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Monster-Mod: Passive Convection CPU Water-Cooling (Part 1 of 4)

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That gaming Monster-Mod Cyrus Peikari walked us through a few weeks ago will become the basis of another experiment in "Monster-Moding": a water-cooled PC.
Editor's Note: This is Part 1 of a 4-Part series. Be sure to continue on to Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
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"Son of a BLEEP!" thundered my editor as he stormed into my cubicle. "I need that article yesterday!" My story was three weeks overdue, and now we had less than one week to build the next Monster-Mod in time for publication. And I hadn't even ordered the parts.

With success comes pressure. My first Monster-Mod apparently was popular. So they had contracted my next two projects. The problem: I tend to move slowly when building a mod. This doesn't sit well with publication schedules.

As my editor stamped off, my mind swirled. I had burned time in paper-and-pen design. So, to save time, I'll assume that you've read the first Monster-Mod: "How To Build the Ultimate Gaming System on a Budget." This mod will be built on top of that one.

Editor's note:

I have never "stamped" anywhere.

Remember that the gaming system we built had a heat-intense Pentium 4 CPU. We spent a lot of time tweaking the setup to maximize cooling while minimizing fan noise. In this article, we'll take the mod one step further. This mod will show you how to build a water-cooled system on a budget. But simple water-cooling is not enough to make it a Monster-Mod. In this case, we're going to have to go extreme.

These are the design goals of our water-cooled PC:

  • High quality. This doesn't mean buying the most expensive parts. It does mean you have to pay for quality parts where they count the most. By overbuilding our system, we can help ensure that the mod will be stable under stress.

  • Esthetically pleasing. Water-cooled systems are beautiful—freakishly beautiful. Imagine a mod where you hang the water reservoir from a hospital I.V. pole. Then dye the water blood red and make it look like your computer is a living organism.

  • Quiet. This is a Monster-Mod, so we have to reduce the noise using bizarre and interesting methods.

Heat Dissipation

The Pentium 4 processor throws off heat faster than my editor's forehead at deadline. But what's an acceptable temperature? If you let your CPU run over 70 degrees centigrade, you have an increased risk of permanent damage. At the very least, your system will become unstable. If your system freezes during a game clan match, you're going to be unpopular.

Even with our Jet blower fan, the CPU can get quite hot during 3D gaming. To cool it requires turning the fan to maximum speed, which makes the noise of a tiny jet engine. And its cooling ability is still limited by the relatively poor heat-transfer capacity of air. Our atmosphere has limited molecular density for conducting heat. What we need is water, and plenty of it.

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