This is the first time i dive into the world of water cooling systems.
For a while noise from PC fans didnt really bother me but now this has changed, i found even by cooling the computer with the some of todays best air cooling has limited overclocking because of the high tempretures. It's no secret that todays CPU's get hot so i thought maybe water cooling could be the answer. I began to notice other forum users running low RPM fans while reaching high clock speeds. The more i read about water cooling, the more i was keen to try it out so today i hope this section will be helpful. I will share here all info about my water cooling system.
To be water cooled is an Intel i7 920 CPU but this guide can apply to any processor. The goal is to keep the system at cool temperatures but hopefully also make the computer more silent and nicer to look at.
So i felt ready to take the plunge and ordered different parts, hoping i didnt forget something or purchased wrong items.
A shopping list later.. and, Ohh! a package, lets open it, shall we?
EK-Supreme High Flow Copper water block
Loads of water cooling parts ready for action!
Water blocks: All the top CPU water blocks perform about the same +- a couple C. I was considering the Apogee XT but heard it was not compatible with my Gigabyte motherboard. Still i liked the look/appearance of the EK Supreme HF copper more. It came with 4 extra jet plates but new stocks come with the no. 1 installed as default so you wont need to open block and replace, according to reviews the jetplate 1 is the best. The block even included a tube of Arctic Silver MX-2 thermal paste which i may apply later.
EK Multioption Reservoir:
The water reservoir is medium sized, the difference between a small and big one is with a bigger one it would take longer for the water to reach the same tempreture. So in that sense they all perform the same.
I chose a cycliner shaped reservoir as square ones crack easier (i break stuff).
Swiftech MCP655, also known as Laing D5 Vario.
There are 5 different settings and comes with 1/2" fittings, should be ok with 7/16" Inner Dimension tubing.
To be placed under pump to lower vibration and noise.
Primochill Primoflex Pro 7/16" ID tubing:
Got a total of 8 meters tubing. As its name suggest, the tubing is flexable and can do sharp bends without kinking. After a lot of research i chose this one, all other brands i've read about have issues with loosing its clearness and clogging water cooling loop over time but i see how it goes.. It's quite expensive, i was going to buy from USA which would have cost even more with import taxes..but then suddenly they had them at aquatuning.de (just a tip for European visitors).
Ventilation brackets, nothing special:
IandH Silver Anti Algae KillCoil:
99.9% pure silver. Is used to combat algae growth and can be placed anywhere in loop. I plan to place it in water reservoir.
PT Nuke PHN:
Primarily for systems running straight distilled water, prevents corrosion.
Rubber grommets (to channel tubing through a pc cabinet) and worm drive clamps:
These clamps are very stiff and close to impossible to tighten, i must have bought some really poor quality :/ Will use zip ties instead.
The sweets cheered my up!
Water filling bottle 500ml:
Scythe Gentle Typhoons, D1225C12B5AP-15:
Have 8 of these fans, will use 4 for the radiator and rest inside pc case. Must say, over the years these are the best fans i've come accros, they don't make much noise yet move tons of air and at low voltages they are near silent.
Thermochill PA120.4 radiator with space for 4 120mm fans.
Pist playing with rubber gasket.
Don't worry i will place grills on radiator fans, having cat friendly water cooling system is my no. 1 priority!
So that's all the water cooling parts, lets take a closer look at the case and computer hardware:
The case is a Lian-Li v2000a, its quite old but there is plenty room for harddrives and modifications, hopefully also for water cooling. At one point i had 6 x 15.000 rpm SCSI harddrives which caused the case to make lots of vibration/noise, perhaps not a surprise..
After installing AcoustiPack Sound dampening material this made a difference, also fan noises are less. Not as effective as i hoped so don't expect miracles here. I went a bit crazy with this stuff. Rather than painting the entire inside of case, i liked the look it gave and installed everywhere in the case..lol
I look forward to replace the huge Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme HSF with some water cooling.
PSU is a Chill CP-1000M (1000W).
The graphiccard is a XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 and the satellite TV card a Technisat Skystar 2 HD PCI.
Memmory sticks are 3 x 2 GB OCZ Platinum PC1600 7-7-7-24, 1.65v, OCZ3P1600LV6GK.
Intel CPU (sorry AMD fans):
To be water cooled is an Intel Core i7 920 2.66 GHZ CPU, its a D0 stepping, these generally have better overclocking abillities than the C0 chips as they run lower voltages leading to less heat but i'm sure there are other reasons too. I've been running it at 4 Ghz on air cooling with the Thermalright Ultra 120 eXtreme which should be one of the best air coolers today. You can see the idle and load temps below 2.66 @ 3.99 Ghz.
These are winter tempretures, in the summer the CPU gets into the 80 C's. I've been able to get it stable at 4.2 GHz but with the needed voltages, the temps reach 90+ C under load.
It's getting too hot so lets get going with some water cooling!
It may be convinient to have radiator inside case but as i dont move my computer around, i thought of something else..
Are you thinking what I'm thinking B1?
It sure would be nice to take advantage of the 6.3 degree cooler air from under the table. It would also hide the radiator away.
As there would need to be holes for tubing outside case the first thing to do was to strip the case empty. This also gave space to drill holes to mount the pump. There is additionally a fan which will help cool it during operation, i placed the fan there already a year ago making it ready for water cooling, true story :)
One of the holes for tubing drilled and tested:
Next was to install the EK Supreme HF water block on the Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard:
After some Arctic Cooling MX-2 thermal paste (i applied it using the X shape method).
CPU ready for water cooling.
No doubt a new look for the Gigabyte motherboard. The waterblock looks amazing.
Moving on to the Swiftech MCP655 pump:
Even with force, the 7/16" tubing would not fit on the pumps 1/2" connectors, however the 'dip in hot water trick' worked wonders.
Assembling the case and water cooling system..I added the Silver coil in reservoir plus one drop of PT Nuke PHN, i know one should use one or the other but a drop can't hurt..or?
You may notice above i removed the cases middle section to allow further space for pump and tubing.
Getting the water flowing, no leaks so far.
Thermochill radiator with fans installed.
I was now ready to test the water cooling loop, i dug out an old AT powersupply from my 'PC graveyard' and attached the pump to it. It's really important not to run the pump dry! So i filled reservoir with destilled water, powered up pump, it began sucking the water so i powered it off and refilled reservoir. I repeated this step until loop was complete. I shaked/tilted radiator while loop was running to get rid of trapped air bubbles while keeping an eye on the reservoir incase it needed more water. This all took some time. The sound of airbubbles traveling through the loop was quite enjoyable maybe because it highlighted the impressive speed the pump was flowing water.
It all worked great, i was worried that the distance and pressure to the radiator under table would be an issue with pump, this was not the case at all. The pressure from tubing pushing up is gained when it goes down, so infact the pressure would be the same if entire loop was layed flat, this pump is very powerful. The loop ended up using about 1 liter of distilled water and 3.24 meters of tubing.
I read one is suppossed to do a 24 hour leak test before powering up computer. I looked carefully through the water cooling system and thought to myself, there is just no way this is going to leak. So after about 1 hour i hooked it to computer and since then there has been no problems. Like many people say, you cant go wrong with 7/16" ID tubing on 1/2" barbs/fittings.
Water Cooling Tempretures:
On the left you see the idle and on the right load tempreture. Quite a difference compared to the air cooling before, idle from 36C down to 23C. I know idle dont count much but still nice to look at :) It's the load which is important and here its gone from 68C to 44C, a 24C difference!
One thing i quickly noticed was the North Bridge tempreture increased quite a lot. I thought since now running water cooling the heat from CPU was directed outside the pc case, the tempreture inside case would drop. But it seems the air circulation from Heatsink/CPU fan, even hot helped cool the chipset.
The quad radiator was total overkill for just a CPU loop, even when fans are on low RPM, the temps are the same (well +1C). I tried to unplug the radiator fans for 10 minuttes and the temp increased 5C, so the oversized radiator might work well as a passive cooler. I plan to install a switch on cabinet which shuts off all fans (except PSU and GFX card).
When one is using computer for light tasks, surfing, listing music etc. there is no need for max cooling and extra noise so i will if i can take advantage of this!
Lets start overclocking the Intel Core-i7 920 2.66 Ghz CPU with water cooling:
Vcore set to 1.45625 in bios, 210x21 = 4410 Mhz not bad at all, thats a 65% overclock! Its been rock stable, no crashes.
I've been trying 4.5 Ghz but it fails 17'th Linx pass even at 1.5 v core. Temps around 70C.
I found the MCP655 pump to be a bit loud, not like lots of noise but it made more a high pitch whine at setting 5/5, 4/5 and 3/5. It went away at 2.5 but there where still some electric sounds. Compared to the 4 setting which seemed the best in performance/noise ratio, the 2.5 increased my temps about 5 C's. However, i used the included bolts and rubber washers to fasten it to pc case and could feel with fingers that there still was lots of vibration in pc case which caused increased noise. I have now removed these bolts so the pump stands on its own. The noise is at a much more comfortable level, even at highest pressure but again is still a suttle high pitched whine in the higher settings. So somehow the sponge did not help when using the bolts as it transfered vibrations to pc cabinet. Glad i got this sorted, was almost about to replace it with a Laing DDC 3.2 which i heard is quieter than the MCP655 (D5 vario) pump.
List of parts used in the water cooling system:
2 x Screw plug G3/8 Inch (to enclose radiator for cleaning with destilled water)
1 x MCP655 Pump (D5 Vario)
1 x Filter sponge
4 x Fan grill filters
1 x Filling bottle 500ml
2 x 13mm (1/2') fitting G3/8 with O-Ring (High-Flow) - black nickel (for Thermochill radiators)
4 x 13mm (1/2') fitting G1/4 with O-Ring (High-Flow) - copper plated
2 x Phobya seal plug G1/4 Inch knurled - MSV
1 x Aquacomputer Shoggy Sandwich building kit for pump decoupling - Version 2.0
2 x Rubber grommet for 16mm
1 x EK Water Blocks EK-Supreme HF Full Copper universal (775/1156/1366/AM2/AM3/939/XEON)
1 x Alphacool LEDready 5mm ultra-bright blue including G1/4 lighting module
1 x EK Water Blocks EK-Multioption RES X2 -150 Basic
1 x 8m Primochill tubing PrimoFlex Pro 16/11 (7/16"ID) clear
1 x Thermochill 120.4 radiator
1 x IandH Anti Algie KillCoil
1 x PT Nuke_PHN
4 x Scythe Gentle Typhoon 1850 RPM fans
Total Cost ~ $650 USD
Cost of water cooling:
As you see this water cooling setup was quite expensive but i see it as a 1 time investment, these components should last a long time and in future all that might need replacing is a new CPU block similar to air cooling when you buy a new Heatsink / Fan.
With my water cooling experience so far i dont think i'll ever switch back. Water has allowed me to overclock the CPU into a level that just wasnt possible with air and not only that, the tempretures are nice and cool and computer near silent.
Radiators have different FPI (fins per inch) and therefor optimized for different type of fans, the ones with high FPI are optimal with powerful fans where ones with low FPI are better for lower RPM fans. Well known water cooling radiator brands are Thermochill, XSPC, The Feser One company, HW Labs and Swiftech. Radiators come in different sizes as well, like the Thermochill PA 120.2 fits 2 x 120mm fans while the XSPC RX360 fits 3 x 120mm fans. There are also ones for 140mm fans. If possible avoid 80mm and 92mm radiators as smaller fans are not optimal in noise vs. performance, they often have a high pitch tone. Bigger fans gernerally produce less noise while perform better.
You also need plan which components you want water cooled, like if its only the CPU then a 240 radiator would be fine, if you add a GPU perhaps a 360, include chipset plus a second GPU in the mix then you sure would need a 480.
Choosing fans for water cooling is a bit different than air cooling. You would want ones with high static pressure. Its no use if a fan loses steam as it tries to flow air through tight spaced radiator fins.
For high cooling performance and if you dont mind noise, the San Ace 1011's are probably the best and they also perform well in low RPM's. It may also be worth to check out Delta fans as these seem popular among high FPI radiators. Noctua NF-P12 are good low noise fans with high static pressure.
As you may have noticed, i really like the Gentle Typhoons AP-15's, the noise/CFM ratio is perhaps the best available today. If you have many of them, they still make some racket but at lower voltages there a very quiet, yet move decent amounts of air. They are also dual ball bearing so they will last a long time. No matter which fans you have i think its convinient to have a fan controller as you can control the speed yourself.
The three i know about are Laing DCC's, MCP655 and Eheim.
Eheim pumps are the most silent but not as powerful as the other 2. The MPC655 and Laing DCC's are close in performance but Liang DCC 2 is said to be less noisy. On the other hand i get the impression the MCP655 are better built and last long longer.
There are also aftermarket tops available which increase the perfomance, there are tops where you can connect 2 pumps in series and even screw a reservoir directly on top, all in one. It's actualy not a bad idea to have 2 pumps in serie as if one should fail, the other will keep the water flowing. The Laing pumps have a RPM sensor which you could connect to the CPU fan header on motherboard, so if it goes below a certain RPM, tell it to shut off computer, still any pump should last many years and not fail in a short time. Make sure to have airflow over the pump, this will increase the lifetime of it as they get quite hot.
Not much to say here, find one that fits your case. You wont get lower temps with bigger reservoirs, however it would take a longer for the water tempretures to heat up to same tempreture.
If you like to add things like a LED are/or tempreture sensor then you'd need one with additional G1/4" threads. The XSPC reservoirs are made to fit in a computers 5 1/4" bays, while most others are to be placed inside a pc case. I'd say round reservoirs wont brake as easy as square one.
Today's top blocks perform about the same, maybe within 1-2 degrees and the water blocks are compatible with modern sockets. Some are more strictive than others, like the Apogee XT more than the EK Supreme HF. If you have many things in your loop then it might be worth considering. I chose the EK Supreme HF copper, it has a good size which i'm sure would fit any motherboard without touching capacitors near CPU socket. There is a thing with copper that over time can accure copper oxidation, it should not be anything that effects performance but if i could choose again i would go for the full nickel version of the EK Supreme HF.
Water cooling for your grapphic card. With a GPU block you would get nice temps without added fan noise, maybe 40's C load depending on ambient tempreture. This would also allow further overclocking. The blocks are quite expensive and if you got a new graphiccard it would most likely need a new block as well. Todays GFX cards are near silent at idle so you should ask yourself if its worth it, specialy if you don't game often.
Water vs. liquid cooling:
One thing for sure, dont use tap water! The minerals will attack metals in your loop.
Liquid cooling can look great in pc cabinet as liquids are available in different colors, even UV reactive. Still the tempretures wont be as good a straight destilled water.
Another problem with liquids is that the additives will glog up your water cooling loop over time, you would have to open and clean blocks every few months or so. It would be better with destilled water and just buy UV or colored tubing.
When running destilled water you will need prevent algie growth, a couple drops of PT Nuke_PHN or an IandH anti algie silver killcoil (a silver coin would work too) is all thats need to keep you loop clean.
In large parts of Europe its hard to find distilled water and is instead sold as deminerilised water. It's basicly the same thing and perfectly suitable for water cooling.
Mixing metals in a water cooling loop is fine, copper, brass, nikkel..except at all cost avoid aluminuim, it will eat and destroy other metals in your loop.
Barbs and tubing:
With barbs try to buy only high flow, it will usualy mention 'HF' in the description. Also avoid 90 degree barb fittings if possible as they add restiction in loop.
For tubing there are brands like Tygon, Masterkleer and Primochill. Thing to consider, how easy does it kink? does it become cloudy over time? I've only heard good about Primochill Primoflex Pro so thats what i went for.
I would recommend 1/2" barbs and 7/16" ID tubing, you cant go wrong with this. Yes the tubing is smaller than the fittings but you could soak in hot water, it will shrink after. The connections will be tight and safe, some people dont even clamp them. If you use smaller tubing and fittings for example 1/4" you will be adding unnecessary restrictions to your loop.
Is water cooling safe?:
I've yet to hear anyone having leaks using 7/16" tubing + 1/2" barbs. I had my computer on the other day and decided to take the sponge filter out of reservoir and in the process i completely soaked an open molex connecter. Guess what? Nothing happened! Like most water cooling liquid, distilled water is non electric conductive, however after a while as dust and minerals from air mix into the water it will become conductive. I powered off computer and dried/cleaned it up. I've seen a video where someone poured distilled water onto a motherboard and it still worked after 1 min, then shut down. As long as your fittings are tight, i don't see how a leak could happen. The more water blocks and fittings you have the higher chance of a leak.
When putting a loop together you should have reservoir before pump. The reason for this is the pump must not be run dry and by mounting reservoir first (and above pump) there will always be supply of water. The pump dumps some heat so its a good idea to let the radiator cool it down afterwords. For example my setup is like this:
Reservoir - Pump - Radiator - CPU - Reservoir
If you plan other things in loop, it could look like this:
Reservoir - Pump - Radiator - CPU - GPU - Reservoir
Reservoir - Pump - Radiator - CPU - Radiator - GPU - Reservoir
Ok you get the idea.
Here is a diagram of how i installed my water cooling loop:
After running the loop for a couple of weeks, it became quite obvious i didnt flush the radiator properly, the flux has made all tubing milky. There is something about Thermochill radiators, they need VERY thorough flushing.
I have a feeling the blue stain is due to copper corrosion, it dont think the same would happen with a nickel waterblock(?).
Thermochill support told me thier radiator flux is waterbased and the cleaning process is to use hot water. I've also heard people clean thier radiators in destilled white vinegar. The flux bothered me so i tore down the loop, it was also a good time to do it as i got some new parts, more on that in a sec. I filled radiator several times 3/4 full with boiling water, gave it good shakes and let it sit. Later i placed radiator under sink and flushed tap water through it for about ½ an hour, switching between hot and cold, and occasionally adding drops of soap.
In this video you can see how i flushed radiator with tap water:
Then finally did radiator shakes with destilled water. God i hope this was enough? The whole process took 7 hours.
After all the work i couldnt find any thermal cooling paste (panic!), then suddenly popped up a tube of Shin-Etsu X23-7783D i had forgotten all about. The stuff is thick and hard to work with but should be one, if not the best thermal paste on the market, i dipped the tube in hot water which made it easy to apply on the CPU.
I got a new top for the MCP655, it should increase performance as well as lower noise and might look nicer than the original top? i think so. I've also got a new waterblock, the EK Supreme HF Full Nickel.
The Lian Li case has got some new mods:
The switches are "Lamptron Vandal Resistant Illuminated Latching Switches" made of Aluminum, they are awesome, yes yes..
Tempreture probe added in reservoir, the water tempreture is cooler than air tempreture thats right! well remember its because radiator is mounted near floor where its 6 C cooler than on top of desk. The new EK D5 X-Top did lower noise from pump but not as much as i hoped, im sensitive to high pitches, it is less audiable than before but its still there at setting 4 and 5. I'm running pump at 3 ½.
The top for sure increased performance, at setting 5 there was so much flow that it sucked air bubbles back into the loop, i had to fill reservoir way up to prevent this from happening.
As i mentioned earlier about the increased NB temps after switching to water cooling, it was time for action. I dug out an old 60mm fan (not the black delta..ROARRRR!!) and attached it to NB, the temps dropped from 63C to 48C. There was almost no difference in temps from 5-12v fan speeds, however the fan made a high pitch whine (which is commen for small fans) even at 5v, it was driving me crazy. I ordered this 'Noiseblocker BSF-XR1' 11 db 60mm fan, its so silent i cant hear difference when running between 5v and 12v. It only moves 10,6 CFM but even so it made a huge improvement on North Bridge temps, down to 48C which is fine.
Every thing in cabinet is soft mounted, pump, fans, rubber washes on hdd screws even the motherboards. Anything to eliminate noise caused by vibration.
The case might not look great with the packaging material underneath, it does however cause stability so the case cant easly slide over edge of table, meanwhile it also reduces case vibrations. Maybe for future picture posing i will remove it.
So far the water cooling system is running great, +6 months. Mounting the radiator under table has no doubt reduced tempretures and got me wondering if i should drill holes in the wall and place it outdoors. We get subzero C here in winter.
I have made a sidepanel window.
A bit off topic but thought this was funny, a picture i took through shop window.
I got acoustipack foam blocks and made a tunnel, it blocks some noise from the pump and in the same time, the fan still cools it.
The front of the Lian Li case, the fan controller is a Zalman ZM-MFC1 Plus, it matches rather well the aluminum Lian Li pc case.
Below is photo of my full computer desktop:
I hope the loop will stay clean now, otherwhise i'll buy a new radiator which doesnt have flux problem like the Thermochill has (?).
Well that's about it (for now), Thanks for reading! I will keep updating this page with new water cooling info.