What happens when PC cooling fails?Posted: June 11, 2017
So, a few months back, I finished the ultra-cool tower PC build. A strong motivator for building that system was to utilize a liquid cooling system, because I had never done so before. So, how has it gone these months later?
Well, it started with some strange sound coming from the pump on the reservoir. It was making some clicking sound, and I couldn’t really understand why. Then I felt the tubing coming out of the top of the CPU, and it was feeling quite warm. Basically, the liquid cooling system was not cooling the system.
But, I’m a tinkerer, so I figured I’d just take it apart and figure out what was going on. I took apart all the tubing, and took the CPU cooling block off the CPU as well. I opened up that block, and what did I see? A bunch of gunk clogging the very fine fins within the cooling block. It was this white chalky looking stuff, and it was totally preventing the water from flowing through. As it turns out, the Thermaltake system that I installed came with some Thermaltake liquid coolant, and that stuff turns out to be total crap. After reading some reviews, it seems like a common affliction that using this coolant: Thermaltake C1000 red will eventually leave a white residue clogging the very fine parts of your cooling loop, forcing you to flush and refill or worse.
Well, that’s a bummer, and I would have been ok after that discovery. Problem is, along the way, I put the system back together, turned it on to reflush the system, and walked away for a bit…
Luckily, my Android phone that I used to take the various pictures factory reset itself, so I no longer have the evidence of my hasty failure. It so happens that when the CPU cooling block was slill clogged, and I put the system together, I didn’t tighten down the tube connecting to the block tight enough. Enough pressure built up that the tube popped off. Needless to say, I’ll need to replace the carpet in my home office. And, I can tell you, the effect of spilling about a half gallon of water on the inerds of your running computer motherboard, power supply, and all the rest, is almost certain death for those components…
So, I started by dryingeverything off as best I could. I used alcohol and q-tips to dab up obvious stuff. The motherboard simply would not turn on again. There are a lot of things that could be wrong, but I thought I’d start with the motherboard.
I ordered a new motherboard. This time around I got the Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7. This is not the exact same motherboard as the original. It doesn’t have the option to change the bios without RAM being installed, and it doesn’t have as many power phases, but, for my needs, saving $120 was fine, since I lost the motivation to go all out in this replacement.
The motherboard was same day delivery (which is why Amazon is great). It installed without a flaw. Turned it on and… glitchy internal video! Aagghh. OK, return this, and in another day get another of the same. This time… No problems. Liquid cooling system back together, killer video card installed, monitors hooked up, and it all works as flawlessy as before, if not better.
This time around, I’m not installing any fancy cooling liquid. I’ve done my homework, and everyone who actually does these systems to run for the long run simply uses distilled water, and perhaps some biocide. I chose to get one of those sliver spirals to act as the biocide. That way there’s not chemicals to deal with.
When the silver coil arrives, I’ll have to drain the pipes one more time to install it in the reservoir. I’ll also take the opportunity to use pipe cleaners on the tubes, which have become a bit milky looking due to the sediment from the C1000 cooling liquid. I now have a checklist for assembling the cooling system, to ensure I tighten all the right fittings, and hopefully avoid another spillage mishap.
Thankfully the CPU, memory sticks, video card, power supply, and nvme memory were all spared spoilage from the flooding incident. That would have effectively been a new PC build (darn those CPUs are expensive).
Lesson learned. There’s quite a difference between building a liquid cooling system for looks, vs building one that will actually function for years to come. I will now avoid Thermaltake like the plague, as I’ve found much better parts. Next machine I build will likely not use liquid cooling at all, because it won’t be as visible, so the aesthetic isn’t critical, and the benefits are fairly minimal. Enthusiasm is great, because it leads to doing new things. But, I have to temper my enthusiasm with more research and caution. I don’t mind paying more, piecing things together, rather than going for the all-in-one kit.
Now, back to computing!