can plug it into an AIO_PUMP header, PUMP_HEADER, W_PUMP, or any other variation of that, and you can even use CPU_FAN or SYS_FAN if you really have to as well.


  • Can you plug an AIO pump into a fan header?
    • Yes. It will work perfectly fine. You’ll just lose a system fan header.
  • Can you plug an AIO pump into CPU OPT?
    • Yes. But it’s really not recommended. CPU_OPT should ideally be saved for the fans that go on your CPU cooler, whether it be liquid or air.
    • That’s because CPU_OPT is a special connection that your motherboard uses to ensure that your CPU is always cool.
    • It detects whether your CPU is thermal throttling (getting too hot) and increases or decreases the speed of the fans appropriately.
  • Can a 3-pin fan plug into a 4-pin connector?
    • Yes. You won’t get the same level of control as with a 4-pin PWM fan, but you can still plug in a 3-pin fan to a 4-pin connector perfectly fine. For more info, check out our PWM vs. DC Fans article.


Hopefully, that explained all your questions about where to plug in your AIO cooler on your motherboard! Got any other unanswered questions about them? Ask us in the comments or our forum!

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Alex Glawion - post author

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I’ll do my best to help out!

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