- Build Log:
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Introduction
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part I
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part II
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part III
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part IV
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part V
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part VI
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part VII
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part VIII
- Water cooling build in my wife’s computer – Part IX
- Follow-up on AquaTuning
- Defending AlphaCool and the risks of water cooling
After tons of research and drooling over water-cooled builds I’d seen on YouTube, I came up with the bright idea to build a full custom water cooling loop in my wife’s computer.
Part of the concern is the fact the graphics cards she was running (details below on initial setup) ran hotter than I was comfortable under load. An option I was exploring to alleviate that concern is the Kraken G10 by NZXT, which allows you to mount certain all-in-one CPU liquid coolers to graphics cards, provided you have one of the right type. It also has a bracket for a fan to actively cool everything else on the card – since the CPU cooler will be mounted only onto the GPU – but reports indicate you may need heatsinks for the memory and voltage regulator modules (VRMs) on the card.
So before getting further, here’s what I started with:
- Mainboard: ASRock 990FX Extreme4
- Processor: AMD FX-8350
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance, 2x4GB
- CPU cooling: ThermalTake Water 2.0 Performer
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 750D
- Power: Corsair GS800
- Graphics: EVGA GTX 660 SC – 2 in SLI mode
With the ThermalTake cooler, her CPU was staying nice and cool – never getting much above the mid-50s (that’s Celsius) under typical load. And it was significantly quieter and less annoying than the stock cooler that comes with the AMD chip – we could only stand it for a couple days after initially building her system before I started researching other options.
But the graphics cards would regularly get into the 70s and 80s under load. While there was space and potential mount points to make use of Kraken G10s, only the GPUs on the board would be cooled, and I’d have to find other options to cool the VRMs and memory – and my research was not coming up with anything useful for the GTX 660 reference board. But the other complication was simply the fact it would’ve been three all-in-one CPU coolers in the same case. Finding mount points for all of them would’ve been interesting in the 750D. If she had, say, the 650D or another comparable mid-tower ATX case, then things probably would’ve been a little easier, but no guarantees on that mark.
So I started looking at custom water cooling loops. What initially started pushing me in that direction was running across YouTube tech commentator JayzTwoCents, which got my feet wet on the idea of water cooling after initially considering it. From there I found Singularity Computers and the build logs he has posted, and I think that set my mind toward doing that. So after tons of research, I started buying parts to build out the custom loop, starting with the easy stuff:
- CPU block: AlphaCool NexXxoS XP3 Light-Plexi
- GPU blocks: EK-FC660 GTX (x 2)
- Radiator: AlphaCool XT45 360mm
- Fans: Corsair SP120 High Performance (x 4), Corsair AF120 Quiet (x 1)
- Pump: Phobya DC12-400
- Reservoir: Bitspower Z-Multi 150
On the GPU water blocks, EK was pretty much the only option available for the GTX 660. I couldn’t find anyone else making a full-cover block for that card. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as EK is the company I’d seen continually recommended for water blocks for graphics cards. The only company I’d seen recommended close to as much as EK is XS-PC, but, again, they didn’t have a full-cover block that would fit her cards.
And at the time I bought them, the only company I could find distributing it in the US was out of stock, so I had to order it from EK… who is in Slovenia. And then, not long after the order arrived, the US distributor had it in stock – had I been able to order it from the US supplier, I would’ve been able to save $30 on shipping. On the plus side, it was shipped via UPS 3-day, and it was literally 3 days to deliver: I ordered it on a Friday from EK in Slovenia, and it arrived for pickup in Kansas City the following Monday. Had I ordered it from the US supplier, it likely would’ve been later in the week when it arrived unless I paid extra for a 3-day or quicker option.
On the CPU block, I was mixed in what to select as there are quite a few options available. I ultimately decided on AlphaCool thanks to a video I saw from JayzTwoCents reviewing the CPU block I ultimately purchased. Most of the fittings I ultimately used in this build were AlphaCool fittings, again thanks to JayzTwoCents, along with some fittings from Bitspower and Swiftech – the latter courtesy of my local Microcenter. And the radiator I chose also because of a JayzTwoCents review.
For the tubing I went with 1/2″x3/4″ tubing I found at my local Home Depot. It’s stiffer than other tubing that I’d seen recommended, but it was also about 70 cents a foot, instead of several dollars a foot for other options I’d seen online. Plus it’s available just down the road from where I live. Yeah I know I’ll probably have to replace it at the same time I replace the coolant, but that’s not a huge deal for me, as soft tubing typically needs to be periodically replaced anyway. That’s just the nature of it.
And at the price I paid, I could replace it three times in a year and still come out ahead cost-wise over other options I’ve seen available!
Speaking of coolant, only one name was in mind for that: Mayhems. Specifically, Mayhems XT-1 Clear. Initially I was looking at the X1 coolant, but the XT-1’s biodegradability (90% over 10 days, compared to 85% over 30 days for the X1) and extremely low toxicity won me over.
So that wraps up this introduction. In the next part, I’ll talk about preparing the components and starting to build out the loop, including tearing down my wife’s computer.