External radiator system with sophisticated control

Hello everyone! I'm new to water cooling, but I already find it very interesting. I'd like to build a cooling system with an external radiator platform, like this one:


Whether its better or not, I just like the idea of isolating most of the "machinery" (pumps, filters, reservoirs, radiators) into a separate unit. The one problem I foresee is what happens if the attached PC is powered up but the external unit is not working correctly? I assume that could permenantly damage some of the hardware. I don't know if modern hardware helps with that (I don't want to try it!) but older hardware used to "cook" in very little time without active cooling.

I don't like the solution of just attaching everything to the same power strip and then "making sure you only turn the strip on and off." I really want to make this idiot proof.

I'd like to design a general purpose solution, where the PC's power is controlled by a relay which will open if "anything bad happens" to the cooling unit, automatically shutting the PC down. Anything bad obviously includes power loss to the external cooling unit, but could also be driven by abnormal water temperatures, sudden flow rate impairment, anything bad that a sensor might notice.

The question is, how to turn all the sensor data into a signal, and then what piece of hardware to buy that can use the signal to turn off another computer. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I'm wondering if anyone has clever ideas for the best way to do it using existing components. A lot of the ideas I see involve actually making stuff -- splicing wires, etc. The whole point of this is that I want something safe, and I wouldn't trust a component I made myself to be of high enough quality for this project.

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More about external radiator system sophisticated control
  1. An external radbox is actually a pretty common feature among the more custom of custom water-cooling rigs. A couple of the more prolific watercoolers here have them.

    The way to get around turning on the pumps and such externally is through separate PSU's, one in the computer and the other in the radbox. Are you aware of the paperclip method to turn on a PSU without a motherboard? Essentially you have to do the same thing, except the PSU_ON current is piggybacked from the PSU in the computer. You will probably need some kind of adapter to do this, have no idea where to get one though.

    You can buy power strips so that if one particular port stops drawing power (which would happen in the case of the radbox PSU failing), it will shut off everything else connected to the strip.

    In case of a pump failure there is also other measures. There are sensors you can buy that will detect flow rate in the loop and they can plug into the mobo via 3/4pin fan headers so it can keep track of the sensors RPM. From there it would just be making a bit of software to warn you when the flow rate goes below a certain threshold, so you can save whatever your doing and quickly turn the machine off.
    There are also other sensors you can get for water temp and such.

    Before you ask for advice on how to build all this, I will say i have no clue. My experience in watercooling so far has been pretty much an off the shelf kit. You will have to get more in depth detail and advice from other members of the forum.
  2. I watched that vid and all I could think was 'Aaw blesss him :P'
    I'd check out the W/c sticky to begin with Op, just to get the general idea of things first,
    but both myself and 4Ryan6 both have variants on external radboxes, mines a homemade radbox and I also have a separate water chilling module to my loop, both are removable using quick disconnectors,

    and Ryan repurposed an old case he had for his set up which also uses a Peltier plate to achieve sub ambient temeratures,
    his thread is here,

    You will need to be able to modify things a fair bit and have faith in your work, extending your power lines by making up a couple of molex extensions is basic modding and really difficult to do wrong :)
    Everything in my loop is powered off the Psu in the main rig using extensions, so if the Pc is on, then everything is on :)
    Moto-proof is better than idiot-proof lol
    As mentioned a flow meter can help you visually check that the water is moving, or if you set your reservoir up a certain way you will see the water feeding into it,
    Its a fun journey and one that will suck your wallet dry if you let it, but its cheaper to make components that you can rather than buying a couple of hundred dollar frame from a manufacturer,
  3. I watched the vid myself, what a great plug for Danger Den which unfortunately is no longer in business, (Taking a brief moment of silence for the loss of DD), it is a serious loss to the water cooling community!

    To the topic at hand, your concerns of the other unit failing and a total loss of the unit actually being cooled, does not take into consideration the safety features built into the CPUs today and the fact if they approach overheating temperature levels they shut down to protect themselves.

    And as one of our water cooling members learned the hard way a full coverage water block on the graphics card can still cool enough to keep from loosing the investment without the water running, now this did not happen from any failures but from his own negligence.

    He water cools his graphics cards 2 480GTX using tap water and forgot to turn the water flow on, it could have been a major mistake and cost him both his GPUs but led to discovering they were still cooled by the full coverage water blocks! (Don't try this at home boys and girls, but it's nice to know!).

    The water cooling equipment today is far better than the older days of water cooling, they are much more dependable and failures are not frequent as they once were, leaks are very rare and usually the results of improper installation and tightening of the fittings.

    For your goal of using an external RadBox like the video you don't have to go to those extremes and it can all be powered by a very good power supply in the main computer the pumps and fans in the RadBox simply powered from extended 4 pin power supply molex connectors.

    Even if your modding capabilities are limited you can buy extension cabling even sleeved.


    Quick connectors on your coolant supply and return lines would be nice but you don't have to have those, also a fan controller is almost a necessity in the RadBox, which would require usually a 4 pin molex power cable splitter to incorporate into the RadBox build.

    Even if you were to buy everything with no modding intentions very rarely is there an out of the box solution that no modding is involved, so you will get into something to at least bring low level modding skills into the picture.

    Additionally regarding the video, it was an impressive looking setup but I don't care if he had two, three, or four, times those radiators, fans, and pumps, he is still at the mercy of ambient room temperature!

    Good Luck in your venture!
  4. **very rarely is there an out of the box solution that no modding is involved so you will get into something to at least bring low level modding skills into the picture.**

    Should I change my Sig back? :P

    ok, Op, you are on a win here whatever happens, all we need is Rubix_1011 to join in and you are in very good hands :)
  5. Moto, I was going to reference your sig and saw you had changed it! :lol:

    He would probably been wondering what the heck swords had to do with it! :lol:

    :o You changed it back! Cool! :)
  6. Swords? Makes me think of the Celebrity Jeopardy with 'Sean Connery' and he chooses S-words (SWORDS for $400) as a category. There are others, but that's the one that first came to mind...

  7. And Lutfij said I sounded like Sir Sean on one of my videos lol, the schircle ish complete it would sheem :P
  8. Thanks for all the help guys! As far as the automatic power off goes, it seems like aquacomputer actually makes the thing I was thinking about making myself:

  9. phocas said:
    Thanks for all the help guys! As far as the automatic power off goes, it seems like aquacomputer actually makes the thing I was thinking about making myself:


    I'm running one of those jumpers but I have a 2nd power supply to run my Peltier/TEC cooling, it is just not necessary to run a 2nd power supply to a RadBox just running fans and pumps, that load is no problem for a good power supply to handle in the main computer.

    Pumps and fans don't pull that much power or they would not be 4 pin 18g molex wiring harness hookup capable, regarding my setup my Enermax 1250w power supply is taking care of everything in my RadBox except, the Peltier it is powered by a 1000w Silverstone.

    The Peltier draws 26 amps by itself immediately upon powering up, so it needs it's own power supply, but all the pumps and fans in the RadBox are powered by the computers power supply.

    If I was not running the Peltier cooling, there would be no need for a 2nd power supply at all.
  10. And if pumps and fans are all plugged into the Psu, it all turns off when the Pc turns off, no worries about forgetting anything,
    I hit the power button on the Radbox or Pc (I modded so either will work but don't worry about that, you won't need to mod) and it turns everything on and thats it
    Heres my build log for the Radbox so you can see the simpllicity of it, a little forethought makes for a much easier project and maintenance later on :)

  11. It would be incredibly simple to just run a single power line between your power supply/main box and splice your fans from it in your rad box, thus keeping that power on/power off capability. I do this with all my case fans to keep wiring simple for all auxiliary fans.
  12. I just extend a molex line Rubix as you know
    but as I said, its one of the simplest and cheapest mods you can do :P
    and allows for so much fun hehe,
    Ok Op, the main teams here, lets get your idea up and running mate :)
  13. Yeah as stated by Moto and Rubix, extending the molex from the main machine is the simplest option to powering the external RadBox, it turns on and off when your computer does.

    No Worries Mate!

    Tip: You can save yourself some serious money with some modding skills and imagination, by gutting and refitting to your specifications, an old case, if you have one.

    It's basically a personal preference but there's no way I would buy a ready made RadBox, but along with Moto our modding skills are pretty high, Rubix ain't bad either have you seen the case he built?
  14. We'll need a pic of where the Pc sits, where you would like the radbox in relation to that, some indication of your willingness/ability to use tools etc,
    ,erm and some beer, very important that part :)
    **Edit as Ryan posted same time,
    Even with a storebought box/frame, you will need to find the way to connect it to the main rig, and to preserve the cooling of the box, you will need to insulate the tubing to and from the main or it will be affected by ambient temperatures, I use ducting to run the tube through, ryan uses a more traditional foam insulation wrap
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