I don't need to spend a lot of space telling you that enthusiasts have been having a great deal of success with the newer 200MHz front side bus Pentium4's. A quick look at our Pentium4 Round-up featuring the 2.4c, 2.6c, and 3.0GHz will show you close to one full GIGAHERTZ overclocks! The overclocking success stories of these CPU's got my wheels turning and made me start thinking about taking the cooling to the next level. In our roundup we did all of our overclocking with the stock heat sink/fan units that ships from Intel with the Pentium4. I began to get quite curious to see what we could accomplish with some "real cooling."
Several weeks after our Pentium4 roundup I came across a case that had more than it's share of space and cooling potential, the Enermax CS-10181. The completion of that review began the events that I'm going to show you in this article, a reasonably priced water cooling system.
This project is not so much a "how-to" as I don't expect a lot of people to mimick this system exactly. This is more of a water cooling path, it's the steps I followed and the modifications I made to create a respectable water cooling system in an everyday case without using one of the many "kits" that are available today. I wanted to build a custom water cooling rig that wasn't over the top yet provided me with stellar cooling at a decent price. To be completely honest this project was never intended to be an article, it was simply something I was doing for my personal system. As this system developed I realized that it's something I should share, which brings us to this piece.
Let's do it shall we?
PICKING THE RIGHT PARTS:
Before we began any actual work we had to do the hardest part, picking the parts that are best suited for this project. We already knew that we were water cooling a Pentium4 system and what case we wanted to use, but some of you may not be that lucky. Let's take a look at everything you're going to need if you decide to take water cooling into your own hands. This list will be based on the assumption that you already know what actual PC system your planning to water cool. The only thing we're going to layout here is the case and the cooling components. What motherboard and processor you build this around is entirely up to you obviously.
Let's take a look at the raw list, and then we'll go into a little bit of detail on what to look for in each.
Reservoir or filler fitting
Case - Finding the "right" case for your water cooling project is probably the single most important, and for that matter difficult step. We were looking for a case that could house a completely internal water cooling system as we didn't want a radiator or reservoir mounted outside the case, we wanted everything inside. You must find a case that not only meets the demands you have based on the PC system you want you run, but also has PLENTY of room for additional cooling devices and fans. Generally speaking, the more room the better. Pick wisely because once you start cutting you're pretty much stuck with it! :)
Tubing - The next thing you need to decide is what diameter tubing you want to base your water cooling system upon. Generally speaking, the larger the diameter the better the cooling efficiency. That said, this doesn't mean to go get the biggest stuff you can find. There are a lot of considerations in this selection process. You need to consider price and availability of the other components and the space the tubing you've selected will take up. Another important factor is the wall thickness of your selected tubing size. You want the thickest wall you can find! The thicker the wall the lower your chances of a kink are, and in a water cooled system a kink is the kiss of death. In a confined space you'll be forced to bend your tubing a good bit and the thicker the wall the safer that act becomes.
Water Block - Picking a water block equal mix personal preference and cooling efficiency. All water blocks are NOT created equally! As boring as reading water block reviews may be, I suggest you spend a good bit of time doing it. Find one that has a mounting system that suites you, a connection that you don't mind, competitive performance and acceptable cost. There are more water blocks out there than you'd even think possible, don't rush your search or just use the "first available", this decision is an important one so give it the time it requires.
Radiator - Deciding on the radiator for your system is probably the biggest pain of all of the selections. There are basically two factors in this decision process and each are equally important. Size/Shape and performance. You will need to find a radiator that will fit nicely into the case you've selected. Finding the right radiator can take some time so be patient and don't rush the search. There are a lot of radiators being sold specifically for PC water cooling, but if you can't find one to suite you don't be afraid to go to the junk yard and get a heater core from a car. It sounds odd I know but it's cheap and it's where water cooling in PC's all started! It will do you no good to find the perfect size radiator to fit in your case if it's cooling efficiency is pure crap, so make sure to get a comfortable balance between performance and fit.
Pump - A pump is basically the brain of your water cooling system. The pump is what's responsible for keeping the water moving, so it would be best advised to not follow the government mentality of the "lowest bidder". Find one that comes from a reputable manufacturer and offers a decent gallons per hour (GPH) rating. What else you need to keep in mind is size. The pump in an internal system is going to need to fit into the rapidly shrinking available space in your case, so again, find the one that's right for your particular application.
Reservoir /Fill Fitting - Which of these two devices you decide upon for your system is up to you. A reservoir is basically a holding tank in your water cooling loop that in theory by increasing the water cooling capacity of your loop increases the cooling efficiency. These are used successfully in a lot of systems. Reservoir drawbacks are that they take a lot of space and they have a tendency to increase the amount of air bubbles in your system. Bubbles are bad. The other option is to use a bleeding system of a filler fitting. These devices range from extensive filler/bleeding systems that include several valves, down to a single "T-Fitting" that offers a fill point. Again, I advise reading around a bit and finding what best suites your application.
Relay Device - A Relay is simply a switch that automatically turns your water pump on and off with your PC. A relay is not required, but the first (and certainly last) time you forget to turn your pump on and you're looking at a smoked processor, you'll wish you'd used a relay device. I HIGHLY recommend using one. There are several kinds available. There's some that go into a PCI slot to auto sense when the system is on and off, and there are some small units that have a Molex plugged into them to decide when the system is on and off. There is no right or wrong one to choose, simply find a reliable one that suites the needs of your particular system.
The Parts We Used:
Above we've shown you what parts you're going to need to build YOUR water cooling system, here's what we used to build OURS:
Case - The case we decided on actually picked us. When I worked with this case for the first time it SCREAMED for a water cooling system. What followed was the journey we're describing to you here. We used the Enermax CS-10181 black case for our system because it offered a boatload of room inside of it and a stellar location for a decent sized radiator.
This case required some modding to fit everything perfectly, but the chassis size left us the room we were going to need to fit everything inside.
Tubing - As indicated above, before we could begin anything beyond our case selection we needed to decide what type / thickness tubing we were going to use for this project. After considering smaller tubing for it's compactness and ease of routing, we threw caution to the wind and decided on the relatively fat 1/2inch inside diameter with 1/8th inch wall thickness. That left us with a 3/4 inch outside diamater line, but for the increased volume of water flow we felt it was worth it.
Just how big is 3/4in outside diamater tubing inside this case? Here's a quick pic..
As you can see this is some big stuff. We briefly considered going with a 1/16" tube wall to make it a bit smaller, but the thinner the wall tubing you use the higher the chances of a kink in the system, and believe me, the LAST thing you want in a water cooling loop is a kinked line!
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