How I Switched Over to the Dark-Side - or Owenator Goes from Water Cooled to Air Cooled

Add Your Comments

Owen Stevens

Well it has been some time since I posted here at Overclockers.com, so you may not remember me, but I was really into water-cooling and wrote quite a few articles on Overclockers.com about my experiences.

Now I’ve gone over to the “Dark-side”, air-cooling!

No offense to air-coolers. It’s just that after
being water-cooled for so long, air-cooling seems a little odd to me. I am also one of those people that spends way too much money on my PC, so I’m sure I’ll get some of that angst too!

Lately my time has been a higher premium to me than cash so I decided to build a more “standard” box for gaming. I haven’t been water-cooling for quite some time since I upgraded to an Athlon 64 (socket 754). Some day I’ll update my mounting mechanism and use my external radiator set up (as seen HERE).

OS

Besides, my wife wanted a new PC, so I used this as an excuse to upgrade mine! Of course, my cast offs are not that bad at all! I set her up with my “old” socket 754 nForce3 motherboard (mobo) with an Athlon 64 3000+ and a BFG 6800 OC 128 MB. The above with a 19″ flat panel, wireless keyboard, and 1.5 GB of RAM, and she can play the Harry Potter games and do Photoshop Elements very well!

For myself, I ditched my wooden DIY hobby stand setup and bought the components listed below. Now that I look at it, the only thing I kept from my other set-up was the XP Home install and my data.

  • Lian-Li PC-800B aluminum desktop case
  • MSI K8 Neo SLI motherboard
  • Athlon 64 X2 3800+ CPU
  • 3D Fuzion 256MB 7800 GTX (these are made by BFG)
  • 2GB of GigaRam DDR500 RAM
  • SkyHawk 570W PSU (not dual 12v)
  • Western Digital Raptor 74GB SATA hard drive
  • Black dual layer DVD burner
  • Creative Audigy XiFi sound card
  • Rosewill 8ms 19″ flat panel
  • Logitech G5 laser mouse
  • Zboard gaming key board
  • Zboard Battlefield 2 key set (after reabate it was free!)
  • Antec Vcool video cooler
  • Zalman CNPS7000B-CU

Here is the hobby stand and my new components on our festive tabletop (Guess what time of year it was?!) You can see a little of the case here too:

OS

Here is a front shot of the case. It is a desktop because I am used to the hobby stand being on top of my desk and it does leave open the possibility of an external water cooling setup with the top off. It is all aluminum and has a front mounted, front exhausting power supply:

OS

The guys at Lian-Li even included a tool for the mounting studs with the hardware pack:

OS

Here is a left/inside shot. There are two 60 mm fans in the back and an 80 mm blowhole that brings air in directly over the CPU on the top (removed here). You can see the perforations for the power supply to such air up from underneath the case:

OS

A left top shot showing the drive mounting cages and the power cable to the power supply. The PCI covers have thumb screws, so it is partially screw-less:

OS

{mospagebreak}

A shot from above of the back showing the front mounts for the 5 ¼” drives and the power supply. You can also see the cabling for the front panel IO:

OS

Here is a shot of the back showing the fans back panel and power plug in:

OS

A close up shot of the back with the plate for my mobo installed:

OS

A picture of the bottom of the case showing the power supply vent. The bottom comes off just as easy as the top which may come in handy for later modding (if I ever get the time:):

OS

To get the 5 ¼” cage out, you have to unscrew the screws that hold in the front 3 ½” drive cage from the bottom of the case (Ah the reason for the above foreshadowing). Or you can get an extra long screwdriver to reach between the two:

OS

Here you see the front 3 ½” drive cage out and the screw that you remove to get out the 5 ¼” cage. At this point, I could have just put my CDRW and DVD drive in, but I chose to put them in with the cage out:

OS

{mospagebreak}

My first set up had two 5 ¼” drives. The black one is a CDRW and the tan one is a DVD-ROM behind a cool metal flap that opens to reveal the drive. I found that in this tight case mounting the DVD-ROM with the front cover took up too much real estate, so I replaced them both with a black dual layer DVD-RW drive:

OS

These are kind’a cool. You screw in these special screws into you drive…

OS

Slide them into the cage’s mounting brackets…

OS

Then shut the little grey bit (here open)…

OS

And you have the drive locked into the cage:

OS

Here you can see the drive slid into the rear mounting cage and the mobo installed. I initially used the stock air cooler on the x2 3800+ and my existing four sticks of DDR 400 RAM, as you can see here:

OS

{mospagebreak}

Here is a shot of my new 7800 GTX installed:

OS

This shows the front panel IO cabling and the power cord extension that plugs into the front mounted power supply:

OS

You screw on a mounting bracket to the power supply unit (PSU):

OS

And don’t forget to turn it to the “ON” position before it is installed in the case. With this case design, it would be hard to toggle the off button once the PSU is installed:

OS

Here you can see the modular power plugs on my new PSU and the tight clearance between them and the video card. But it does fit!

OS

This is an overview shot of the system with all of the components installed:

OS

It was a very tight fit with my DVD-ROM, CDRW, and four sticks of RAM:

OS

A good excuse to upgrade to a DVD-RW and two sticks of 1GB each!{mospagebreak}

OS

Cooling the video card was a question because the card pretty much blocked off the air from the CPU side of the case, as seen here:

OS

I experimented with an externally mounted fan (You can also see the mobo backpanel too.)

OS

My solution was the Vantec Vcool. It is a big fan card but it does move a lot of air into the case to keep the card cool. I have my card running at 490 x 1300 right now. You can also see the XiFi here also. I went with it because the mobo built in sound had problems with FarCry (Another excuse to upgrade!)

OS

I ended up swapping out the stock air cooler for the Zalman one and now have a stable overclock at 10 x 250 at 1.4 Volts for my X2 3800+. It’s also nice to have the RAM running DDR500 speeds on 2.7 Volts:

OS

A shot of the system on my desk:

OS

I love this new system! My LCD’s max resolution is 1280 x 1024, so I run at that. I completed Half Life 2 with the video set for everything maxed out at that resolution just fine. I even ran the Lost Coast Demo with no problems as the same settings. I currently play a lot of Battlefield 2 (as Owenator1) and it can handle everything set at max.

I really enjoyed building this PC and I hope this article helps others who embark on a similar journey.

PS: Here is an out take photo I tried to take of the lights. A cool effect for future experimentation.

OS

Owen Stevens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *