There's a certain contingent of folks (and you know who you are) who are living their water cooling dreams vicariously through me, and they’ll all be happy to know that I put aside some time to try and clean up my water cooling problems and finish some machines.
When last we left my intrepid bout of fiscal and productivity irresponsibility, I had hit a wall with reliability regarding my 800Mhz FSB machines. These are the high performance units that get damn hot. The problem, near as I could figure, was in the RAM. The two machines I set up for water cooling would periodically hang, and careful study of the occasional Blue Screen of Death seemed to indicate RAM problems.
The first time I got a hint that the RAM might be trouble; I stuck my finger on one of them and left the fingerprint behind. Yeah, they were hot all right. My theory (and I mentioned it on DotNetRocks some time ago) is that with the reduced airflow in the case caused by removing all those fans and replacing them with water cooling blocks, the RAM no longer gets enough air circulation.
My first attempt at a solution is to put heat spreaders on the RAM. These are copper plates at strap to either side of the RAM. Presumably they reduce the amount of heat in the RAM itself, giving the heat more area to wander to. So far I’ve notice that the heat spreaders are just as bloody hot as the RAM. I’m going to try adding a low velocity slot fan in the back of the case to try and draw more air through, seeing if that will help.
Of course, the wonder of periodic failures is that you never know if you got it right or not. You’re waiting to see if a presence is absent… in this case, the fact that I don’t get a Blue Screen of Death for six months will be my only proof that I was right.
Also, the crazy water cooling machine, the one with the Orbital Matrix controller in it to vary fan speed by temperature, had a leaky pump. I slathered the pump with silicon, but it leaked again. Then it stopped leaking. Then it started again. Then it stopped. Then I realized I was fighting with a hundred dollar part on a two thousand dollar machine and bought a new pump. So that had to go in.
And finally, since I had been noodling with this bloody machine for so long, a new cooling plate had come out for the ATI 9800 XT Pro I had, so I had to buy that too.
So, here’s a detailed record of the entire process:
1. Shut down machine.
2. Remove the cap from the reservoir.
3. Disconnect the highest point in the water loop, which for this machine is the top plug of the radiator, being careful to make sure the water line is drained (which is why you remove the cap from the reservoir, so some air can get in).
4. Unplug the ATX power connector from the motherboard.
5. Plug the bypass plug into the ATX power connector.
6. Squirt water around the room as the power comes on for the pump.
7. Switch off the power supply so the pump turns off.
8. Get water catcher (aka – the yogurt container), position so that removed hose is aimed into container.
9. Switch power supply on again.
10. Stare in confusion as the pump does not turn on.
11. Fiddle with bypass plug, switch position, try to find combination that works.
12. Go play Unreal Tournament 2004 for a half hour because blowing up digital stuff is less expensive than beating this stupid machine with a sledgehammer.
13. Return post-destruction to discover that no combination of power switch and plug will make the pump turn on.
14. Test with another power supply (What? You don’t have a spare power supply? What kind of geek are you?)
15. Pump still won’t start. Unplug pump.
16. System powers up without pump using either power supply.
17. Test power supply with replacement pump, the replacement pump works fine.
18. Devise a bulb pump to remove the water from the system without the pump.
19. Put cap back on reservoir before water comes flying out from the pressure of the bulb pump.
20. Drain majority of water from the system using bulb pump.
21. Stand machine up on its side, drain balance of water.
22. Remove side of the case in order to extricate pump.
23. Disconnect hoses, pull off reservoir, remove pump.
24. Mop up additional water spills from pump removal.
25. Pull video card for additional cooling block installation.
26. Remove existing water connect from A side cooling block already mounted to video card.
27. Add water interconnect to A side cooling block to allow B side to plug in.
28. Remove existing nylon screws holding A side cooling block on.
29. Put conductive goop on the backside RAM chips of the video card.
30. Place B side cooling block onto card, pressing interconnect into place.
31. Insert nylon screws through B side block, card, and into A side block.
32. Discover that video card will no longer go back into the AGP slot; the B side cooling block hits the hoses coming off the Northbridge chip.
33. Play some more Unreal Tournament 2004.
34. Install pump.
35. Install reservoir on pump.
36. Re-install hoses onto pump.
37. Remove the water block from the Northbridge chip.
38. Rotate Northbridge water block 180 degrees.
39. Reinstall Northbridge water block.
40. Install video card.
41. Reroute plumbing to deal with rotated Northbridge and moved connector on video card.
42. Replace pressure fit water flow sensor with screw down type.
See? Easy. Just follow this simple 42 step process!
Man, does the inside of that machine look like R2D2 barfed or what?