As well as ordering everything you can see in a PC case with a completed setup — tubing, fittings, pump, reservoir and radiator — there are various parts and tools you need to help you connect all the components and ensure everything is secure to avoid leaks when assembling a water cooling setup. Liquid and electronics don't mix well, and that combination is absolutely the worst case scenario for any PC build. It's rare but can occur, so we'll need to make sure we're confident and take our time.
The case we will be installing everything into is the Thermaltake Core P5 (opens in new tab), which was specifically designed for this kind of cooling. Thus, we should encounter no issues, but it's a good idea to double check your own case to see if it's possible to mount a pump, reservoir, radiator and more.
Here's everything that has been delivered to our office:
- Alphacool 2-way ball valve (opens in new tab).
- Alphacool L-Connector (x2).
- Alphacool TEE T-Piece.
- EK PETG clear tubing (opens in new tab) (500mm x8).
- EK Supremacy MX CPU block (opens in new tab).
- EK 140 Revo D5 PWM pump/reservoir combo (opens in new tab).
- EK-HDC fitting (opens in new tab) (12mm x8).
- XSPC EX480 radiator (opens in new tab) (480mm).
Some tools that we need for the build:
- 2,000W heat gun (opens in new tab).
- Distilled water.
- Tube cutter (opens in new tab).
- Reamer (opens in new tab).
- Silicon tube mold insert.
- Measuring tape.
- Thermal compound.
We'll have a more in-depth look at the various components and how to check that the fittings and tubing will fit with one another at a later date, though standard sizes should make it easy to match everything up.
We opted for 12mm tubing and fittings with a full EK setup for the pump, reservoir, and CPU block. XSPC was selected for the company's EX480 radiator, which isn't the thickest by any means but is solid-looking for what we need it to do.
As for tools, you will absolutely require a tube cutter and reamer of some sort. Heat guns are only required for hard tubing (like PETG and acrylic) where you won't use 90-degree fittings and will want to bend the tubing. Measuring tapes are for those who don't wish to be in the position where you've overshot or undershot a connecter by a few centimeters. CPU blocks may come with thermal compound, but it's always a good idea to have some stored away should you need to remove processor cooling for any reason.
The only thing we're missing is actual coolant to be pumped through the loop. We're still thinking about the color. The case itself is green, so would white look better with cabling or should we stick with a shade of green to match the metal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Cable combs will be installed to keep power delivery looking tidy alongside precisely-cut tubing, so we're not worrying about the current mess.
Part two of this project will cover tube measuring and cutting, so remain tuned for more details on installing (and failing at installing) a custom setup!
Progress in our PC water-cooling project
Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
With the white cables, white coolant might look best; don't forget to make a video of your build process;
I second this. I wouldn't match the color of the case (if you can) especially since it might look janky if the color is just a little off.
How do you avoid condensation on the outside of the tubing? Could that even become an issue?
Unless you're passing it through a refrigerator or something, the coolant shouldn't really get colder than ambient temperature, nor much warmer than ambient temperature. this should avoid any scenarios where condensation may occur.
Edit: depending on your setup, you may get significantly warmer than ambient temperature, but *usually* that's due to having a cooling system that isn't powerful enough for your setup.
Oh ok! That makes sense! So your not trying to make it really cold. Your trying to keep it from getting too hot?
Ultimately, it still comes down to just moving the hot air away as quickly as possible. In watercooling, a block replaces the traditional cpu heatsink. This block is designed to have water flow through it and remove the heat from the cpu, since water transports heat much faster than air. This, now warmer, water is ultimately brought through a radiator which acts as a giant heatsink and removes the heat from the coolant. Fans over the radiator remove the heat from there, ultimately dissipating it into the environment around it. if your pump, resevoir, radiator, and fans are sufficiently strong enough for your system, your coolant will almost reach a kind of equilibrium where the temperature of the coolant isn't that much different at any point in the system and the cpu temperature should be at about the same temperature as that. granted, this is in a theoretically perfect system, so you'll have variations, but you shouldn't veer too far from it, unless your system isn't designed well. Hopefully i didn't get any of that wrong. if anyone sees any mistakes, feel free to correct it. Edit: in your coolant loop, you can also cool other components as well. Graphics cards, chipsets, voltage regulators, SSD/HDDs, and RAM can all be added, with graphics cards being the most common addition, whereas the others tend to be found more in overclocked systems.
That helped so much! Thanks! I want to ultimately build my own computer someday. I'm the kind of guy who needs to know how things work before I start "doing things", and this definitely helped. Thanks!
Yes. In a normal air setup you would have a heat sink with lots of metal fins sitting on the the cpu/gpu. A fan blows air through the fins to disperse the heat. In a liquid cooled setup, you have the same thing except a plate with small ridges inside a small case has liquid passed over it and then pumped up to a radiator block with fans attached. "Like what you have in your car". It's then pumped back down. Liquid with a big radiator is just more efficient than air at dispersing the heat.
Many independent studies (aka not sponsored by manufacturers in a way or another) show that liquid cooling is at best as efficient as traditional air cooling, but more expensive and a bit risky (it's rare but leaks happen). I do agree it looks nice and for someone OK to spend a bit more to have a better looking PC it's a great choice. But it's definitely not for cooling efficiency despite what the marketing says. ;-)
I'd like to see those studies. Maybe in a rig that isn't overclocked or under heavy load. But if your air cooling isn't keeping it at as cool as the surroundings, water cooling definitely can.
I would also like to see these studies. As someone who has a H100i closed liquid cooling loop and a GTx 1070 Seahawk X with liquid cooling. I have tested both air and liquid cooling and the components always stay much much coler overall. Because of that you can typically push the components much harder. Heat is the components worst enemy. I have been able to overclock my components much further than on traditional air cooling while also maintaining temps less than what stock temps are with air cooling. Just my personal experience.
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