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crappy technical details if you're interested

Pictures coming soon...

11:35 PM 2003.07.15
12:29 PM 2003.02.08
12:58 AM 2003.01.28
11:45 PM 2003.01.27
1:10 AM 2002.12.31
10:53 PM 2002.12.12
2002.12.08 1:26 AM
2002.11.26 10:39 PM

12:58 AM 2002.11.25: first update

I've been building PCs for a few years, and recently i've gotten into overclocking. I've always built my computers with some hardcore hardware, but generally i've stayed away from massive mods that are likely to void warranties, fry chips and turn $300 graphic cards into worthless smoldering chunks of plastic and metal.

So, as I said, I just recently started overclocking. Just a couple hertz here and there, ran Prime95 overnight, checked my 3DMark, then tweak again and repeat. And to keep everything nice and cool, I started adding fans. In my current PC, I have 8 fans. Eight. Acht. Huit. Ocho. That's way too many.

When I boot up, I'm tempted to break out the eyes and ears, it's way too close to sounding like a jet taxiing down the runway. And I keep adding more. So I finally decided that enough was enough. Screw this wussy fan cooling crap, i'm switching to liquid cooling.

Waterblock, here I come

First stop, water cooling. This would just be a heatsink/fan replacement with a water block, a radiator, a little pump, a couple feet of tubing, and maybe a gallon of water.

So where can I go to find such an object? Time to break out Google. When I searched, I found about 1.5M links to various water cooling sites, strategies and products.

And none of them sounded like a very good idea. There are three areas I really need to cool:
  • 1. CPU
  • 2. GPU
  • 3. Northbridge
I could get water blocks for each one of these, or stick with a half-and-half system of fans for some and blocks for others. Both of these would work. But they're just silly. If I upgrade to the AMD Decathlon ZG 77000+ or the GeForce8 Molybdenum 9600, i'm going to have to peel everything up, rework the blocks, and generally start almost from scratch on cooling my fancy-schmancy new system.

And my 123 list doesn't even address system memory, power supply, hard drives or any other new and amazing add-in cards that will be coming down the pike. Everything gets hot, everything would like to be colder. So why isn't there a system that will cool everything? I dont't know.

There used to be many such things, the most common known as Cray. You've seen the Cray in a hundred movies, it's the computer that looks like a little seat/bench/couch thing. And if you've seen the right hundred, you've seen the cooling towers, faintly luminous blue-green liquid cascading down behind clear sheets. That stuff is Fluorinert, and it's about $400 a gallon in small doses. If money were no object, that would be the stuff I would use. It is entirely inert (as it says, Fluorinert), you can drink it and probably won't feel any different. Its thermal transfer capacity is excellent, and I seem to remember that it can be used very effectively in two-phase cooling (boil it with your processor, the phase change from liquid to gas takes away a huge amount of heat).

But since money is an object, i'm sticking with $50/gal or less, preferably much less.

Who else has done something like this? I have no idea. slashdot has this, but none of the external links work, and its from back in '99. I'm sure that someone has done this since then...

I've seen a bunch of stuff sort of along the same lines, but nothing to this extent. Mostly i've seen links to funny or interesting concepts like this Fishtank Watercooled System. I've reviewed the /. article, and it looks like it should work fine.

10:39 PM 2002.11.26: update

hiliter plus blacklight equals glowing goodness

mineral oil plus hiliter plus blacklight equals suspended bits of glowing goodness

In conformance with the above equations, I have my Spencer's Lumaseries Flourescent Auto Blacklite (Item 574558) hooked up to +12v of my power supply. It looks pretty cool.

1:26 AM 2002.12.08: update

Finally got the case assembled, waiting for the Goop to dry. I didn't do a whole lot of that pesky "planning", so we'll see how well it works out.

As-is, it's a 16.5x16.5x6.25 inch box made out of quarter-inch plexi, edged with 1" aluminum channel and sealed with Goop. As above, the planning was less than adequate, so I ended up having to put corner spacers in for the bottom to fit in place, and I had to buy almost double the necessary channel because I cut the first set mostly too small to match up to the newly spaced corners. If you are going to try this, definitely PLAN OUT what you want and make sure overlap and such is accounted for. Two sides made of quarter inch plexi will throw your grand design off by a half inch all around if you don't get it right.

(ps: i don't know what my case is made of... I call it plexi just because that's the name I know and it's convenient, but it might actually be Plexiglas or Lexan or Lucite or whatever polycarbonate/polyacrylate The Home Depot happens to carry.

10:53 PM 2002.12.12

The case is made of acrylic.

Found an article on about liquid cooling, apparently everyone will need to do this pretty soon.
Also found The Leviathan, a liquid-cooled PC housed in a former Jolt cola machine.
Conformal coatings might let you use water in place of mineral oil, but i'm not going to be the guinea-pig! This might be a good thing to point out to anyone using a water block and getting condensation...
This guy has a slightly different setup in mind, but same general concept.
Koolance thinks this is a bad idea, but its in their best interest to promote that view. To each their own

Bedtime now (11:45 PM 2002.12.12), work and party tomorrow.

PS: If anybody cares, I use Notepad to make my web pages. that timestamp is F5, very convenient!

1:10 AM 2002.12.31
Penreco Drakeol 10B might be my savior? We'll have to see if it's any good when it gets here, a 1 qt product sample is theoretically on its way.

Also, why did I go and get a regular blacklight and re-wire it? I could get TWO cold cathode blacklights for the same price, and they would come pre-wired! Such is life.

I talked to a couple geeks at the local CompUSA, they thought i was HARDCORE. go me. =)

11:45 PM 2003.01.27
A few quick notes:
A) Penreco bites my ass. No sample, even after the guy called to confirm that was really my e-mail address. Oh well, too bad, so sad. I'll eventually get over it.

B) The chemistry Store is cool. I got some mineral oil from them for pretty cheap, just a gallon to test. That product is Amoco White Mineral Oil 70, approximate equivalent of Drakeol 7. I had contact with the webmaster-dude there, they can get 10B if necessary, but only in drum quantities. Any other 4 people want to make themselves an oil-cooled case? Mail me, I might work something out.

C) Liquid Cooling went live for the first time today.

Not a full-out, soak-your-mobo, void-some-warranties sort of test, but a good enough run to convince me that this isn't completely futile. Pulled out a trash Toshiba Equium 7000D, stripped it down to mobo, power and case, and plugged up my pump. A jury-rigged, very Rube Goldbergian setup.

Flip the switch (actually poke the button) and r r r r r r r r r r r r r r r r r r r it goes. What the hell is that grinding noise?! Another quick poke to shut it off before it eats itself, and after about four seconds of investigating, it's time to unplug the P2 fan, bearings must be gone and it's grinding away merrily. So what if the chip overheats, i'll just get this finisehd up and OC my Athlon by the 300MHz that the P2 chip was running at. Now that's efficiency!

Power back on, about half the noise, and boy does that little sucker go! ( J45012VDC) All my tests before were using a model train transformer, +17V but about 0.5A to 1A or so. This thing is kicking along so well it spews oil all over the wall before I get the top on it, and it's still fighting even after that. This is what i've been hoping for the entire time, enough power to kick the crap outta the oil and cycle it through "like buttah".

So all in all, pretty cool times. If life doesn't get in the way, i'll put the final seal on my clear case and set it up to run overnight on the El Crapo Toshiba, just to make sure I don't have any pesky overheating power supply problems as I had with the train transformer (it would run for 10 minutes, chugging along, then would randomly stop and start and stop and start and ... ad nauseum) I discovered that the transformer was overheating and had a built-in shutoff circuit when it got too hot. That sort of made me worry about the PC, and if I would be blowing up the power supply and anything attached, but that still remains to be seen.

D) Round-figure sum of how much i've spent on this so far: $350. more details on the tech page

I figure this will end up costing about $1000. That starts to make a hardcore water block look like a much better deal, it's under $300 for a full system.

12:58 AM 2003.01.28
E) Geek Porn...
(and it's now 1AM, and my dreams will be very schweet)

12:29 PM 2003.02.08
Got my baby cycling some water for a full-up system test, I finally decided to go all-out and get the Marine Sealant from Home Depot, SKU 214116. This is some hardcore shit: based on the the label, it ought to require a HAZMAT license just to drive it home from the store. Don't breathe it, don't touch it, don't let it within 50 feet of anything combustible and don't let it within a mile of any actual flame/heat/spark source.

But being that it's about 20°F outside, i threw caution to the wind, lit up the kerosene burner, stripped down to shorts and a tee, and caulked away. Nothing blew up (sadly), and I didn't die and/or apparently suffer any harmful effects (happily).

And it appears to have fixed my leaking problems from a few weeks ago. One quick bead of this stuff would've been all I needed instead of three tubes of Goop, but hindsight is always 20/20. If you plan on trying this madness, skip the goop and go with the Marine Sealant. A caulk gun is required, but it makes applying the stuff 100% easier, it sticks better and it's absolutely waterproof. The only downside is that you really need to wait a week before you fire up your system, or at least before you test for leaks, this stuff takes a lot longer to even cure than Goop.

...And it's still going (3:43 PM 2003.02.08), no problems, the air coming out of the PC isn't even any warmer, guess that's what you get with a real power supply instead of some crappy train transformer... Let that be alesson to me!

11:35 PM 2003.07.15
Since Sunday I've been cycling the real deal, 8 gallons of mineral oil at full tilt. No problems, all the seals are still sealed and everything. Even finally got some pictures of it! Hopefully will post tomorrow, gotta figure out what I did with the camera. Now I get to pick the sacrificial lamb, decide if i'm going gung-ho and dropping my baby in there, or if i'm going to take one of the burned-out shells I have lying around and fix it up enough to take the dip. FYI, "my baby" is XP1600+ locked multiplier, 256MB DDR2100, GF4-Ti4600 w/128MB. Go ahead and laugh at her now, just remember she was mega-swanky two years ago and she can top 10k on full-fledged 3DMark2001SE if she has to.

Knowing me as I do, i'll probably drop this very computer in the drink without backing anything up or any of that other sensible stuff. What do I care if it doesn't work, it'll look FUCKIN' AWESOME!

Next step is to get a Zalman Northbridge heatsink and a Flower CPU heatsink. Then add a slightly (liquid) modified ThermalTake G-Force 4 Copper Cooler, and probably some RAM fins just for kicks. I've already got the round IDE cables and blacklight, how much "cooler" could I get?

Here's a random note about turbulent versus laminar flow as it applies to polymer molding, but it should apply to heatsinks and/or waterblocks also, no?
© 2003