Water Cooling: Kit vs Do It Yourself (DIY)

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Good expalanation of the Pros/Cons – Edited by Doug Getgood (aka rogerdugans)

Water cooling computers has become very popular in the last few years to the extent that there are now a large number of companies making components, kits and even complete cases that are ready for your computer’s guts to be installed. Often this causes a great deal of confusion though, especially with people who are considering Water Cooling as an option for the first time!

This article is not intended to recommend any specific parts or vendors; instead the goal is to focus on deciding a bigger question:
Should I buy a water cooled case, a kit or build my own system?????

With so many options it can be tough to decide what, how and where should I get things; these questions often come up in the Overclockers.com Forums and they are usually (but not always!) found in the Water Cooling section. It is really not an easy question to answer all the time, because nobody knows YOUR wants and desires as well as you do! Maybe this can help!

Kit vs Homebrew Pros and Cons

Kit

Homebrew

Ease of mind

More component choices

Ease of installation

Less expensive

Ease of use

More knowledge and experience gained

Less risk of badly matched components

Not all kits work well

Convenience

Performance

Little or no soldering/fabrication needed

Top water blocks (not in kits)

All or most parts are included

Higher quality parts

Less work

Custom configuration more suitable for a given case

No/fewer bragging rights

Sense of accomplishment

This list of pros and cons was put together is a thread in the forums by the members who also listed their reasons, which follow:
{mospagebreak}

Doug Getgood



Generally kit formed water cooling solutions give you less choice over components used. Having said that, a decent kit can be very easy to set up for a person new to water cooling. Because of the thousands of different computer systems and all the different configurations, I’d say it would be a better choice to build your own system if you know what you are doing.


I believe Kits serve a purpose. They can usually provide ease of mind, ease of installation, and ease of use, to those who are new to water cooling.

But they are horribly expensive for the performance they deliver. They are nothing special to brag about.

I started on a kit, and while sometimes I wish I hadn’t, it still gave me a feeling on confidence when I hooked it up and turned it on.

Homebrew?? Well how do you classify homebrew? Is that someone McGuyver’ing a kit from scratch, or picking and choosing parts from a store?

Generally when put together properly, a “homebrew” system will outperform any kit by a significant margin. You can brag you did it all by yourself, and you can impress some friends either way.

Downside? Well, you either “get it” or you don’t. Some people are best starting on kits, while others can jump right in with the big boys.


Gathering parts

This is kind of vague but it’s all I could think of.
Over all I like DIY because it’s fun


Do it yourself you’ll get a cheaper product, a TAD more work and better performance.


Hmmm, but what IF there were a kit with the best components and 1/2″ tubing in a case set up and ready to go? I wonder how that would go over…
Well I suppose the customizer’s like on DD’s site could technically count as a “kit”.


I’m new to all of this, so at first I was gonna’ snag a kit. But with the research I’ve done, I know DIY is the best route to go. Besides, I don’t see a WB like Cathar’s Cascade in any kits.

1. The middleman has to make a buck too, so corners are cut and prices are padded.
2. Convenience has a cost and quality usually pays it.
3. Kits tend to be more generic. I want my set up to meet my needs not some marketing reps.

I’m not knocking kits. They do have a market. I rather enjoy getting my hands dirty and piecing things together. It feels so good when it’s up and going. Kind of like the difference of running Linux vs Windows. When you have that kernel compiled, it’s a custom fit for what you need and nothing else. That’s just me though.


I guess I just don’t understand some of the low end kits. It seems that a SLK-900 with a reasonable fan on it will outperform water with less risk to component failure (Pump, leak, etc).

However with a LITTLE bit of research you can get something that performs a lot better AND is quieter.

I just don’t see going water if you’re not going all the way with it. It seems (compared to the SLK-900 with 50 cfm fan) that low end water just doesn’t compete with high end air.

As far as learning goes… It’s all the same whether you buy the parts in kit form or put them together (all pre-modded from stores) separately. There are guides all over the place. As always, the hardest part of either situation (with a reasonable sized rad) is finding a place for the RAD and mounting it.

…a bit more than $.02, but I just don’t get it.


DIY is the way to go IMHO, because pre-done kits are like buying a Dell & DIY is like building your own machine.

When you buy a Dell, you get the parts & config that the company thinks you want, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing if that’s what you’re looking for. Now when you build your own, you are able to pick & choose what parts are more important to you based on how you use your setup.

Water cooling is no different. You can go with a 2 150 cfm fans in a push/pull setup with a TEC for super cooling, or a single 70 cfm fan for a quiet system. That’s why I think DIY gives you more options & thus has more pros than a kit. The only Kit pro I see is “hopeful” ease of install & not having to search for matching parts.

DIY also gives you the sense of accomplishment a pre done kit lacks. Just my 2 cents.


You could probably find a *great* kit that would service your needs just as well as a typical DIY installation. The biggest con to THAT is simple: You don’t learn as much.

Shopping around, putting together your dream system… waiting on components etc, would make for a more educated consumer. Less “What water block is the best” posts on the OC forums… You get my point.

I’m not trying to imply that only idiots buy kits… My first 2 WC setups were kits. I’m just saying that the first time you buy components that weren’t specifically designed to work with each other and you MAKE IT WORK… you have learned something. You can then offer advice on the subject. You are a better person. Soon enough, people will name hospital wings after you and you’ll be kissing babies at parades.

DIY WC’ing: The divine way to cool your PC


I think it should be emphasized that kits are for either:

-Getting into watercooling
-Getting a PC to run quieter
-Getting a bit more performance when overclocking

…in no particular order, or combination. Some of this is already mentioned.


The way I figure it is that you have taken the step to build your computer, then you take another step to overclock your computer. You have some sort of a technical background and curiosity that comes with the game; hopefully you have done some kind of homework before you just start messing with multipliers, fsb, voltage, etc and in doing so you’ve learned a lot – at least I have.

Now you want to go a step farther and control your cooling to enhance performance, so you are interested in changing from air to watercooling. So you do more homework: Reading reviews, asking questions, pricing out things, getting a good deal on parts and then you put it all together and it works….

The alternative is you just go out, buy a kit and just attach it to your computer? That’s not different than going out and buying a Dell or a Gateway. I think it would defeat the purpose. In doing s,o you will lose knowledge, experience and fun because if it wasn’t for that, nobody would be doing it.

Personally, I think that fun would be taken out of the process and would be a totally wasted opportunity if one were to buy a kit. I think that there is a much better sense of accomplishment when it comes to DIY cooling kits. I have only seen them in person and have yet to step into the watercooling field, but I’m in the homework phase of the process.

I thought about buying a kit, but I think that its too expensive and it wouldn’t be as much fun as building it. Not only that, but my parents have an old fridge lying around that is just screaming to be taken apart, so that’s some free parts already acquired, which goes back to the fun part of it and getting good deals. Anywa,y I know it’s biased towards homemade but that’s my $.02.


Homebrewed kits are awesome! I spent 70 bucks on mine and I couldn’t have asked for better results. I made my own copper waterblock with copper from Onlinemetals.com and a junked heater core from an auto scrap yard. I used cheap tubing from home depot and it has served me just fine for many months now. I bought a Maxijet 1200 from my pet shop and it works great – it’s quiet and doesn’t get too hot. I run it in-line, so it doesn’t dump heat into the loop.

Trust me, home brewed systems are kick-arse. I just used a plain electric drill with a milling bit to grind out my spiral waterblock channel, and it still looks great, doesn’t look too ghetto, but it’s got that “customized” look, if ya’s know what I mean. I forget the data, but I get a <0.1 C/W from the waterblock to the loop.

Also, the satisfaction of making your own system is awesome. That, and you learn a lot too, lookin’ at different waterblock designs, different setups, etc….

Go homebrew!



{mospagebreak}

Doug Getgood

It is pretty obvious that most of the water coolers in our Forums are primarily after a High Performance system and enjoy messing around with things and modifying them. We also tend to be careful about how we spend our money (perhaps because many of us don’t have much!)

Basically all the opinions agree that if you want:

  • Lowest cost
  • Highest Performance
  • Quietest system
  • Greatest flexibility
  • To tinker with things

You are best served by doing the research and choosing your own components. There are sites that allow you to “build” your own kit using the items they stock, and this may be a good choice – as long as you want their bits and pieces…. One-stop shopping does make things easier, after all 😉

But that does NOT mean that kits are bad: Far from it!

For many they are the best solution – they DO have advantages:

  • Easy to install and use. Many include directions and even templates for what to cut out if needed;
  • Peace of mind. Many people feel more secure feeling that the system they have was designed by experienced people and is unlikely to have trouble with components that do not work well together;
  • Less work is involved. Many include all the parts needed to be up and running except coolant (water and additives);
  • Little or no tinkering, for those who are nervous about making a mistake and destroying their expensive computer.

There are also a growing number of places that will sell you a case with all water cooling components pre-installed; this increases the convenience aspects of a kit, but does increase the cost as well…..

I have tried to present the opinions expressed by others without coloring the results with my own prejudices, but I have to say I agree with the results.

My first water cooling system was a kit, because I wanted it FAST and simple. I did suspect that I would get hooked on water cooling and start modifying and redesigning my system fairly quickly, which I did – but I do NOT regret the kit I bought. I will not purchase another kit though!

Hopefully this will help at least one person who is thinking about water cooling their computer decide what is the best solution for them.

Credits:

rogerdugans, shroomer,Cjwinnit, Neco, stryder2720, xX~EXCELSIOR~Xx, nikhsub1, cipher_138, Tical, vonkaar, bigben2k, Rutkus, TheMightyBuck

Opinions were contributed by all of the above members of the Overclockers.com Forums; all I did was organize it!

Doug Getgood