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Liquid Cooling

Discussion in 'Technical Discussions' started by jephree, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. jephree

    jephree ¨*·.¸ «.·°·..·°·.» ¸.·*¨

    I simply want to open a thread on this topic as it happens to be one of my favorite processes in a new build or upgrade.

    I run liquid cooling on all my computers both for the CPU and GPU. There are also Northbridge & Southbridge blocks but I have not gone there yet.

    There are many "all in one" kits such as Thermaltake's Big Water but after a first install or further upgrade you will find yourself browsing for individual parts to create your system.

    The system is quite simple: a block > a pump > a reservoir > a fan cooled radiator.

    Liquid cooled systems can lower CPU & GPU temps as much as 50% which leads to the possibility of safe over-clocking.

    There are also more extreme methods involving Peltier chips which go towards actually freezing the CPU. Not the bad freezing that is normally associated with a system failure but literally cooling the CPU to under 0 degrees C.

    The issue here becomes internal condensation and its affects on other system components.

    On the truly experimental side people have used dry ice & liquid nitrogen just to get a record benchmark off a piece of hardware.

    Anyway I just wanted to introduce the topic and if there is interest I have plenty of links and my own experience to offer.

    Note this is a practice that only hard core "enthusiasts" would want to endeavor.

    Also just to add: Installing liquid cooling blocks on any hardware will void any and all warranties on said hardware not to mention all other components in the system.

    Last edited: Feb 20, 2009
  2. Kaistar

    Kaistar Dedicated Member

    It's a pretty general question I have here, but in your experience is liquid cooling relatively safe and inexpensive to invest in? I've always been under the impression that it's expensive and tough to set up.
  3. jephree

    jephree ¨*·.¸ «.·°·..·°·.» ¸.·*¨

    Quick reply:

    Relatively Safe: Yes if you know what you are doing. The "plumbing" fittings are either compression joints or a "barb & clamp" setup. Leakage would only result from builder error. The hardware is solid.

    Many advocate testing a new setup outside the box so to speak but as I've done a lot of plumbing in my life I didn't feel that necessary. I just know when a fitting is set right. It is a feel you acquire.

    Inexpensive: No. When you consider stock fans are free with CPU & GPU you are talking at least a hundred US dollars and usually more to set up a good basic system. The Thermaltake BigWater last I looked ran @ $ 125 USD.

    Blocks for the latest graphics cards run well over $ 100 USD just for the block. Then you still need the pump / radiator / reservoir.

    Again setup is easy if you are at all mechanically inclined.

    Also just to add: Installing liquid cooling blocks on any hardware will void any and all warranties on said hardware not to mention all other components in the system.

    Hope this helps.

    Last edited: Feb 20, 2009
  4. Digerati

    Digerati Super Moderator Techie7 Moderator

    I think I am going to say the same thing as jephree - but from a different angle.

    I did the liquid cooling thing a couple years back when I was striving for no noise from my home theater PC (HTPC). The only kits available were the ones you created. Now, as noted, there are kits, but they may not cover all critical components - case cooling may still be required for the other components, drives, etc.

    It is important to understand that more than just the CPU and GPU need cooling. RAM, the chipset, regulator, and even the I/O controller chips get hot too, and NEED good front to back air flow through the case to move the heat out. Motherboard engineers, with great care, position critical components, including the voltage regulators (which can get very warm) in close proximity to the CPU intentionally so air flow (or turbulence) from the CPU's HSF (heatsink fan) can help cool them too. Some chipsets are passively (no fan) cooled by the CPU air flow. I have had computers come in with blown motherboards because early LC (liquid cooling) adapters failed to do their homework first, and neglected the cooling requirements of the rest of the computer, and motherboard itself. A very costly mistake.

    Another costly mistake is the lack of preventative maintenance after the LC system is installed. As noted, it takes a knack to ensure a good connection. Most bad connections leak at first test, but some borderline couplings can work themselves loose over time due to expansion/contraction during heat up/cool down cycles, vibration from fans, drives, footfalls, and kicks, or flaws in manufacturing or assembly. Quality tools make a difference. Leaks, if nothing else, are messy. I generally recommend users of conventional cooling PC inspect the insides monthly, and clean out heat trapping dust if necessary. This is a habit every PC owner needs to set in stone, even if a PITA. I found myself checking the LC system more often, not so much for dust, but out of my inherent fear of mixing electronics and liquids, a bigger PITA.

    While there are passively cooled power supplies used in "silent PCs", most PSUs have at least 1 fan capable of exhausting a lot of air out the back. That air has to come from somewhere so it (along with dust) is drawn into the computer's case from vents, holes, and seams. This means even liquid cooled computers need periodic cleaning too, even after the thrill of it all wears out.

    My first LC build I pre-built on my bench (not in the case) to make sure I had no leaks. I didn't, until I installed everything into the case, then I got two! :( So for new builders, not yet intimately familiar with all the parts and processes, I recommend practicing a few connections first and setting it up outside the case. Make sure it works, then very carefully install in the case and inspect carefully again, and frequently.

    That said, I know of an experienced alternative cooling user who discovered the hard way someone careless with a box cutter sliced too deep through the box of his roll of tubing, just barely nicking a dozen or so loops. So inspect everything carefully before using. Measure twice. You don't want to cut it twice and have it still too short! :pinch:

    As for warranties and such, jephree is right but I want to point out further that both AMD and Intel void their warranties if ANY cooling solution other than the original HSF supplied with the CPU is used, and damage from heat occurred. This applies to all retail versions of both companies CPUs packaged with a heatsink fan assembly, and means you cannot even use a 3rd party HSF. CPUs packaged without fans are not limited to cooling type, but heat damage is not covered anyway. And note only the CPU with fan is covered for 3 years, and the others for only 1.

    What this means is the CPU with HSF assembly packaged for retail is the ONLY version covered for damage caused by heat, if caused by fan failure. This limits cooling options (if you care about the warranties). The good news, however, is neither AMD or Intel want to replace CPUs under warranty due to lousy fans and heatsinks, so the HSF assemblies that come with the CPU are VERY capable of keeping the CPUs temperatures down - assuming normal ambient temperatures, adequate case heat removal, clean interiors, AND default voltages - that is, no overclocking.

    So as jephree points out, this is something for the enthusiasts willing to take the risks. I just want to point out if you are not overclocking, there is no need for alternative cooling solutions. If the CPU is still too hot when not overclocking and the environmental factors are normal, the case is not doing its job.

    Intel CPU Warranty Information (my bold added)
    Intel warrants the Product (defined as the boxed Intel® processor and the accompanying thermal solution)... ... if the Product is properly used and installed, for a period of three (3) years. This Limited Warranty does NOT cover:
    • damage to the Product due to external causes, including accident, problems with electrical power, abnormal electrical, mechanical or environmental conditions, usage not in accordance with product instructions, misuse, neglect, alteration, repair, improper installation, or improper testing; OR
    • any Product which has been modified or operated outside of Intel's publicly available specifications

    AMD CPU Warranty Information (their bold)
    AMD is more straightforward on their page where it says the following concerning their retail, Processor In A Box (PIB), versions of their CPUs:
    This Limited Warranty shall be null and void if the AMD microprocessor which is the subject of this Limited Warranty is used with any heatsink/fan other than the one provided herewith.