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AIO pit stop and rebuild...its first in 8 years


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Let's start with some context: Back in the late fall of 2012, I picked up a 3770K and an Asus Maximus V Extreme...the CPU turned out to easily hit 5 GHz at just over 1.3v, but in order to make it last, I wanted to drop temps a bit...and so my first foray into 'water-cooling' got underway. These days, I prefer custom loops (my latest 'new' build has 1800/55 rad space & dual loops) but back then, I started with a Thermaltake 240mm AIO...

 

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After the 3770K, this AIO unit moved onto a 4790K and then a 6700K ES... Over almost eight years, that little AIO never gave me any trouble, perhaps because it was mostly running 24/7/365 instead of cycling...with periodic cleaning, temps remained steady. Things changed though during a recent bout of (Covid-induced ?) retro builds, some of which are also on EHW. Long story short, I turned the AIO unit off, moved the rad around for improved cable management, and did some extra cleaning -- but when I turned it back on, temps were about 40c higher than before :mad: ...Also, the pump was still running at its 3k+ rpm setting, but it didn't sound so good, so I turned it off quickly.

 

After 8 years you might say it was time to get rid of that AIO, but since it had given me such good service, I decided to try to fix it - plus, the retro bug was still raging. As usual, if you want to do something similar, you do so at your own risk :) While I have built and torn down a lot of different custom loops, I had never tried to fix an AIO (apart from this unit, I only have one other AIO from September, 2018). There are some questions, for example about the cooling liquid type and exact amount for the refill. I am only doing '(semi-) educated guessing' at the answers...that said, I have thoroughly stress-tested the unit for a few days, which incidentally are the hottest of the year here.

 

---

 

First, it was time for disassembly...lots and lots of little screws to contend with...

 

 

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Next, on to draining...the pump impeller looked pretty good, btw, though not the (smelly) liquid, with lots of particles and 'crumbs' at the bottom of the jar...

 

 

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...yes, that jar was dishwasher-clean before this operation :(

 

...one side of the copper cold-plate / fin array looked pretty good...

 

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...but not the other !

 

 

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...sorry for the auto-(not so-)-focus pic:

 

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...the green tape marked the liquid level for later steps...

 

 

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It seems that when I moved the rad and rubber tubes for maintenance and improved cable management, all kind of 'stuff' dislodged and plugged up sensitive passages. I certainly don't think it's a quality issue, on the contrary...I am amazed that this AIO performed as well as it did for 8 years...

 

But now, time to clean things.... A good 20 minutes of repeated flushing with tap water in the bathtub (checking for additional particles on the bathtub floor after each flush). After two further 'particle free' flushes, I followed that up with a thorough flushing with distilled water of all the parts (block, rad, copper fins...)

 

 

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Per jar marked with the green tape, I had a rough idea how much liquid I needed at a minimum for a refill. Of course I don't really know how much might have evaporated over the years...but I completely filled the now clean unit with Thermaltake's Coolant 1000, then let a few cc's out to compensate for expansion / contraction during operations. I chose Thermaltake's Coolant 1000 because I have been using it for many years in my custom loop builds and have very good experience with it. Also, it is "...non-toxic and non-flammable, the Coolant 1000 is an eco-friendly pre-mix solution with 2 years shelf life, providing great performance while preventing the entire cooling system – copper, brass, nickel, aluminum, and steel – from corrosion. In addition, users can easily refill by using the refill bottle."

 

Mixed-metal water-cooling (such as copper and aluminum in the AIO discussed here) is always tricky re. corrosion. This liquid and its anti-corrosion properties should work ok, but I will certainly keep an eye on the pump speed, noise and overall temps for any indication of potential problems.

 

Time to do some thorough (24 hrs) leak testing:

 

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Before installing the reassembled AIO, a few beauty mods for the rest of the system. It is based on the 6700K 'ES' in a Gigabyte Z170 SOC Force mobo...a fantastic board which I have frozen before (LN2), then air-cooled, then water-cooled....it never missed a beat in over 5 years of sometimes rough treatment, and even now, it is still thoroughly modern with 3x M.2s slots onboard, USB-C etc. Then there's that massive VRM (22 phases, all told). But I could never quite get used to its orange colour scheme (and various 'labels / messages' on it). I don't mind the calming orange LED back-lighting, but I wanted to mod the look a bit to match my 'Orca workstation' build (also on EHW)....so I tried to introduce black, white and silver / grey. There was also the TridentZ (DDR4000 setting :)) which had very red inlays...

 

 

 

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I also painted the AIO block cap white (only to get thermal grease finger prints on it later :mad: ), modified the retaining mechanism (metal bracket instead of plastic on the back of the mobo) and changed the two 120mm fans over to some Noctuas I had available...there's really nothing wrong with the Thermaltake fans that came with the AIO unit, but the Noctuas are a bit quieter while also dropping temps by another 2+ C or so. As mentioned in another EHW thread, I am planning to install a 9900KS in this setup later after the relevant Z170 mods, and while I may end up going for a custom loop then and switch this modded AIO over to another 4-core setup in my home-office, these AIO mods are worth it one way or the other.

 

 

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I threw in a pair of 780 Ti Classifieds and mounted the whole thing in an unusual, ahem, test-bench 'Bauhaus frame'. There is still some more de-oranging work to do, but I really like the outcome so far (if I do say so myself)...

 

 

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Another view of it...the system in the back on the left is the aforementioned Orca workstation setup with design parameters I was trying to approach with this build and related mods...I think I am going to call the Z170 system 'Porpoise' ;)

 

 

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The AIO and system update in 'Porpoise' have been running for a few days continuously, including lots of stress tests. I dialed the CPU back to 4.7 GHz for now (with a bit of extra voltage to generate a bit more heat), but when I am satisfied that everything is as it should be, I'll bring it back to 4.8 (lower right), it's setting prior to this 8-year 'pit-stop'...

 

 

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Edited by J7SC_Orion
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The retro bug is consuming you!!

 

Sick build and good story with the AIO. I think I may tempt fate and try to clean and re-fill an h100 following your method.. My h100 is around the same age and struggles to keep a 45nm LGA775 CPU cool at 1.4V. It's definitely not performing as it did when it was new anymore.. Just haven't really been brave enough to refill it.

 

Did you remove the rubber tubes and re-attach them or was the drain and refill all done through the block? Temps look great for any AIO with that kind of OC..

 

Love the black & white scheme.. can barely recognize the system at all without the orange.

 

 

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The retro bug is consuming you!!

 

Sick build and good story with the AIO. I think I may tempt fate and try to clean and re-fill an h100 following your method.. My h100 is around the same age and struggles to keep a 45nm LGA775 CPU cool at 1.4V. It's definitely not performing as it did when it was new anymore.. Just haven't really been brave enough to refill it.

 

Did you remove the rubber tubes and re-attach them or was the drain and refill all done through the block? Temps look great for any AIO with that kind of OC..

 

Love the black & white scheme.. can barely recognize the system at all without the orange.

 

 

Thanks ! Yeah, the retro bug has been bad this month :rolleyes:

 

As to your question, no, I didn't remove the tubes (thought about it though). I refilled it through the block which btw itself holds just a bit of liquid...that bottle nozzle that comes with the TT Coolant 1000 is perfect for this - per pic below, it fits nicely in the upper right (outlet) opening.

 

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Nice, love the run through of the AIO flush and re-fill, never played with an AIO so far as taking one apart, never own one long enough to justify it, that being said it does give you a great buz when you can re-work something and bring it back to life !

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Thanks ! Yeah, the retro bug has been bad this month :rolleyes:

 

As to your question, no, I didn't remove the tubes (thought about it though). I refilled it through the block which btw itself holds just a bit of liquid...that bottle nozzle that comes with the TT Coolant 1000 is perfect for this - per pic below, it fits nicely in the upper right (outlet) opening.

 

59ea37035163.jpg

 

Oh nice, I see it has a pretty substantial amount of glycol in it.. so that's probably the "secret sauce" they use in the AIOs in the first place allowing for mixed metals to survive the warranty period.

 

I want to follow your lead and try refilling the h100, hopefully it's the same and I can drain flush and refill all through the block. I'm confident it's gummed up and under-performing but the pump is still chugging along... Can't find where to buy the coolant so it comes with the nice bottle :p

https://www.newegg.com/thermaltake-cl-w021-os00bu-a-coolant/p/N82E16835106271 looks right but no longer stocked.

 

Was there a significant drop in temps relative to temps before you flushed your AIO out? I don't think you mentioned before temps.

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Posted (edited)
Nice, love the run through of the AIO flush and re-fill, never played with an AIO so far as taking one apart, never own one long enough to justify it, that being said it does give you a great buz when you can re-work something and bring it back to life !

 

Tx ! Yeah, this was more of a fun exercise, but so far at least, it seems to work great and it really didn't cost me anything other than my time....only problem: a surplus now of really good elastics for dual fan air-coolers. May be I list them on the EHW marketplace...

 

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Edited by J7SC_Orion
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Oh nice, I see it has a pretty substantial amount of glycol in it.. so that's probably the "secret sauce" they use in the AIOs in the first place allowing for mixed metals to survive the warranty period.

 

I want to follow your lead and try refilling the h100, hopefully it's the same and I can drain flush and refill all through the block. I'm confident it's gummed up and under-performing but the pump is still chugging along... Can't find where to buy the coolant so it comes with the nice bottle :p

https://www.newegg.com/thermaltake-cl-w021-os00bu-a-coolant/p/N82E16835106271 looks right but no longer stocked.

 

Was there a significant drop in temps relative to temps before you flushed your AIO out? I don't think you mentioned before temps.

 

...most of the AIOs back then had Asetek blocks / pumps which were similar if not the same. As to where to buy the cooling liquid, I stocked up about 10 months ago and bought several at Amazon since I also use it for custom loops. They also go by a newer name (includes 'Pacific'), but per link, Amazon seems to be out of stock now as well :-( ...However, I figure other good quality liquids with stated anti-corrosion use for mixed metals probably will work just as well.

 

...re. temp drop, yes and no...up until I fooled around with the rad position, it really hadn't deteriorated at all. The rad had been mounted 'sideways' for years and I think all those deposits had built up internally just at the lower edge, and not really impeding flow very much, until that fateful day retro fever started... Temps now are at least 3 C - 4 C better in terms of delta to ambient, but that could also be because of replacing the pretty good stock TT fans with great Noctuas, which are also much quieter at full load. In addition, I just added a 140mm Coolermaster fan above the primary GPU but it is close enough to the CPU pump / block, VRM and rad to have a bit of an impact as well.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

A quick update on the AIO rebuild & mod --- The new setup has now been running almost continuously for over two weeks since the rebuild. Temps remain stable and low at idle and under full load (I can now confirm better temps than new, due in part to fan upgrade referenced above). Delta to ambient at idle is about 4C (with only 1C variance across all cores), delta to ambient at load is 40C max.

 

I also did some more visual upgrades with this build (Arctic 80mm fan for RAM) as well as other minor changes...

 

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Edited by J7SC_Orion
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Nice, glad to see that the AIO overhaul has been a success, definitely like your color theme of black and white, looks great. Fingers crossed the pump holds out on that AIO for a good time to come :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

J7SC_Orion

 

Nice article!

 

Haven't used AIO/CLC except to test a few. Wasn't impressed by CLCs at all, but AIOs that are not CLC seem okay (marginally). Ran custom loops from beginning .. when we made them with automotive radiators and pond/aquarium pumps :D up until air coolers went to heatpipes, starting with Thermalright. While I enjoyed water cooling top tier air cooling does a good job (as long as case airflow is done right), and is so much easier to build and maintain.

 

Only H2O system I'm running is be quiet! Silent Loop 280 (basically a entry level pre-assembled and filled loop with all threaded fittings, copper radiator, fill port, etc.). Found a dead Silent Loop 360 and next time I service that system I plan to either replace 280m with 360mm rad or add 360mm to loop.

 

Again, nice write-up!

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J7SC_Orion

 

Nice article!

 

Haven't used AIO/CLC except to test a few. Wasn't impressed by CLCs at all, but AIOs that are not CLC seem okay (marginally). Ran custom loops from beginning .. when we made them with automotive radiators and pond/aquarium pumps :D up until air coolers went to heatpipes, starting with Thermalright. While I enjoyed water cooling top tier air cooling does a good job (as long as case airflow is done right), and is so much easier to build and maintain.

 

Only H2O system I'm running is be quiet! Silent Loop 280 (basically a entry level pre-assembled and filled loop with all threaded fittings, copper radiator, fill port, etc.). Found a dead Silent Loop 360 and next time I service that system I plan to either replace 280m with 360mm rad or add 360mm to loop.

 

Again, nice write-up!

 

 

Thanks very much @doyll ! I wasn't really planning this AIO rebuild as a to-do-project, but the opportunity just presented itself. As of this morning, temp deltas for idle and load are still exactly where they are supposed to be, but it is going to take more time before I really know if this was a successful operation...

 

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  • 1 month later...

...update October 3rd, 2020:

 

'All quiet on the Western AIO rebuild Front'...it still runs 24/7, and no change whatsoever in delta temp from ambient, nor any weird noises that would indicate a potential problem  

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/3/2020 at 6:56 PM, J7SC_Orion said:

...update October 3rd, 2020:

 

'All quiet on the Western AIO rebuild Front'...it still runs 24/7, and no change whatsoever in delta temp from ambient, nor any weird noises that would indicate a potential problem  

 

I had always wondered how AIOs held up being mixed metal with years of usage. Thanks for sharing the rebuild!

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On 10/14/2020 at 12:43 PM, Sir Beregond said:

 

I had always wondered how AIOs held up being mixed metal with years of usage. Thanks for sharing the rebuild!

 

Yeah, comes down to a variety of factors...but the liquid used (and its multi-metal rating) is a major one. I even think this kind of rebuild / refill would work well for folks who bought the Enermax TR4 AIO which had one of the best designs (cold-plate) but a big quality problem re. gumming/'gunking' up...

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