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Placing AIO Radiator on a Side Panel?

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New Member
Jun 29, 2019
I just bought a Corsair H100i AIO that is coming soon in the mail and I’ve been contemplating where to place the radiator (240 x 120mm) in my case.

My rig is a sleeper build made of an old custom PC from the early 2000s that was built quite larger than average for the time.

The airflow situation involves two 80mm fans in the front of the case that pull air in and 3 other 80mm ones (one on top and two in the back) that push air out of the case.

I can’t place the radiator in the top of the case because my optical drive and power supply are mounted in the top at the front and back, respectively: not enough space between them.

The front of the case is also blocked by the drive cage that holds my optical drive, HDD and FDD as well as the pesky placement of the power buttons on the front being smack dab in the middle of the face of the case.

The back of the case only has room for the fans of the power supply and the two 80mm case fans with the rest of the space taken up by the I/O ports and it’s many expansion card slots.

This leaves me with the option of placing the radiator on one of the side panels. I’d have to cut a hole where the radiator would be and it would be pushing out hot air in such a setup. On the side of the case with the front side of the motherboard visible, practically everywhere on the panel top to bottom is free real estate and there is enough space to mount the radiator on the inside. The other side of the case would involve an outside installation of the radiator because of the ATX motherboard taking up most of the mounting space inside (there would be room for tubing to pass through in either case).

How would such a setup impact my cooling performance? Would a side mount work better than a front or top mount, and where on the side should I put the radiator height-wise? Should I consider a different placement altogether?

My rig has an FX 8350 @ 4.0 GHz and a Radeon R9 270 2GB @ 950 MHz. The CPU runs at 50°C average and 70°C maximum load and the GPU runs at 30°C average and 55°C under maximum load.

Thanks for helping a noob out.
Two things:
If you put it on the side panel, it'll be a PITA to work on the machine after it's installed.
If you put it on the side panel, make the rad fans intake rather than exhaust. ;)
Nice design for the case.

Is it pulling in or pushing out air? Also does the specific placement of the radiator on the side panel really matter much?
It was pulling air in. Placement was determined by hose length and available space on my particular rig. I modded the side panel for the installation in an evening and it worked great for a few years cooling a mildly overclocked FX hex core CPU.
It can be done alright but like Mr. Scott said it's not terribly convenient when it comes time to remove the side panel to clean the interior of the case or to tinker. You'll have to remove the screws that mount the rad to the side panel before you can remove the side panel because the hoses on the AIO units are so short. And then you will have to hope the radiator doesn't strike something and bend fins when it slides down in the case when the screws are out. I can see all kinds of problems with that.
I had room to move my side panel open far enough to do most things inside the case, and the hoses were stiff enough to hold the panel upright. I had a mid tower, and not a particularly large one, so case size is definitely a factor.
OP - You'd be far better off buying a new case, designed for the work. Cases these days are cheap/ There is no reason to keep one as long as you have.
I mounted a 360 rad outside my case on the back using 2 empty 120mm fan shrouds and some long screws with nuts on the end. Wasn't too much of a pain to work on the rig that way.
I think it would probably work pretty well, as long as it was easy to take off, and the lines were nice and straight. And to fully exploit the ghettto, I would have my rad fans outside pushing in, and maybe a pair behind. With the lines nice and straight, there would be little restriction on that pump, so if you flow that coolant a little quicker.. And fans on side would almost guarantee you aren't going to get heated internal air washing up into your intake from the rear exhaust if you had the rad up top.. Its worth trying if you are willing to chop up your case. New quality ones are pretty inexpensive these days, especially if you can find a deal new or used.
I almost mounted my fans on the outside, but there were cats and idiots (two legged variety) in the house and I couldn't afford to replace a fan if some moron stuck a digit in it. :D
I almost mounted my fans on the outside, but there were cats and idiots (two legged variety) in the house and I couldn't afford to replace a fan if some moron stuck a digit in it. :D

Nice. I worry about the hardware more than the animals and idiots also. :rofl:
I would remove the optical drive and mount it in the top as my first choice. You could also mount it externally behind the case as with some old school w/c setups, but this would be difficult unless you cut a notch in the back panel from the side, since hose pass-through wouldn't work. Otherwise side would be OK, given the limitations discussed.
I almost mounted my fans on the outside, but there were cats and idiots (two legged variety) in the house and I couldn't afford to replace a fan if some moron stuck a digit in it. :D

Um? I have really dumb cats also. Just saying. :D
Have you thought about putting the radiator on the other side panel, the one that most people hardly ever remove.