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  • Dave

    Water Cooling a High End Gaming System

    So I’ve been dealing with compounded thermal issues on my main system. The case (LianLi PC-A05NB) was small and had poor ventilation. My x58 board has a notorious reputation for being stupidly hot, the OEM heatsink is woefully inadequate. The overclocked i7 920 and 5870 GPU didn’t help the situation. I had tried to mitigate this by adding a Corsair H50. While this helped keep the CPU temp stable, it didn’t do anything favors as higher efficiency meant higher in case temps.  I decided to upgrade several components as well as package it into a new case with better ventilation than the current LianLi PC-A05NB could offer.  A large issue for me was the single HD5870 was trying to produce the 5760x1200 resolution of my triple monitor setup. A task that is no slim feat for a single card. So after debating the issue and trying some band-aids. I came to the conclusion the prudent course of action would be to implement a custom water cooled solution. After careful budget and space considerations I went with a full single loop cooling the CPU, NB, & GPU.


    My current system still has many viable parts, that should have a service life of at least one more year. So I’m salvaging the following from my current system

    • Asus Rampage GENE II x58 motherboard
    • Intel Core i7 920 LGA1366 CPU
    • Patriot Viper DDR3
    • Sony BD-DVD-RW
    • G.Skill 128GB Falcon SSD

    I’m upgrading the rest of the components to either meet the build requirements or for additional functionality. These include

    • Lian Li PC6-FNWX Case
    • Corsair HX750 PSU
    • WD Caviar Black 750GB HDD
    • Scythe Kama Server Fan controller
    • Enermax TBSilence 140mm fan

    Considering a large portion of this build is the water cooling system, I’ve listed these components separately below

    • Heatkiller 3.0cu CPU block w/ LGA 1366 backplate
    • Swiftech NB-MAX northbridge block
    • EK 5870 Nickel Full cover GPU w/ EK Aluminum backplate
    • Swiftech 360 Raditator
    • XSPC X2O Pump Reservoir Unit
    • 4x Enermax TBSilence 120mm fans
    • 8x Bitspower 1/2” fatboy barb fittings
    • 2x Bitspower 3/4”compression fittings
    • 2x Bitspower 45 fittings
    • 6’ of 1/2” ID 3/4” OD Feser Tubing
    • 4x Enermax TBSilence 120mm Fans

    First off due to the cost of this type of setup and the fact that I will be doing a full system upgrade late 2011. A few of the water cooling parts were bought second hand.


    This PC being my primary, means I needed it running for as long as possible while designing the move. So I kept it running in a “testing” state for the better part of 4 weeks. Just thought I’d share the mess…




    I want to point out some of the really nice features. Excuse the dust, it was sitting out for a bit while I was doing mock ups.


    The vented hard drive trays slide out on rubber isolation grommets and have a locking slider on the left. Here you can also see the 140mm front fan. It’s filtered on the front side of the case.




    The PSU is elevated and has vent to allow intake of cool air. This vent is also filtered. The PSU can be held in by either the usual screws on the back or by the tooless hold down strap. There is a reason for the cantilevered placement of my PSU as you’ll see later. Of course, the obligatory Corsair liquor bag shot.


    IMG_6680 IMG_6683


    IMG_6686 IMG_6678


    The PCi bracket hold down assembly is just beautiful to look at and awesome to use.




    I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures of the case this time as Mike’s Back in Black Build is essentially the same case. I did however make a few modifications.




    IMG_6691 IMG_6692




    Namely I added a 140mm fan, and removed the useless front panel connectors. Why? My case sits high on a shelf, so I have no use for them. The fan is just for additional ventilation and is oriented as an exhaust.


    Prepping the water cooling parts and adding them to the components.


    IMG_6645 IMG_6646


    The radiator comes with a gloss black finish, I wanted more of a matte finish to better match the case. So out came the rattle cans.




    Next up is the motherboard and I decided to replace the OEM TIM under their heatpipe. the way this board has the cooling setup the MOSFETs are cooled via a heatpipe along with the northbridge. and the heatsink for this is rinky dink. So Stripped it bare and replaced the TIM with some Artic Silver 5.




    I then reattached the heatpipe assembly to the MOSFETs and NB.


    IMG_6650 IMG_6651




    Next up was to clean and prep the NB block, lay down some more TIM and attach it to the heatpipe assembly.


    IMG_6655 IMG_6656




    The CPU Block was all copper and I polished it to a mirror finish, but after mounting it I decided it clashed and it received the same rattle can treatment as the radiator. Mounted with some more AS5 under it and the mobo is ready for installation. Now on to the GPU…


    The GPU block is a full cover block, meaning it cools not only the chip, but the VRAM and voltage regulators as well. I also opted for the Aluminum back plate which is more aesthetic,, but functional as well.


    IMG_6661 IMG_6662


    First step is to dismantle the OEM HSF.


    IMG_6666 IMG_6667


    Off comes the back plate


    IMG_6665 IMG_6669


    Then the Front


    IMG_6673 IMG_6670




    Cleaned off the TIM and a few more shots just for kicks


    IMG_6675 IMG_6674


    OK Time to make a GPU sandwich. mmmmm tasty




    Final assembly starts with the Pump and reservoir. Which was located in 2 “ bays




    Next the motherboard is mounted and the RAM sticks are inserted.


    IMG_6699 IMG_6701




    Making progress! time to mount the HDD, SSD & BD drive.


    IMG_6704 IMG_6705


    Fans attached to the radiator and radiator attached to the case.


    IMG_6706 IMG_6707




    GPU goes in as well as the fittings. Now its ready for some pipes.




    First up are the dry break connections




    Then the Blocks




    Back to the Pump




    The lid gets bolted back on


    IMG_6721 IMG_6720


    Last shot before the fill up and leakdown test. I also reverse mounted the fan controller and a spare blank perforated plate. The Controller will control the 4 radiators fans, so I can adjust them based on room temp (higher in summer / lower in winter)


    GPU temps were my main concern, so I designed the loop with GPU performance in mind so the coolant travels in the following order: Radiator –>GPU->CPU->NB->Reservoir->Pump->Radiator


    I filled up the system with Distilled water and ran it without issue for 48hrs. No power was applied to the system just the pump. After through inspections no leaks were detected. I then went through cleaned up the wiring and lighting. Below is the final results…


    IMG_6772 IMG_6766


    Lights on


    IMG_6769 IMG_6770IMG_6771


    The whole setup floating above me




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