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Water Cooling in a small case

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October 28, 2009 11:50:33 AM

My living room PC is running both too loud and too hot. I have an opteron 185, which is sufficient for living room purposes, and an ASUS Radeon HD 4870 1gb. The system seems to overheat easily even with the case open, at least the video card does, likely due to the lack of room AROUND the case, so opening it isn't a good idea, plus the noise.

So anyway, on to water cooling. I have a little bit of experience with it, but not much, so please bear with me. I have read the basic guides, so I have some idea what direction I'm heading, but I need good advice.

Of course it's a living room PC so a humongous case isn't an option. As such, I am limited to a single 120mm radiator, although that 120mm x 120mm space has a lot of depth in the case. So I am considering either the Feser XChanger 120mm Xtreme Performance Radiator or a couple of the Swiftech MCR120 "Quiet Power" Stackable 120mm Radiator - (MCR120-QP-Stack), stacked obviously. Heck, I might even be able to fit two of the Fesers if there was a way to be sure it can be done.

One Feser or two smaller Swiftechs? Bear in mind the Swiftech is only 34mm thick and the Feser is 62mm thick. Another option I am considering is the XSPC RX120 which is 58.5mm thick.

I'm looking to cool both the Opteron and the GPU. I plan on using a Noctua NF-P12-1300 120MM Ultra Quiet Cooling Fan, rated at 1100-1300RPM 63-92M3/H 12.6-19.8DBA.

I read that there is little difference between 3/8" tubing and 1/2" but why not go half-inch? That's what I feel like doing.

So basically it's the radiator thing that's got me a little befuddled... Any help would be greatly appreciated.
October 28, 2009 12:30:31 PM

Hm, interestingly, this is what this small WC setup is going to cost me. I apologize for the format, this is just a copy/paste of my cart contents...

ex-tub-466
2.5 Meter (8 feet) Feser Tube Active UV Hose - Retail Packed - 1/2" ID (3/4"OD) Anti-Kink Tubing - UV Acid Green $24.95 $24.95
ex-res-144
Swiftech MCRES Micro Rev. 2 Small Form Factor / High-Flow Reservoir (1/2" ID & 3/8" ID) $25.95 $25.95
ex-pmp-64
Danger Den DD-CPX Pro 12V 3 Pin Powered Pump - 237 GPH (DD-CPX Pro)

* Select G 1/4" Fittings (Qty. 2): 1/2" ID Koolance Compression Fittings1/2" ID Koolance Compression Fittings
The Koolance 1/2" (13mm) ID G1/4 Threaded Nozzles Pair is one pair of rotational 1/2" (13mm) ID G1/4 threaded nozzles for Koolance components with replaceable nozzles. Nickel-plated brass with compression fitting and gasket. ($12.99)

$69.94 $69.94
ex-liq-85
Feser One Non Conductive Cooling Fluid - 1000 ml - UV Acid Green (F1-0033) $19.95 $19.95
ex-rad-129
Feser XChanger 120mm Xtreme Performance Radiator - Thermochill Killers!

* Select G 1/4" Fittings (Qty. 2): 1/2" ID Compression Fitting1/2" ID Compression Fitting
This item is a compression fitting for use with water cooling products. The 1/4" British standard thread with rubber o-ring allows it to screw securely into water cooling components with a tight leak proof seal. The screw connection is designed for use with PVC tubing with an inside diameter of 1/2" and an outside diameter of 5/8". This fitting... ($13.98)

$73.97 $73.97
ex-tub-423
Bitspower Ultimate G 1/4 Thread 1/2" ID x 3/4" OD Compression Fitting - (1/8" Walled Tubing) $6.99 $27.96
ex-blc-518
Swiftech Apogee™ GTZ CPU Waterblock - Socket LGA 775

* Select Optional Hold Down Hardware!: GTZ Adapter(Sockets 603/604/771/754/939/940/F)GTZ Adapter(Sockets 603/604/771/754/939/940/F)
Swiftech Apogee™ GTZ 1U hold-down plate and hardware for Socket 603/604 771(Intel® Xeon™ - all versions) Socket 754 939 940 F (AMD® 64 & Opteron including "uncapped" processors). ($9.95)

$69.94 $69.94
ex-blc-513
EK Radeon HD4870 VGA Liquid Cooling Block - Acetal (EK-FC4870 CF Acetal)

* Select G 1/4" Fittings (Qty. 2): 1/2" ID Koolance Compression Elbow Fittings1/2" ID Koolance Compression Elbow Fittings
The Koolance 1/2" (13mm) ID G1/4 Threaded Angled Nozzles Pair is one pair of rotational 1/2" (13mm) ID angled G1/4 threaded nozzles for Koolance components with replaceable nozzles. Nickel-plated brass with compression fitting and gasket. ($19.99)

$136.94 $136.94
Subtotal: $449.60
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a c 86 K Overclocking
October 28, 2009 1:16:26 PM

Well. Your biggest issue is you need a 120x1 for just the GPU and a 120x1 at a very minimum for the CPU. There is a slightly better cooling from the Feser than the MCRs. But not worth the money for sure. I can link you to deep testing charts etc. look at the top of this forum, watercooling solved. You'll probably have about 200+ watts to cool under your max load, and a MCR120x2 or Feser 120x2 is just enough.

You don't need fancy liquids, just distilled water and a good biocide. Cheaper. You don't need compression fittings, barbs are just as secure and cheaper. But it's up to you.

Buy Bitspower fittings, not Koolance. Bitspower are MUCH higher quality. Look at the stores in the watercooling solved thread. The inside curved and inside diameter is much much better, and much better looking.

Rest looks pretty good.

Don't stack the MCR rads, run them in series somehow. Stacking rads unless you use High Speed LOUDDD fans is proven to be not worth it. The Feser is NOT twice as good. It's thicker for lower speed fan performance, not double the cooling ability. Might be 10% better, but it's still not enough for your loop.
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October 28, 2009 1:21:36 PM

Hmmm... So basically since I have only room for ONE 120mm spot, I should WC either the Radeon or the Opteron. In this case, I guess the logical choice would be the Radeon since it puts out the most heat in this system by far, I believe?

Thanks for the tips!
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a c 86 K Overclocking
October 28, 2009 1:30:31 PM

Ohh yea, a good aftermarket Air CPU cooler is plenty for the CPU. Getting rid of the GPU fan is one main reason to WC the GPU.

But, you could get an AWESOME Thermalright HR-01 for your GPU and improve your case flow. Cut out the cheese grate from the back/front fan, and get a high flow air guard. Get some better case fans that perform better at lower dbs.

Unless your a big overclocker there is no reason to go water unless you just want to. then I'd start with a new case for sure to do it right.
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October 28, 2009 2:26:04 PM

Conumdrum said:
Ohh yea, a good aftermarket Air CPU cooler is plenty for the CPU. Getting rid of the GPU fan is one main reason to WC the GPU.

But, you could get an AWESOME Thermalright HR-01 for your GPU and improve your case flow. Cut out the cheese grate from the back/front fan, and get a high flow air guard. Get some better case fans that perform better at lower dbs.

Unless your a big overclocker there is no reason to go water unless you just want to. then I'd start with a new case for sure to do it right.


Well I have a couple other reasons for doing water but they might not be that great?

First is noise, but you seem to indicate that air can be equally quiet as a more or less half-assed WC as I will be possibly attempting, at a not inconsiderable multiple of cost.

Also, I have two dogs and no matter what I do, there is a LOT of dust in the house. This PC, as most, rests on the floor and the heatsinks get clogged pretty quick. On the CPU is a Zalman CNPS 7700, which was arguably the best hsf that fit my case back when I got it. Now the radiator is not invulnerable to dust, I know that, but the water helps mitigate that fact through simply better cooling.

So you believe that thermalright HR-01 and say, a Feser noisblocker 120x55mm 1200rpm fan, rated at 61.6cfm and 21dbA might work for me?

Also, another question that I have which is more or less related is that my _other_ ASUS Radeon HD4870 1GB (exact same model) that I have in my other case (Kandalf LCS half-assedly liquid-cooling my Phenom 965) runs at about 20°C cooler than the Radeon in THIS case that I am thinking of doing some WC on, this being the root cause of all that.

And actually even with the case open (albeit with restricted space) I get the ATi GPU Recover upon exiting some demanding games, which indicates that perhaps the GPU actually overheats in this situation. What do you say, return the video card, or is this more-or-less normal? Arguably your solution might solve that problem without increasing the tolerable noise level I _HAD_ when the case was closed...?!

Also, are those pci slot exhaust fans any good?
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a c 86 K Overclocking
October 28, 2009 4:10:21 PM

PCI exhaust fans help. At the expense of noise. Small high RPM fans.
A rad will clog as much as any HS, especially if you underrad, needing HS fans, lots of airflow.
Fans? Yate Loon fans at Petras medium or high speed are great and cheap.
How do you know that Feser fan is good? Feser don't make fans, and they do some odd things, not our favorite company for there underhanded copyright issues. Hopefully your just not reading what THEY say.
http://www.madshrimps.be/?action=getarticle&number=1&ar...
http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/120-14...
http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showthread.php?t=20...

If it's not crashing WHILE you have a heavy load it's not heat, more like a driver issue.

Run Prime 95 in the CPU and Furmark on the GPU and monitor temps. I'm sure your GPU will get really hot, but if it don't crash during that, it's not a heat issue.

You might have hit the wall on case cooling. If the case doesn't have 3 120 mm fans on it and open flow channels etc, your not helping matters. You also realize that radiators do NOT like warm case air through them for the best temps. And your WC plan with even two 120x1 rads is cutting it. Getting the HR-01, improving case air flow is a solution, and MUCH cheaper than water.
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October 29, 2009 2:09:46 AM

Well thanks for all the good advice. For some reason only core 0 is running hot on the cpu. It is the CPU that overheats when the case is closed, so I decided to get the "Zalman CNPS10X Extreme CPU Cooler 120MM PWM LED Low Noise Fan LGA1156 1366 775 AM3 754 939 940".

It is expensive but at least it is future-proof, it will fit this old socket 939 and also AM3 when I upgrade. And a case fan, and I'll remove the "cheese grater" in the back of the case.

Again, thanks for your input, you have steered me away from an expensive decision.
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October 31, 2009 6:04:16 PM

Remember that GPUs run hotter than CPUs, you may not have a heat issue there.
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November 3, 2009 9:03:11 PM

ghoulsrulefools said:
Remember that GPUs run hotter than CPUs, you may not have a heat issue there.


Actually I do, but you are right in that even though the 4870 gets to 80°C and above, it does not overheat. The CPU overheats, more than likely in great part because of all the heat that the GPU puts out. Hopefully everything will be A-OK once I get my stuff all installed.
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a c 330 K Overclocking
November 4, 2009 2:32:25 PM

Instead of going WC, you would be better off resolving the air flow in the case as that will still be an issue with WC installed. The common misconception with a WC system is that you don't need fans, but this isn't the case. I would highly suggest a simple test; remove the side of the case, blow a house fan inside and compare temps vs. what you are currently seeing with the case 'closed'. If your temps remain the same, you need to change your cooling (heatsink), if your temps drop dramatically, you have a serious airflow problem...this is typically the answer.
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November 11, 2009 7:37:02 PM

Well thanks for all the advice.

I replaced the 120mm case fan with that extremely quiet Noctua fan I mentioned above. Great, great little fan. And then I replaced the front 80mm fan with an Antec 3-speed one with an ugly blue LED. And I changed the chipset heatsink, for the Thermalright IFX-05 or somesuch, WITH another Antec 80mm fan.

Everything is stable now. I'm a bit unhappy with the noise of that heatsink's fan at anything but the lowest setting. And I need it to be near the middle to keep my opteron around 55°C at full load, which isn't bad, but not great either. Of course the lower temp of both cores is almost 5 degrees less...

All in all a pretty good experience with air cooling. Next step will be to change the case for something prettier, like the Silverstone Fortress FT01 which might, for all I know, end up being roomy enough for me to install a water loop.

Thanks for the advice guys.
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a c 330 K Overclocking
November 12, 2009 12:33:38 PM

Yeah, I still am thinking airflow in your case is the real culprit here. But yes, a bigger case might give you more room to upgrade your cooling solution...and add some better flow/lower RPM fans. Typically, the de-facto standard at this point are 120mm fans, with many cases also having 140mm fans in some cases. Lower RPM with higher flow, they make a lot of sense over those noisy 80mm fans.
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November 25, 2009 3:37:18 PM

Well actually it started crashing again after a couple hours of intense gaming...

So... New case for me.

I'm looking at the Silverstone Fortress FT01-B... Looks very sleek for a living room, especially without the side window.

It uses 3 180mm fans... I guess this must be pretty good?
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December 14, 2009 5:51:51 PM

Well it seems it was the video card that must be overheating because even after removing the cheese grater at the back exhaust fan, and replacing all the fans with higher performance ones, and putting a huge heatpipe heatsink with a fan on the chipset, I'm still getting problems with the case closed, but not with the case open.

I got me a Lian-LI PC-9 all-aluminum case which I just received today but I doubt it will do the trick, looks like I'll have to buy an aftermarket cooler for the 4870 which does run in the 80°C range even with the case open... :o 
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a c 86 K Overclocking
December 14, 2009 10:37:48 PM

Yep, in a smaller case without awesome airflow the cards really need more. Have you tried a 90mm fan put in the case blowing on the GPU to assist in directional flow?

Cut a hole in the side top and add another fan? Ahh well ya got a new case coming, new toys!

Look up thermalright, top notch video cooling, but there is others. I know little about them now. Ask at Overclockers Forums (OC Forums), my home base.
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December 15, 2009 2:35:53 AM

Yeah along with the new case I'm fairly sure I'm getting the Arctic Cooling Accelero Twin Turbo VGA Cooler along with ramsinks and mosfet-sinks.

Thanks for the fan tip, I'll do just that tomorrow. :) 
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