Once A Watercooler Always A Watercooler - Owenator Returns to Watercooling

Add Your Comments

The journey back – Owen Stevens

Well you may have read earlier where I ditched my case-less water cooled system (HERE) and went to a compact aircooled desktop case (HERE). Well I have seen the light and returned to watercooling my PC. I am baaack!!!

My main problem with the desktop set up was heat. It is probably no surprise to many of you because heat has always been an overclocker’s enemy. So why did I go to aircooling? Well I had labored under the delusion that I would be happy with the performance of my fairly stock 7800GTX video card and X2 3800+. I mean, I had gotten them stable 2.5 GHz out of the CPU and a fairly mild 490MHz GPU x 1300MHz Video RAM. I even had system RAM running at 500MHz with my 250MHz front side bus. Well then along came BattleField 2.

I had BF2 when I built the earlier system but I really hadn’t gotten into it too deeply. As it turned out I got really hooked on BF2 and I started to want more out of my system. The heat in the desktop case was really holding me back. Well just in the nick of time my annual bonus came in so I thought hey I’ll solve this!

My solution was to get a new 7900GTX 512MB and a new case to put it in. Well since I was getting a new case and a new video card I decided to splurge on a Swiftech watercooling kit as well.

Pic

I picked a faux BTX style case from Aerocool. It has ten front mount 5 ¼ bays. Two internal drive bays. The whole front is perforated grills. And it has a window! Oh, and it was less than $100 too! :

Pic

Here is the window that will show all the cool bits I am going to put in.

Pic

It is not totally tool-less but it does have these nice thumbscrews that hold on the side covers.

Pic

Here’s all the goodies it comes with. Because of the opposite side layout it comes with extension cables for the front panel IO and power/reset/etc. The tan things are a really clever 5¼” bay mounting system.

Pic

Two hard drives can be mounted above the bottom mounted power supply. Here is a shot of that. It came with a quiet 120mm blue lighted exhaust fan.

Pic

The door has three 80mm fans that blow in directly across the hard drives. They aren’t lighted though.

Pic

Here is a shot of a front 5¼” bay cover. The perforations are cool, in my opinion! (Pun intended 🙂

Pic

One neat feature is the bottom mounting of the power supply. It draws cool air in from the bottom and exhausts the hot out the back.

Pic

While we’re on the subject of power supply I’ll show you how it is mounted. You remove a plate from the back of the case.

Pic

You slide in your power supply.

Pic

And secure it with screws.

Pic


{mospagebreak}

Now to the watercooling. I bought Swiftech’s H2O-120 premium kit that comes neatly packed in a box.

Pic

You get quite a lot for your $200. Here are the bits all laid out:

Pic

The kit came with their apogee type CPU block:

Pic

There is some assembly required. Here I have put in the 3/8″ barbs I’m using. I know ½” is better but it comes like this from the factory, so I figured I’d try it out before I swap out anything.

Pic

Another shot showing the spring retention system:

Pic

Yes – those are the instructions in the background. I read them, every time – honestly! Here I am mounting the cooler to the motherboard. It uses the standard two bolts from AMD’s mounting system:

Pic

Here I am reinstalling it the correct way. (Oops I should have read the instructions more closely!)

Pic

And finally here it is all tightened down. A very simple mounting method. I love it!

Pic

In my old box, I used a Vcool to draw in outside air to help cool the video card, as seen here:

Pic

The clearance over my Northbridge was very tight. The 7900GTX has a 2 slot wide cooler, which made it worse:

Pic

To fix this I got the Swiftech GPU cooler with RAM sinks. Here is our victim. My brand new 7900GTX.

Pic

{mospagebreak}

First you have to remove the big heat sink. All nine of these screws need to come out:

Pic

I was surprised to find these soft, white thermal pads on the video RAM. The GPU had thermal pad too, but it was silver.

Pic

Here is one of the white pads up close. They were very soft – almost putty-like.

Pic

And here is the back side of the whole heatsink with the thermal pads transferred over. I threw this into a bag for safe keeping.

Pic

Here is the base of the GPU block:

Pic

A shot of it attached. The GPU attachment mechanism also was easy to install like the CPU. I put the barbs in after the fact for clearance but in hindsight I should have done the barbs and RAM sinks, then the GPU block.

Pic

A shot of the GPU cooler installed and the video RAM naked (shocking!):

Pic

The manual said to clean the ram with Xylene or another de-greaser. It just so happens I have a cleaner with Xylene in it, but it is nasty stuff, as seen here on the warning label – hence the latex gloves:

Pic

Here are the RAM sinks prior to install. They use a thermal “sticker” to hold them in place:

Pic

Here is one “stuck” on:

Pic

And here they all are in place¹:

Pic

¹ Note: I had some issues with the RAM sinks sticking well. I think that I should have done a final clean with alcohol after the Xylene. I ended up using a hairdryer to heat the sinks, which made them stick better. I checked recently and they are still all stuck in place.

I am lucky in that in this case’s “BTX” orientation the cards “face up”, so the sinks sit on top, not hang like they would on a standard ATX case. As time goes on the thermal stickers are supposed to set up better from the heat of the RAM. So far so good.

I plan on volt modding this card so we’ll see if they stay on when I remove the card for that procedure. I asked Swiftech and they said that the pads are a one time application, so if they do come off I’ll have to look at other mounting options, like thermal epoxy of other thermal tape. It just so happens that I got a sample from the manufacturer of the tape that I can use. They sent me two 8″ x 8″ sheets of the stuff, so I have plenty if needed.{mospagebreak}

Now we move on to the stuff that’s going in. First I gutted my old system. Here are all the bits awaiting install:

Pic

Here the motherboard is in the case:

Pic

I started off by checking the length of the wires for the case front panel: USB, power switch, drive light, etc. It turned out that I needed to use one of the supplied extensions. Here is a shot of the USB extension wired up:

Pic

It gave me an extra 10″ or so to reach my boards USB headers:

Pic

I routed all the cables on the non-windowed side of the case:

Pic

This case has a cool 5¼” mounting solution. Here is my DVD-RW drive. Sorry for the blurry picture – I am still getting used to this new camera:

Pic

A shot of the side mounting holes. (Yes, yes – it’s blurry too, sorry!):

Pic

To hold the drive in place, you simply put it in the case and use these locking plastic things:

Pic

You put the plastic pegs in the screw holes and then turn the knob to lock it in place. Very easy!

Pic

The hard drives mount just as easily. Here you see my Raptor 150 and its mounting “sliders”:

Pic

You just put the sliders pegs in the screw holes like so:

Pic

And then slide the drive into the mounting bay.

Pic

{mospagebreak}

Here is the case partially built. Of course, I forgot to leave the top 5¼” bay fee for my reservoir:

Pic

Here is the proper set up with the reservoir out on top:

Pic

This case comes with a nice mounting bracket for a front 120mm fan…

Pic

Which in my case has a radiator attached:

Pic

I later went with two 120mm x38mm Panaflo High output fans in a push pull orientation. The next task is the plumbing. Always remember to put the hose clamp on the tubing first. (Not that I ever would… OK, I have a few times.)

Pic

Here I am attaching to the pump:

Pic

Here the reservoir:

Pic

I am not sure why I did this like this, but it’s a place to start:

Pic

I then put on the spiral spring-like stuff that prevents line kinks. (It glows kind of cool too – more on that later.):

Pic

Here it is all on… it would probably have been easier to do this first:

Pic

I plumbed it all in like this – I left extra attached to the reservoir to allow for easier filling:

Pic

{mospagebreak}

I bought a gallon of distilled water but I only needed a – the rest went into my fish tank.

Here I added the Swiftech chemicals to the water. They say that this mix is maintenance free if you start with distilled water. It has a UV reactive dye in it as well:

Pic

Here is the chemical bottle called HydrX:

Pic

Here it is all filled up. I used a pin short trick to run the power supply to get the 12v pump to circulate for bleed and feed. IT was actually quite easy compared to some of my homemade setups:

Pic

A shot of the front panel IO with the box on my desk:

Pic

Here is my current setup with this new box. Yes – that’s a 21″ CRT with a 17″ CRT next to it. I play a ton of BattleField 2 and the second monitor is for Ventrillo and TeamSpeak so I can see who’s talking:

Pic

A shot of the case with some bling I added. I found out that the rear 120mm fan’s blue light makes the water glow! I was so taken with the effect I bought all UV reactive drive cables and two cold cathode black lights. Now it even looks cool! :

Pic

This case and watercooling setup with my fans at an almost silent 7 volts keeps my CPU and GPU at around 32ºC idle and 45ºC load in my 22ºC room. Not bad at all for a 120mm RAD and 3/8″ tubing!

I am extremely happy with this setup, but knowing me, I’ll probably tweak it a little as time goes on, so stay tuned!

PS:
Join the [OCG] BF2 Clan!

Owenator (Owenator1 on BF2)

Leave a Reply

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