Installing a liquid CPU cooler in my gaming PC

Upgrading your PC can be a rewarding experience, and much cheaper than paying a techie to do it for you.

You need to work carefully and understand how to perform the upgrades, however, as mistakes could lead to hardware failures or damage.

This is especially true when dealing with sensitive components like the CPU.

I recently purchased a Thermaltake Core P1 Mini ITX case, which features a tempered glass front panel that is great for showing off high-end components.

The thought of my gaming rig being on constant display motivated me to replace my boring CPU air cooler with a new all-in-one liquid cooler.

The installation of the new cooler, along with tips to make the process easy and safe, is outlined below.

Removing the old cooler

My previous case – pictured below – was cramped to say the least, but offered impressive portability.

CPU cooler installion old case

CPU cooler installation (3)

Beginning with the graphics card and hard drives, and ending with the motherboard, I removed all the components from the old system and gave them a long-overdue dust-off.

The RAM did not need to be removed, although it can be a good idea to re-seat the modules while you have the board uninstalled.

Once the motherboard was removed and unplugged, I took the old CPU cooler off and cleaned the old thermal paste off the CPU heat spreader.

Removing my air cooler was a bit of a struggle, as it uses the same locking mechanism as Intel’s stock coolers instead of screw mounts.

Cleaning the old thermal paste off the CPU was a simple process, which can be accomplished with a clean cloth and a bit of isopropyl alcohol.

CPU cooler installation (4)

CPU cooler installation (5)

CPU cooler installation (6)

Installing the liquid cooler

All-in-one liquid coolers are a bit more complex to install than air coolers, so it is important to make sure you follow their instructions carefully.

My new cooler – the Corsair Hydro Series H55 – is a reliable and affordable cooler, which can be purchased for R1,160.

The H55 supports a wide range of Intel and AMD CPU sockets, including the LGA 1151 socket my motherboard uses.

Which of the cooler’s included hardware you use will depend on your motherboard’s socket type – but in all cases you will require a backplate, retention ring, and mounting bracket.

Following the instructions to assemble the mounting bracket is straighforward, as is the attachment of the retention ring to the CPU cooling block.

The backplate attachment can be tricky, especially for the LGA 1151 socket, but it can only fit properly in one configuration, shown below.

CPU cooler installation (7)

CPU cooler installation (8)

Once the backplate is attached to the back of the motherboard with the include adhesive buffers, you can mount the CPU block to the processor.

Ensure that the cover over the liquid cooler’s contact plate is removed and that there is thermal paste on the contact area.

If not, apply a pea-sized bead of thermal paste to the CPU directly before mounting.

Once the liquid cooler is mounted on the CPU, you can attach the motherboard to your case and the radiator to any compatible mount in your system.

It is important to check the orientation of your CPU block in relation to where you want to mount your radiator.

I opted to mount my single-fan radiator in the top half of the dual-fan radiator slot, as the bottom half would function as a mounting plate for a 2.5-inch SSD.

CPU cooler installation (1)

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In my build, the fan was mounted to the radiator as an exhaust fan for two reasons.

The case is open on all four sides so intake airflow is not an issue, and I preferred to view a fan on the front over an empty radiator.

Following this, all that remained was to assemble the rest of the build and check it starts up correctly.

A few final tips for installing a CPU liquid cooler, along with images of the completed build, are below.

  • All-in-one coolers come pre-filled. Do not attempt to open them or detach pipes from the radiator or cooling block.
  • If your computer shuts down quickly after starting, check if the CPU block is mounted correctly. High CPU temperatures may be forcing the system to shut down.
  • You can mount any compatible fans on most radiators, so experiment with LED fans or even RGB lighting.
  • Ensure the CPU cooler you purchase supports your motherboard socket. Coolers that support LGA 1150 should also support LGA 1151, but you should confirm this on the manufacturer’s website before ordering.

PC build (2)

PC build (3)

PC build

Now read: Buying an Ethereum mining rig today is a really big mistake

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Installing a liquid CPU cooler in my gaming PC