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Thread: Basic Water Cooling Guide for Beginners

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    Lightbulb Basic Water Cooling Guide for Beginners

    PC water cooling has been around for sometime now, and using water to cool your PC certainly isn’t as foolish as it first might seem. In fact, water-cooling is the best bang for your buck method to cool your PC components, despite its seemingly steep price tag compared to air cooling. Water-cooling provides better performance with a lot less noise, and it usually allows for higher overclocking. There are a zillion parts available on the market but which ones to choose? If you don’t have enough information about them, or some knowledge on how to get started this guide is for you. And it’s even harder to get to the bottom of things when each manufacturer claims their products are the best of all time.


    DIY vs. Prefab Kit
    If you're wondering why the heck you would want to build a water cooling system when you can purchase one already made should remember that we have the same dilemma when PC building -- why would you want to build your own rig rather than buy one already built?

    Prefab kit is a pre-assembled collection of cooling parts sold by a manufacturer such as Swiftech or Koolance. When you buy a prefab kit, you are paying a small premium for the peace of mind that comes from knowing the kit will have everything you need to get up and running, as well as a walk through installation manual.

    The DIY route will leave you totally on your own to decide which blocks, pump, and tubing and other parts to buy. It takes some know how to match the tubing size to the fitting on the blocks, to know if the pump’s specs are appropriate and mostly, to know how to put it all together.


    So which is better?
    In the early days of water-cooling, the kits were crap and DIY was the only way to get a kiss-ass performance. That’s no longer a case, water-cooling has entered the mainstream and stiff competition has led to powerful prefab kits from Swiftech, Danger Den, Corsair and Koolance. While building a DIY setup can be a lot of fun, there’s no shames in a prefab kit, especially if you’re not a water cooling wizard. However, I do recommend the DIY water-cooling system over prefab kit becuase you will have better cooling results to your specific cooling needs.

    Commonly, prefab (factory sealed) kits are small compact that is usually designed only to cool the CPU, some might handle an addiction component. So make sure you understand its capability before you purchase one. Here are a couple samples of prefab kit from Swiftech H20-X20 Edge series, XSPC Rasa 750 RS240 series; these kits cost $150-$350 and they do perform well.



    PUMP
    There are two kinds of pumps used in water-cooling: submersible pumps, which go inside a reservoir and are submerged underwater, and the non- submerged one. Submersible pumps are usually found in external, all-in-one kits that sit on top of your case, such as Koolance Exo2LX

    The majority of pumps used in DIY water cooling are stand alone; the key stat for your pumps is its flow rate, the amount of coolant it can move in an hour.
    When go for pump shopping, keep this in mind. If you’re just cooling a CPU, you can go with a low-to-medium flow pump 150 gallons per hour / 568 liters per hour, if you want to cool a GPU, chipset, and a hard drive or two; you’ll need a higher flow pump. You should look for 300Gph (1135Lph) plus pump.

    Here is the most popular and good performance pumps, these pumps can fit inside your case perfectly.





    RESERVOIR
    A reservoir is not necessary in a water cooling setup, but it’s a good idea to have one. It allows air bubbles to escape easily and a reservoir greatly increases the total water volume in the cooling system, thereby increasing cooling performance. Also, a reservoir makes it easier to fill the system with water because you can just pull it out from your rig to top it off your loops.
    Systems without a reservoir require a fill port or T-line, which makes filling and bleeding air from the system more difficult.

    The best reservoirs are made from acrylic or moulded plastic and have a separator to ensure that the water is constantly moving through the reservoir and available in many shapes and sizes.





    TUBING
    The type of tubing varies; most tubes are made from either, Tygon, silicone or just generic vinyl. Tygon is very expensive but bends well and doesn’t crimp easily. Silicone is very flexible, but not widely available and the common type of tubing is vinyl, it’s cheap, works well and is easily find at the local plumbing and home hardware stores.

    It available in varies sizes and colors, from ¼” (6mm) to ½” (13mm). The most common way to identify tubing size is by its internal diameter, also known as ID. As a rule of thumb, wider ID tubing delivers a higher flow rate, the higher flow rate, the more cooling for your rig.

    Most of people settled on fat ½” or 7/16” (11mm) tubing for high performance water cooling. The 7/16” will fit onto ½” bard tightly like a glove you don’t even need to use clamps but for the safety, you should use clamps to secure the tubing. The disadvantage of using ½” tubing is it hard to work with in a small case, in a tight bending radius and perhaps routing as well.

    The next best common size are 3/8”(10mm) tube, this size of tubing are easy to work with and not too small to lose the performance, compare to the ½” tube. The performances lost for this size of tubing are so small you don’t even notice, because of the high performance water blocks, it's makeup the differences. Water blocks don’t make like they used to do in the past any more.

    I wouldn’t recommend using anything less than 3/8”, if you use small tubing with thin wall, I would recommend you to use SmartCoil to strengthen the tubing to prevent it collapsing from over time due to the pressure build up the circuit. However, plastic SmartCoil gets bristle overtime, the metal coil is perferable.





    CLAMP
    Even thought the tubing usually fits onto the bard very securely but you do requires hose clamps around the tubing on the inlet and outlet barbs of your cooling blocks, pumps, radiator and reservoir to prevent leaks.

    There are two types of clamps: the adjustable plastic (ratcheting type) or the metal type (worm drive) uses in plumbing that are available at home hardware or plumbing stores.
    A cheap alternative method is to use zip-tie, it works only if the tube fit tightly onto the barbs.






    BARB
    Commonly, it comes with chrome plated barbs, I recommend to use the chrome plated type over the plastic type. It is better quality and looks nicer than the plastic type, it won’t break if you over force it. The plastic one can break if you over do it.

    The compression fitting type only available in ¼” (6mm), 3/8” (10mm) and ½” (13mm)ID & 5/8” (16mm)OD, which is mean you can’t use the fat ½”ID & ¾”OD (thick wall) tubing. I wouldn’t recommend using ½” ID & 5/8” OD the thin wall tubing with a high flow pump. It will collapse under high pressure even you use SmartCoil. This fitting are more expensive than the chrome type.






    RADIATOR
    The radiator transfers heat from your water cooling circuit to the environment outside your case. It’s where the heat from your water cooled components radiates out of the system.

    Aluminum is the most popular material for radiators because it’s light, inexpensive and can be crafted into very complex shapes, much more easily than cooper. However, most water cool enthusiast prefers cooper material than aluminum. I will tell you the reason why in the coolant additives section.

    Most radiators are designed to work with a single, two, three or even four 120mm fans, for maximum cooling with minimum noise. The more surface area on the radiator, the more heat it will be dissipates. Plain English translation, bigger radiator is better cooling than small radiator.



    Radiator Heat Dissipates Capacity Chart
    - Single 120.1 = 150w
    - Dual 120.2 = 300w
    - Triple 120.3 = 450w
    - Quad 120.4 = 600w

    Now determine the heat load on the components that you’re going to water cooled, use this power consumption calculator to find out the heat load so you can pick out an appropriate radiator for you setup. Also, you can use the calculator to determine an appropriate PSU for your rig as well.

    Formula: MaxPower Consumption = Max Heat Output click on the formula link to calculate the heat load.

    Fill in only the components that you are going to water cooled (ie: the fields for those items upon which you intend to mount a water block), and the pump field (as your pump dumps heat into the system too). Hit calculate, and knock 38w off the result. What you have left is your heat load and if you want to include chipset cooling, just add another 100w for sake of argument and assume you'll be left with headroom. For GPU overclocking just add another 60w per card to the final total.
    Leave TDP on 85%**

    Example: We’re going to water cool the following components.
    - CPU: Q6600 G0 overclocked 3.6Ghz @ 1.425v
    - MOBO: Maximus Formula
    - NB: 1.39v
    - GPU: G8800GTS, 640MB Overclocked
    - PUMP: MCP655

    Select matching items in the pull down menu; input the overclocked CPU speed and the Vcore voltage from the BIOS. Click the calculate button to find out the heat load.

    The result: 308watts
    Now add on 100w (about 40w of headroom) for NorthBridge chipset and 60w for overclocked GPU.
    (308w + 160w) – 38w (default wattage) = 430w final result

    Check the radiator’s capacity chart to pick out an appropriate size radiator.
    In this example we need at least a Triple 120.3 radiator to cool all the above components. A Triple 120.3 radiator is more than enough in this case, because we did add on 160w of estimation. The actual heat load is about 390w, therefore a 120.3 radiator is suitable for this setup.

    Note: no matter how big a radiator is, you won’t be able to cool the components below the ambient temperature (the temperature of the air around water-cooling circuit).

    To be continued...

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  3. #2
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    Default Basic Water-Cooling Guide for Beginers - part 2

    FAN
    Any case’s fan (120mm) will fit onto radiator (mostly), you can use them as radiator fan or you can purchase the dedicated fan for radiator. It designed to move a lot of air (in volume, CFM) at low speed (RPM) and quite (noise level, dBA) as well.





    Here what you should look for when you go for fan shopping;
    • The air flow (CFM) - higher number are better
    • Speed (RPM) lower number are better but also move a lot of air
    • Noise level (dBA) lower number which is means pleasant sound to your hears.
    WATER BLOCK
    Water block is a cooper heat sink that’s mounted to your CPU or GPU to absorb the heat generated by that component. The different between a cheap design and a sophisticated design are; a water block use simple channels carved in an “S” pattern, which is a rather cheap to manufacture. They don’t perform well as a good design known as the “pin matrix”; it will force the water through a grid of vertical pins when the liquid enters the block. This design offers more surface area than “S” pattern designs, and more surface area means better cooling performance.

    The most important thing to look for when purchasing a water block is that its inlet/outlet barbs match the tubing diameter of your other hardware. Aside from that you’ll want a block with a low pressure drop, which ensures the water keeps moving through the block quickly.


    Here are the most popular CPU, NB and GPU water blocks from Swiftech, Danger Den and D-tek. They are high performing blocks with low flow restriction. I personally prefer the universal water block than a dedicated block. Because you can re-use them over and over whenever you upgrade the CPU, MOBO or GPU but you might have to purchase a compatible bracket adapter for a fraction of cost, compare to a new block.





    COOLANT
    You can use plain tap water for this why waste money on this type of coolant, you ask?
    I won’t be using tap water or just plain distilled water. Because tap water contains hard minerals what will gunk up your radiator, pump and reservoir at no time.

    How about just distilled water?
    It will work but eventually will form algae over time as well, especially if your rig expose to day light regularly.

    Instead, you should use distilled water mixed with and additive to prevent corrosion and algae growth. You need this additive because the typical water block made of cooper and the radiator made of aluminum. These dissimilar metals create a pseudo battery upon contact with water and will cause corrosion. Therefore, most water cooling users don’t like to mix cooper with aluminum in their system.

    However, if you use a proper ratio mixture of high quality additive then you will be fine.

    Swiftech’s neon green Hydrx coolant is a great additive, its UV reactive and cheap as well. It cost only under $3.00 a bottle and you can mix it up to 1L of coolant, most of water coolant system take up 1L of coolant. The next best premixed and non-conductive coolant such as Fluid XP and MCT-5 from Danger Den are excellent but they’re significantly expensive. It cost from $29 - $40 a bottle.




    INSTALATION TIPS
    First time installing water cooling can be very scary, especially if you don’t have the knowledge or an experience helper.

    It’s not bad idea to do a dry run outside of your case to make sure none of the fittings are leaking. Place the block(s), radiator, pump, and reservoir in a circular pattern, and connect them with the tubing in the order. Secure each fitting with a hose clamp, and then fill the reservoir until it’s full. Next, lift and tilt the reservoir above the rest of the parts to fill the tubes with water.

    Now unplug the PSU and unplugging the large 20/24 pin ATX power connector from your mobo, and shorting pins number three and four on the row adjacent to the clip (the green and black pins shown), using a paper clip. Then connect a power cable to the pump, and plug in and turn on the PSU. Water should begin to circulate, which will empty the reservoir, so fill it as needed. Let the system run for a few hours. If there are no leaks, you’re ready to go. If there are leaks, investigate the affected area and fix it.


    Once you are sure everything is working properly, drain the coolant and prepare to install it inside your case. Install water block first, then the radiator, then pump, and finally the reservoir.

    I personally don’t do test leak outside of the case. I find it too hard to transfer a big connected circuit into the case and waste a lot of time; especially you have to do a special routing.

    Alternative method- directly installation:
    First I keep the case up right; don’t lie on its side like normally when you do hardware installation. If it happens to have a small leak then the coolant just drips away from the MOBO not directly on the board.

    Before fill up with the coolant, double check the tubing makes sure they have all clamps on and no kinks. Now fill up the loop with the coolant, if you have the reservoir at the lowest point or below the pump then you will have a hard time to prime the pump.

    Ok, fire up the pump and of course you don’t power up the MOBO when you do test leak.

    What happen if you have a leak?
    Relax, no harm done to the MOBO here if you don’t power it up. All you have to do is use a hair dryer to dry off the leakage and don’t plug in the MOBO for at least 24hrs. Most the leak occurs at the bard housing, cause by cracked seal (don’t over tight it) or you didn’t tight it enough.

    Normally you don’t see a small leak, such as a slow drip. It happens only when you actually use your rig at the first time. It happens when the coolant is hot and when the pressure starts building up in the circuit. So check for leaks in the first couple hours of use, to make sure proof leak, I use Teflon tape around the bard’s thread, just a couple wraps around it will prevents the leakage.

    When the tubing is connected, fill the reservoir and then tilt your rig until you let water into the lowest points of the circuit. Connect the pump and hit the power to push water through the circuit and keep adding more coolant as necessary. Once your rig’s full of water, remove the hot wiring pin, plug the ATX connector back into your mobo, and fire up your rig.


    FLOW ORDER
    Pump outlet – Radiator inlet – Radiator outlet – CPU inlet – CPU outlet to any other block inlets – Reservoir inlet – Reservoir outlet – Pump inlet.

    You can use a different pattern to suite your setup but just to make sure that you always connect the radiator outlet to CPU inlet. You want to draw the coolest coolant for the CPU.

    Tip: external radiator installation always yield better performance than internal mounting, because it draws cool air from outside of the case instead of the warm air.


    MAINTENANCE
    When you have a proper coolant mixture then you don’t have to worry too much about regularly maintenance. There’s nothing to monitor on a day to day basis but just inspect it every 6 or 12 months. Look for fluid level in the reservoir, water cooling loops is a closed circuit, evaporation shouldn’t be a problem but you will lose small amount of coolant over time.
    Next check the water blocks for signs of corrosion or blockage. Again, if you use proper coolant mixture you shouldn’t have this problem.

    Last, check the fans and radiator for dust and lint build up; clean it if you see any sign of build up.

    Hopefully, this guide will give you enough information to get start on your first water-cooling rig.

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    really nice guide, a few typo's but good job
    Coffee makes the world go round... its also vital for my bloodstream

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    nice guide bro....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yblad View Post
    really nice guide, a few typo's but good job
    thanks for the eagle eyes.
    I tried to make it short and sweet as possible, never though it will be 2 pages long and it didn't even including the advance info that I've learned.

    I was cross-eyed when I uploading the text.:cool:

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deton View Post
    thanks for the eagle eyes.
    I tried to make it short and sweet as possible, never though it will be 2 pages long and it didn't even including the advance info that I've learned.

    I was cross-eyed when I uploading the text.:cool:
    no worries, thers one still at the end of the tubing section.theres a mysterious "from" in the middle of an otherwise fine sentance :rolleyes:
    Coffee makes the world go round... its also vital for my bloodstream

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    Excellent Stuff then Deton!!! you've helped answer most of my questions there

    Moderators can you sticky it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bullydog View Post
    Moderators can you sticky it?
    Done

    Excellent guide.

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    Lightbulb Water Cooling Flow Rate Calculator

    A usefull ultility to calculate water flow rate for your system. It designed by Martin's Liquid Lab
    This software (shareware) will help you to choose right parts, it will help you to determine which component works best together. Also, it will tells you if your pump can handle all the flow restriction.




    Water Cooling users must have this ultility Download Now

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      • PSU:
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      • Thermaltake Big Typhoon Pro 14 CPU Cooler (2) 80x80 front fans (1) 120x120 rear fan and small nb fan
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    Thank you These are very good instructions I will use them.

  13. #11
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    thank you so much man... Now one quick question thou.. Does anyone have any recommendations for a quite pump, or radiator? Im switching from Air to Water due to noise issue on my current fans..

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    Quote Originally Posted by flipridah17 View Post
    thank you so much man... Now one quick question thou.. Does anyone have any recommendations for a quite pump, or radiator? Im switching from Air to Water due to noise issue on my current fans..
    Rad: Thermalchill is the best but its tripple the price compare to the other brands. I like Swiftech QuitePower, its designed for low RPM fans and only 1/2 the price, good performance.

    Fan: Yate Loon or Scythe S-flex (double the price) are the most popular one.

    Pump: Swiftech MPC 300 series or 600 series, they're both quite pumps.

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    nice guide made understand alot about water cooling thanks!

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    great guide, answered almost all of my questions... I think I might even take on water cooling. Many thanks, appreciate the hard work you put into it.
    "Death may be the greatest of all human blessings." ~ Socrates


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    you have to chanege your cooler
    Last edited by Deton; 15-05-2009 at 07:38.

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    I'm putting together a water setup, and I'm having trouble deciding on a radiator. I'm either going to get a thin 120.2 radiator, or a thicker one. The thicker one costs twice as much as the thinner one.

    There is going to only be 1 item on the loop, a Core i7 920. Which should I choose? (Definitely going to be overclocked, just so there is no confusion)

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