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The aquaventures of a water (b)logger


Gorth

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The H2O Story.

 

Not really a blog, but I get the feeling that I am the only one around here dabbling in water cooling, so I thought I would share my experiences, my victories and my downfalls so far. Who knows, somebody else might be tempted to walk my path some day, might as do what I should have done and not what I did.

 

It all started about two years ago, with my quest to build a new silent computer. My reasoning for starting dabbling in water cooling back then was, that the most noisy part on a computer was the fans, so the fans had to go. Found a nice All in One thing from Zalman, that was convenient, had the waterreservoir, passive cooling radiator and a silent pump all built into one external unit. Came with tubes and a CPU cooling block too, so all you needed to get started was there. I later added a GPU waterblock to the loop and all was good.

 

Fast forward about two years and things were not all good anymore. My graphics card started acting up and I decided to upgrade numerous components on my PC. With new CPU sockets and new graphics card, my old cooling system no longer fit and new blocks were needed. The Gigabyte motherboard was already equipped with a cooling block for the chipset, so that was an added bonus, which I wasn't aware of before buying it. But this is where the fun starts...

 

First thing on order was a block for the graphics card. The sinlge most power hungry and heat generating thing in my system. Having had good experiences with EK Waterblocks, I ordered one for my new, shiny ATI5970 card. It came without barbs, but that was Ok, the ones from my previous block (from the same company) were reusable. Next thing, was a CPU cooling block. While the old one was adequate, the backplate and mounting mechanism was for LGA775 sockets only, so it had to go. I considered one from EK Waterblocks, but the shipping is quite expensive from Slovenia, so in the end I decided to try a Swiftech Apogee XT. While being an American product, it is carried by Australian resellers and while being comparatively priced to the EK one, it was somewhat cheaper in S&H. Suffice to say, it was a major disappointment. Crappy production values, resulting in malformed screws, overall "tin can" quality reeking of lack of QC, I did a bit of digging around on the net. Yeah, made in China allright with all what that implies.

 

Lesson learned: Do not buy Swiftech if you want high quality

 

Decided to scrap it and then buy the EK one which I should have bought the first time. Made in-house by the company, who has their own manufacturing and QA/QC, it was magnitudes better. I also ordered some barbs, and this is where it gets a bit fun. The barbs on my motherboard and the ones on my other blocks were not the same size. Turns out that there are two standards, depending on whether you live east or west of the Pacific. Since the majority of my barbs now were 3/8" (US standard) and my old tubing was 8mm (European standard), I decided to replace the tubing with 3/8" through and through. Not knowing good from bad, I ordered two different kinds, something called Masterkleer and something called Tygon. The Masterkleer was so "thin walled", that it was unusable. I could try to buy additional wrapping (essentially a metal coil) to prevent kinks and "flattening" inside the tube that would restrict waterflow, but I would throw more money at something I didn't want to pursue.

 

Lesson learned: Do not buy Masterkleer if you intend to use it without further support/tube wrapping.

 

So, the Tygon tubing it was. Awesome quality, bending like a contortionist, even in small spaces, without any problems. So, while having fun with that, my old Zalman external unit died on me. It probably didn't like the constant high working temperatures (65-75 degrees C), so I don't really blame it. It did leave me with a need for a new pump, a new reservoir and a new radiator. Not finding anything in Aussie stores that appealed to me, I looked overseas. A company in the US, Koolance made some nice Reservoir/Pump combos that fits in a 5.25 bay. Unfortunately, their radiators were all aluminium (yes, thats the correct spelling), and I wanted something better. EK Waterblocks to the rescue again with copper based radiators. This time I remembered to add barbs to my orders. I also added 3 fans (Noiseblocker Blacksilent PWM). Shipments arrived from all over the world and I discovered my mistakes. PWM fans can not be controlled by the Koolermaster instruments, only voltage regulated fans can. While the barbs were the right size, I had forgotten that my Tygon tubing was not the usual 10mm ID - 13 mm OD, but a staggering 16mm outer diameter. None of the tube clamps that I had could be used. Same thing for the two pair of Quick Disconnect connectors that I had bought from Koolermaster.

 

Lesson learned: Plan your tube size as the very first thing you do, taking note of ID (Inner Diameter) *AND* OD (Outer Diameter), THEN, go shopping for everything alse keeping those measures in mind.

 

Lesson learned: Read the fine print when buying fans. Together with a complete set of spares from my Antec Case, I now have enough fans on my shelf to start my own fan club!

 

Anyway, I ordered tube clamps of an appropriate size, ordered more tubing, Quick Disconnect connectors suitable for the slightly unusual dimensions (apparantly Tygon tubing is not uncommon, if not exactly standard). Also ordered 3 Coolermaster silent fans (with "Disco" LED) and some UV reactive cooling liquid (since I have some UV LEDS lying around). While waiting for these last bits to arrive, I decided to test my current system for leakage and used a bit of wire to shortcircuit pin 4&6 on the ATX Power cable. After 20 minutes I discovered a leak on the Pump/Reservoir, as unseemly force appeared necessary to tighting the O Ring on the barb. Ah well, the wrench is your friend. Leaving the water circulating for 60 mintues, I decided to try it with the power switched on for real. Computer started up nicely, but I just run it "in neutral", since I don't have enough air movment through the radiator yet (still waiting for those last bits mentioned to arrive). Otherwise, it ran nicely for 30 minutes, then my screen suddenly turned black. I was like "WTF?" and my computer was like "HAHAHA!". Then I noticed the puddle of water gathering under my powersupply and switched off the computer. Grabbing a torchligt, I found the leak in the second attempt (my poor water logged graphics card)... The tube did quite have a hold on the barb on the MB Chipset block, so when the water got warmer, the tubing slipped a bit.

 

Lesson learned: Do not just test your loops for leakage with cold water, try it with warm water too.

 

Now waiting for those tube clamps so I can get the system tight for good and start stress testing it under pressure.

 

People who buy ready made PC's just don't understand how much fun they are missing out on :)

 

Sounds like an aweful lot of hassle, and it probably was. Wasted quite a bit of money on things I shouldn't have bought either. Yet... even with a few external (silent) fans, the difference in noise levels is just too much of a benefit for me to pass up on. I hope somebody else some day will feel encouraged to try it out. Just remember the few lessons learned and save some blood, sweat and demineralised water :ermm:

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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Thanks, mate. But I'm not really clear (speaking as someone considering it) about two things:

 

1. What DO I buy?

 

2. Is water cooling better than fans for actual cooling.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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Thanks, mate. But I'm not really clear (speaking as someone considering it) about two things:

 

1. What DO I buy?

 

2. Is water cooling better than fans for actual cooling.

Starting with the second question, yes. The difference is measured in astronomical units. I didn't do it so much for the superior cooling as for the less noise. Otherwise, think car engines. You are likely to find more liquid cooled car engines than air cooled ones. Overclockers swear to liquid cooling too (although I don't really do the overclock thing), for its superior cooling capacity. Extreme geeks use liquid nitrogen, but as I said, it was mostly just noise reduction for me.

 

For the first question, depends on how "ambitious" you are. Do you want everything watercooled? Just the cpu? I didn't go there, but you can get water cooled power supplies and hard drive enclosures too :wub:

 

Following my own advice, I would take a look at what I want to indlude in a "water cooling loop", decide on a tube size. Then look for a decent water block(s) for the component(s) I want covered. Last bits are a pump, a reservoir and the radiator that does the actual heat dissipation. Size and type depends on how much heat you want to dissipate. My current setup specs can dissipate a 1000W constant load (yes, thats a LOT of heat).

 

Checklist:

 

1. Decide what parts you want to cover (there are specialised 'blocks' for just about every type of CPU, Graphics Card, Motherboard etc. so the specifics depends on your existing hardware)

 

2. Decide tubing size (US or European standard. Don't necessarily go for where you live, but where you want to buy some of the other parts from. Most parts have no barbs/nozzles, they are bought seperately and comes in all sizes (usually).

 

3. Shopping list:

Tubing

Waterblock (one or more)

Pump & Reservoir (there are several "combos" out there, that combines pump and reservoir into a single handy unit, often fitting in a 5.25 drive bay)

Radiator (fans if it isn't a passive cooling one)

barbs/nozzles/clamps

Demineralised water/Cooling liquid (Depending on system, it will last 1-2 years before it needs changing/refilling)

 

4. Plan everything out on paper. Make sure the stores have the parts that fit together (see my mishaps regarding weird tube sizes)

 

There are also starter kits out there that includes everything to get started with CPU cooling. It can then later be expanded to include more parts. I decided that it was too easy. Best way to learn to swim is to jump into a river with a concrete block on your feet :)

 

The waterflow looks like this (for my system):

 

(the little '--->' arrows are the waterflows/tubes)

 

Reservoir ---> Pump ---> Block 1 (Motherboard) ---> Block 2 (CPU) ---> Block 3 (GFX Card) ---> Radiator ---> Back to reservoir

 

(Creative individuals also fiddle around with splitters and parallel waterloops, but I'm not *that* much of a geek)

 

I'll see if I can't get a picture taken of it one of these days.

 

 

---

Edit to add: If you are truly curious, I could add a collection of links to product pages for each and every part that went into my particular system, leaving out the duds that either were no good or did not fit

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

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Thanks, but on reflection I think I shall stick to air-cooled. I don't see me overclocking without exploding something, and frankly I've got used to the engine noise. I sleep well in cars, planes, boats and I think I enjoy the noise. Like Talia says in Mass effect, when the noises stops there's something wrong.

"It wasn't lies. It was just... bull****"."

             -Elwood Blues

 

tarna's dead; processing... complete. Disappointed by Universe. RIP Hades/Sand/etc. Here's hoping your next alt has a harp.

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My fans are showing age and make a lot more noise now than when I first got the case. It does seem like a lot of extra work though, unless you want to trial and error your way thought the whole thing. :wub:

 

Not sure right now if I'm going to sink the next batch of disposable income into a laptop or desktop.

Na na  na na  na na  ...

greg358 from Darksouls 3 PVP is a CHEATER.

That is all.

 

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