water cooling basics

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Watercooling Basics
For a while now, there has been a need to clear up the misconception that water-cooling is scary or difficult.PC Water Cooling is a very simple, quiet, and efficient way to cool your PC and I feel that if you have enough general information on the subject you will be inspire to give it a shot. One of the most common questions is “what’s the best setup for water cooling?” This is tough to answer because there as so many variables, users have different needs, and hardware requirements. I usually suggest starting out small by just cooling your CPU and work up to more elaborate systems once you are more comfortable. However, not only will I cover some of the basics of water-cooling, as well as some recommendations for parts.
 
Pre-built:
There are a few different types of setups available these days. First, there is pre-made Watercooling Kits . These kits will come with a pump, radiator, reservoir, and blocks. They can be bought pre-installed in a case, kits that come with all parts and you install, or Integrated. This is where companies, such as Koolance, Swiftech, Thermaltake, Danger Den, Innovatek, and Asetek have “integrated” a cooling system into a case, these systems require very little installation, and are best for users looking for quiet cooling. They are not generally the best for over-clockers, but are ideal for users who are not ready to take the plunge into custom building.
 
Custom:
In this scenario, you will buy each part of the setup separately and assembles it inside your case. In order to have a complete setup, a person must purchase the following items: pump, radiator/heater core, tubing, reservoir, and water-blocks. A reservoir is used in 99% of systems, however it is possible to run a closed system and exclude this piece. I recommend getting the reservoir if you have the space.
 
Buying
When Buying, it is best to do a little investigation and planning. Take a look at all the possible blocks, and be sure to decide on the best for your setup. Keep in mind the size of the blocks you will need, their shape, and the layout of your systems and any possible obstructions. You should also be careful to make sure that you get blocks that uniform in size tubing.
 
Assembly:
Once you have all of your parts, you will then need to begin the assembly. If you have happened to purchase water-blocks that use different size tubing than the rest of your system, and you wish to use those blocks, you will need an adapter. Often times you can find compatible parts at your local hardware store. Please keep in mind that this can potentially slow the flow of your coolant. Another thing to watch for is that when you are building, be sure to securely clamp all your tubing to its nozzle even if it seems tight, the general use of the system, moving, or shifting, may cause it to loosen over time and cause a leak that could damage your pc.
 
Filling:
First and foremost please, BE CAREFUL! Too many a computer have been damaged by someone filling carelessly or not leak testing their systems. To fill a system, remove the cap on a reservoir, and add coolant or distilled water. Follow the instructions for liquid, most systems are meant for distilled water. Although distilled water is pure and free from minerals it will still fry your pc if it leaks, distilled water is used because it will not corrode or leave chemicals inside your system. When filling, it is necessary to use anti-growth chemicals if you are not using a premixed coolant made for your system. This will prevent algae from growing inside your system. You may also include some dye for that extra flash, but most dyes do not fully dissolve and may shorten the life of your pump over time. Once the system has been filled, run it for 24-48 hours outside of your case to be sure there are no leaks.
 
Installing:
There isn’t much to installing, the most important thing is to make sure that you do not apply to much pressure. Applying too much pressure will crack your CPU, GPU, Chipset, or whatever else you are trying to install the block on. This is a VERY bad thing, so be careful. Fortunately now days some blocks have a safety mechanism and will not allow you to over tighten or clamp, check the specs of your blocks to see if they have this feature. You will also want to be sure to use some thermal grease or compound; this will ensure you get full contact and best heat transfer. Make sure everything is tight and the blocks are firmly in contact with your chips.
 
Two types of systems:
Quiet PC:
If your goal for water-cooling is a PC that maintains healthy temperatures at stock or mildly overclocked speeds, you do not need the top of the line components. Get a basic kit or a single radiator, a moderately strong pump, and a few water-blocks. Midrange blocks will perform just fine for this task.
 
Overclocking:
If you are planning on building an Extreme PC, or squeezing all you can out of your PC, then you will be looking for the best setup you can fit in your case, it is best to use a radiator that has room for at least two 120mm fans. This will allow for maximum heat dispersal. You will also need a pump with high flow rate and high pressure, and finally research the best block for your specific CPU, GPU, or Chipset. Not all blocks will work on all parts and setups!
 
Water-Blocks
There as so many water-blocks to choose from. We have had success with reliable companies such as “Danger Den” “Swiftech” “Alphacool” and “Koolance”. We recommend that you do your research, and get a block that will fit your system and matches your tubing.
 
Radiators:
As in Water Blocks there are many water-cooling radiators to choose from. If you are not too pressed for space, we recommend one large enough to be cooled by two 120mm fans.
 
Single-Pass vs. Dual Pass: Many end-users might base their decision to buy Single-Pass or Dual-Pass Radiator simply on what will work better for their system layout (in terms of where the inlet and outlets are located on the Heater core). Performance varies depending on your particular setup. The following excerpt from a highly regarded water-cooling discussion forum briefly explains the difference between the two:
 

"Single-pass benefits because it presents all the tubes with the highest possible water temperature at once, whereas a two-pass radiator will only get the highest temperature inlet water on one side, and then cool slightly cooler water up the other side. This doesn't make a huge difference though. Generally it provides a 1-15% performance benefit from this effect alone." However, "because the water is presented to all the tubes at once, the water velocity through the tubes is half of what it is through a dual-pass radiator. Increased water-velocity increases water turbulence, which in turn increases the ability of the water to pass the heat that's stored within it into the metal walls of the tubes that it’s flowing through. With a single-pass you've gone and halved the water velocity in one hit. This is offset somewhat by the temperature delta benefit of single-pass, but it is by no means a sure thing that single pass will be better"
 
Reservoirs:
The reservoir is probably the least important piece when it comes to choosing your parts. Typically as long as your tubing fits, it will work. Reservoirs can be mounted inside a case, outside a case, and some models can be mounted in a drive bay. Reservoirs will have a fill cap to let you fill your system.
 
Pumps:
The pumps made for water cooling pc's are very important. It is your single point of failure or Achilles Heel. Even if you have the best of everything, if your pump is lacking, your system will not perform well or simple fail. The most important thing to look for is pressure and flow rate. The higher these are, the more water your system will move and thus the more heat can be moved away from your chips and removed in the radiator. Some pumps may be too big for your case, these can be mounted outside of the case should the situation arise.
 
Tubing:
As much as it is overlooked, tubing can be very important. If you’re tubing kinks, you’re doomed for high temperatures or even burn out your pump. Look for anti-kink tubing when possible. Now regarding the much mentioned tube size! The two most popular tube sizes are: 1/2" ID and 3/8" ID. The “ID” stands for inner-diameter, and is opposed to “OD” or outer diameter, the intermediary being the tube walls them selves. Often 1/2" ID tubing is 3/4" OD, and 3/8" ID is 1/2" OD. Parts are generally divided by ID, but occasionally OD will come into play as well, mostly with clamping. Some kits come with 1/4" ID. In general wider tubing is beneficial, as more water is delivered to the water-block and to the radiator. The downside is that wider tubing tens to bend less easily. The solution for this is to get high-quality tubing, such as Tygon, or get an elbow joint to make right angles. If all that sounds too daunting just use narrower tubing. Items such as clamps and elbow joints can usually be found at hardware supply stores.
 
Shrouds:
 
Shrouds are mounts on your radiator that raise the fans away from the surface. Radiator shrouds will remove the dead spot, and provide air current to the entire radiator.
 
The Natural Order:
I have read that the order in which you place your blocks will make little to no difference on your temperatures, and that it is best to just put them in the order that is most convenient. We have found that the best system order is as follows:
 

Pump-->Blocks-->Radiator-->Pump.
 
Having the radiator or res right after the pump, will kill your flow rate and pressure, so always put them at the end.
 
When going for best cooling effects, it is best to have air blown from outside your case over the radiator, the cooler the air, the more efficient it will be at removing heat.
 
As you can see, when it's broken down setting up a water cooling sollution for your PC can be very simple. It only requires a little extra effort but the benefits are worth it.
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