How to Install a Sealed Liquid Cooler

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Case Study: Corsair H60 Installation

My test system was running a custom CPU cooler, so I had to remove the cooler and underside mounted retention bracket. You may have to do the same someday, so here's how to proceed. This particular system is based on an Intel Z68 chipset running a Core i7-2600K CPU. The H60 doesn't come with double-sided tape, but friction from the mounting pillars held the underside brace in place.

The heat-sink mounting plate viewed in closeup.

1. To be safe, attach the first screws while the case is standing vertically. The Corsair H60 heat-sink module attaches to mounting screws, which themselves screw into the underside mounting plate.

The mounting plate in action.

2. Carefully align the heat sink mounting holes. It's easy to warp the mounting pins slightly, but doing so will result in cross-threading the mounting screws. Be sure to alternate the turns of each screw, rather than screwing each one all the way down before starting on the next screw.

Alternate between screws as you tighten them, to ensure proper heat-sink alignment.

The original air cooler on this PC was pretty effective, so the CPU idle temperature in this instance dropped only a few degrees during testing, from about 43 degrees Celsius to about 40 degrees Celsius. But the motherboard temperature dropped several degrees as well. And as with the previous system, noise levels were noticeably lower.

Final Thoughts

Since these units contain moving parts and liquid, you might be concerned about reliability, pump failures, or leakage. The Antec Kühler H2O 620 offers a three-year warranty, while Corsair ups the ante with a five-year warranty on its H60. In both cases, overall reliability is highly likely to exceed the warranty period. As Corsair's FAQ for the H60 puts it, "The expected lifespan of the average unit is significantly longer than the warranty period."

If the pump fails, the effect is no different from that of having a normal air cooler fan fail: The CPU will overheat and the system will shut down. There's no reliable data on the frequency of coolant leakage, but I have heard of instances where coolant leaked out of the tubes and cooked the motherboard. Nevertheless, with thousands of these coolers in place and big names like Intel jumping into the market, leakage is unlikely. Just make sure you don't bend the tubes into unusual angles or around components that are likely to cause tube damage.

I've been using variants of these sealed liquid coolers for two years now, with no major issues or failures. They aren't as noisy as most air-cooling alternatives, and they're priced about the same as high-end air coolers. So if you want a quieter system but require a high-performance CPU, it's worth your time to install a high-quality sealed liquid cooling system.

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