A Mod goes Modding - Part III

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Dual watercooled PC and mods – Brian Berryman

Note: This article is a continuation of my previous article posted here on Oct. 1st, 2002. That article can be found HERE.

If J.R. Tolkien can write a Trilogy, so can I. =)

When I left off at the end of the first part of this article, I had gotten my first watercooled rig up and running. Between lower temperatures, a different motherboard and better RAM, I had gotten my early AMD Athlon XP1800+ AGKGA “Y” running at a slightly better overclock then ever.

Case

But I had a vision, and it meant that the XP1800+ was not long for H20.

Right around the time the first parts (Part I and II were posted together as one article) of this article was published, the components I sought became available through the Classified Ads section of our Forums. At first, I could only afford part of the package, but somehow, the rest was still available when I could manage the finances.

A member of our Forums decided to sell the components he had just purchased to build a dual CPU rig, and fate again interceded on my behalf. I got a Private Message through our Forums that a pair of AMD Athlon XP1600+ (1.4 GHz default speed) chips had just been put up for sale. These chips have acquired a reputation for overclocking extremely well (some reaching as high as 2 GHz!), and with some minor extra modification, can be used on a dual motherboard.

I jumped on them, surprised no one had beaten me to them. Brand new OEM’s, fresh from Newegg.com.

To celebrate, I went out and bought a brand new PERMATEX rear Window Defogger Grid repair kit in anticipation of unlocking the L1 bridges and closing the 4th L5 bridge to enable SMP (Symmetric Multiprocessing).

When they arrived, I filled the pits with some superglue I had gotten at my work (GM Vehicle Care, Instant Gel Adhesive, p/n #12345632). I like the way this glue “works” – as a gel it’s easier to manipulate. It also has less likelihood of “running” under the tape used in masking off the bridge contacts.

The unlock procedure was uneventful and successful on both chips. I tested them out in a second machine and both had full multiplier access. Both immediately booted and ran at 12.5 x 133 FSB (Front Side Bus) or 1667 MHz. A bit of poking, prodding, tweaking and rebooting found that one would run at 1800 MHz (12.5 x 144), and the other 1750 MHz (12.5 x 140).

Knowing that closing the L1 bridges had been a success, it made me confident the L5 bridges would be OK for when I could get the dual board, which, as it turned out, wasn’t all that long thereafter. There are numerous articles posted here in our “Tips and Techniques” section of the Front Page on how to unlock your multiplier on the AMD XP series; if you need help, consult them, or inquire in the “AMD” section of the Forum.

A couple of weeks had passed and I got word at work that I had made one of the monthly bonuses offered – $200. The gentleman whom I bought the CPU’s from had the motherboard I wanted for $210. Whereas I had paid so promptly for the chips, he agreed to hold the board for me until I got my bonus check three weeks later. During the interim, I read up on the motherboard, SMP and dusted off a copy of Windows 2000 Pro, as the Windows 9x/ME platform is not SMP compatible.

The motherboard was also fresh from Newegg and never opened. It’s MSI’s K7D Master-L board. After inquiring about dual processor boards in the Forums here, it became obvious fairly quickly this was the choice, especially if I wanted to overclock the machine. The MSI is the only dual Socket A board that offers multiplier, core voltage and FSB settings in the BIOS. It seemed that everyone that replied to my inquiries either had one or wanted one.

I now had most of the parts to complete this latest upgrade to the watercooled rig (I already had a second waterblock), but was lacking two very important pieces. Try though I might, and I spent an entire Saturday driving everywhere looking, I could not find a pair of ½” “Y” hose fittings, to graft into the current water system.

I had just e-mailed DangerDen about paying via money order when another member posted an ad in our Classifieds, selling a bunch of watercooling odds and ends… including ½” “Y” fittings. I only needed two, but bought four of them from him. If I ever build another machine like this, I’ll have them handy.

While I waited for the fittings, I gave into temptation and set everything up aircooled. After going through a bit of a shock setting up the single (the temperatures skyrocketed at first, because the waterblock wasn’t seated completely), I wanted to get it running and install the Operating System first anyways. It lit right up and ran flawlessly. The L5 “unlock” was successful as well, after all.

Air

{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman (AKA “Mr B”)
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

With a dual CPU configuration, you’re only going to run as fast as the slowest chip in the pair allows, which in this case is 1750 MHz (12.5 x 140 FSB). While the MSI doesn’t have many settings available in the BIOS for FSB, 140 is one of them.

Looking at the watercooled machine, with the dual set up running on the other side of the desk, I realized a couple of things were going to have to be modified to get this to work.

First, the pump would have to be moved out of the floppy drive cage, as the intake for the pump would be directly over the primary CPU socket. This left me two options – in the bottom of the case, or over the power supply. The latter to me isn’t really an option – the idea of a leak dumping water directly into the PSU isn’t something I want to consider. So, the pump found a new home in a “traditional” location, the lower front of the case. As we’ll see shortly, this became a very wise choice.

Pump

I shut everything down and disassembled the watercooled machine. Once I had it running again in another case, aircooled, I focused my attention on the new components.

Dual

One thing that was “unmovable” was the radiator, so now I had to reconfigure the hoses a bit. I had cut a small section of the drive cage out to route the hose previously, and the bottom of the cage has four round holes in it. I took the longest section of hose I had, connected it to the radiator and routed it thru the cage down to the pump.

It fit, but the “cut” edge of the cage gave me cause for concern. I didn’t want it to cut thru the hose, and I found a simple fix. I had some chrome trim from the side panel window left over, so I cut a short section of this off and placed it over the edge of the metal.

Hose

The routing of the rest of the hoses would depend on the location of the CPU sockets, so I readied the motherboard next, where I immediately ran into another problem.

When MSI laid out the CPU sockets and placed the four holes around them, they left very little room between the ZIF lever and the two holes on that side of the socket. My solution was to cut a section of the plastic mount nuts off

Nuts

to allow room for the ZIF arm to move freely.

Socket

There’s enough of the nut left to retain the mount from moving. Another simple solution – the best kind!

Once I had the motherboard in place with the waterblocks “mocked” up, I could take the sections of hose I had and juggle them around to find the best combination. When I found an arrangement I liked, I put clamps on the hose “sub-assemblies” to keep them in place. Now it was time to juggle CPUs.

After the “temperature incident” the first go-around, I put the processors in and mounted the waterblocks before attaching hoses to them. Thus I was reasonably sure I had them seated properly. I then mounted the hoses to the blocks, pump and line-in from the radiator. It was now time for the water.

Pump Installed

When I added the water to the original single CPU system, I had a very hard time bleeding all of the air out; but now with the pump now the lowest component in the system, it bled quite easily. Within a few minutes (not overnight and then some as before), I had the majority of the air out and water was circulating. I let the water system run, to fully bleed and leak check.

No Leak

NIX! DAS LECK! NEIN!!!

If you look very closely at the picture above, you can actually see my first leak (circled). I noticed it shortly after taking this set of pictures. The hose at the top of the pump leaked slightly, and a trace of water on the top of the pump is visible in this picture. A couple of choice words and a hose clamp fixed this leak, which to this point, has been the only one encountered.

CONTINUED page 3…

Brian Berryman (AKA “Mr B”)
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

As this machine is intended to be a gaming server, I installed some of my older or less powerful components. It received my old Hercules Muse XL sound card. Since it’s the “-L” version of the K7D Master, it’s equipped with onboard LAN, which I used instead of tying up a PCI slot unnecessarily with a 10/100 Ethernet card. As I write this, it’s running a GeForce 4 MX440 graphic card, but that might change at some point. (The card in the pictures is my older Geforce 2 MX400 however.)

I purposely left the 66 MHz PCI slot available open, as future plans may include adding a RAID card into the machine. I located an exact match for my main hard drive (no small feat, for one that’s over a year old and rarely sold retail anymore) just for this purpose.

While moving the pump lower opens up the drive cage again, I wanted to keep the hard drive “upstairs”, with the three fan cooler blowing onto it. I did move the floppy drive down, however (as seen in the pictures earlier here). This opens up a CD-ROM bay for the 2nd hard drive (RAID in the future, remember), and I’ve gotten another three fan cooler to match the one I have. I just need to paint it.

So with everything shuffled around and installed, bled, leak-tested and approved, it was time to fire it up. I went straight into BIOS and this time was greeted by “normal” temperature readings. * Whew! * I booted into Windows and launched two instances of Folding@Home, which puts a full load on the processors, and watched the temperatures via Motherboard Monitor 5.

They seemed a bit high, but the thermal compound was fresh and getting settled in; also, it was a bit warm in my computer room that day. I let this run overnight. By the next morning, the CPU temps had dropped in line with what I had expected them to be. As I type this now, with a room (ambient) temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, I’m getting full load (100%, both CPU’s) temps of about 35 degrees Celsius. The “system” (motherboard) temp reading is 23 degrees Celsius.

With the onset of winter, I’ve gotten some remarkable temperature readings with the computer room window open slightly. Last night, I got the ambient temperature down to about 14 Celsius. MBM5 was reporting “system” temps of 18C, and full load CPU temps of 27 to 29C.

The Achilles’ heel of this set up right now is the Power Supply I’m using. The only thing I had available to put in was an Antec PP-352X 350W dual fan unit, which is very underpowered for this application. Plans call for an upgrade to most likely an Enermax or Antec 550W PSU.

MBM5 has facility to track variations in temperature and voltage, and the CPU voltage fluctuates as far as 1.65v to 1.92v, with it set in the BIOS for 1.85v. Not good. I’ve gotten into Windows at 144 FSB (1800 MHz), but it locks up fairly quickly… I truly believe this is the reason. Once I get a better PSU, I think 1800 MHz will be within reach.

CPUs

They think they’re MP2100+’s…. =)

Since I’ve started writing this, I’ve changed the Operating System to Win XP Pro. I’ve done a lot of tweaking in BIOS and various win XP settings; I’ve gotten it to run Unreal Tournament 2003 with most of the eye-candy on at respectable frame rates. This was the goal to begin with – to set this machine up as a UT2K3 or NASCAR 2002 server. I need to upgrade the PSU and add more memory before I can get that far, however.

But until that time, I now have a machine that goes faster than it looks, runs cooler than it looks, and produces twice the number of Folding@Home Work Units as before.

Unmod Case

Before mods…

Mod Case

…and after.

So let’s run a couple of benchmarks, and see what happens. And I’ll tell you right now – the graphics card IS NOT overclocked…. 😉
{mospagebreak}

Brian Berryman (AKA “Mr B”)
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

Let’s start off with a trio of benchmarks from SiSoft Sandra 2002;

SSS CPU

SSS CPU Multi-Media

SSS Mem

These show pretty much what I’d expected. The system places right exactly where an AMD MP2100+ system would, in reference to other similar systems.

Let’s look at a pair more – Mad Onion’s PC Mark 2002 and 3D Mark 2001SE:

Mad Onion

These numbers, while quite good, will only get better with the addition of more system memory, and the RAID setup for the hard drives.

3D Mark

Why such a low score? Well, the benchmark was run at all default settings, for one thing. The Geforce 4 MX440 isn’t the “King Of the Hill”, nor ever will be, but it’s almost overkill for a gaming server. I could realistically get away with using my old Geforce 2 MX400 without problem, but for now, I’ll leave it where it is.

MAXIMUM PC Magazine ran an excellent article in their October 2002 issue (Vol. 7, No. 10, Pgs. 37 – 40), which included benchmarks of ten different graphics cards ranging from $50 to $400. They used the Chaintech A-G440 graphics card as their GeForce 4 MX440 example, but the specifications between it and the Maddog Multimedia card I have are identical.

In their article, the Chaintech scored 5715 in 3D Mark 2001SE. I’d believe the slight system overclock (133 to 140 FSB) I have running is the reason my score is 75 points higher.

Where does this machine go from here? How do you improve upon a watercooled dual CPU machine that’s getting 60+ FPS in UT2K3?? Incrementally. There’s not much other than maxing out the board with as much memory as it will support, improving the graphics card, adding the RAID array, or putting in even faster processors.

** Looks over at main/gaming rig… evil smile breaks across face **

Hmmmm… “A Mod Goes Modding, v2.0”? Hey, it could happen… =)

Cheers!

Special thanks go out to:

  • Tim Devine (aka “TimDgsr” in the Forums here), for being so patient with me while I got the funds to buy the motherboard from him. Thanks!
  • Bryan Pryor (aka “NeoMoses” in the Forums), for sending me those “Y” fittings so quickly.
  • Lyman Gaines, for the heads up on the XP1600+’s, and hooking me up with the 2nd Maze 2 waterblock before I even knew I needed one.
  • My wife, Deborah, for your patience and support. I love you.
  • And again, the entire Staff and membership of the Overclockers.com Forums. Thank you!

Updated System Specifications:

  • 2x AMD XP1600+ “AGOIA Y” CPU’s, running at 12.5 x 140 FSB (1750 MHz), 1.85v
  • MSI K7D Master-L motherboard
  • 512 MB PC2100 DDR memory

All other specifications not listed are the same as before (see Part I and II HERE.), with the exception of removing the CD-RW drive and NIC and adding a second DangerDen Maze 2 waterblock.

Brian Berryman (AKA “Mr B”)
Forums and Classifieds Moderator – Overclockers.com

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