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Subzero Cooling Insulation Guide

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Sub zero cooling can be an exciting adventure, and is essential to getting the very best possible overclocks. But care should always be taken to make sure you keep your components dry for obvious reasons. With this fool-proof insulation guide, benching with the cold stuff will be like a walk in the park. Well, prepping for it will be.

The actual cooling and overclocking guides are still to come. But before you pick up some dry ice or LN2, you’ve got to learn to insulate properly. This information is from a forum thread by Deanzo that covers just about everything you need to know about insulating for sub zero cooling. I’ve rearranged some things since Deanzo made some updates to the thread. I’ve also added a few of my own comments. The original thread is HERE.

Editor’s note: If your interested in extreme cooling, you may want to refer to sno.lcn’s earlier article, an introduction to extreme cooling HERE.

There are some great guides for this, maybe the best one is from k|ngp|n and can be found HERE. But to add to that, this is how I do it.

I’ve moved away from using nail polish for insulating around the board. Using a conformal coating on both sides, is faster, better and costs a lot less.

(For New Zealand members) You can pick up a can at JayCars for about $12NZ, and should do 10+ boards. Which is alot better than the $25NZ each board that nail polish was costing me.

Just take off all the heatsinks etc, tape it out and spray! It’s that easy.
I don’t cover the vreg’s around the socket, I spray over the top and clean it off after (I find this faster) the cleaner is sold right next to the conformal coating (For NZ members shopping at JayCars).

CPU socket area and container prep.

On the back side of the board I also use a heater pad. Cut foam to go around the CPU socket as pictured.

Paper towel gasket to catch and absorb any drips or moisture that may occur around the CPU.

2nd layer of insulation.

3rd and larger layer of insulation.

The CPU pot used in this guide. Dragon F1 by k|ngp|n, wrapped in insulation.

Add Ceramique (thermal interface material).

Mount Pot.

Graphics Card and Container Prep

Right then kids! You’ve been sub zero cooling your CPU and now want to take the next step. Good for you! Please note, this can make sub zero cooling on a CPU look and feel easy.

First thing, most everyone who does this kills a card at some point and time! But if the big clocks/speeds matter to you, this is the next step.

As I didn’t take many pictures of my 88U, I’ll use the GX2 (Oh the fun, two PCB’s!)

First off take the card apart.

Not all cards are the same, google your card and see if you can find a “how to”
For the GX2, you can use this one at Techpowerup.

This first step can take over an hour on it’s own (mine sure did).

After you have it apart, give it a good clean. And coat the areas around the core and memory with liquid electrical tape or nail polish, both sides, front and back. Conformal spray works great as well.
You will need to heatsink the digital vreg chips on each PCB as well as the monitor output chip. And make a gasket(s) to go around the core(s).

Make sure you insulate your pot well.

But think about what your insulation will push up against. To fat, it may just kill that item ie: vmem

Now mount the pot to the card, and if your really lucky. You’ll have some POS sli bridge getting in the way.

The back of the PCB(s) will get very cold, so you will need to insulate that as well. Or you’ll have ice/condensation issues, and then the water will run down the card and into the PCI-e slot. And that’s bad.

I use two layers, the first layer is just plain closed cell insulation.

2nd layer is the black sticky back insulation, make it over sized to stop air getting in and under the first layer.

One last step, The Motherboard.

You will need to insulate around the PCI-e slot with liquid electrical tape or nail polish, front and back.

Rub some vaseline or dielectric grease onto both side of the “gold fingers” that go into the PCI-e slot, and a “small” amount onto the top of the slot itself.

Also pack paper towels around the slot.

Well done, and now test your handy work.

Northbridge Area Prep

Now that we have looked at both CPU and GPU Cooling, It’s time for the NB. Overall, very easy. Just like the CPU, we need to make a gasket, but this time a little bigger.

Added two paper towel gaskets.

Another layer of insulation.

Last layer of insulation and the hold down.

Add the top part of the insulation.

I used 10mm insulation under the back plate.

Add some other heatsinks for the SB and FET’s, and your ready to go.

And then have some fun!

Added to Deanzo’s thread more recently, this is an updated method of insulation that is quickly gaining in popularity.
Yet another way to insulate your board to stop condensation (air getting in). Use “Art Eraser” to cover the board, there is no way air is getting in and under this stuff.

In the picture below I’m getting ready to mount a NB pot.

And when you put it all together, you get something like this..

F1 EE CPU Pot, NB Pot, Tek9 4.0 GPU Pot and a Tek9 3.0 GPU Pot.

Hopefully this guide has answered some of your questions about insulating for sub zero cooling. If you follow it carefully, your chances of killing your hardware with condensation are slim to none. I’ve run LN2 for 8 hours straight without a single drop of water touching anything vital with using methods identical to these. Extreme cooling can be dangerous for your hardware if care is not taken to protect it. At the same time, it can bring huge rewards to someone willing to get educated on insulating properly.]

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