GUIDE: INtroduction to Watercooling


OBJECTIVE : The purpose of this guide is to offer information on the art of water cooling a computer, mainly to a beginner, but seasoned veterans may also find some of this information useful. The guide is arranged in steps. It is important that a newcomer follow the steps in order as it will determine how well the water cooling loop(s) will turn out.

STEP 1: Is water cooling right for you?

Before a person begins to do water cooling it is important that they decide on if it is the right options. In this step I will outline the advantages, limitation, and the possible costs.

The purpose of water cooling a computer is to offer two things: silence and higher over clock. Liquid cooling (or WCing for short) allows us to use lower speed fans or reduce the number of fans needed. By lowering the speed and the number of fans one is able to eliminate a major source of noise in a PC. One of the main uses for water cooling however is to enable higher overclocks for CPU and GPU. However, water cooling DOES NOT GURENTEE a higher over clock than what you may already have. Your current overclock may be limited by FSB wall, unstable hardware/software, or you may have a CPU/GPU that just refuses to be overclocked. Water cooling only allows you to jump over one major overclocking limitation: heat. By knowing this we can now decide on if watercooling is right for you. Answer YES or NO to the following:

1.Are you overclocking to the max?

2.Is your current overclock limited only by heat and not by hardware (i.e. CPU, motherboard, etc)?

3.Are you in search for a quiet computer (i.e. for sound production, etc)?

4.Will the water cooled computer be mission critical (i.e. server, hold very important business data, etc)?

If you answered YES to questions 1-3 then watercooling is a good option for you. However, if you answered YES to question 4, I do not recommend you do watercooling, mainly because it’s one more risk you have to take. However, if you are willing to take the risks and the necessary backup plans in case of an emergency like water leak, etc you should be fine. Note that if done properly water leaking is a minimal risk, but it nevertheless is a risk. If you are not willing to take the risks associated with watercooling then you really should not do watercooling.

STEP 2: What do you want to cool?

Ok, providing that you have decided that watercooling is for you now we need to decide on what to cool.

For a completely silent PC: Consider cooling GPU and CPU

For a max overclocking on GPU and/or CPU: Consider cooling both GPU and CPU if you plan to over clock both. If you only plan to go after max OC on the CPU OR the GPU cool only that component; doing so will reduce cost quite a bit.

Now many would ask why I haven’t mentioned about cooling Northbridge, MOSFETS, RAM, HDDs. The main reason is that there is virtually no gain by doing so. In some rare cases, you may get a bit more OC out of a CPU if you cool the NB/MOSFET but for most people this is a waste of money. Even for a completely silent PC, as most new motherboards already have passive (heat pipe) based cooling solutions for cooling MOSFETs and Northbridge. Cooling HDDs are a complete waste. You will NOT get any performance or make them silent or even make them live longer.

STEP 3: The basic components overview and terms used in Water cooling

There are 5 main components in every water cooling loop: Pump, radiator (rad), water block (block, reservoir (res) and tubing, all of these items make up the water cooling loop .

Pump: This is one of the most important factors in a WC loop. The pump determines how many components you can have on a single loop. A stronger pump allows you to have more blocks in a single loop and weaker pumps don’t. Obviously the purpose of the pump is to move water through the loop.

Water block: The water block is the object that allows you to connect the CPU/GPU to the water cooling loop allowing the water to transfer the heat away from the CPU/GPU. This is another essential part of the loop. Water blocks are generally made from two main metals: Copper and Aluminum (and rarely Silver). In some cases they may contain Zinc, Silver, or other metal coating. Most blocks today are made from Copper. Copper is a very good conductor of heat than Aluminum, but cheaper to manufacture than Silver (note that Silver blocks are quite rare and hard to get your hands on. Also note newer Copper models are better than the older Silver blocks.

Radiator: The radiator is the part that actually dispels the heat to the air in the water cooling loop. Without this, the loop would over heat in seconds possibly casing quite a bit of damage to the hardware. The sizes of the rad are usually measured in millimeters. A larger rad usually allows for more items to be cooled or allow for a higher heat producing item to be put in to the loop.

Reservoir: The reservoir is responsible for holding extra water in the loop. Although not absolutely necessary the reservoir can help speed up the “bleeding” of the system. More information on this will be provided later. With the low cost of the reservoirs there is no reason not to put one in a system.

Tubing: The tubing allows for the routing of the water to the water blocks, rad, etc. Most don’t pay much attention to the tubing type, but the tubing never the less can change performance of the system, mainly due to the resistance of a certain tubes resistance to bending too much. The common sizes for the tubing used are 3/8” (~10mm) and ½” (~13mm). Larger tubing allows for more water to travel in the loop with less resistance.

Bleeding the loop: The term used to describe the process of getting rid of air bubbles in the loop.

Lapping/lapp: The process of using sandpaper,etc to make an (almost) perfectly flat surface for maximum heat transfer. Usually seasoned watercoolers lapp the CPU as the CPUs are usually not very flat compared to the CPU water blocks. Note that lapping a CPU will VOID THE WARRENTY.

Distilled water: A highly purified form of water that doesn't contain other elements such as Chlorine found in tap water. NEVER use tap water in a loop.

Additive/coolant: Chemicals added to give the water color or improve performance than distilled water.

Biocide: Substance used to kill the build up of algae and microbes.


What do you think? This is to provide info to new watercoolers mainly so me,Conumdrum,rubix don't have to answer basic questions over and over again.