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Okay! It feels like this computer has been waiting a long time to get built. My old desktop was about 5 years old!

My new PC has been up and running for a few days, but it didn't really feel complete until today. First, I just wanted to get it up and running while I waited for the graphics card I wanted to ultimately install. And that card came set for watercooling out of the box, which meant I would need to install a liquid cooling system in the PC, and I needed to wait for those parts as well...

I started on it a bit last night and finished up today. Everything is working great and I'm thrilled! Liquid cooling is one of those projects where it's really scary the first time you attempt it on your own. Kind of like building a PC itself, I suppose. But things went really smoothly and better than I expected! There were a few hiccups here and there that will serve as lessons for next time, I suppose.

I got help with a few parts as birthday presents thanks to ndoto!

CPU - quad core 2.66 GHz or so
RAM - 12 GBs (6 x 2GB sticks)
Hard drive - 160 GB SSD
GPU - Nvidia GeForce 480
OS - Windows 7 64-bit
Case - Thermaltake Armor+
Other - Liquid cooling system, Nvidia 3D Vision, Blu-ray writer drive

I wanted to make it more of a gaming PC, and also compatible with Nvidia 3D Vision. I was really wowed by the demo I saw (I think it was at PAX?) and I really wanted to try it out. I originally wanted to go with the GeForce 295 for the video card, but the 480s just came out and I found it a little hard to resist. The model I got was from EVGA and came overclocked and ready for water cooling right out of the box!

I wanted to try Windows 7 for whatever reason, and figured it was about time to step up to 64-bit (or else all the extra RAM would've gone to waste). I'm really liking Windows 7 so far! I never owned a machine with Vista on it, so I kinda skipped a generation. It just feels snazzy and clean and fast and I haven't had any problems so far, aside from Nero 7 not being compatible (but luckily Windows 7 had out-of-the-box burning software that did the trick).

For the hard drive, I really wanted to go with a SSD drive for the speed boost it would provide for gaming. 160 GB isn't a large hard drive in general, but I have an external drive and I plan to build a Windows Home Server later on to serve as my main place of storage. Once you start using multiple computers, it really feels necessary to have a central hub for everything...

As for the case... First, I managed to find a better price for this on Mwave. It's not quite a NewEgg killer, but when they have what you're looking for, odds are it'll be an awesome price. NewEgg doesn't always have the lowest prices anymore! Second, I went for this because I really liked the look of it, and no other case I looked at seemed to compare. After messing with it, I can say it's not the greatest case in the world... It has a lot of great features, but is just not user-friendly enough. I don't regret using this case since it is what I wanted, aesthetics-wise, but I think in the future I will try sticking with other brands like Cooler Master.

It would have been great if only they told you which screws were meant to go in which parts of the case. One neat feature they had was two extra hard drive cages at the bottom of the case, which could be removed to make room for extra fans -- either 120mm or 140mm. And there are holes to accommodate either size fan, but they are NOT marked. You have to figure it out for yourself.

The tool-less design for the hard drive cages and 5.25 drive bays work great, though. The removable hard drive tray is a great touch. And being able to slide a support bar under your power supply unit for a custom fit? That's crazy. I also like the connections on the front upper side of the case (USB, eSATA, etc.).

What I didn't really get was the sliding tray on the top. It slides away to reveal a storage tray, and you can remove this to open access to the inside of your case and see the top 5.25 bay drive. I think, if you get the matching Thermaltake LCS kit, you can refill it this way without ever opening your case... Otherwise it's kinda useless. I was hoping to be able to install an extra fan here, to push air up and out of the case... it's actually the PERFECT SIZE for a 140mm fan. But considering it's partly blocked by the 5.25 bays, partly wide open for debris to fall into the case when open, and completely blocked off when closed... It didn't seem like a great idea.

However, I did end up MacGyvering an extra fan to the inside top of the case... It seemed like the perfect spot, since the bottom fans would be pushing air up in that direction, and there were plenty of vent holes in the top. I used some adhesive velcro strips to secure an extra 140mm fan up there. It doesn't even look out of place since you can barely see where it is!

As for the water cooling system... I originally thought about going with a kit, but the more I learned about it, the more confident I felt that I could piece together things on my own. I needed:

-a pump
-waterblocks for each component to cool
-a radiator
-a reservoir (optional, but I felt it was necessary)

I got a variable speed pump that was small enough to fit inside the case (it's the thing that came with the adhesive velcro). My GPU already came with a waterblock, and I wanted to cool my CPU as well so I got one for that. I went with 10 feet of tygon tubing -- I wasn't really sure how much tubing to order. I was afraid it wouldn't be enough but I think it was just right. I actually had way more than enough (I may have used close to 6 feet?).

I got a reservoir that fit into a 5.25 drive bay, which seemed neat. It had two holes drilled for LEDs (included in the order), but there's nothing to secure them so I ended up taping the LEDs in place. One lesson I learned was to MAKE SURE IT WAS FILLED AND CLOSED UP TIGHT BEFORE TESTING. I kept it open, thinking I could fill extra coolant in as needed. I don't know WHAT happened but it formed tons of tiny foamy air bubbles, coolant started splashing out (even though it wasn't enough to overflow), and the pump began choking on air. I'm not sure if I would've run into similar problems with a different style or bigger reservoir. However, once set up properly, it is working perfectly.

The radiator, though, gave me the most headaches... After all my research, it was the component I felt I knew the least about. Even now I wish I knew more about them. I figured I would get a small model, the size to fit over a single 120mm fan. Not the most efficient, but enough to suffice for my project, I thought... But I couldn't figure out how to attach it properly to my case. Maybe it needed a special case, or some sort of mounting bracket. I got it to work, but it didn't seem the way it was intended.

I mounted it on the outside of the case, on the back, over the 120mm exhaust fan that came in the case. I luckily found two punch-out holes in the back of the case, right where the tubing would go, so I figured the case was prepared for water cooling. I figured I'd place the radiator's in/out barbs in the holes and then screw it into place somehow. But the holes were a little too far apart! Luckily my step-father had some tools to help me embiggen those holes for the water cooling tubes.

But of course, it wouldn't line up with any pre-made screw holes. So I ended up (yes, again) using the adhesive velcro. So it's secured to the case via the structure of the tubes/barbs and velcro. Another MacGyver-ish stunt...

I'm not sure how a bigger radiator would attach to the case. I know some don't attach at all, but rather, are relatively free-standing. But I like the idea of keeping everything together in one cohesive package... I wonder if there's a way to find how other radiators would attach to a computer case short of actually buying them and experimenting.

But all in all, I love the end result, and you couldn't tell things were so haphazardly slapped together. It works! I love the blue coolant I got, and the blue LEDs in the reservoir, the case's front and side intake fans, and the PSU. Also, the three 140mm fans I added have white LEDs. I just really love this setup! It should be built to last for years to come.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 16th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
That sounds like a pretty badass machine, dude! Now to download porn play some more with it to get a real feel for its power. :D

So Windows 7 is good? I seemed to have heard a bunch of folks either hating it or calling it "Vista for Dummies, and Vista was dumbed-down enough already." Personally, I have no opinion, as I have yet to try it myself.

Oh, and hey, while you're in tech-geek mode, I wanted to ask: Speaking of external drives, I'm reaching the point where I've almost filled the drive on the ol' laptop. Now, while I do intend to back up quite a few things to disc, I was thinking a good external HD would probably be a wise investment.

So, you got any recs? I was browsing Best Buy yesterday (when I was looking at their available printer/scanner/copier/fax combos, since mine just choked on a piece of paper while attempting to print something a few days back and now it won't work anymore :( ), and all they seem to have is Western Digital and Seagate (which I checked out on Amazon to get a feel for customer satisfaction with the companies - people seem to be disappointed with WD, and mostly ok/satisfied with Seagate?). What are your thoughts on these, or you have alternative suggestions?

Oh, and while we're on this, I think I may've picked out a new all-in-one already - I rather liked my current (now dead) Epson Stylus Photo RX500 - it did all but fax (since it didn't have that feature - not that I really need that, at least not for the moment, I think?) and served me well through most of my second computer's life (a Gateway desktop with ME, so yeah, it's been a while since I had it) as well as the two years or so I've had the laptop by now, so I will probably stick to this company.

I'm mainly looking at their Artisan 810, as it looks like it might be pretty easy to use, plus it's got a separate tray for photo paper, so in case I want to print a pic or something, I don't have to bother with changing the paper out. Also, it claims to be able to handle HD-quality pics. Oh, and its Wi-Fi, while not essential for me, sounds like a convenience, in case I want to move the thing or the laptop around elsewhere. Reviews on Amazon mostly seemed to be positive for it.

Alternately, I'm also considering their Workforce 610, which is apparently faster, but doesn't seem to handle HD pics, and I don't recall seeing it have a separate tray for the photo paper. Also, it's kinda larger in size. Everything else about it seems pretty much almost like the Artisan, tho'. Amazon reviews on this one seemed to be mostly positive too (Though maybe not quite as glowing as the Artisan, IIRC?).

Anyway, you got any experience with Epson printers? Like I said, mine was pretty positive, but I was wondering if you had an opinion on them.

...ahaha, it's like I ALWAYS go to you for these kinds of discussions nowadays, huh? Sorry if I'm bothering you! Ever since Juanfe went to finish his graduate studies in the US, I haven't had much contact with him, so I don't have a local friend anymore to field all my dumb tech questions. Again, sorry? ^^;;
May. 16th, 2010 06:11 pm (UTC)
I've found that watching Passwird.com for deals turns up some external hard drives relatively often! Recently they had this 2TB Western Digital for $135. If you search/keep watching the site, you may find some other similar deals!

Western Digital and Seagate do seem to be the two big ones... I think both companies have their share of reliability issues, but it boils down more to individual models than the brands as a whole. I still remember the brand-new Seagate hard drive I got for my folks' computer that died after a few months... Sure enough, that model brought up lots of complaints in online reviews. You can probably avoid issues like that by staying away from the bottom-barrel priced items? In my case, since it was for my folks, it was a relatively small hard drive and really cheap... If I had paid a little more for a bigger one, I would've found a Seagate model that had almost no issues at all.

As for all-in-one printers, sorry, I can't think of anything off the top of my head... My all-in-one recently died so I'll need to look for one soon myself! It was a Canon and I was really satisfied with the photo quality, but then it died suddenly and I have no idea why. Also, like with all printers, ink was expensive -- but with this brand, I wasn't able to take advantage of those ink-refill services. Apparently they only accept certain brands' cartridges, so that may be something to consider...

I'll let you know if I find anything! Otherwise the one you've found should be a good candidate!
May. 17th, 2010 12:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I dunno if you'll get this in time, but this morning NewEgg is having a limited time deal on a Samsung 2TB drive for $110!

May. 20th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
You're right, I didn't get it in time, since, from the looks of your post, you made it right after I had logged off to go to work that day.

However, this particular drive has very positive reviews, from what I'm seeing here, so I'm seriously considering getting it even if it's not on special. Do you have any experience with Samsung HDs? I only have experience with their cell phones (I like my current Rant model, personally - fairly simple and not too many frills.).

Oh, and for the all-in-one, I went ahead with the Epson Artisan 810. I actually wound up using the wi-fi right away, and set up the thing near the phone so I could hook up the fax option. I have yet to really test out its features other than basic printing from comp to machine (Wi-fi works swimmingly, and printing is pretty fast!), but so far things are looking pretty good! Got high hopes for it. :D

Oh, and btw, this is completely off-topic, but... could I by any chance have a chat with you later over email (or maybe IM, if I can set my old AIM account up)? It's... something rather personal I wanted to discuss. Hope I'm not being imposing!

Anyway, later!
May. 20th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Hm, sorry, I don't have any personal experience with Samsung drives.

And that's good! It sounds like Epson printers are pretty nice? Let me know how you like it!

And sure, e-mail or IM should be fine!
May. 21st, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
Ah, I see. Well, the feedback for it still seems really positive, so I'll have to seriously either consider that or the Seagate (which, while the average is less positive, is still seems pretty good, from the looks of things). Hmm. :\

Still haven't tried out the printer's other features, as I was out for pretty much the whole day (though my next-door neighbor was here for a few minutes and I printed out some cover letters and resumés for her, since she just quit her job and doesn't have a computer at the moment), which is why I didn't get a chance to contact you until just now. But yeah, my experience with the previous Epson printer was pretty good/decent, all things considered - hopefully this one will be even better. *knock on wood*

I got on AIM through the AIM Express client, but didn't see you around (not that I expected to, it was pretty damn late when I did it), so I emailed you instead... I hope I'm not being a bother!
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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