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Old 03-28-2009, 09:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Water Cooling 101 An In-Depth Guide to Taking the Plunge.

Aspire's Water Cooling 101 Guide

**This guide is work in progress, there's a lot more on the way**

So, your interested in water cooling are ya? Before reading any further, there are a few questions I want to get out of the way.

1. Have you built the computer you want to water cool?


If no, Have you built other current generation computers?

If no again, you really should spend some time getting comfortable with the computer itself before considering tackling water cooling.
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2. Are you comfortable spending ~$200 on a CPU water cooling system, and significantly more to cool additional GPU's, Northbridge, Southbridge, and Mosfets?

If no, water cooling probably isn't for you, stick with a high end air cooling solution.
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Now that those questions are out of the way, chances are you know your way around a computer pretty well and have the money to put together a good liquid cooling system.
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Glossary of terms

A water cooling system or (loop) as I'll refer to it from now on is very similar to the cooling system for your cars engine. The most basic parts of a loop include:

-The Pump: This is what circulates the fluid in the tubes through the radiator and blocks.

-The Radiator: This is what dissipates heat collected in the coolant. It almost always requires fans mounted to it to accomplish this.

-The Block(s): These are machined pieces of copper/acrylic/delrin that are mounted directly to the heat producing component you'd like to cool. I.E. a processor, or graphics card.

-The Reservoir or T-line: Used either or, these two components act as fill-ports for the loop and is where coolant is added. They also serve as the point for air to work it's way out of the other parts.

-Tubing:
This is what the coolant flows through and which connects all the above parts together.

-Barbs: The metal or plastic fittings that screw into or are molded onto the major components. These are what the tubing slides over.

-Clamps: Used to secure the tubing in place on the barbs

-Coolant: Ideally a mixture of Distilled water and some form of Biocide when used in a loop containing no Aluminum.

-Biocide: A chemical that kills algae, bacteria, and fungus to prevent things from growing in your loop.

**This guide is work in progress, there's a lot more on the way**
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:17 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Water Cooling 101 An In-Depth Guide to Taking the Plunge.

Pumps:

Pumps used in water cooling come in two basic varieties, AC and DC. AC pumps need to be plugged into a wall socket for power, while DC pumps can generally be run on 12V from the power supply.

This is a basic guide and I will not be covering AC pumps in it at this time.

DC pumps are often the best choice. Traditionally, they are smaller, quieter, cheaper, and do not add as much heat to the loop. (Motors, are not 100% efficient and the difference comes in the form of heat output.)
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Some of the more popular DC pumps include:


Laing DDC 3.2 (aka, Swiftech MCP355): This is a very small pump that offers excellent performance. It is one of the more expensive DC pumps out there. In it's stock form it has Twin 3/8” Diameter barbs molded onto the top that go out to the side. The nifty bit about this pump is that numerous companies make and sell “Tops” that take the place of the one that comes with the pump and that offer, among other things, improved performance, the use of standard metal barbs, and some models even have tanks that take the place of a separate reservoir. (See the below links for pictures of the stock pump and some of the more common “Tops”.)

*Note* This pump also comes in a low speed variant sold as the DDC 3.2 10W or the MCP350. This pump should be avoided unless silence is of the UTMOST importance. If you find a great deal on one, they can however be modified by soldering two points together to run at the normal 18W.*

Stock Pump:
http://www.acousticpc.com/images/a_l...p_lg_pic_2.jpg

Pump with After-market Top:
http://www.watercoolingshop.co.uk/im...-Laing-DDC.jpg

Pump with After-market Reservoir Top
http://www.chilledpc.co.uk/shop/imag...ddc-res2-l.jpg
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The second popular DC pump, also made by Laing is the D5 (aka, Swiftech MCP655 and 655-B): This pump is designed much differently and is much larger. It is universally regarded as one of the quietest and longest lasting pumps available. It also comes with plastic barbs molded into the housing, however these are the traditional 1/2” diameter that is often used in water cooling. Recently a couple companies have started offering “Tops” for this pump as well, which slightly improve performance, and allow the user to use standard metal barbs as well. This pump comes in 2 varieties, one with a built in Potentiometer, for pump speed adjustment, and another with a fixed speed. The fixed speed offers slightly lower performance than the adjustable version at it's fastest speed. The 2 are easily identified from each other as the fixed speed pump includes a RPM speed cable t monitor the speed of the impeller. This is the same cable that often comes with fans. The Fixed speed pump is also designated with a (-B) following the pump name. (See pictures below for pictures of the stock pumps and one with a “Top”)


Stock Adjustable Speed Pump:
http://specialtech.co.uk/spshop/file.../alc-13922.jpg

Stock Fixed Speed Pump:
http://us.st12.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.c...s_2044_3039539

Pump with After market EK “Top”:
http://us.st12.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.c..._2046_18113051

Both of the above pumps are held in well regard by water coolers the world over and offer excellent performance for money.
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For those on a tighter budget...

The Danger-Den CPX-Pro is a very small pump that offers the best bang for buck out there. There are no performance increasing “Tops” available for this pump, However, it does allow the use of standard metal barbs out of the box. If you choose to use this pump, you will be limited in the number of blocks and radiators you use as it's performance is much more affected by restriction.

Stock pump with metal barbs attached:
http://us.st12.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.c..._2045_43169624
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:18 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Water Cooling 101 An In-Depth Guide to Taking the Plunge.

Radiators:

Radiators are one of the most important parts of a water cooling loop. Not that there are that many to begin with... But... yeah. It is essentially a series of flat tubes to which a large number of fins are soldered to aid in removing heat from the coolant. Radiators come in several major varieties. High and Low density which address the space in between the fins, and thus how restrictive it is to air being pushing or pulled through it. This amount of restriction essentially defines the minimum noise/speed/airflow fans you can effectively use. A high density radiator offers unbeatable cooling capacity but the fans required to accomplish this are often louder than is considered tolerable. This is where low density radiators come in. These radiators achieve peak performance with quieter/slower fans. The second main deifference between radiators is in

Popular radiators include the Swiftech MCR series, the Thermochil PA series, the Feser X-Changer series, the XSPC RX series, and the HW Labs Black Ice GT Xtreme series. Each of these radiators offers excellent performance.

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The Swiftech MCR radiators are regarded as the best bargain. They offer performance only slihtly behind the top radiators at roughly half the price. They are designed to work best with Low to Medium speed fans and have a fairly low fin density. These are single pass radiators which results in the lower price. Also feature standard barb threads and fan spacing.

Petra's Tech Shop

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The Thermochill PA series offers some of the best performance out there and have been around for a fairly long time. They are made in UK and as a result are fairly expensive in the US. They have a slightly lower fin density than the Swiftech rads and are of a dual pass design, meaning water flows up and then down along the entire width of the radiator. A single pass radiator flows up along half the width and then back down the other half. These rads use a less standard fitting that requires special barbs or adapters. The space between fans is also slightly larger than all the others for which they have taken significant flak.

MountainMods.com-Water Cooling-Radiators-ThermoChill-ThermoChill PA 120.3 Radiator

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The Feser X-Changer radiators are essentially a clone of the Thermochill radiators and perform nearly identically. The slight changes include the switch to standard barbs and normal fan spacing.

Petra's Tech Shop

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The XSPC RX series is very new to the scene and offers the lowest fin density among all radiators. These radiators have become very sought after and testing shows better performance than the Termochill and Feser rads. These also come in at a slightly lower price point than both others.

Petra's Tech Shop

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The HW Labs Black Ice GT Xtreme radiators offer unbeatable performance however, they are very high restriction and require high speed fans to perform. They also rank in the most expensive category along with Thermochill and Feser.

Petra's Tech Shop
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:18 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Water Cooling 101 An In-Depth Guide to Taking the Plunge.

Water Blocks

Water blocks are essentially the heatsinks of water cooling. These are what mount directly to the heat producing parts your cooling. The most common blocks used are for the Processor and Graphics card. There also exist blocks to cool other chips on your motherboard, your memory, and your hard dives, among other things. However these are generally unnecessary and won't be covered in this guide.
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CPU or Processor Blocks:

By far the most commonly used in water cooling, these blocks mount to the motherboard and effectively transfer heat from the core(s) to the coolant. They often use some form of either fins or pins cut into the base to help this transfer.

There are basically two ways these blocks can be mouned to the motherboard. The first involved the use of bolts and nuts through the mounting holes, with the block held in place with thumb nuts and springs. (See below pictures of this mounting method)

http://i180.photobucket.com/albums/x...k/DSCF3061.jpg
http://i212.photobucket.com/albums/c...worklog023.jpg
http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/E...supreme_26.jpg
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The other way some blocks are designed to be mounted is with thumb-screws that tighten into a back-plate mounted on the backside of the motherboard.

http://i424.photobucket.com/albums/p...x/DSC03535.jpg
http://img206.imageshack.us/img206/3667/001aq4.gif
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The current kings of CPU blocks include:

The EK Supreme, Swiftech Apogee GTZ, Heatkiller CPU Rev. 3, and the D-tek Fuzion V2.

All of these blocks are top notch performers and each have their own characteristics.
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The Ek Supreme has been on the market for several months already and used a very fine array of fins milled into it's base with water being forced through them to help dissipate heat. As a result this block is very restrictive and should never be used with more than one other block in the same loop as it.

http://i288.photobucket.com/albums/l...081024x768.jpg
http://i125.photobucket.com/albums/p...a/IMG_0844.jpg
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The Swiftech Apogee GTZ is one of the newer blocks on the market and has been a hue success. It is much less restrictive than the Supreme and features and dead simple mounting setup. It performs just about on par with the Supreme and has the good looks to boot. Also, works very well with i7 processors. This block utilizes a base with very tiny pins in the middle.

http://www.thewatercoolingshop.co.uk...pogee_GTZ.jpeg
http://images.hardware.info/news/swi...base_plate.jpg
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The Heatkiller Rev. 3 is almost brand new to market and extensive testing has not been accomplished, however it is a solid well designed block. The base features cuts made into the base creating fins.

http://us.st12.yimg.com/us.st.yimg.c...s_2044_8117729
http://www.cooling-masters.com/image...eatkiller4.jpg
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Lastly, the D-tek Fuzion V2 is another great block. However, it does not perform as well as the other in applications where a quad core processor is involved. It's forged base features an array of relatively tall pins in the center.

http://teknoinfo.web.id/wp-content/u...fuzionv2-1.jpg
http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m...g?t=1238297227
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As before with the pumps there also exist a couple budget blocks that offer good performance at a great price. The First is the XSPC Delta V3 block. This block offers great value for money and will handle any processor with ease (i7 chips will benefit from the more expensive blocks outlined above.)

Petra's Tech Shop
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The Second budget blck is the OCZ Hydroflow. Made by the same people well known for their Memory, the OCZ Hydroflow is based in part off older Swiftech blocks and is a decent block.

OCZ OCZTHYDF HydroFlow HF-MK1 CPU Waterblock Retail at ZipZoomfly
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Graphics card blocks:


Graphics card water blocks come n two basic varieties. Full cover blocks, and core only blocks. A full cover block effectively covers the entire side of the pcb that the core is on. These blocks are large, heavy, and expensive. They do however offer the cleanest solution to keeping the card cool, and are often the only way to easily water cool multiple cards. Some of the more common manufacturers of these blocks include EK, a company based in Slovenia, Danger-Den, the company that first pioneered this style of block located in Oregon, and more recently, XSPC. This style of block is also the only kind available to cool multi-pcb cards like the 9800GX2 and the GTX 295. The one problem with full cover blocks is they are machined to only fit onto a single model card. Manufacturers often make cards with non reference layouts, because of this, these cards are often not compatible with full cover blocks. (See the pictures below to get an idea of how these blocks work.)

http://ekwaterblocks.com/shop/images/4870X2-Acetal.jpg
http://www.linustechtips.com/wp-cont.../2008/05/1.jpg
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Core only blocks are a cheaper and less elegant solution to cooling a video card. These more closely resemble a normal CPU block and only cool the GPU itself, none of the rest of the card. Because of this, ramsinks and power regulation chips will need to be cooled. This is often done with ramsinks, small rectangular heatsinks with Thermal tape to attach them to the chips. These core only blocks are much more likely to remain compatible with other models of cards. Most available today will work with cards all the way back to the 6 series of Nvidia cards without issue. These blocks are also significantly cheaper than full cover blocks.

http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/image...4b210b1117.jpg

Some of the more popular models include the D-tek Fuzion GFX V2, and the Swiftech MCW-60.
Both these blocks offer comparable performance and restriction and come at a similar price point. It really just comes down to user preference on which one to buy.

Petra's Tech Shop

http://specialtech.co.uk/spshop/files/detail/mcw60.jpg
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Old 03-28-2009, 09:19 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Reservoirs and T-lines:


These are an integral part of any liquid cooling loop. Their primary functions include allowing air bubbles to work their way out of the other components and to allow for a point to add coolant to the loop. A reservoir, in it's most basic form, is essentially a sealed box that holds fluid and allows space for displaced air to gather. (See below pictures for common examples.)

As covered in the pump section, there do exist reservoir's that can function as the top to a DDC pump.

http://www.kinexworld.com/images3/dd...ir_2008_3.jpg\

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One of the most common reservoirs found are the Swiftech Micro Res.

http://www.cool-z.com.au/zenshop/images/MCRES-MICRO.gif
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Another common style mounts like a CD-Drive in 5.25” or 3.5” bays.

http://www.kinexworld.com/images3/Re..._uv_blue_1.jpg
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Some of the most popular reservoirs include:

Swiftech Micro Res. Petra's Tech Shop

EK-RES250. Petra's Tech Shop

Danger Den Bay Res Petra's Tech Shop
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A T-line utilizes a T shaped fitting placed in an inverted orientation with the perpendicular barb pointing up. To this, a length of tubing is attached and the horizontal barbs are connected in-line directly before the inlet to the pump. The end of the fill line is usually closed with some form of cap or plug. T-lines are used in place of reservoirs because they are often less expensive and take up less space than a reservoir. The one downside is that air takes much longer to work it's way out of the loop. (See below picture to see a t-line in the middle)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...ing_T-Line.JPG

A t-line setup requires the following:

-T fitting
-Length of tubing
-Tubing Plug or Fill Port
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