How to Start Watercooling your PC Part 2
- Hardware preparation
You may have spent many hours planning your entire build, but that does not mean you should skip one of the most parts in building a custom loop; preparing your hardware. By preparing your hardware I mean making sure all of your system hardware works, cleaning your radiators, and cleaning your new loop.
Most builders suggest that you first build your system out of the case, typically on the motherboard box, similar to a test bench. Once you know that your system will POST, you can clean the hardware and install the blocks onto it. Block installation will be covered more thoroughly later. You will also want to clean your radiators before you install them in your case. One of the easiest and most recommended methods is by using the Mayhems Blitz kit’s Part 1 cleaning solution. This solution contains Phosphoric Acid, which is a strong acid that will clean most any radiator completely. An alternative radiator cleaning solution to use is distilled white vinegar. You will want to fill your radiators with vinegar then let them sit for 6-12 hours and soak. After, you can flush them with tap water and rinse thoroughly with distilled water. To use the Mayhems Blitz kit, follow the instructions provided in the kit.
It is also a good idea to flush the entire system before you put your coolant in. To do this, either use Mayhems Blitz Solution Part 2, or distilled water. Before you install all your hardware, you will want to be sure that you don’t need to drill any holes or the mod the case in anyway beforehand. Not all cases are compatible with all the various watercooling gear out there, so you will need to test fit all of your hardware multiple times to make sure that everything will fit how you want it to. If you do need to cut or drill into your case at all, be sure to clean the case thoroughly of any metal fragments and debris. For further references on how to clean your hardware using the Mayhems Blitz Kit, check out these two videos we made on how to use the kit! Mayhems
Installing your waterblocks onto your beloved hardware is one of the most daunting tasks of watercooling. Many people fear damaging their components from improper installation. However, if you follow the instructions provided with your blocks, you will not have any issues. A CPU block install is probably the most straightforward block installation, since it is very similar to air in color in the way that it will only require the application of thermal paste on the CPU’s IHS and then be tightened down with the provided screws. Monoblocks, RAM blocks, motherboard blocks and GPU blocks are all a little more complex. They typically require the use of both thermal paste and thermal pads. Be sure to apply the correct thicknesses and amounts of both. Youtube is also a great resource for video guides on installing specific blocks for your hardware.
Once you’ve cleaned your radiators and blocked your hardware, you’ll be ready to start getting all your gear into your case. More often than not, you’ll want to start by installing your motherboard then moving onto the radiators and fans, but it also depends on what case you’re building in. Be sure to take your time and never force anything to fit, hopefully if your build was planned out well enough ahead of time, you won’t have any restrictions or obstacles that you have to mod. You will occasionally find yourself in situations where the radiator screws you have are not the correct size. Most radiators come with 30mm M3 or M4 screws, but 30mm won’t be long enough if you are mounting your radiator on a thicker case panel along with the fans. Rest assured, PPCs as well as your local hardware stores will have a wide variety of M3 and M4 screws available. You may also need to use some washers in cases where the exact right length screw isn’t available. Another key component that is sometimes difficult to install is your pump and reservoir. Even when you have a pump and reservoir combo this can be a difficult task, because many cases don’t have built in mounting options for such hardware. Some pumps and reservoirs will come with mounting hardware specifically designed for mounting your gear, so you can always try to make that work. More often than not, you will have to drill some holes to bolt your reservoir/pump to your case. However, there are other aftermarket mounting solutions, such as Singularity Computers Ethereal Reservoir mounts, which make it extremely easy to mount your reservoir or pump/res combo to a radiator or even your case panels. Beyond that, assembling and installing the hardware for your loop is not much more difficult than a typical air cooled build.
-Connecting it all with Tubing
Now that you’ve got all of your hardware and watercooling gear installed it’s time to start plumbing your loop! If you are going with a soft tubing loop this stage of the build will pretty straight forward. You will occasionally have to use some angled adapters to ensure the tubing doesn’t kink and restrict the flow, but more often than not, soft tubing just requires you to cut the tubing at the correct length and install it on the fittings.
Rigid tubing is a little bit more complex, but still easy enough for a first timer to use if proper planning is done before the build begins. One trick for planning where you need your bends to go in your tubing is by using the silicon insert as a “mock tube” as you can use it to estimate where the tubing will actually route and how you need to bend it. Otherwise, Monsoon offers a very useful measuring tool in their Pro Bending kit (You can find the kit here). The use of mandrels can also greatly improve the accuracy and quality of your bends. Above all, the more practice you get bending tubes, the better you’ll do. So don’t get discouraged if your first bends don’t turn out the way you’d like them to. Order extra tubing and just keep trying until you get the bend right. There are quite a few video guides on Youtube on how to bend rigid tubing, so I would highly recommend you watch some of those before you start trying bends yourself. However, you don’t necessarily have to bend your tubing either, the use of angled adapters can eliminate the need for bends. There are many various angled adapters from 30° to 180°, which can greatly reduce the amount of bending you will have to do with your tubing.
- Don’t forget the drain!
Adding a drain valve to your watercooling loop is always a good idea, since it makes draining your system significantly easier. The key concept to remember when adding in your drain is to keep it as low in elevation in the system as possible. Rarely will a drain valve actually allow you to drain the entire system, but if it is placed in a good location it should drain a majority of the coolant. To add a drain to your system you will need a ball valve and sometimes a male to male extension or even an angled adapter. Many ball valves are female threaded on both ends, which is why you will need a male to male extension. You can find the wide variety of ball valves that PPCs carries here, as well as male to male extensions here. The most common location for a drain is off the reservoir or pump top in the case of a pump/res combo, however, you can add a drain to your system virtually anywhere if you use a 3 way T fitting like these.
- Filling your loop
Filling your loop is often the most exciting and nerve wracking part of the build. Seeing that coolant flow out of the pump, through your tubes and blocks and back to the reservoir is surely a sight to see. It can be quite stressful at the same time, if it’s also the leak test for your system. However, if you are properly prepared for the leak test by using either an external PSU or a PSU jumper like this one, as well as placing paper towels throughout your system to catch any leaks that may occur, you don’t have much to worry about. An external PSU or PSU jumper will allow you to just power on the pump and none of your expensive hardware in the system, which means if you do have a leak, the components will only need to be dried off before fully powering them on. The leak test doesn’t need to be extremely long, some people like to leak test for 24hrs, but you should see any leaks within the first 30 minutes of running your loop. Once you are confident you don’t have any leaks, you proceed to fill your loop with coolant if you used distilled water for the test. After you’ve filled your loop with the coolant of your choice, you’ll want to leave a port open on your reservoir to allow any air to bleed out of the system. All the air in the system should bleed out within a week or so. After the system is completely bled of air, you’ll want to top off the coolant again and fully tighten the port you left open. That’s all there is to it!
This is a very brief summary of how to install a loop, but it is just meant to give you a general idea of what a custom loop entails. If you still have more questions, which you probably should, feel free to contact us through any of the following methods. Thanks for reading and enjoy building your custom loops!