Geeks With Blogs
ICaramba Miguel Castro's blog about .NET and its effect on National Security, the Eco-system, and his daughter's sleeping patterns.

Click here for part 1, part 2part 4, part 5


As I described earlier, when it came to deciding which CPU to use, I chose to go with the 2.66ghz QX6700 with the idea of overclocking it.  Overclocking usually requires that you take cooling very seriously so I decided to go with a liquid cooling solution.  Since I am a newbie to this technology, I tool the liberty of exercising my God-given right of pestering by liberally bugging my buddy, Richard Campbell quite excessively.  But seriously, Richard was tremendously helpful and for that I am extremely grateful.  Richard did not recommend any particular equipment or brands to me but instead educated me into exactly how liquid cooling works and more importantly what it does and does not do.  Specifically, I am referring to the fact that liquid cooling a rig moves heat quicker than air, as well as more efficiently.  The CPU (or other components) is still going to produce the same heat and of course, transfer that heat to the cooling block you apply on top of it.  The water (or coolant) is just much better at carrying this heat away.

As far as water cooling components are concerned, I went with the exact same components already proven by the folks at Maximum PC.  Yes, call me a copy cat if you want but at least I knew not only that they worked well together but that they fit nicely into my case, since I used the same case they did.  Did you catch that last sentence?  I said "into" my case; that's right, all the water cooling equipment is actually internal in this case.  This is unlike many water cooling rigs where the radiator is mounted externally - usually in the back.

I decided I wanted to liquid-cool the CPU and the two NVidia 8800GTS video cards.  One of the things I learned is that the radiator is crucial in taking the heat and blowing it out of the liquid - this really works exactly the same as a radiator system in a car.  Since I was cooling some parts that had the potential of getting pretty hot I went with the Swiftech 320 triple-fan radiator.  Mounting this thing was where things start to get cool - no pun intended.  The Cosmos case comes with two fans at the top of the case, mounted internally and blowing out.  The top of the case has grill holes for venting these fans and is covered nicely by a black plastic grill.  By removing these fans, I was able to mount the radiator in their place, and was even able to use the same mounting holes used by the fans.  Now, remember I said a triple fan radiator earlier?  That means that the length of the radiator accommodates up to three 140mm fans to be mounted on it.  The Maximum PC rig only used two fans with the excuse that they felt that it wasn't necessary to use all three - here's where I disagreed.  I thought that I would take full advantage of having bought such a big radiator so I mounted all three 140mm fans on to mine.  in fact, I would have bought just one since the two fans I removed from my case are also 140mm and would have fit perfectly, but oh well, they were only 6 bucks each. The fans are mounted so that they blow through the radiator - this is crucial.  All radiator fans should blow through the radiator.

Also shown his the CPU cooling block I used.  It's also form Swiftech and it's called the Apogee GTX.  It's nicely sized and very easily to install.  Basically it has a back plate that goes on the back of the motherboard and of course the cooling block on the front over the CPU.  Then, the two just screw together, nice and tight.  By the way, as in the case with the video card cooling blocks, don't forget the thermal paste

I've seen radiators mounted where the fans blow through them and then into the machine.  I guess this isn't a big deal since you're still blowing the heat out of the liquid, but also wanted to take into consideration the internal temperature of my case as a whole so I decided to mount my radiator/fans where they blow through the radiator and out of the machine. 


Now, remember I said that the case had grill holes for venting the two fans that were installed with it.  Since I mounted a third fan, I drilled some rather ugly holes into the top of the case where the third fan would be.  All this would be covered by a nice looking black plastic cover anyway.

As you can see, the plastic cover looks nice and clean, and the vent slots point back so you don't get any of the warm air blowing directly at you.

I should point out a disadvantage to this configuration, especially in comparison to the Maximum PC build.  By mounting my radiator internally in this position, I sacrificed the top 5 1/4 drive bay.  This case comes with 5 external bays so losing one may or may not be important to you depending on what devices you want to install later.  This sacrifice is also done in the Maximum PC rig.  Where mine is different is that I had to sacrifice two bays.  The reason for this is that I mounted that third fan where they only mounted two.  That means that the overall thickness of the radiator extended all the way to the front of the case.  Add to that the space taken by the tubing that comes out of the radiator (at the front) and you see where the need for space came from.  To me it really did not matter, I only had plans for three bays; two DVD drives and one reservoir (I'll that about that one in a second).

Some final word about water cooling

So now my radiator was neatly mounted internally and I was ready to continue my adventure.  Remember the fan I removed from the bottom of my case and placed in those two drive bays?  The space it left available was perfect for my water pump.  incidentally this is right from the Maximum PC rig.  I used a Danger Den L5 pump and screwed it right two the grill holes the were underneath the fan.  By the way, the fan that is now sitting in the drive bays can still suck air from the bottom of the machine (the outside actually).  In fact, the Cosmos case comes with two air filters that quickly slide out for cleaning from the front and back of the bottom of the case.  My research confirmed what Maximum PC said about this pump; it's one of the most reliable, strong, and QUIET on the market.  It also comes with an adjusting screw for controlling its speed - something that definitely affects the noise it generates.  I keep mine at just over the 3-setting and everything is just fine.  The pump comes with 1/2" barbs so you need to go the 1/2" tubing route, which I was going to anyway.  In fact while on this topic, I went with Swiftech 7/16 tubing which is designed to fit into 1/2" barbs but is a bit more flexible than 1/2" tubing.  As the article in Maximum PC specifies, it took a hell of a wiggle to get the tubing onto the pump but the clamp I put on it afterward was most likely totally unnecessary.

I've heard several people build water-cooled rigs and don't go with a reservoir.  Instead they attach a T-Valve to the liquid loop and fill/empty from there.  I've heard mixed opinions on this but I decided to mimic the Maximum PC rig and go with the Swiftech bay-mounted reservoir.  It mounted into my last available 5 1/4 external drive bay nicely and provides a certain "oooh" and "aaah" reaction from anyone who comes into my office and sees the front of the case.

I feel I should tell you a couple of other things about liquid cooling.  First of all, about the noise:  I've heard many people water cool for noise-reduction.  Remember my radiator and the three fans?  Now granted, these fans are pretty damn quiet; add to that the fact the Cosmos case is extremely quiet and even comes with noise-reducing foam on the side panels and I'm not doing too bad.  But don't go into it thinking that you are eliminating all noise from the rig because the only fans you really eliminate are those connected to the CPU and the video cards, if you water cool them too as I did.  If you truly want to eliminate ALL noise through water cooling, you would need to remove all case fans right?  And if you do that, then how do you blow air through the radiator?  Well I'm glad you asked, cause this is where water cooling can become very insane -- but very cool too;  oh yeah, and very expensive.  What do I mean by insane?  Well, talk to Richard anytime and ask him to tell you about his set up.  Basically since you still need a radiator, some fans, and a pump, but you don't want the least bit of noise, the only other solution is to offload that equipment elsewhere.  I don't mean just an case-externally mounted radiator (heck that would be louder), I mean external in terms of mounting it outside the room and venting out of the house.  As far as the pump and reservoir are concerned, yes, them too.  Richard has water tubing running in his walls with taps that come out behind each machine.  So basically a tube comes out of the wall, runs through the machines internal cooling loop, then back out of the rig and into the wall - and onto the next machine.  Pretty cool?  Pretty insane?  If you knew Richard, you'd understand.

As for me, the primary reason I went with liquid cooling is for the cooling efficiency and the space-savings.  The Quad-Core processors are designed to run hotter than what you're probably used to having processors heat up to, but heat is heat and it must be dealt with.  To air-cool a quad you would need a pretty decent size cooling block/fan setup, and while they do exist and I have seen builds with these kinds of coolers, no one can deny that they do take up quite a bit of space.  Not only that, they make maneuvering inside the case more difficult, even what should be simple tasks like the removable and replacement of memory modules.  The cooling block that sits atop my CPU is very small and simply has two hoses going into it.  The same can be said about my video cards.

Click here for part 1, part 2part 4, part 5

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2007 3:15 AM | Back to top

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