Water Cooling - Quick Install/Leak Testing guide Page: 1

Watercooling used to be something that a very select few indulged in. Expensive, hard to do and involving a lot of "self-modding" skills - skill with a dremel and various hand tools used to be a must. This tended to keep water-cooling out of reach of of those who wanted good cooling but didn't want a whole load of hassle.

Thankfully, watercooling has changed now to such an extent that you can go out and buy an of-the-shelf kit that is as easy to install as an air cooler. While these solutions are pretty good - the best way is still to build you own kit, albeit out of parts that make it fairly easy.

This guide is not intended as a complete guide by any means: but hopefully it will help those wanting to install their own watercooling, with a few of my own tips.

Skip this page if your parts are already sorted.


The parts to a kit put together by yourself now gives you a huge choice. I personally prefer 1/2" ID (internal diameter) tubing, but it is said that is the best 7/16" for flow rate and performance as well as "bendability".

Lots of people also use slower flow system with smaller ID tubing. This tends to be for quieter systems, although can be used for performance too.

I am not going to go over all of the parts available as I don't have a whole week to write this, but I will go over as much as I can.

watercooling guide


There is a lot of different tubing you can buy, but generally Tygon is one of the preferred makes of tubing. I also use clearflex and I have heard that masterkleeter is good stuff too. The best thing to do is to check the reviews on the net if you are unsure of what to get or ask the experts in our Forums HERE. Remember tubing has to match the parts you pick so decide what kind of system you want first.

The Pump

The pump is an important part of any watercooling system. I use the Laing D5 - or the Swiftech equivalent of it. The Laing DDC pump is also excellent for higher restriction systems. There are others and I will not go into those right now - I'll leave it for others to argue over!

Laing D5's

The CPU block

Once again I will go on what I use. I use the Swiftech Apogee CPU block. This is an excellent performing block with universal fitments for AMD 939, Intel Socket 478 and 775. I am unsure if this fits AM2 at this time. Other good blocks are the Alphacool NexXxos CPU block and the AquaXtreme MP-05 Pro. The Swiftech Storm is also a great block.


The Radiator

There is a HUGE range of radiators. Generally you will want to make sure you pick a rad with enough cooling power to cool what you have. A dual core SLI system needs at least a double rad and more likely a triple rad for better performance. If you have a slightly smaller system you can get away with less.
Good solid rads include: XSPC, Black Ice Xtreme and Hardware Labs PA120.


The GPU Block

Obviously the GPU block you buy needs to be one that fits your GPU! You can get either full cover blocks that cool the memory as well, or blocks the just cover the GPU and you would need memory RAMsinks. Good solid makes of full cover blocks are Eddie EK, Danger Den Koosar and Alphacool NexXxos. GPU-only blocks are Swiftech MCW60-B and Danger Den Maze 4.

Eddie EK block

The Barbs

Make sure you have barbs that match your ID tubing size. I prefer metal ones but Nylon barbs are much the same. Try to avoid 90 degree bends if at all possible.



A reservoir needs to be easy to install into your system. There are again tonnes that you can buy. I prefer the clear acrylic 3.5" bay-res as this slots neatly into a HDD/floppy drive bay. Once again good makes are Danger Den, XSPC, Alphacool or Swiftech. You can also use something called a Fillport which allows you to directly fill the loop. These are pretty useful when you do not have room for a reservoir.



Again there are a lot of different coolants available, as well as complete solutions pre-mixed for your PC. I go for De-ionised water (you can buy this very cheaply at your local car-parts store) along with Zerex Racing coolant. You can also add a multitude of dye's to get your water looking colourful.


To get those pipes to stay on the barbs you need something that will keep them on. I prefer to use Jubilee clips as they are easy to tightened (flathead screwdriver), look pretty industrial and generally don't cut the tubing unless you go OTT. Some kits come with clips of their own and these are usually plastic. If you take a look at these and they look secure, then use them by all means. Another way to fit a water loop together is push-fit connecters. This method is prevelent in smaller-bore watercooling and looks pretty smart. Myself I prefer Jubilee clips for peace of mind.

That's enough on this. Once again: if you don't know what to get: ask in our Forums HERE

Water Cooling - Quick Install/Leak Testing guide Page: 2
Loop Setup

At this point you should have decided how it is all going to fit in your case so I will not go into that. Remember that the reservoir should be above the pump and that the pump should be at the bottom of the loop. Also remember that the pump puts a small amount of heat into the loop, so perhaps going from the pump to the rad is the best idea.

Personally I set the loop up like this:


This makes it a nice loop, especially as my radiator is the the top of the case. This means that the pump pumps straight up into the rad, allowing gravity to do the rest of the work. If you are unsure of how to get te loop planned then draw a simple diagram of your loop and ask in our Forum

Installing the Parts

When you start building the loop you need to fix your motherboard to your case. This allows you to sort out the spacing of the loop and gives you a reference. Test the length of the tubing by approximation and cut as necessary. "Measure twice, cut once" should be used here but I always make sure I have plenty of additional tubing to hand in case of errors like below:


If you think this looks pretty good then look closely. I've decided to route the fillport to the "out" part of the pump. This would mean a 10' fountain of water leaving my case. Oh dear! It is a good idea to check which way your pump flows before you fix the loop up!

Once you've measure up you can start "dry installing".

Here you can see me "Dry Installing" a loop. I've used some older pipes I had to check distances.

dry installing

Make sure when "Dry Installing" that you have put the clips on your pipes before you close each section off. As you can see I have used Jubilee clips for my loop. These are excellent in keeping a loop sealed up but should only be used with tubing that has walls that are thick enough not to split easily. Tighten them fairly tight, but not enough to split.

I tend to do the loop in sections working out the problems as I go, but you may want to plan a little more carefully. Remember patience is a virtue and especially when it involves H2O and your PC. Check and double check your not missing anything.

With the barbs I like to add some plumbers tape. Most barbs should come with an "o" ring that seals off the connection, but a bit of plumbers tape can't hurt anyone and gives you peace of mind.

plumbers tape

Make sure you seal off the loop nice and tight - water kills PC's remember ;)

Wet Testing

Dry Loop ready for some good ol' water:

dry loop

People like to do wet testing with all of the components outside of the PC. This is fine and if it's your first time I would probably advise it for sure. Once dry testing has been done and you loop seems to be sealed off well you just take everything out except the water cooling parts and start to fill.

"How will I get the pump going?" I hear you ask. This is fairly easy - just hook up your PSU to the power and "jump start" it. A how-to on this is found HERE. Hook up just the pump, but do NOT start the pump until you have some water in the loop. To get your loop to fill up you'll have to add a bit of water, start the pump. Then stop the pump and add a bit of water, start the pump.

This can take a while and is certainly a whole lot easier with a res than a fillport as the pump draws a lot of water. Remember some part of your loop has to be open (such as the res filling hole) as there is a lot of air to come out of that empty loop. Radiators are the worst for storing air so make sure you get it all out. Continue jump-starting the pump until it looks pretty good.

wet loop

Here is a loop I've filled ready to start a long leak-test period. I have kept the components in as I was pretty confident that the loop was fine. Not advised at home. Once you are pretty sure no leaks are occurring then add your coolant and colour.

Leak Testing Period

Depending on how safe you like to be this can range from a couple of hours to a full 12 hour leak test. For your first time 12 hours is generally the best thing to do. Once again you can do this without any components in the PC, but I prefer at this stage to get the mobo and GPU in there to make sure it fits ok.

A good tip for leak testing is to put some paper towelling on the bottom of your case. This means that if your loop has a leak overnight, there will be a water stain on the paper towelling, even if the water has dried up.

Once you're sure it's all safe you can hook it up and off we go..

Water Cooling - Quick Install/Leak Testing guide Page: 3
Article by: Matthew Kemp (kempez)
Source: Overclock3d
Date: 10-08-2006

Away we go

After your leak-testing period you pretty safe to install everything. Be a little careful not to dislodge your connections, but you should have everything sealed up fine at this point.

Install the rest of the componenets in your case and away we go.

finsihed loop


Fingers crossed you'll have been very careful and not have any leaks. However: if you do have one during testing then stop immediately. If it's easy enough to fix without dissasembling the loop then do so. If not then drain the loop.

Draining the Loop

Draining the loop is easy enough to do. If like me you're too lazy or short on money to buy a drainage valve then you simply go down to the bottom of the loop and disconnect something. I usually use the pump inlet as this gets most of the gravity. Make sure you have a bucket and tissues handy as this can get messy. Once the loop is drained fully you can fix the leak. Always have a lot of tissues at hand as there's bound to be that little bit of water you missed!


Waterloops generally don't need a huge amount of maintenance. I tend to refresh my water and coolant every 4-6months especially if the water is cloudy. Generally if you have a decent anti-corrsive in there you should be good to go for a little while.

Points to remember

* Remember - PC components do not like water!! Try to keep it away from them. If you are unsure of whether the loop is leak-free to do then please test the loop extensively to ensure a leak and hassle free time.

* Use good clips. These are essential for watercooling. Tighten them fairly tight but not too much that you cut the walls of the tubing.

* Don't know?- ASK! There are plenty of people you can ask about watercooling, especially if you visit our Forum

* This is supposed to be fun - not a stressful experience. Just be careful and you should be fine!

Any questions on starting your own watercooling? check our Watercooling Forum

Good Places to Buy (UK)

Our friend over at SpecialTech stock a huge range of Alphacool and various other watercooling bits and bobs including Swiftech and XSPC

The Watercoolingshop stock a very large amount of hardware inclusing Danger Den, XSPC, Alphacool and Eddie Ek.

Kustom PC's stock smaller bore low flow systems such as AquaComputer

SCAN stock various watercooling bits and bobs

Discuss in our Forums HERE

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Overclock3D accepts no liability for damage caused to your components whilst following this guide. If followed correctly you should be fine.