Installation of liquid cooled CPU cooler in a mini-tower case

A few years ago I purchased a micro-ATX computer case that I have been very happy with.  Over time I continue to upgrade the equipment that is in the case and now have an Intel i5 processor that was getting a little toasty.  Between the i5 and a higher end graphics card, I was getting regular heat related lock-ups, even when I left the top and sides off of the case.

So I decided to invest in a liquidH80- Liquid Cooler for processors cooling system for the CPU.  I have been running the system for about 10 months with no heat problems.

The following is how I did the installation.  Note that this will void any type of warranty you might have on your case.  But if your the type of person who is looking for this type of solution, you probably don’t care.

I purchased the Corsair H80 from Tiger Direct

(note: I am a Tiger Direct affiliate, purchasing from my links helps support this blog).

IMG_04321) After making sure that all of the parts were there (always a good idea), I went to work on my case, first, carefully removing the hard drive (I had to drill cut a hole in the case, so I didn’t want the vibration causing problems) and the motherboard.  Make sure you your work environment is properly grounded.  You will probably need to remove the RAM and CPU during the installation and you don’t want to damage them with an ESD.

IMG_04332) Case Modification: I found that the there was no way I was going to be able to place the radiator and the two cooling fans inside the case.  I ended up with 1 fan inside the case (where the old fan was previously located). The radiator and 2nd fan would need to be outside the case.  Since there are 2 conduits that run from the radiator to the heat sink, I had to cut a whole large enough for the conduit in the mesh at the rear of the case.

Remember, measure twice and cut once! While you can always more holes in your case, it isn’t the goal of the installation.







3) Here I am testing the installation and clearance of the 1st-inside fan before cutting my holes, to help me get the location for everything else set and to make sure that the idea would work.






4) Next I carefully removed the old fan and heat sink from the CPU and set them to the side.

Remember that the old heat sink will have gel on the bottom that is a pain to get off of anything it touches, so be careful how you set the old heat sink.







IMG_04385) Next, remove your CPU (again, be careful of a static discharge and the heat sink jel).

My old heat sink and fan connected to the motherboard through the 4 holes around the CPU.

The new liquid cooled heat sink uses a different configuration that requires this special do-dad.  This goes on the bottom of your motherboard and has to be carefully screwed into place.




6) Now with the motherboard right-side-up, you will have 4 connectors for the heat sink (which I have taken lots of time in photoshop to circle for you).



7)IMG_0440 Reinstall the motherboard and CPU.  Then install the new heat sink with fresh heat sink gel. Make sure you have clearance for your cooling conduits and room to reinstall your RAM.

Once everything is arranged correctly, lock the new heat sink down to the motherboard using the connectors that were installed in step 6.

Remember to slide the temperature sensor between the  heat sink and CPU.

IMG_04418) Here I have the heat sink installed.  Unfortunately, the only arrangement that I could get to work was with the conduits to be on the same side as the RAM.  This hasn’t been a problem, but I was concerned about it at the time.






9) Time to install the radiator.  This was probably the easiest step, with the inside fan screwing into the radiator, which holds it firmly in place.

After you have the radiator and inside fan attached, you can attached the outside fan.

Note: make sure both of the fans are blowing out of your case.





IMG_044310) here I am installing the outside fan to the radiator.

Time to test your configuration!

You will want to play with the controls for how much air movement the fans need to keep your system running nice and cool.

I have had my system at about 1/3 fan speed since the beginning.  It keeps the CPU nice and cool with out a single lock-up since the install.




IMG_0444 IMG_0445









Here is the final installation (with construction dust). To get the top of the case back on I had to loosen the radiator from the internal fan a bit, but now it fits nice and snug.

As I mentioned, in the course of nearly 10 months, I have not had any heat related problems with the system, and I haven’t had to leave any of the side or top off for better air-flow.



Recent Posts