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Cooling Pete's Watercooling log/how-to. UPDATE: UPGRADES!!!

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Bloody_Pete, 10 Jan 2011.

  1. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    Hi Everyone

    I've been meaning to do this thread for a while now, and seeing as there have been a number of watercooling threads popping up lately I thought now would be the time to do it.

    Before doing this I hadn't touched water for 6-7 years since the pump on my Thermaltake Big Water SE broke, but seeing as I specifically bought my HAF 932 with this purpose in mind i decided I should. About a year ago I first started mulling over the idea, trying to work out what I'd need and what would work best for what I wanted. The two goals were to drastically reduce the noise of my machine and to reduce temps. I have a good OC on my CPU, and I don't think my motherboard can take me pushing it much higher.

    With this in mind I started looking around various etailers and was met with a barrage of items. This is why I'm going to be doing this thread, half as a what I did and half as a how to for your own build. Feel free to comment on anything I may need to explain more fully.

    So I spent about 6 months reading up on watercooling. Skineelabs is a great place to start if your new as it has plenty of reviews with lots of pictures. The forums here were helpful too, look up some of the modding project logs as they always have watercooling. Another good place is the WaterCoolingUK forums, as they have lots of threads on random things like 'Epic Fails', where people have massive done stuff wrong (one guy set his machine on fire because he was too lazy to put the clamps on his barbs). The easiest way to avoid a mistake is to LOL at someone else doing it... :p

    With this knowledge I built up a list of parts, that I changed several times due to different problems arising. The first was that I wanted to use a Primochill Typhoon 3 reservoir, but because I read so many reports of the bracket that holds the pump cracking and spraying water inside your case I decided against it.

    I also started to post heavily on on these very forums around this point and this unlocked the wonder that is the Marketplace. If you don't have access to this then you need to get 75 posts to unlock it. If you don't check it regularly then you really should as I got a large proportion off my build from there and it saved me over £100! Well worth it.

    Just as a warning, my photos are pants. I either had to use a phone camera or a budget DSLR which I had no skill (or idea) to use.

    So with the rambling over, on to the log...

    The bits

    CPU Block: For a long time I read up on CPU blocks. They range in price from £20 to over £100. At first I had my eye on the Heatkiller 3.0 CU block. It's a great block, performs very well while having low restriction. I discovered that you cannot use 13/19mm fittings with it though, which I was planning on doing. I then discovered the Swiftech Apogee XT on Skineelabs. This block performs better than the Heatkiller but does have a slightly higher restriction. A couple of months after seeing it one was for sale in the market place for £50, so I nabbed it. Has a great mounting system, one of the easiest I've come across.

    GPU Block: The 5870 is not a overly noisy card, but seeing as I have a HAF 932 which is by me on a desk I can hear it really badly. It also ran a little too warm for my tastes. So I decided that if I was going to do watercooling I may as well go the whole hog and include it in the loop. I was always taken by Koolance blocks, but they are very expensive and heavy. The though of attaching that kind of weight to my card disturbed my greatly. So I started looking for alternatives. It's hard to find a good review of GPU blocks (Skineelabs is bad at that) but I'd always read that EK blocks are very good. One came up on the marketplace for £55, this one in fact, but in while rather than black. Now if a saving of nearly £30 isn't good enough, this was thrown in as well. Although my 5870 doesn't have RAM on the back I like the look of it. The block has great instructions on how to fit it, so if your like me and are worried about doing it take your time (I took nearly 3 hours to do it).

    Pump: D5. I just love how beefy it looks. Very high flow rate and head pressure. Got mine from the marketplace for £50 with premodded fittings so they can take standard fittings. Was so clean and well preserved I looked brand new. Although it's the Vario edition I run it at fully speed, with one of these and i can't hear it at all, so much so that when I was leak testing I had to touch it to be sure it was on. Great pump all round.

    Radiator: I went for a XSPC RX360. The HAF has enough room in the top to take a double thickness radiator and double fans, so I decided on it. Skineelabs has lots of group tests of radiators, and this one is a great performer. The fins are dense enough to give good cooling while being apart enough to mean no noise is created. I first got one off the marketplace, but it leaked like a sieve, so I got my money back and bough one off Scan for £70.

    Reservoir: After I realised the Typhoon 3 was a no go I hunted around. Reservoirs come down to 3 things, space, orientation and price. Just get the one that meets your needs. I picked up a Alphacool HF 38 Cape Cyclone 150 V.2 for £25, as I love the way it creates a whirl pool effect :) Good for seeing if you pump is still working at a glance.

    Fittings: I've never trusted barbs. Doubly so after one of my mates has some leaking 'issues' with some. So I went for compression fittings. Oh top of the added security I think they look really good. Now, I'd have loved to get some Bits Power ones, but these are so expensive. I decided on these ones. The reason for that size is that I love the look of chunky tubing.

    Tubing: I went for Masterkleer tubing PVC 19/13mm UV-active red as it's a good price and I wanted the loop to be red. I'd read load of stories about peoples fluid separating and gunking up their blocks. So sold colour tubing was the best way to go. Alas this tubing glows more red/orange under UV, so I'll have to change it when I do maintenance over the summer. Apart from that it's good tubing. I got some anti-kink coils but i never needed to make a bend tight enough to use it (I was being scared/lazy). 3m of this was just enough, so I suggest getting 4 for this kind of loop so you make sure you have enough in case you mis-cut a piece.

    Fluid: For this I learnt distilled water performs just as well as the premixed fluid. plus it is much cheaper. I got 5L from Halfords for under £4 with free delivery!!! With this I used a Silver Coil for anti-algae protection.

    Fans: From the CPC fan mega test I learnt that the Scythe Gentle Typhoons were the best for radiators due to them having very high air flow and air pressure. They are also very very quiet. I got 3 of the 1850rpm models and hooked them up to my fan controller. At 1750rpm they make no noise and perform amazingly.

    So the total for my build is £307. If I'd have bought it all new it would have cost me £400, so using the marketplace has saved me a lot! Aquatuning very kindly supplied my fiitings, so a big shout out to them. Their customer service is second to none. If you ever have a question Nitrix in the Aquatuning forum will always help :)

    So that's my bits. I'll do the log of my build tomorrow. I hope I haven't rambled too much...


    Helpful tips:

    1. Keep in mind how you'll fill/empty the loop. Many people suggest bay reservoirs, but these can be a pain to fill, unless you have a fill port. I found a tube res's are easy to fill, you just unscrew the top. Plus when it comes to emptying you can just open it up and tip it out. Simple.

    2. If you buy second hand parts be sure to taken them apart to check what state they're in. The last thing you want it a worn pump or a clogged up block. Just be sure to replace the O-ring perfectly and leak test outside your case before use.

    3. There's a new little review of an XSPC all in one kit, done by G-Dubs. Looks like a good little kit if anyone's thinking about how to start :)

    Pictures of the kit:

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    Leak Testing:

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    GPU block

    For this my willing victim was my trusty 5870. Cracking card, and because I got it on Aria last June for £300 it's only just lost value. Seeing as I got my block second hand I popped it open and checked the internals. The last thing I wanted was a gunked up block. Luckily it was perfect. So I closed it up, making sure the O-ring wasn't pinched anywhere, and then left tested the entire loop out of the case (I'll cover this in another section).

    With the block passing the leak test I made sure all fluid was emptied from it (left it for a couple of hours inverted on the draining board) and set to stripping my graphics card.

    How to make your GPU naked

    A couple of shots of my beauty.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    First thing is to make sure you have a good work space. There are lots of little screws, so make sure you have some mini zip-lock bags handy for them. I also used a pair of soft cotton gloves as this means you less likely to damage stuff and keeps those shiny blocks finger print free. Good lighting is a must too.

    So flip the card over and you'll have the rear heatplate. Alas when I took the following photos I'd already removed it, but it matters little.

    [​IMG]

    Start by removing all of the screws I've highlighted in red. You'll need a small Phillips head screw driver for this. I suggest one with a thick body, as the ones I used had narrow bodies and gripping them was a pain as some of the screws were very stiff. Now pop those screws in a zip-lock bag and keep them safe. Next you'll want to warm the card. pop it on a warm radiator (I had to use the air-con set to max heat) for 5-10 minutes. This will warm up the thermal paste/pads and make removing the heatsink massively easier. Then remove the last four screw around the GPU ( in red below).

    [​IMG]

    Now twist the card and heatsink in different directions gently until the vacuum between the thermal paste and heatsink has broken. Take your time and resist the urge to prise or pull as you'll likely brick your card.

    Once this is done you'll have the headsink in one hand and your dirty naked card in the other. Pop the heatsink somewhere safe and then lay your card on some newspaper (or something like it) so the GPU is facing up. Newspaper helps rotate the card if needed and will stop you damaging any of the parts on the back. Now I used Arctic ArctiClean, cotton buds (what the yanks call 'Q' tips) and a soft cloth to clean all of the old thermal pads/paste off the GPU and RAM, plus the VRM components too. The thermal pads on mine looked horrid, more like sticky pads, and they were a mint green. Very bad. After you'll have a lovely naked card. like the one below.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Now we need to apply the thermal pads, yay. This is the longest task, so take your time. If you buy a new GPU block it will come with thermal pads of the correct thickness. If you get a block second hand I suggest these, as they should be plenty unless you make too many mistakes. I inadvertently bought some of the 1.5mm ones, but I flattened they and they appear to be fine. I've marked all the places you'll need to cut pads for below. Just measure by holding over it and cut to size :)

    [​IMG]

    Now you'll need to apply thermal paste to the GPU cores, EK suggested a cross to do this and it works well, so I've marked it below. I used Arctic Ceramique as it is non conductive, so you wont have to worry about any excess spilling out. It get very good reviews, The pastes that perform better are only a couple of degrees better but cost more. It's very viscous so leave it in your trouser pocket to warm up a bit before applying it (I found the same with AS5).

    [​IMG]

    Now before you continue don't forget to remove the plastic covers from your thermal pads. I found applying them to the chips then using tweezers helped, and were also good at positioning the pads. I nearly forgot :p

    I used the white version of the EK Water Blocks EK-FC5870 Acetal + Nickel, but I'm going to assume most blocks will be the same. The EK needs you to stick the washers for the outer screws in place though, a little bit annoying. They suggested a dab of thermal paste, which worked very well. If you use a screw driver to align them it makes life a lot easier. Then place the block contact side up on the box it came in, this makes positioning the card much easier as I kept the original PCI black plate. Then just pop your card on top. It's worth just having a look to make sure the thermal pads are making contact. If your using the standard black plate just place this on the back of the card. I got the EK Water Blocks EK-FC5870 RAM Backplate - Nickel plated free with my block though so I used this. It came with different screws, so be sure to use the right set as appropriate. Starting with the four screws around the GPU screw them in so they are still loose then used the alternate method used for most CPU coolers to tighten them. Once done you'll need to then screw in the surrounding screws. These can be done in any order, just take your time. Drop the screw in, wiggle it till it catches, then screw it in.

    The end result is you'll have your lovely watercooling graphics card and it's heatsink and screws. Keep those somewhere safe as you'll probably need them in the future.

    The end result:

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    Final Build:

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    Final Leak Testing:

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    Final shot

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: 3 May 2012
    GaryP, Instagib, Pete J and 4 others like this.
  2. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    Rebuild coming soon...

    Stay tuned for how to:

    Empty a waterloop
    Braid tubing
    Braid wires
    Tidy cables


    I promise there will be plenty of pics...

    Micro update:

    The new case, Xigmatek Elysium:

    [​IMG]

    It's a real monster!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Huge working space inside, so plenty of space for watercooling :)

    [​IMG]

    Front pannel connectos removed ready for braiding.

    [​IMG]

    Oddly it's 2 parts :S

    That toolless 5.25" bays actually work in this case too, once you have both sides on what ever's in the drive is very solidly secured.

    25/06/11

    Got all the braiding done. Found this website very helpful for newbies to braiding :)

    Some pics of the braided items:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately my camera doesn't to justice to the beautiful MDPC braid, is it really great stuff and Nils does great customer service, had him replying to some emails and fixing a login issue at 11-12pm!

    I also started cable tidying the front pannel cables, using some of these in 3 different sizes, they really do help and make everything look very neat :) I also popped in the cable extenders I'm using (My PSU is still a baby and I value the warrenty too much :p ) which are Bitfenix Alchemy braided entenders (24-pin here, but they have the full set if you look). They're beautiful, using a fabric sleeve instead of plastic like MDPC, the quality is amazing though. Very good for the price.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    If your wondering why the front pannel USB 3.0 is round the back, it's because I don't have USB 3.0 on my motherboard, so I'm just going to take the USB 2.0 sockets off a PCI > motherboard extender and use those at USB 2.0 :)

    That's it for now. I'm going to start taking my old rig apart next week, so I'll pop some bits up about emptying a loop, then I'll start rebuilding in the new case with the added bits :)
     
    Last edited: 25 Jun 2011
    skreenname, Tynecider, GaryP and 2 others like this.
  3. Siwini

    Siwini What is 4+no.5?

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    Great knowledge! You should include step by step pictures if you can:)
     
  4. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    Alas I didn't take enough as I did it, but I will do what I can with what I have... :)
     
  5. thetrashcanman

    thetrashcanman Angel headed hipsters

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    great guide/info on your build, been looking into water cooling myself now for a few months now, but after you talked about the market place on here, which I have heard of, but never really knew much about, i'll shall definitely hold on a bit long, I suppose at least in water cooling and especially when your doing it for the first time, the more time you take over it the better
     
  6. Apocalypso

    Apocalypso Fully armed and operational.

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    Great stuff.
     
  7. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    Thanks for the feed back, I was worried I was rambling too much...

    It's well worth it, plus the more time you take the less silly mistakes you'll make...

    Thanks for the support :)
     
    bulldogjeff and murraynt like this.
  8. murraynt

    murraynt Well-Known Member

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    Great work.
    Now time to get a mod to make it a sticky.
     
  9. bulldogjeff

    bulldogjeff The modding head is firmly back on.

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    Thats a good read Pete. A nice little insight to watercooling. +Rep mate.
     
  10. Fingers66

    Fingers66 Kiwi in London

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    Nice one Pete, have some rep for the effort. :thumb:
     
  11. Pete J

    Pete J RIP Teelzebub

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    +1

    And with that, fear my 1337th post! Bow in its superior intellect and majesty!

    I assume I ascend to a higher level of existence now, right? I'll just sit here and twiddle my thumbs while that happens.

    *twiddle*
     
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  12. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    You can never post again now though... :p
     
  13. Fingers66

    Fingers66 Kiwi in London

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    Yeah, you would stop being such a l337 b******d. :D
     
  14. j.col

    j.col Member

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    thanks for the info.
    great tips, i want to get into water cooling, but i didn't know how.
    some pics for noobies would be nice
     
  15. Publ!c Enemy

    Publ!c Enemy or Richard for short

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    +1
    Great guide:) someone on youtube did this, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6qpkigby5w.
    I found it useful dunno what other people think, in a way though written reviews are better you can read them at your own pace and come back to them if you really need.
     
  16. thetrashcanman

    thetrashcanman Angel headed hipsters

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    I always watch that guys review's I think he does them so well, and that he did that one especially well, told you pretty much everything you needed to know. Common mistakes, like loop order, doesn't matter to much as long as you get res then pump, after that I've heard it doesn't make much differance, and all sorts of other things, went through it pretty throughly as well I thought
     
  17. kylesaisgone

    kylesaisgone New Member

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    Some pics would be awesome!
     
  18. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    I'll be uploading pics later today...
     
  19. kylesaisgone

    kylesaisgone New Member

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    Awesome, look forward to it. I haven't seen many water builds in the HAF cases, I'm curious how it looks with all that space :D
     
  20. Bloody_Pete

    Bloody_Pete Technophile(and yes, thats 724Mb/s)

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    Didn't have enough space really :p You'll see...
     

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