How to Liquid-Cool a GPU in 20 Minutes

Martin Wilson

Jun 28, 2022


High-end GPUs nowadays may generate up to three times as much heat as comparable high-end CPUs. As a result, you should expect a lot of fan noise when gaming. (Is it time for a change? Check out our graphics card buying guide to learn more about the finest options available.) On the other hand, water is a simple solution to this problem. A liquid anti-freeze-like solution is, technically, "liquid," yet it's commonly referred to as "water cooling." Enthusiasts have long used custom cooling solutions to reduce video card noise.


Don't be Mario


The good news is that there is an easier solution—and it doesn't require plumbers with Mario-level plumbing skills to do. Adding water cooling to your two-year-old GPU is an option if you've finally built up the confidence to risk its destruction.


Closed-loop liquid coolers can be used instead of full-blown specialised liquid cooling. A good example is the G10 universal bracket adapter from NZXT, which is used with the company's closed-loop cooling system. Another example is the GPU cooling kit from the Arctic.


For their coolers, Corsair provides a bracket, much like NZXT does. I'll be utilising Corsair's Hydro Series HG10 A1 for today's tutorial. Several Corsair coolers might be attached to this $35 metal bracket.


Reuse


The HG10 A1 bracket appears to be founded on Corsair's green ideology. Once you've replaced your CPU cooler (Corsair, of course) with a newer model, the HG10 A1 may be used on your GPU. If you're looking for a cooler that can work with any GPU, go no further than Corsair's A1 HG10 A1. GPUs from manufacturers such as Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and others that employ proprietary designs will not function.


I utilised a reference Radeon R9 290, for my GPU project. Full disclosure: I did utilise a dead Sapphire Radeon HD 980X to photograph and film myself. On the other hand, both cards have the same design and layout.


If you're familiar with assembling a PC, you can complete this update in less than 20 minutes. However, there are some drawbacks. If you're afraid of dismantling your computer, or if you're a klutz, or if you can't take the responsibility if something goes wrong, don't do this.


Unscrew The Fan Shroud


The plastic fan shroud must be removed from the cooler assembly once the cooler assembly has been removed from the PCB. Because Corsair wants you to keep the stock fan, you must do this. Is it yet another dash of emerald? Otherwise, wouldn't the fan end up in the E-waste bin? To disassemble the fan shroud, just remove the little black screws located all around it. Six of them should be there.


Gently take away the cooler assembly and fan shroud to separate them. The factory fan may be removed by flipping the heat sink assembly over and removing the three screws holding the fan in place. They're easy to spot with their triangular shape in front of you.


Attach Bracket


The GPU's PCB is now ready for the bracket to be attached. Remove the bracket's thermal pads' protective plastic before proceeding. These pads are placed on the card's metal frame to heat from the RAM and voltage regulating modules. Now all that's left is to attach the GPU to the cold plate or water block.


As long as you're utilising an already-installed heatsink, you're fine to go. Clean the surface and apply a new thermal paste if you reuse an old one. The thermal paste that has become caked on is easy to remove using ArctiClean. One piece of advice: Don't get too wild when you torque down the cold plate. Cracking or chipping an exposed GPU core signals your video card is dead.


How Does It Function?


After putting the card together, I inserted it into a computer to see whether it worked. With 16GB of DDR4/2666 RAM and a Kingston HyperX Predator SSD, this was an i7-6700K Skylake system running Windows 8.1.


As a last resort, I ran the card through Furmark's famed stress test. Furmark has been likened to a "power virus" by graphics card manufacturers. They don't appreciate it.


As a baseline, I used a Radeon R9 290 with the OEM cooling with FurMark configured to 8x AA for comparison. The card's standard cooler immediately reached 94 degrees Celsius with those settings.


Conclusion

The location of the radiator was something I hadn't anticipated. Bottom-of-case or case door will be your only option for most people. The H60's hose length made it impossible to pass it over the GPU. A lot of the time, such a setup isn't a good idea. As a result, it is important to prepare ahead, as it will limit your options.


However, if the performance is good enough, you may be able to forego the casing. I witnessed a considerable reduction in heat and noise with liquid cooling and no throttling.


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