CPUs today run hotter and hotter than ever before, coupled with the overclockers' desire for the fastest possible clock speed, this can lead to the some dangerous temperatures. I've heard horror stories of Athlons running at normal speed, without cooling, and burning out in less than 10 seconds.

Air cooling can only take you so far, innovative overclockers are applying more and more techniques all the time to cool their systems, including heat pipes, peltiers, refrigeration devices, and our subject, water cooling.

A water cooling rig has three main components: a water block, pump/reservoir, and radiator, all connected with hoses.

The water block is the part the attaches to the CPU(s), (or other overclocked components, if applicable). They collect water from an input on one side, distribute it over the chip and output the heated water to another hose.

DIY water cooling systems usually utilize a normal aquarium pump, the kind that needs to be submersed in water. Thus, it is combined with the system's reservoir. If the reservoir is big enough, you won't need a radiator, the water will dissipate the heat enough by itself.

The radiator is sometimes combined with a fan to cool the water running through the system.

  • It's quiet, seeing as it can replace all your fans. The only noise would be that of the pump, and the radiator fan if you so choose.
  • Eliminating fans will greatly reduce dust.
  • It's far more efficient at cooling than air cooling could ever be.
  • Also, it can't cool below ambient temperature, so no worry of condensation! Unless of coarse you do something extreme, like fill the reservoir with ice cubes, or put a peltier between the CPU and waterblock.
  • Expensive.
  • Water and expensive electronics running side by side. You better be extra sure all those hoses are fitted properly.

If you don't feel like hunting down each component individually, there are companies that sell water cooling kits, containing a radiator, pump, hoses, water block, and all the little adapters to fit it to your CPU.

As well, a company by the name of Koolance sells fully outfitted, ready-to-go water cooled cases. It has waterblocks for the CPU, video card, hard drives, and even a water cooled PSU.


If you want to build your own water cooling rig, don't follow my node alone. Read up on the subject extensively. There are many, many techniques I have not covered.

Water cooling. What is it with water cooling? When I say to someone "I water cool my PC", I get a puzzled look and a comment like "You're insane" or "That's stupid. You'll fry your computer". Yeah, that's the exact fucking reason I'm doing it. Because I want to kill the $1100 power machine I built myself with my own money. I don't see what's wrong with it anyway. Water is something like 5 times more efficient at absorbing heat (without heating itself up) than air is. Example: take a pound of water, a pound of iron and a pound of gold, (this bit's out of an encyclopedia) all at absolute zero. If all three were heated and absorbed the same amount of energy, the gold would melt at 1102ºc, and the water would be at -184ºc. When the iron melted at 1299ºc, the water would have reached 0ºc.

And all the heat gets dumped outside your case. Stick a massive Alpha sink on your CPU, video cards, hard drive, whatever. Hell, stick the fucking things all over the inside and outside of your case. Stick one on your monitor. Modem running warm? Put one there, too. You could put a heatsink the size of your head on your processor (and someone probably has a bigger one), and all the heat still gets dumped inside your case, making you resort to covering every available surface with fans to remove heat. And removing said heat from the sink is easier said than done. Huge fans spinning at a million billion RPM and pushing a trillion CFM seem popular, even though they sound like a 747 taking off.

I read on some hardware site a line like this: "for those of you that prefer cooling performance over quiet". Sorry, but my ideal machine isn't one I have to turn off when friends come over. Nor is it one that requires the TV to be turned up while it's running. And that's why water cooling is so good: It can be as silent as you want. All the noise it makes is from the pump (although you could use natural convection), and the fans. The fans aren't strictly necessary, but they are better than a passive radiator. And you can use whatever sort of fan you like: low noise, high noise, three pin, four pin, AC, DC, whatever. All the fan does in move cool air over the radiator to cool it down. You don't have to suck heat you could barbecue with off it (unless you're into peltier devices). I could just imagine grilling things on an air-cooled, overclocked P3.

It's dangerous? No more so than air cooling. RTFM, do everything exactly like it says, and nothing should go wrong. That funky Alpha sitting on your CPU weighs an absolute shitload, I'll bet. And I'll laugh like a fucking hyena when it snaps your CPU in half and breaks every add-on card on the way down. The water block, the most important part of the system (apart from maybe the water), weighs practically nothing. It's made out of a tiny amount of aluminium or copper, and it's pretty much well hollow anyway.

The price? Here's the bad bit. An Alpha sink, with fan, might cost you, say, $50. A full water kit, for example, the Senfu, might set you back two or three hundred. But here's where water cooling really starts to shine: you're paying an absolute boatload of cash for your cooler, and the manufacturers are nice enough (most of the time) to supply enough different mounting clips and plates (and screws and bolts) to let you attach the block to almost anything. Some of those more unindentifiable bits might even let you attach the damn thing to your head. Or your car. Or your dog. They want to make absolutely sure you can stick the block on anything you fucking well want, and you pay through the nose for it.

Another rant, written around mid 2000. Incidentally, about five months after I started using water cooling, the Senfu waterblock I was using decided to succumb to galvanic corrosion and developed a number of... holes. Didn't kill anything, but I ended up using an Alpha PAL6035 on my CPU instead. How ironic. The original version of this rant, with spelling, formatting, and extra paragraphs intact, can be found at http://epoch.iwarp.com/dotrant/2.html.

Incidentally, I did used to have a heatsink designed for a T0-3 transistor with a 40mm fan on my modem, because it used to get suspiciously warm in one spot. The HSF is gone now, though, because the modem now has my hub stacked on top of it.

Want to see the process for yourself? Of course you do! Tom's Hardware Guide has a step-by-step video showing you the setup of a water-cooled system:


Much kudos and props and whatnot to Orpheum for /msging me the URL. :)

Alternatives to water in your water cooling system

Water has a few disadvantages for a cooling system. Namely, it corrodes and, as a conductive fluid, it can short out electronics. However, there are other options for liquid cooling.

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is good for liquid cooling, in some circumstances. Its advantage over water is that it is non-conductive. If your waterblock leaks, no problem. It won't damage your motherboard. However, mineral oil is not as thermally conductive as water, and it is more viscous, making it harder to pump. However, you could always just submerge your entire motherboard in mineral oil. Cool the oil by running it past dry ice, and have a pump shoot a stream of cold oil over the processor and GPU. Without a whole lot of trouble, you have a cooling system that will rape normal water cooling systems.

However, you would probably have to mount the mobo inside of a tub of mineral oil, with the drives outside of the tub. Not very convenient for LAN parties. But, then again, you would have cooling just about on par with liquid nitrogen.

Methyl Alcohol

Lastly, we have alcohol cooling. Alcohol has good thermal conductivity, low viscosity, and a low freezing point of -144 degrees F. This makes something possible that you cannot do with water: Cool it down below 32 F. You could run it past cooling coils or some inexpensive dry ice, and get very good overclocking.

Pure methyl alcohol is desirable over other varieties because in the event of a leak, it will not damage computer components, provided the power is off. However, there is one conceivable disadvantage of alcohol. In the event of a complete leak, and an Athlon meltdown, it is conceivable that the alcohol could ignite if it contacts a very hot processor core.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.