I’ve recently had a bit of a career change, and hence work has a been pretty hectic lately - which is why I’ve slowed progress on my security training. But with this, I’ve recently come into some extra cash and have decided to build a new desktop! My current rig is almost 5 years old, so it’s time for a refresh.
I’ve decided to take a journey into water cooling, honestly just for the extra challenge! These days some of the Air cooling solutions preform nearly just as good as a full custom loop, but I want the experience of my heart pumping as I push water through a machine and hopefully the satisfaction of completing an all-out build. Childhood dream, ya know?
So, this is going to be my first build log! I plan to document my journey through building this beast as someone who’s never even looked at a water cooling component before.
As usual, I like to start with a set of goals for any project. So, for building a machine it’s easiest to set goals based on the workloads it’ll be used for.
- Lots of virtual machines
- Local Kubernetes for POCing new technologies in the space
- Graphically intensive development workflows (Unity3D and EDA tools)
- Occasional gaming when a title comes out I want to mess with
- Would be nice to be able to experiment more with hash cracking once I get into cryptography more in the future
- I anticipate my career is going to force me into learning machine learning, and having a rig at home I can play with for that would be nice
- A nice trade-off between single-thread performance and lots of threads.
- A beefy graphics card, but nothing over the top
- High-end memory capacity, with room to double-up
- A full custom water-loop for the thrill of doing it and the learning experience
- Ability to expand hard-drive capacity a lot, but a single M.2 drive to start
- Lots of RGB because I love cable routing, I’ll probably post this on r/cableporn when I’m done
Starting with the CPU, I’ve never strayed from Intel however AMD has been absolutely dominating recently, so I’m going red team this time! The threadrippers are certainly attractive, 32 cores is insane but I think I’m going to go for a few less cores and more single-thread performance.
So, I went for the AMD Ryzen 9 3900x
Now to select the graphics card, I know I want a 2080Ti to take advantage of the CUDA cores (Most EDAs exclusively use CUDA) and I don’t want to shell out the cash for a Titan. I also don’t want to go for any of the pure ‘workload’ GPU’s because I do want to play the odd game on this rig. However, I know I want to watercool this rig so I’m going to hold off on selecting which 2080 Ti until I figure out what water block I’m going with.
Now we can select our motherboard - We need an AM4 socket and I’d love on-board Wifi. PCPartspicker is great for this, I slap in a few filters, make sure there’s a couple M.2 drives, on-board Wifi - we end up with a few selections. I ended up going with MSI MPG B550 GAMING CARBON WIFI ATX AM4 Motherboard for the RGB lighting control. If something comes up throughout the rest of the build I’ll have no worries swapping it for something else.
The Mobo has four RAM slots, and I want to start with 32Gb with the ability to expand. So to start I’m going to get a 2 16Gb sticks with a decent cost-performance ratio. I chose Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3600 CL18 Memory. 3600Mhz is about mid-range, and more RGB to wire up!
For a drive, I know I want a blazing fast M.2 drive, so I went for ADATA XPG SPECTRIX S40G RGB 2 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive
For a PSU I want headroom to expand to multiple-graphics cards and more cooling components, so I over-speced for a 1200W PSU. I also wanted full-modular so I went with Rosewill 1200 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply
For a case, I want something massive as it’s my first time building a water-cooled rig and want lots of space to work in. I also want lots of tempered glass to see the insides of this PC in all it’s RGB glory. So, I did some research into solid cases for water-cooling, and came up with the Lian Li O11D XL-W ATX Full Tower Case. This thing is HUGE, built by enthusiasts for water-loops and is highly regarded. I picked up a black one.
Now we’re finally onto the cooling loop. Oh boy I spent a lot of time just reading what I needed… I honestly didn’t document much of that process. I watched lots of videos from JayzTwoCents and Linux, read a ton of blogs… Anyway, there’s a few key take-aways I got:
- Use PETG tubing, acrylic is prone to cracking, and I’m prone to dropping. PETG is also easier to work with. The tiny trade-off of less clearness is totally worth it for me
- Don’t mix metals in the cooling loop. You can choose either Copper or Nickle plated Aluminum. Copper tends to be more expensive, so I just decided I’d go with Aluminum.
- Fittings are really important. Don’t cheap out, get something battle-tested and read about how they work a lot.
- The size of the tubing doesn’t really matter, just ensure the chosen fittings are for the correct diameter and your good to go. It doesn’t affect performance.
- The holes on basically all water-cooling components these days are 1⁄4”
- ~120mm of rad minimum per-component in the loop
- The coolant isn’t just water, it contains some chemicals to stop microbial growth and prevent corrosion
- When bending, you need an insert
So, starting with the waterblocks… Honestly most stock is very low lately, so that actually played a lot into my choices from here on out. These are fairly specialized components and not mass produced to the same degree as say, RAM.
For my GPU block, I went with the Watercool HEATKILLER® IV for RTX 2080 Ti - ACRYL Ni-Bl RGB. They have a compatibility list with the various GPU’s on the market.
Now, I’ve never ripped apart a GPU before to put a block on there, so I did some research into the best cards to go with. EVGA was the general consensus. However, all the EVGA cards were sold out EVERYWHERE! The one that was available was \(3000! So, I went from the compatibility list and looked for what was in stock for around \)2000, and came up with Asus GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11 GB Dual OC Video Card. The only complaint with the card was that it’s stock fan is ugly, but I’m ripping that off anyway!
For the CPU block, I went with EKWB EK-Velocity CPU Waterblock, Digital RGB, AMD CPU, Nickel/Plexi. EKWB is reputable, it’s nickle, it has RGB, and it’s decently priced and in stock.
Rads were actually fairly hard to find with Ni fins, but I know I’m going to slightly-overshoot and get a 360mm rad. So I went for one that was actually in stock and got the Thermaltake CL-W013-AL00BL-A Pacific DIY LCS RL360 Radiator. Thermaltake is another reputable brand, and yeah it’s in stock.
I picked up 3 120mm highly-regarded static-pressure fans for the rad, EK Vardar F3.
Now, this is where I sort of got confused. There’s a few configurations you can go for with Pumps and reservoirs. There’s Pump+Res combos, and there’s separate Pump and Res choices. I went out looking for a decent combo unit, but I ended up finding out that there’s this thing called a distribution plate. I actually saw a build-video someone did and saw this plate and thought it looked amazing and seemed to make the tube runs easier. Now, there’s also distribution plates with a build in pump that also acts as a reservoir! The core concept behind the distribution plate is that it simplifies the loop construction, it takes the guess work out of optimal placement of components in the loop. So, I went out looking at the various options on the market, and discovered that Lian Li made a few plates recently (last few months) specifically for the case I chose! It also has pump and acts as a res, so I figured my choice was obvious as a first-timer! I Went with the massive front-mounted LIAN LI O11D DISTRO-PLATE G1 DESIGNED BY EKWB WITH DDC 3.1 PUMP . This thing has all the holes setup such that all my tube runs should be straight, and looks amazing!
Now, I’ll want to fill the rest of the case up with fans, so I just grabbed a cheap set of RGB fans upHere 7x 120mm RGB Kit.
Alright now, the last thing is fittings and tubing. I went with 16⁄12 PETG tubes, and bought twice as much as I’ll need expecting to fuck up a few times. To match, I bought 2 Thermaltake Pacific Chrome C-Pro G1/4 PETG 16mm OD Compression Fitting 6 Pack CL-W213-CU00SL-B. They seem highly regarded.
I know I’ll need a few fan-splitters, but I have a few lying around so, all good there.
I also bought some pre-mixed coolant because It’s my first time and I don’t want to mess with fucking up mixing it.
I also bought a bending kit… It’s my first time, and honestly buying everything separately was a bit more expensive. It contained cutting tools, tools for prepping the end of the tube, bending jigs and the insert needed for bends.
|CPU||AMD Ryzen 9 3900x|
|GPU||Asus GeForce RTX 2080 Ti 11 GB Dual OC Video Card|
|Motherboard||MSI MPG B550 GAMING CARBON WIFI ATX AM4 Motherboard|
|RAM||Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro 32 GB (2 x 16 GB) DDR4-3600 CL18 Memory|
|Memory||ADATA XPG SPECTRIX S40G RGB 2 TB M.2-2280 NVME Solid State Drive|
|PSU||Rosewill 1200 W 80+ Gold Certified Fully Modular ATX Power Supply|
|Case||Lian Li O11D XL-W ATX Full Tower Case|
|GPU Block||Watercool HEATKILLER® IV for RTX 2080 Ti - ACRYL Ni-Bl RGB|
|CPU Block||EKWB EK-Velocity CPU Waterblock, Digital RGB, AMD CPU, Nickel/Plexi|
|Pump+Res+Distribution Plate||LIAN LI O11D DISTRO-PLATE G1 DESIGNED BY EKWB WITH DDC 3.1 PUMP|
Everything is ordered, now I wait for shipping!
$ cd content && tree