So you have decided to build a watercooling system, but not entirely sure where to start? Step one in any successful system is preparation and planning. Most of my systems are planned days or even weeks before I buy my parts. Without proper planning, you may end up with incompatible parts, bad mounts, missing crucial pieces (that have to be ordered and your machine is down for a week!), or you even may find that the system will not fit the way you thought.
So the first step in planning? Well you have to find your parts!! Of course if you are going with a kit such as the Corsair H2O series or Antec Kuhler, then your parts are already chosen and you can start planning your layout. For the rest of us, you will need the following:
- CPU Block (or other main component block)
- Fan(s) for radiator
- Enough barbs in your size
- Algaecide (Pt-nuke or Silver Kill-Coil best)
Optional but recommended:
- Reservoir or T-line
- Fill port
- Drain port
- Quality metal barbs in your size
Other Optional items:
- Chipset Block(s)
- VGA Block
- RAM Block
- HDD water enclosure
- Watercooled Power Supply
There are many options for each of these parts. So many in fact, I’m not going to tell you which is the best, or what I think you should get. This is because the world of water (much as computers as a whole) change so fast, the info might change next week. But I will tell you that the next most crucial step in planning is finding the top performers. Research is your only option at this point. I recommend checking out these sites for any info, tests, reviews, or basic knowledge you need:
Ok, enough with the bullet points!
The next step in the process, after you have determined what parts you need and what brand you are going to use, should be tubing. What size tubing? The most common sizes are 3/8” ID and ½” ID. I personally always use ½” as I like to know there is plenty of flow. In most basic set-ups today, you won’t notice a huge difference either way. That being said, ½” can support more items in 1 loop, typically has a bigger side wall, and fits most everything out-of-the-box! The downside to ½” is that it is bigger, and therefore harder to route, bend, and manipulate.
Which brings me to the next step: Routing! Plan your loop route; a good sketch goes a long way! If your loop is going in a brand new case that you haven’t seen yet, I recommend buying the case a week before the rest of the set-up. That way you have plenty of time to figure out how, where, and why everything is going to fit! When determining order the only requirement is that the reservoir/T-line must be before the pump. This ensures the pump has plenty of water at all times! The average loop takes between 4’-10’, depending on routing and number of components. Keep in mind, though, the shorter the route, the better the temps (up to a couple degrees anyway)! Always get at least 10’ of tube so that you can add, replace, or re-route if the need arises in the future!
Ok, so we know our components, have our tubing laid out, have confirmed everything will fit but what abou….. ah, CRAP!! Where do we put this big radiator!?
Radiator placement is always one of the most difficult obstacles of a watercooling setup. If your case happens to have a predefined location for a radiator, Good for You! For the rest of us, though, there just doesn’t seem to be a spot! Most 1x120mm radiators will mount to the back of your case without issue, however watch your I/O plate and make sure you can plug everything into your machine! For 2×120’s or 3×120’s, back mounting is usually not an option as they will cover the I/O’s. I typically find a way to put it on top of the case; however you can put it below, on the side, or anywhere your tubing will reach. Make sure you have a power lead also to plug in your fans!
That’s really it for planning! Now just stare at it for a bit to be 100% sure you have everything ready before cutting tubing! Once you’re sure, you can proceed to dry-fitting and leak testing! We will cover these items in the next post!
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,