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Thoughts on Custom Water Cooling Loop

Level 9
Hello Everyone,

This will be my first custom loop and below are some of my ideas. Please tell me if I am on the right track or crazy which are not mutually exclusive. My only experience is with an AIO and I am ready to do better. Please comment on other components the build. I need all the help I can get.

The CPU and GPU have been somewhat selected and the build will be around that. The processor will be either an i9 7900X, i7 7820X or something similar with an Intel FCLGA2066 socket in an Asus Prime X299. Who knows what we will see before this gets started which will be before the first of the year.

Not sure about the video card; however, the AMD MX 8200, AMD MX 7100, NVIDIA Quadro P4000 are on the short list. The new GeForce 2080 Ti is also an option. I am not sure if my old eyes can take advantage of 10-bit color depth of the workstation cards or not. That may be wishful thinking. Whatever it or they are will require similar cooling.

I am a photographer, not a gamer. It is also, along with everything else, fun to make these things go fast. The machine is being built to run Capture One Pro, Photoshop CC and Lightroom Classic CC, in that order. Everything else, with the exception of benchmark test, will be a cakewalk. I do product photography and shoot tethered. The faster the image renders, the faster I can go to the next shot. Fast export is also important. Esthetics are not important. The case will be closed and the only one that will see it will be me. Orderly and well designed is important. Lights, bells and whistles are not important.

Some of the Alphacool kits on seem impressive. The idea of a bay mounted reservoir/pump is appealing too. The Laing D5 pump seems to get high marks. The radiators in the kits I looked at were 280X140X45 which, per my rough calculations, will be adequate with overkill. 60MM radiator thickness I believe is also available which I would rather have. Radiator efficiency is also something I am trying to get information and I am wondering if a 60MM radiator would get in the way of everything else. Are there clearance problems with a 60MM radiator?

Fractal Design cases have been good to me; however, and ATX case that is radiator friendly is at the top of the list. Do Y'all like a front or top mounted radiator? The case will have room for an additional radiator the same size. I am not sure how serious I will go with video, but I do want a little room for expansion. I will try the video with air cooling first before I decide to add a GPU block. The GPU choice is for another thread. IMO, the radiator mentioned above should cool the CPU and GPU. A second GPU might be questionable. I am thinking out loud.

Assembly and getting the right fittings will not be a problem. Choosing the right components are what I need help with. I have a lot of experience moving liquid and cooling machines, just not computers.

3/8" tubing seems to be big enough to do the job; however, it the friction drop is significant enough from 3/3" tubing to 1/2”, 1/2" tubing it will be. I would rather use larger flexible tubing than smaller rigid tubing. I do not have enough information yet to do the calculations. It should be something that can be done in a glance. My experience is with a whole lot more pressure or a whole lot more volume or both. Unlike an irrigation system that has miles of large pipe, you can say, be safe and make it bigger because the cost is insignificant.

Am I on the right track? Do Y'all think I can do better buying components individually? What would Y'all do?

Recommendations on some good reads or YouTube videos would be great.

Thank Y’all for your help.

Since you're new to it, do some research. Watch reviews of products on youtube and things like do's and don'ts and most important of all ask LOTS of questions and be 100% sure what you're doing, a leak is costly.

Go with all one brand, there are a few good water cooling companies. ASUS is partnered with EK and they're one of them, I have an EK waterblock on my Titan Xp.


3/8 x 5/8 tubing is plenty big enough and is what I use, the fittings and water blocks do most of the flow restriction. Use the least amount of 90 degree fittings and make the tubing runs as short as possible while making it look nice.

As for the gpu, even though you're not a gamer you could still go with the 2080 Ti then become a gamer. As expensive as they are, I'll leave the gpu up to you.

Delidding your cpu will give you 10c - 15c decrease in temps and is worth doing if you're into overclocking, if you're running at stock there's no need to delid.

It all starts with the case, have you heard of Caselabs? These cases are as good as it gets and they're customizable to order. Some cases have the option for a pedestal to put rads in. They have cases with horizontal motherboard mounting too. You have to assemble it.

Their site is down for maintenance at the moment but here is one I like, the Magnum THW10.

Level 10
You need to tell us budget you are ready to pay.
Best possible custom loop for CPU and GPU with very limited hardware I measured cost 600$ for CPU and GPU.
But only straight fittings, balbe valve, best radiator, CPU and GPU blocks, D5 Pump Combo, etc...

If you buy ASUS products they have good partnership with EKWB, and together work great.
I will first suggest you to install CPU watercooling with space to add GPU later.

For me 13/10mm tubing is best 3/8" 1/2".
I even thought to buy 10 Bitspower fittings from for 44$ but 11/8 size, they look perfect.
But tubing options stopped me. No Mayhems Ultra Clear, no EK Dura Clear, nothing proven.

Caselabs not work any more. But you can find Lian Li. Prices in USA much better than in Europe.
I will never bought other PC case, except Lian Li, and only aluminium. I cursed in house when I saw Lian Li PC-O9 WX for 314$.
I had arround 300 euro max for case, but he costed 450 euro in Europe. Now sit on Amazon and wait someone with taste to pick him.
When you deal once with Lian Li aluminium other cases are not worth any more, no matter how they look. Caselabs is better, but they abandon market and that's one of biggest loss I remember in IT industry. Many people dream that one day will have 500-600 euro to pay CS, I liked Gunmetal S8S Limited, smaller variant of S8.

Radiator depend of cases. Single 360mm is minimum for CPU and GPU.
2x 360mm is best scenario for single CPU and GPU.
Depend of size I only could recommend HW Lab Nemesis GTS or Nemesis GTR.
Coostream PE look nicest on market but core is much smaller than you see, very similar to thinner radiators and for their size perform great.
Flaw is thin aluminium housing. Nemesis from other size look like you can smash wall with him or other radiator on two peaces.
GTR is some new 4th Gen design who work insanely good with my fans type and I recommend them to you Noctua NF-A12X25. I bought 3 for 70, guy didn't want to sell 6 for 150. Best fan shooping I ever done. They are so good that color become interesting.

Buy CPU and GPU block EKWB, Reservoir and EK Pump D5 G2 PWM or D5 Lowara.
radiator Nemesis GTX or GTR if you want thick, GTS if you want thin... GTR work with faster fans 1500RPM+ and perform best, other with slower fans.
Fittings depend of taste, reliable are EK, Koolance, Bitspower, Swiftech, Moonson, that really depend of taste.

Level 12
Hi Roger3006
Some sound advice above,
Keep it simple, allow for gpu in your loop as it seems most new ones thrive on being cool,
It is very easy to try and accommodate for everything and can become overly complicated and leak risk high! (Speaking from experience here!)
I run all EKwb dual loop but could have achieved the same with a better thought out single loop, ‘but that’s just me! Have to try everything’ hahaha.
Ek works very well, good luck with your build.:)*

Level 10
Easiest way for beginners is to buy EK XRES D5 Revo combo.
That's 2 fitting less because you don't need to connect pump and reservoir.

I stay on straight fittings, but ball valve for draining loop is necessary part.
For that you need EK X or T Splitter, Male to Male rottary x2 and Ball Valve.
For combination EK XRES D5 Revo and CPU and Ball Valve you need 6 straight fittings, 2 male to male rotary, X-Splitter, One Ball Valve, 2 Plugs G 1/4
2 more fittings are for GPU, I have 2 packs of 4 EK ACF fittings, 2 are for GPU.

You can find on EK site explanation where and how to combine fittings.

Level 9
Good morning everyone, (been trying to get this done all day)

Looks like there should have been more information in the original post; however, when it started looking like a book I quit.

I am building a high-end machine for image editing. The Intel i9 7820X will be plenty enough to do the job now. The i9 7900X will future-proof me for a while. Whatever, it is will be delidded and overclocked. The only reason I will choose the i9 7820X is to wait for something better than the i9 7900X in the same price range. The price seems to be dropping on the i9 7820X. I am not trying to kid anybody, this is also fun.

The i7 7700K I am currently using is running fine, for the time being, and doing the job. This MOBO/CPU replaced an i7 4790K in a hurry. At the time, all I was thinking about was production. What I was not thinking about was how much the software, I use, had changed utilizing more cores. Single core performance is what people like me looked at not too long ago. The current machine will replace another workstation not to mention making an excellent backup. I have an AMD Radeon RX 580 that will work great in it.

Currently, I have (2X) MSI 980 Ti cards that are adequate in the performance department but are limited to 8-Bit color. The workstations cards I mentioned above are 10-Bit. That does not matter for the web, but it does matter when you are printing. All that is under the assumption I can still see all the colors. My odometer most likely reads a little higher than most on this forum. I want to see how the AMD WX 8200 performs before I do anything. FYI-There are a whole lot of photographers running 8-Bit cards. Water cooling the GPUs off the bat probably won’t happen because I will not know what GPU I will settle with. I do want to leave room to cool a GPU(s) if necessary. I would much rather run one card rather than two.

Above, I mentioned tethered shooting. It means my camera is connected to a computer via a USB 3 cable. The photograph is taken and a second later the 90mb file is being rendered by the computer. The faster it renders, the faster I go to the next shot. I do not edit video, just stills.

Fortunately, I have a good understanding of how it should be plumbed as far as bends, restriction etc. I won’t, but if I had to I could machine the fittings and water block. I really need help in selecting quality components. I do not know one brand for the next except for Laing. They make pumps for a lot more than computers. I believe in overkill when it comes to cooling. I have dealt with a whole lot of machines in bad conditions. I learned long ago, when feasible, make it bigger.

Y’all have given me a good starting place. One thing for sure, I want to make sure whatever radiators I select are made to fit the case I select.

Since Nate moved this to where it should have been in the first place, the build forum, I might as well tell Y’all what else I have in mind. The motherboard I am looking at is the Asus prime X299-A or the Prime X299-Deluxe II. Please tell me if there is a performance advantage with either of these or would Y’all recommend something different? I do not care about lights and esthetics, just plain old go fast. If one board has features Y’all think are important over another, please share your thoughts.

My current machine, i7 7700K also pinch hits as a poor mans file server. It has four spinners in a RAID 5 and 4 SSD’s in a RAID 5. The RAID is controlled by a LSI NR9271-8i. The real work done on this workstation is with two Samsung 970 EVOs M.2s. The new machine will have two M.2s and possible one large spinner. I do have multiple backups that I will not bore Y’all with.

What is the advantage of the Samsung 970 Pro M.2 over the Samsung 970 EVO? The specs looked the same to me.

I would like to increase my network speed, but I think that may be too much sugar or a nickel. That will be another topic.

Thank Y’all again for your help. This is going to be fun.


Not much advantage with the 970 pro vs evo especially for the price, I'd go with the 970 evo.

Will you be using hard tubing or flex tubing? Flex tubing is easier to work with.

If you plan on cooling the gpu, do it off the bat. That way you won't have to drain your loop to add it later.

If you're into video editing and things like that, more cpu cores and more ram would likely help.

Check out each manufacturers waterblocks and fittings, maybe a certain style will sway you towards one. Here are 5 to start with.

EK -
Aquacomputer -
Koolance (In the U.S.A.) -
Bitspower -
Swiftech -

Level 9
Hello Everyone,

The machine will have 32GB of RAM right off the bat. My apps like RAM. Multitasking is always going on.

Flex tubing will be used do to ease of installation and it will do the job. I will size the tubing after the components are selected.

I see where you are coming from Nate, about cooling the GPU(s) off the bat. The plumbing would remain basically the same regardless of what GPU I end up using.

Do Y'all like a front or top mount radiator or both? Is there anyway to isolate the radiator/fans from the interior of the case meaning a compartment it the case to hole them. I like the idea of getting rid of hot air, not pumping in.

Bad news about CaseLabs. I Googled them and got this.,37592.html

Is there an advantage in setting up two circuits with one reservoir? One for the CPU and the second for the GPU? It might be overkill flow wise but it would be an easy way to regulate flow to the CPU/GPU independently (?).

Having the reservoir mounted in two drive bays sounds like a good idea to me. Only one of the drive bays will be used anyway.

The 1080 Ti perform well in all the C1 benchmark test meaning it dominated them (Test I run for imaging software). I assume the 2080 Ti will offer great performance also. I have not ruled out going with an 8-Bit color depth card. The Radeon WX 8200 is scheduled to ship this month. There should be plenty of testing done. It hits a performance void with a good price point. The limitation of 8GB of RAM is not a big deal for what I do. Workstation cards are used with CAD software that can be very demanding but I do not think it will be a big deal for most using this class of card. The $64 question for me is how well will WX 8200 run the software I use daily. What I am trying to say is I need a little more information on both the WX 8200 and the GTX 2080 Ti.

The machine had a video problem about a month ago shutting down all the monitors. I thought it was my MSI 980 Ti which was doing okay performance wise. I could not be without it so I took a chance and bought an identical one on eBay. I got lucky, the card works great. The video problem was a Windows 10 problem and was cured right before the last update. Did not want the second card to sit idle so I installed it with SLI. That was the most bang for my buck I could have ask for.

Y'all have a great Sunday,


Thanks again everyone,


Oh wow, I had no idea Caselabs is going out of business.

I can't really comment on the gpu as you're wanting to use it as a work station gpu. What I'd do is research if the programs you use for rendering can take advantage of the 2080 Ti's Ray Tracing cores and Tensor cores, if it can this would be a big plus. Otherwise it might be better to go with the WX 9100 or WX 8200 as these are deisgned more for what you're doing.

There are alot of options when it comes to reservoirs. You can get a pump/reservior combo, this will save space and you won't have to mount the pump and run tubing.

EK two drive bay pump/res combo as an example.

Aquacomputer pump/res combo, this one has a glass cylinder and glass doesn't stain.

You can have the fans on the radiator as intake or exhaust, for best temps it's best to have them as intake.

You can have your cpu and gpu all in one loop, you can add a motherboard water block and ram water blocks all in one loop, this helps keep it simple and costs less too. You can cool it all easily on one 360mm radiator or you could go up to a 480mm radiator if you wanted.

EK has some rads that are similar to performance and their newest is a tad better, here is a performance chart of the hardware labs black ice nemesis GTX, My koolance erm-2k3u dissipates up to 2000w of heat.

Click performance chart, top right of the list.

Since Caselabs is out of the question, do you have some cases you've been looking at ?

Level 9
Thank you again everyone,

You saved me a lot of time Vlada. I read you post again just before I was going to sort through all the radiators made by Hardware Labs. I now know where to start. I am beginning to know what I don’t know.

One good thing about the graphic card decision, I do not have to get in a hurry. What I am using now is doing a good job. There is a limited amount of hands on information on workstation cards. The workstation cards are more precise and are expensive. My goal is to communicate with people using the various GPUs I am looking at, especially the WX 8200. Also, there are a lot of good choices for under $1,500. I do not think anything we have talked about would be a bad decision.

Mounding a pump/reservoir mounted in drive bays makes a lot of sense to me. It is unused space that is easy to get to. Your suggestion is solid. I can move on from there.

What coolant seems to work best. One thing I have thought about. I live in Little Rock. We have bad ice storms here meaning power can go out for days in sub-freezing conditions. Would there be anything wrong with using 80% distilled water and 20% Prestone? It should have all the lubricants and anti-corrosives necessary.

I will start looking at cases tonight. I think I am at the point where I have learned to at least to where to look at what to look at.

Have a great week.