My main computer at home had started experiencing some random shutdowns. There had been no changes to the system, so couldn't understand at first what was going on. After firing up the motherboard hardware monitoring software, a temperature reading of over 90'C on the CPU may have something to do with this!
Clearly, the stock CPU cooler that had been installed since I originally upgraded the CPU must be playing up (there was no evidence of it being sticky, or clogged with dirt), so I thought it would be time for a change. I didn't want to just replace it with another stock processor, but didn't want to go through with all the hassle of watercooled systems with the risk of leaks and reservoir top ups etc. that I had previously experienced on an older setup.
I am playing on building a new computer possibly later in 2012, and was thinking of trying out the closed loop cooling systems, so thought I would give one a go on this machine first.
I had a look at the various ones available, and settled on the Corsair Hydro H80 system.
The computer is a self build Intel Q9650 Core 2 Quad CPU @ 3GHz (Socket 775) on a Gigabyte EP43T-USB3 motherboard, with a Gainward GTX580 3GB Phantom GPU, so as you could imagine, there would be a fair thermal signature when the CPU and GPU are maxed out folding.
CPU Temperature Specification
I searched for the CPU specification on the net and found contained within the document that the Tc Max for this processor is 64.5'C. The CPU features both
PROCHOT# (processor hot) and
THERMTRIP# (thermal trip) functions, the thermal trip is enabled regardless of any settings configured via the bios or OS. According to the specification, the thermal trip will activate at approximately 20'C above the Tc Max and is designed to protect the CPU in the event of a catastrophic failure of the system cooling. Based on this, the thermal trip should activate around 84.5'C
The Cooling System - What is in the box?
The Corsair H80, is a closed loop liquid cooling system, comprising a sealed radiator, cpu waterblock (with built in fan control), two 120mm fans and radiator. The radiator is connected to the CPU block with 2 flexible (but rigid) hoses. The unit also comes with a selection of brackets and screws which allow it to be used with Intel LGA 775, 11, 1156, 1366, 2011 and AM2/AM3 CPU's
Installing The Cooling System
After first shutting down the computer and flipping it over, disconnecting the cables and opening the case, you can see what the existing setup looks like. The existing arrangement was the stock CPU heatsink and fan that came with the CPU, and also a 120mm fan connected to the case. Directly above the CPU block is the PSU fan opening for drawing air out of the system and across the PSU and out the back of the case. The 120mm fan also pulled air out from the system and expels this out the back of the case. Directly below the CPU you can see the GPU card, and this card also has 3 smaller fans and heat pipes/blocks and simply expels this heat into the case.
With my Intel setup, there is a bracket to install at the back of the motherboard to which the CPU block connects to. I had to remove the motherboard to achieve this as there is no access window at the motherboard tray on this case. To be make things easier I first removed the existing CPU cooler and case fan, removed the GPU, various cables and unscrewing the motherboard mounting screws.
After installing the backing bracket, I simply reinserted and screwed down the motherboard onto the case. It is easier to leave everything else of at this stage until you decide what needs to go where. There was four double threaded stand-offs that connect to this bracket, and depending if you are using Intel or AMD CPU depends on which set of stand-offs you use. The rear bracket also has slot to adjust the mouting bracket to fit either the Intel or AMD arrangements.
I left the new CPU block protective cover on, and orientated the block and radiator to work out which way round would best suit the internals of my machine given I had the GTX card in it. This also flagged that if I was to install the radiator and fans, I would find it extremely difficult to attach the CPU power connector to the motherboard, so went ahead and connected this first. The next step was to fit the CPU block and screw this firmly into place. Followed this by installing the new fans and radiator. The radiator is sandwiched between the two fans and the external fan screws are passed through the case to then hold the whole assembly onto the case.
I installed the left most fan and radiator first;
Followed by the inner fan, and then connected up the fans to the CPU block. There is a standard 4-pin Molex connector for power, and also the fan reference speed connector to attach to the motherboard. After completing the install, proceed to fit the GPU card, and reconnect up the various cables previously disconnected. Remember to check airflow directions. The instructions for this kit indicate the air actually is pulled from back of the case to inside the system.
Using the GPU monitoring software, and the motherboard monitoring software I took a set of temperature and fan speed readings under static base load, and also with a single instance of Folding@Home CPU client running before I installed the new cooler, and also took the same set of reading after the installation. The table and charts of these readings are shown below:
| || ||Base Load |
|Base Load |
|Base Load |
(H80 + BH)
(25% CPU Load)
(25% CPU Load)
(25% CPU Load)
(H80 + BH)
|Temperature 'C ||System ||37 ||39 ||33 ||37 ||40 ||35 |
|CPU ||41 ||26 ||23 ||92 ||42 ||39 |
|GPU ||37 ||40 ||34 ||37 ||40 ||35 |
|Fan Speeds (rpm) ||CPU ||2096 ||2163 ||2163 ||2150 ||2163 ||2163 |
|System ||1234 ||n/a ||1288 ||1234 ||n/a ||1293 |
As you can see there is a noticeable difference in the CPU temperature under both base load and a single instance of the folding client running (loading the CPU to 25%, i.e. 1 core active).
There is not much of a change with regard to fan speeds, and this is reflected with no noticeable change in noise on the system. One point to note is the removal of the 'System' fan with the new cooling setup. After installing a blowhole, the 'System' fan was reinstated.
I was not happy with this extra air being moved into the case and the small rise in the internal temperature of the system. I went back to the machine and installed a blowhole on the top of the case and installed the system fan that was taken off the back and moved it to the top of the unit at the blowhole. As you can see in the stats above, the blowhole (BH) did help to pull the temperatures down again.
Overall, very pleased with this closed loop liquid cooling system. I think it is a given I will go this route in the future when I go for a new build later in the year. When I go for the new build, I think I will also go for case that has a blowhole already on place.
The question asked in the article one liner "did it make a difference?", I would say a 20'C under no load conditions and a 50'C under load conditions is fair bit of a difference, so think the answer is a clear yes.
Points of Interest
The threads on the radiator where a bit stiff initially, it would have been easier to run the screws into the radiator first outside of the case then remove them again before trying to mount things. Also, it may have been easier to mount the fan nearest to the CPU onto the radiator first, and then install onto the case.
It is also possible to buy an optional fan controller that connects using the "Corsair Link" digital connection, but I didn't see a need for it.
- 14th March 2012 - Modified for addition of blowhole
- 13th March 2012 - First Article Release