Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial

Introduction

The purpose of this tutorial is to show how to water-cool an over-the-counter router (i.e.: D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, etc). Unfortunately, many routers have heat shields or other internal components that will prohibit the installation of a water block (WxHxD: 1.7 cm x 1.4 cm x 5.8 cm). Before purchasing a D-Link DIR-615 rev C1, I encountered two different Linksys router models where heat shields and metal frames prevented the attachment of a water block to the CPU and/or switch chip. Please look inside your router or search the internet for pictures to verify possibilities before continuing with the tutorial.

Step 1: Preparation

There is a large materials checklist. The checklist is split in two parts:
1) Materials you will need (or equivalent components).
2) Additional materials that were used to water-cool a D-Link DIR-615 rev C1 router.

Materials you must have:

  • Water block
  • 1 x Nozzle Pair, Barb [For ID: 10mm (3/8")]
MVR-40 (Visit Koolance or Petra’s Tech Shop for other water block sizes.)

1 x Nozzle Pair, Barb sold on same page.

$21.99

$7.49

  • Pump
  • Reservoir
Thermaltake Aqua-Bay M5 $49.95
  • Radiator
  • 1 x Nozzle Pair, Barb [For ID: 10mm (3/8")]
  • Fan
HX-362 – Radiator

1 x Nozzle Pair, Barb sold on same page.

Fan, 120x25mm (FAN-12025MBK) sold on same page.

$36.99

$7.49

$7.49

  • Tubing
Tubing, Clear UV-Reactive PVC, 1ft/30.5cm [ID: 10mm (3/8"); OD: 13mm (1/2")] (Price in right column is for 6-feet worth of tubing. It is better to have too much rather than not enough.) $7.74
  • Hose clamp x 3
Hose Clamp [For OD: 13mm (1/2")] (You will need 3. The Aqua-Bay M5 comes with 2, but were too big. I purchased mine at a hardware store (True Value) for convenience.) $2.67
  • Funnel
Liquid Funnel $0.99
  • Liquid coolant
Liquid Coolant Bottle, High-Performance, 700mL (UV Green) (Any coolant will work, but this was pre-mixed with distilled water. About 1/3 of the original 700mL was left in the bottle after filling the system. $14.99
  • Thermal adhesive
Thermal Adhesive (My local computer store did not have any. I made my own using 1 part epoxy and 1 part thermal grease.) $6.99
Sub Total: $164.78

Additional materials:

  • Mini-ITX case
Sunbeam ACMI-P-T Transparent Clear Acrylic Mini-ITX Tower Computer Case 150W Power Supply $79.99
  • Jigsaw cutter
A local hardware store (True Value) can cut a square in the top of the Mini-ITX case for you. $5.00
  • Acrylic glass (14″x 15″)
Placed beneath the router and cooling system for easier carriage. I had a piece of acrylic cut at a hardware store (True Value). $10.00
  • Paperclip
Need 1 paperclip to power on the PSU and water cooling. <$1
  • Cat6 cable
CAT6, UTP, Bootless, 500MHz (Five 1-foot cables, one for each router port.) $3.85
  • Cat6 jacks
CAT6 Toolless Keystone Insert Jack (Buy 5 of them.) $9.96
  • Cardboard
Use to make your homemade wall jack face plate. $?
  • Paint and brush
Make your cardboard more eye-appealing. $?
  • Velcro (1′)
Secure the router with 6″ of industrial strength velcro and use the remaining 6″ to secure the cooling components. $5
  • Wire mesh (optional)
Not necessary, but this will cover the exposed top of the case. I had mine cut from an object in the fire place section of a hardware store (True Value). $4
  • Silicone glue (optional)
Use to glue the wire mesh to the top of the case. $?
  • Paper towel
Use to check for leaks in the water cooling system. $?
  • Rubber bands
Use for cable management along tubing. $?
  • Paper towel
Use to check for leaks in the water cooling system. $?
  • Rubber bands
Use for cable management along tubing. $?
  • Metal wire
Use to tie down acrylic 3.5″ bay shelf to bottom of the case. The bottom of the plastic bin will be glued on top. $?
  • Plastic bin (13.5″ x 8.25″ x 4.75″)
Use to house water cooling components outside of the Mini-ITX case. $3
  • Epoxy glue
Use to glue the plastic bin to the acrylic 3.5″ bay shelf. Also was used for homemade thermal adhesive.) $?
  • Scissors
$?
  • Screwdriver
A small phillips-head screw driver to attach the PSU to the Mini-ITX case. $?
  • Toggle switch (optional)
I use a switch to turn off the front blue LED fans while I am sleeping because they are very bright. $3
  • Electrical tape
$?
Sub Total: $123.80±
Grand Total: $288.58±

Step 2: Modify the Mini-ITX Case.

Remove the acrylic shelf for the 3.5″ drive bay. Also, remove the two leg panels that support the shelf. Use wire to tie the acrylic shelf to the bottom of the ITX case so that it is sticking out on the side. The plastic bin that houses the cooling system reservoir and pump will sit upon this piece. The purpose of this is not to support the cooling system while carrying it, but it is something for it to rest on.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 2 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 2 - 1

Next, place your router inside of the ITX case and attach the top of the ITX case. Trace a square hole on a piece of cardboard. Cut out your tracing and attach it to the top of the case where you want it to be cut. I took the case to a True Value hardware store where they cut it for $5. Also ask to have a piece of acrylic cut in the size of 14″ by 15″. This will be used as a platform to carry your water cooled router.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 2 - 2

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 2 - 2

Step 3: Make the wall jack face plate.

Cut cardboard to fit the opening on the back of the ITX case. This will be placed underneath where the power supply sits. Next, cut 5 squares into the cardboard to mount the Cat6 keystone jacks. Trace the keystone jacks for appropriate size. Remember to cut a hole for your router power cable. I forgot to do this and had to wire the power cable out of the top of the case and around the tubing.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 3 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 3 - 1

  • Paint your cardboard so that it looks beautiful. Use epoxy glue to attach your cardboard to the ITX case (Elmer’s glue even worked for me when I let it dry over night).

Step 4: Jump start the power supply with a paper clip.

Use a paper clip to connect the green wire and any black wire coming out of the largest cable from the PSU. Secure the paper clip using electrical tape. This will allow your PSU to turn on immediately after plugging in the power cord without the use of a motherboard.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 4 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 4 - 1 - Source: deron.meranda.us

Step 5: Build the water cooling system.

On the D-Link DIR-615, I am water cooling the processor chip and the switch chip. The switch chip was 2 to 3 millimeters higher than the processor chip. Therefore, I cut a very thin piece of a metal. This metal will be placed on the processor chip to level out the water block evenly. The metal I used was from the face plate that ordinarily would have been used on the back of the ITX case, right where we glued the cardboard for the Cat6 keystones.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 5 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 5 - 1

  • Remove the top of the router’s plastic case. Place your router inside of the ITX case and attach the top of the ITX case. Use the PVC tubing to mark the lengths that you will need to cut.
  • Assemble the water cooling system, but do not put it into the case when filling it with liquid coolant. Follow the construction guide that comes with the Aqua-Bay M5. Use two hose clamps at the ends of the thermometer and 1 hose clamp at the reservoir.
Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 5 - 2

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 5 - 2

  • Fill your cooling system with liquid coolant. It is easiest to fill the system at the reservoir, where the cap twists off.
  • After filling the reservoir, plug the water cooling system into the PSU and plug the PSU into a wall outlet. The water cooling system should start operating. Unplug the power cable when the reservoir is half full and add more coolant to the system until the coolant level has reached the ‘high’ mark. Repeat this step until the rest of the system is completely filled.
  • Lay paper towel on a table. Place your cooling system on top of the paper towel and run the system for about 15 minutes. If the paper towel gets wet you have leaks and must make fixes accordingly.
Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 5 - 3

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 5 - 3

Step 6: Connect the router and Cat6 cables.

  • Apply approximately 6″ of industrial strength Velcro strip on the back of the router. Peel off the Velcro that will stick to the ITX case surface and attach it to the Velcro on the router so that when you put the router in the case it will stick where you place it. After securing the router, it is time to attach the Cat6 patch cables to the Cat6 keystone jacks.
  • Cut off a crimped connector on one end of each Cat6 cable. Strip the outer plastic off and expose 1 inch of the wires. Use the diagrams on the keystone jacks to put the wires in the correct positions. Shorten the length of the cables as necessary. The Cat6 cable was crimped to its connector in either form A or form B. Make sure you select the correct form by looking at the wire order inside of the connector. I used form B which happens to be the most common form for Cat6 cable (pictured below).
Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 6 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 6 - 1 - Source: Lanshack.com

  • Attach the Cat6 keystone jacks with cables to your cardboard panel and the router. Insert the router’s power cable through the cardboard and to the router.
Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 6 - 2

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 6 - 2

Step 7: Attaching the cooling system base.

  • Place the ITX case (with the side-attached 3.5″ bay) on top of your 14″ by 15″ piece of acrylic so that it will be easier to move later.
  • Cut off the walls of the plastic bin along the ridge closest to the bottom. Use epoxy to glue it on top of the attached 3.5″ bay.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 7 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 7 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 7 - 2

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 7 - 2

Step 8: Connect the PSU and water cooling system.

Assuming your water cooling system has no leaks; insert the PSU and LCD panel into the ITX case. Attach all of the wires for the front mount fans and LCD panel. Tidy-up any internal wires as this will be your last chance.

  • Next we will attach the power cable for the fan. Cut off the fan connector and expose 1 inch of each wire. You will need to splice into back, red, and yellow cables to power it. I was able to cut 1 inch of plastic off of the LCD panel power cables without cutting or damaging the wires. Use electrical tape to secure the wires.
Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8 - 1 - Source: Koolance.com

Step 8.5 (Optional): Attach the toggle switch for fan on/off control.

I had a hard time falling asleep at night because the blue LEDs on the fans are very bright. Solution: Add a switch!

  • Wire the fan power cables to join up with the cooling system power cable. If you cut the short yellow wire in half, the power to the fans can be controlled without affecting other components. I recommend only doing this if you are familiar with electrical wiring.
  • Remove the ITX case on/off switch board and insert the switch through one of the holes.

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8.5 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8.5 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8.5 - 2

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8.5 - 2

Step 9: Connect the PSU and water cooling system (continued).

  • Attach the top of the case and remove the front of the case. We are removing the front of the case so that we have room to put our hands inside.
  • Position the water cooling system in place and plug in its power cable to the PSU.
  • Plug in the cooling system thermometer cables.
Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8 - 2

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8 - 2

Next you will need to apply your thermal adhesive to the chips you are cooling. My local computer store did not have any so I made my own using 1 part epoxy and 1 part thermal grease. The epoxy I used supports up to 2500 lbs/sq inch and resists up to 200ºF. After testing, I discovered it conducts heat very efficiently because the coolant temperature increases dramatically after I turn on the router. Remember to attach your thin piece of metal if needed (described in step 5 to keep the water block level).

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8 - 3

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 8 - 3

  • Connect the water block to the chip(s). Use your hands to apply force between the water block and the chip(s). Hold it in place for about 10 minutes to be sure it dries and does not move. Put the front of the case back on when you are done.

Step 10: Finishing touches.

It is a good idea to cover the hole on the top of the case to protect it from physical objects. I used a wire mesh that I found at a hardware store (True Value). Use silicone glue to attach the wire mesh to the top of the case. I chose silicone because it is not permanent when compared to other adhesives.

I was afraid to use plastic ties or wire for cable management. The tube system is very fragile. Cut rubber bands and use them to tie the additional wires around the tubes coming out of the top of the case. Congratulations, you have completed the construction of your water cooled router!

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 9 - 1

Water-Cooled Router Mod Tutorial Step 9 - 1

Recommendations and Conclusion

This is a very difficult project and I only recommend it to people who are willing to risk failure. I broke a Linksys router while trying to remove the heat shields. Many Linksys routers have metal frames supporting heat shields and are impossible to remove without damaging the router. Ultimately, I purchased a used D-Link router on Craig’s List.

If you have installed Linux (ie: DD-WRT, Tomato) and water cooling, you can now overclock the router’s processor worry free. Overclocking your router’s processor will increase the speed at which your router makes connections. This is beneficial for applications like BitTorrent. These router modifications proved to be a great learning experience and I wish everyone great luck with their router modifying endeavors.

- Chris Robb (djcjrobb)

Works Cited

idiq . “How To: Jump Start A Power Supply (PSU) / Test A Power Supply And Components.” Overclock.net. N.p., 18 June 2006. Web. 14 Jun 2010. <http://www.overclock.net/faqs/96712-how-jump-start-power-supply-psu.html>.

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20 Comments:

EarthDog's Avatar
Excellent write up and procedure!!!

But this leaves me with a question... why? Why would one want to do this? Can it be overclocked to improve bandwidth or something along those lines? What will the end user get out of doing this?
I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
It's not going to help much, if at all - I suppose this partially depends on how processor limited the equipment is and how much heat is a factor. I'd question the claim of improvements with bitorrent, as that would be very challenging to substantiate - I'd think bitorrent would face mostly memory related limits on consumer hardware based upon when the routing table fills up with obscene numbers of connections.

To really answer your question though we'd need to do a side-by-side test at stock and overclocked setting to see if there are any real performance gains - designing a benchmark environment to reproduce reliable results could be challenging. That environment would need to focus on processing intensive tasks to identify the benefit this offers if any exists, and not simply bandwidth or number of connections which are limited by factors other than the processing ability of the router.

I think all that distracts from the "cool factor" though - I find it interesting more from a hardware modification standpoint - clearly, this is throwing sensibility and "what you need" out the window, but it highlights whats possible if you like to screw around with hardware and tweak the way things work. To me, that hits pretty close to the core of what overclocking is about... Cool article!
EarthDog's Avatar
I think some real world testing would be an excellent follow up article as far as IF you can overclock without it, and see how far it goes, then with the water and see how far it goes and the improvements each step makes.

Let me not take ANYTHING from the scope of the article as it is cool, no doubt. You know me, I like to see what benefits that has over the bling factor (which stands on its own merit).
deathman20's Avatar
Neat. Could you of fit the radiator inside the case some how as well? At least then its 1 combined unit. Maybe fitting multiple items inside the case to consolidate as well.
g0dM@n's Avatar
Wow, this totally destroys my old Smoothwall box. I'm sure there are people out there to benefit from this, but this is way too much power for me.

Neat tutorial!!
nd4spdbh2's Avatar
Definitely overkill but thats pretty friggin awesome!

As far as overclocking and better throughput its possible... ur likely to run into a lack of memory before cpu.. but even then it really depends on the firmware. I know on my WRT54GL, if i run DD-WRT i get about 1/3rd the throughput compared to Tomato firmware as far as the number of connection and torrents goes. DD-WRT tends to be the vista of router firmwares IMO... aka a hog, but with tons of bells and whistles.
Omsion's Avatar
For testing routers - the below is probably a good starting point.
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/lanwa...ers-revision-3

I guess the idea is to then throw a bunch of different conditions at it, etc. I guess the following would be a practical example:
http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/lanwa...ix-bad-routing
I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
Nice find, I'll have to take a look at those references. Thanks.
Pwn'd's Avatar
I see how american's would see this as not very useful. i used to live in the US and i never EVER had a router issue. however after moving to australia 1.5 years ago ive gone through 4.
Modems and Routers in 240V regions have a major heat issue I have learned after research. I currently am using frozen pees to keep this one alive as it is constantly overheating and failing XD. I think this is an excellent idea just for the cooling factor!
aberchonbie's Avatar
too much trouble to watercool a router! and costs too much too!
visbits's Avatar
Probably the lamest device I've ever seen watercooled.. Why would you waste the money on something like this? I mean if your going to water cool a router at least get something cool like a cisco 1841??




I mean if your in a country that it gets that hot then put a fan on it but water is just stupid.
Ben333's Avatar
^ I recommended that the router be replaced with a mini itx box... if the OP has the skills to do this kind of work, doing it somewhere where the benefit would be clear would be nice. With the money and effort involved, a full computer based router could have been made. I doubt that the water loop yields any OC benefit over that of a large fanless heat sink being attached.
I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
If you don't get this mod, you don't get overclocking.

You could always go buy more power and not need to bother overclocking. Its a lot of trouble and work to tweak something to run the way you want it to.

Why do it? Because you can, and its a lot of fun taking. Part in the diy spirit. That's the stuff this site was built on - it doesn't make sense to run 10 fans in your computer, mill your own waterblocks, wor use liquid nitrogen to see how fast you can run it for a couple hours... But that's what we do here, because its fun, because we can, and because a little excess and what you learn along the way is pretty cool.
Ben333's Avatar
I agree with you IMOG, this is getting a bit off topic though I suppose.

My point was that a regular heatsink on that router would do just as much good as the water loop it was given. This isn't like going from a heatsink in a PC to a water loop, or liquid nitrogen, because the temp difference is much less between methods in this case. It would have been one thing if the router's CPU was cooled below room temp via a peltier or another method, but just to get the chip to at or close to room temp, this was crazy overkill and therefore as an overclocker I don't give it the same props as a WC'd PC. In a normal PC, cooling a hot CPU, water does make a difference over a heatsink. With a tiny router CPU that barely makes any heat, I think a heatsink would have equal performance. See where I'm coming from? So, I don't feel that this is in the same spirit as real overclocking and is more about good looks. Anyway, this is off topic, just wanted to clarify my view.
robble's Avatar
While I applaud your ingenuity and creativity I am left thinking, "why?".

I am into overclocking just about everything on my computer because I want the performance boost. I can't see that this will boost anything.

Once again I do clap my hands for the effort and very cool mod while having a puzzled face. You have a drive to do something no one else has done and may not ever be done again.

edit: and $288 to do this? YIKES my high end home router cost much less than half of that.
rhino56's Avatar
I agree it's kinda pointless but definitely cool.
Hsnopi's Avatar
nice. very good looking too. good work
NobleX13's Avatar
Nice job! Rule #1 of computing, if it has a processor, it should be overclocked. I killed a WRT54G back in the day by running it ~25% above stock for too long.
Mario1's Avatar
Any guides on router overclocking, anyone?
I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
Easy!

1. Improve the cooling on the unit (add a fan, add a heatsink, or improve the interface to the heatsink)
2. Install router firmware that supports overclocking (some versions of tomato and ddwrt)
3. Refer to the ddwrt/tomato documentation for your specific router model

Running ddwrt on my asus rt-n16, issuing the following command gives me a 10% overclock on my router's CPU and RAM:
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