Updated: Apr 30, 2022
There I was, entertaining the mother of sadomasochist home office computing projects the other day via serious daydreaming, when chance and fortune smiled upon me to take it from a pleasant daydream to frightening and actual reality.
The cost of this Malarkey was going to get covered by the video we would make from such insanity.
This is going to be a test run for the new Threadripper 5995WX series CPU heading my way shortly which will need some er, exotic cooling.
I have been dithering over three closed loop systems vs one large open loop on the guinea pig rig we will be using and was verging on the side of custom closed loop systems.
I have two NVIDIA TUF 3090 GPU in the victim rig and it seems each needs its own water cooling block plate for water cooling antics.
So Whut Do You Need For A Basic Open Water Loop Shindig?
GPU Block per GPU
Reservoir/ Pump (with fill port)
Compatible PC Case that can take 420 mm radiators
Un sacco di soldi ($)
Well-endowed, self-deprecating sense of humor
Whut Else Would You Need For More Elaborate Loops?
Drain/ Fill Fittings
Molto Dinari ($)
A partner that likes the dying whine of a cooling pump
Oooo sounds expen$ive!!
Custom water cooling is one of the best ways to not only chill your components but also adds some of the best ae$thetic$ that money can buy.
Sure, your PC rig may look superb with all those RGB fans and a closed loop cooler but the creativity and style that comes with a custom water cooling open loop setup is kinda unrivaled.
Open loop liquid cooling can be used to cool your CPU, GPU, motherboard VRMs, and RAM, enabling you to push the entire rigamarole to its limits, literally.
Ratchet Pipe Cutter tool
For those with little experience in open loop cooling, you may not be aware that you are going to need quite a few tools vs deploying a simple closed loop cooler.
A closed loop merely requires a screwdriver to install the radiator to the case and the block to the motherboard.
Tools for open loop cooling, however, require a few extras.
You are going to need accurate measurements for your tubing, so a tape measure and some pipe cleaners are a good place to start there.
You are also going to need cutting tools for your tubing.
Soft tubing can be cut with any sharp knife but you will need a specific tool or a saw for hardline tubing.
Glass and other specialized materials like metals are another step beyond this but you can buy pre-cut bent options that can be directly installed into your loop.
You may also need a deburring tool to get any shavings from the rim of your tubing.
Drills, sand-paper, clamps, and other nice-to-haves like leak testing kits are also neat to have.
It is worth noting that you are going to need a bit of extra room when doing an open loop, whereas a closed loop can be done in the smallest of work areas.
This means you will be needing the real estate offered by a specialized and molto Dinari ca$e to accommodate the real estate that the multitudes of these components that you will be placing inside your rig will be using up inside your fancy new and expen$ive computer ca$e.
This Pump will run you $119 plus Taxes
I played around with various pumps and this one came out top in my brief foray into the subject of cool custom water pumps for open loop rigs.
The only difference physically with any of this pump series is with the Ultimate version.
While the others are powered by a 4-pin Molex connector, the Ultimate version of the Aquastream pump is SATA powered and features an OLED screen for monitoring and control.
Tres cool 4 moi!
Each pump in the Aquastream lineup is designed to interface with Aquacomputer’s Aquasuite software by the way.
The primary difference in each model pump they offer is how many of the features of the software it can utilize.
As you can see from the software chart, both the Ultra and Ultimate versions are able to take full advantage of the software.
The advantage of the Ultimate version is the SATA power connector and external control through the OLED interface.
Cool beans for the pump gig.
Now for the CPU Block...
This EKWB CPU Block unit runs @ $284
The EK-Quantum Magnitude is the new ultimate bespoke CPU water block from EK that brings the highest cooling performance with the lowest possible flow restriction.
The AM4 version of the water block is using a specific combination of flow distribution insert, mounting pressure, and cold plate geometry tailored for the IHS and chiplet layout of AMD AM4 socket processors.
Different from any mounting structure used by other water blocks that are usually black and mundane plates, the design accentuates an integrated H-shaped, three-dimensional frame with premium finishes that firmly cradles the main body in place while the screws are morphed into a sophisticated design detail.
Specialized manufacturing techniques were deployed to create this truly unique product.
Not a single component of any magnitude was made using mass production techniques; instead, every single piece was lovingly CNC machined separately, out of a solid piece of material.
This version of the water block features a bare copper cold plate with a high-grade glass-like top CNC machined out of durable POM acetal.
A CNC machined solid brass insert made it possible to significantly enlarge and optimize the cooling engine.
Compared to previous generations of water blocks, the fin array has a 50% bigger surface area, all contained in a smaller footprint to ensure maximum compatibility even with mITX motherboards.
The copper cold plate uses 0.40mm wide microchannels and 0.26mm thick microfins to maximize the thermal transfer with minimal flow restriction.
Since EK-Quantum Magnitude was engineered from the ground up for each specific socket, the AM4 version features an offset insert that directs more flow over the AMD Ryzen CPU chiplets with the I/O die still getting plenty of flow to keep it cool.
The aesthetic interchangeable inner frame is also machined out of a single piece of brass, which was subsequently nickel-plated to perfection.
The aesthetic frame can be replaced with color-anodized aluminum variants that perfectly match EK-Quantum Torque fitting lineup or with a white POM acetal piece that can be used as a light dispersion element for addressable D-RGB LEDs.
The aesthetic interchangeable inner frames are sold separately btw.
The mounting mechanism is a three-dimensional H shaped aluminum piece that makes the screws a seamless part of the water block. Strong edges and chamfers root this award-winning icon firmly among the EK-Quantum line.
Did I mention it is award-winning tech?
EK-Quantum Magnitude bears the prestigious iF Design award for its bold and different approach to the CPU water block mounting mechanism.
The cold plate of the Magnitude water block is intentionally machined into a convex shape to align with the concave shape of the CPU IHS.
However, if you are interested in a flat cold plate that works perfectly with lapped CPUs or aftermarket IHSs, EK is providing a special, flat bare copper as well as nickel-plated copper cold plates that are $old $eparately.
The Magnitude is supplied with an additional, thicker jet plate.
If the user concludes that his CPU IHS is exceptionally concave (poor thermal paste spread after mounting), the curvature of the water block cold plate can be adjusted by using this secondary jet plate.
It will make the center of the contact area bow by an additional 0.1mm outwards, for it to make better contact with the IHS.
Next up, El Reservoir!
EKWB EK-DBAY Spin Reservoir (R3.0) @ $91.99
My reservoir choice raises eyebrows cause it ain't cylindrical, its a chunk of rectangle whut fits perfectly in the two slots of my available 4 x 5.25" drive bays.
The new EK-DBAY Spin Reservoir (R3.0) is an updated reservoir of the Dual Bay Res Spin family.
It features a white flow indicator which shows that the coolant is actually circling in the system.
Liquid flows through the impeller on to the waterfall on the front acrylic cover into the reservoir itself.
The reservoir is made of quality POM Acetal material with a fresh looking, acrylic top.
The front of the reservoir is aesthetically improved with a quality brushed black anodized aluminum bezel (no water on Aluminum here, just show).
Both sides of the unit feature rubber anti-vibration mounting nuts.
On top of the reservoir is one G 3/8" threaded port with enclosed corresponding plug to easily fill the reservoir with cooling liquid.
Backside of the unit features four G 1/4" threaded ports.
One is indicated as an inlet port, while other three can be used as outlet ports.
Two G 1/4" plugs are enclosed to close the remaining open ports after you determine the tube positioning.
No water can evaporate from it which makes the annoying refilling totally obsolete.
The reservoir can be installed into an empty dual 5.25" drive bay slot. No boring or sawing is necessary and is why this is my top choice of reservoir.
Next up are the radiators!
$84.99 Per radiator
The XSPC TX is the worlds thinnest PC radiator.
At just over 20mm thick, it's 20% thinner than a standard 120mm fan and over 40% thinner than their EX series radiators.
Despite its size, the TX series offers both excellent performance and low flow restriction.
This comes from the high performance copper and brass core, which features welded seam tubes and high density splitter fins.
They further enhanced performance by designing fins which protrude past the cooling tubes.
This allowed for the increase of the cooling surface area without increasing the external dimensions.
With 13 tubes and 22 fins per inch it's the highest density core XSPC have ever released, but due to the thinness of the core it still performs with low speed fans.
The TX series is ideal for any build where space is at a premium.
Crossflow radiators allow for easier tubing routing in some PC builds. Their selectable crossflow design allows you to choose the most suitable inlet and outlet positions for your build.
Other bits n Bobs.....
Custom PC water cooling is a fairly popular hobby these dayz judging by the success of the companies that specialize in selling this gear.
I see a lot of people showing off their new water cooling systems or asking questions about the basics - or both.
These new members of this group of geeks are building some awesome stuff and I’m most fascinated to see what they have created and what I myself can do here.
The thing about learning any new skill is the, er, steep and expensive learning curve.
Water cooling your PC doesn’t have to be difficult with the amount of information available at our fingertips these dayz.
Like with any new undertaking, expensive mistakes will be made, it’s inevitable, and it’s how most of us actually learn best actually.
I suggest you start on a cheapie experimental rig before you expose your expensive Threadripper CPU's to Noah's flood (not Trevor Noah, the Biblical one).
So anyways back to the bits and bobs of this Computer rig water-cooling lark.
Tubes, flanges, u-joints, couplers and the tube bending tools and cutting tools are what you will be needing, plus drain valves.
Do not forget a drain valve in your loop, like ever, unless you are fond of spilling primo coolant all over your expensive rig components.
Even with a drain valve, draining your loop can be difficult and time-consuming if you don’t open the loop to outside air.
If air can’t get into the loop, water can’t leave da loop!
Cracking open a fitting or stop plug high in the loop (or on top of your reservoir if you have one there) will let air into the loop as the coolant is leaving and makes the whole job easier.
There are even dedicated manual vent fittings made for venting during draining or bleeding your system.
Do NOT neglect this subject area!
Another subject area to worry about is the mixing of metal components in your rig setup.
Assume you built a new PC rig, and decided to try water cooling for the first time.
While picking out your parts, you found a couple of radiators that were quite a bit cheaper than others of the same size.
Not really caring why, you opt to save some hard-earned cash and go with these without dabbling as to why they are so cheep.
You proceed to install your water cooling system, complete with a drain valve and plain distilled water (another cost-saving measure), and happily use your rig for the next few months.
Little did you know that the reason those radiators were less expensive is because they’re made with cheep aluminum cores instead of copper ones.
Since aluminum is an excellent conductor of heat, your new PC is running at lower temperatures than you have ever seen.
As the weeks roll by however, (assuming you watch the stats pertaining to your cooling setup) you start to notice that the temperatures you have been used to seeing are beginning to creep ever higher.
You chalk it up to the warmer room temps of summer and move swiftly on.
As things get worse, you are forced to conduct a complete tear-down in order to find the cause of your worsening temperatures.
In the end you disassemble your CPU water block - what greets your visual cortex will haunt you forever and the GPU block setup data from your disbelieving eyes are no better.
Inside both of your cooling blocks, the metal has corroded into a crumbling and useless mess.
Where finely-crafted microfins once channeled coolant there is now only a roughly square grainy hole decorated in the black and green remains of copper oxide.
You sit down with what remains of your beloved water-cooling loop and begin the painful grieving process.
When you build a water-cooling system, use parts that are either all copper (nickel-plated or bare) and brass *OR* all aluminum. Never ever mix the two.
Even the metals that play well together have some potential for galvanic action.
It’s always a good idea therefore to use an anti-corrosive additive in your coolant.
All of the major brands available today already add these to their pre-made coolants, but if you opt to use a different fluid be sure it has an additive like this or add your own but whatever you do, failure to register and defend for this one can be catastrophic.
The next area of concern is space for el radiator.
So assume you have had a well cooled rig for quite a while now.
It was high-end when you built it but it’s firmly in the "meh" range now.
You still enjoy using it and have no plans to replace or upgrade it any time soon.
However you wish it was not quite so loud.
With sixteen fans howling at full blast you have no choice other than to wear headphones while using the damn thing.
At least you don't have to try to understand your better half over the fan noise any more as they abandoned you after the argument about your noisy rig that was driving them nutz which came to nought.
So you drift to looking into custom water cooling to quieten your rig down so that the next partner you run into does not follow the same path as the last victim.
You decide to go all in and build your own custom loop.
You do some required reading on the topic, order all your parts and set about waiting for the goodies to arrive.
You don’t have to wait long since the company you bought them from is amazing and cannot wait for you to terminate your next rig with extreme prejudice.
Once the parts arrive you put your new cooling system together, complete with a drain valve and some nifty all-copper water blocks.
You set it back up in its place and load up Grand Theft Auto: V, again.
The noise is much better at first.
You smile in the deafening silence, but this only actually lasts a few minutes.
As you wander Los Santos, you notice that your rig is getting ever louder.
Within twenty minutes it sounds almost as bad as it did before!
You jump out of your game and check the temps and boy are they HIGH! Higher than you have ever seen them in fact!
With your temperatures inexplicably well into the danger zone on your test rig FX 8350 CPU and both of your ancient R290X video cards, you stare questioningly at the single 120mm radiator you have installed and instantly decide that water cooling a rig is a fat waste of time and money.
Moral: Radiator space is the single largest deciding factor in how well your water cooling system will work.
The rule of thumb on how much radiator space you needed used to be one 120mm unit per water block plus one unit.
So, if you were cooling only your CPU for instance, you’d want a minimum of 240mm of cooling space (120mm for the CPU + 120mm).
That rule doesn’t apply any more. Today’s high-end hardware is hotter than ever.
My personal formula for minimum radiator space is 140mm of space per water block, plus 240mm.
My rule on how much radiator to use has always been fairly simple: as much as possible.
While it is possible to have too much radiator space, it’s actually pretty hard to do.
Most modern PC cases won’t hold enough radiators to add up to “too much”.
Protip – Space isn’t the only consideration when choosing radiators.
Thickness, fin count and restriction are all factors to consider. There’s plenty of information and reviews online, do your research deeply before making a selection.
The next factor to bake into the equation is leak testing your rig.
When you finish assembling your new water-cooling loop, fill it with water.
Not the expensive premade coolant you just bought, just plain distilled H20.
Fill it, bleed it, put blue shop towels under everything and power up the pump.
ONLY the pump.
Let the pump run to circulate the coolant and put all of your new work under the same stress it will see in regular use.
This is the right time to find leaks, not when you’re using the frelling thing!
How long do you leak test it then?
The standard answer is 24 hours, but it’s really up to you.
Personally, I don’t have that kind of patience, so I typically run it for 2-3 hours. If it doesn’t leak a drop in that time I call it good, drain the water, fill it with exotic coolant and put it in service.
In 12 years of water cooling shit I’ve had five leaks. Your own mileage may vary.
You can leak test your system without ever putting liquid in it by the way but this needs some more tools and gizmos like pressure gauges.
Alphacool, EKWB, Barrow and Aquacomputer all offer air-based leak testers.
Connect it to your completed system, pump air into your loop to pressurize it and watch a gauge attached to it to see if it holds pressure.
So Finally, we are down to the subject of tubing and fittings for tubing.
Tubing (both flexible and rigid) comes in a lot of different sizes.
You *have* to make sure that the fittings you buy match the size and type if tubing you’re using.
Flexible tubing is measured on both its inside diameter (ID) and outside diameter (OD).
Rigid tubing is measured only on it’s OD.
That’s why when you’re looking at flexible tubing and fittings you’ll see two measurements, like 3/8” – 5/8” or 13mm – 19mm.
The first is the ID and the second is the OD.
The exception to this are barb fittings.
Since those don’t contact the outside of the tube at all, they’re measured only by the ID.
Make sure your fittings match the size of your tube!
Note that while both flexible tubing and rigid tubing use compression fittings, they are not interchangeable.
Flexible tube fittings only work with flexible tube, and rigid tube fittings only work with rigid tube.
Protip – When possible, it’s best to use tubing and fittings from the same brand.
While the numbers may be identical between two brands, the actual sizes can vary slightly.
Matching brands is the best way to ensure a proper fit.
There ya have it!
I will update this post with the success or failure as I go...