Watercooling a Laptop on the Cheap

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Introduction: Watercooling a Laptop on the Cheap

About: I'm Just this guy, you know.

How to watercool a laptop...or pretty much anything

Step 1: Step 1: Don't Be a Moron

Disclaimer: If you break something doing this it is your own damn fault. You REALLY ought to know better than to mix electronics and water. DUH!
For those of you willing to continue despite the risk to life and limb and inevitable financial loss; go to the next step.

Step 2: Procure Laptop

Get a laptop from somewhere. I happened to have an old compaq presario 700 laying about. It would only run for five minutes then lock up from heat. Soooo, I decided to get my feet, er, wet in the world of water cooling, using the cheapest methods I could think of.
Some of the methods could be done better, much better if you are not a cheapskate like me.
If you are a cheapskate, you could potentially use similar methods elsewhere and save a buck or two.

Step 3: Get Other Stuff

Tubing:
I used 3/16 ID vinyl tubing from the hardware store, it is strong yet flexible it has an OD of 5/16
More tubing:
I used 5/16 ID for this, if you can't see where I'm going with that...
A pump
I got one from ebay $20 shipped with power supply. If I were to do it again... I'd get a proper water cooling pump.
Radiator
I'm using an add-on transmission cooler from O'reilly auto parts. It comes with mounting hardware and looks pretty nice. It should have the thermal capacity of 800 of the laptop's built in heat sinks.
Fans
Whatever. I'm using two thermaltake fans wired in series with a temperature controller. One fan is a smartcool the other is a thuderblade. Both together were $29 shipped from newegg. If I were doing this over, I'd skimp on fans and splurge on pump.
Reservoir
A gerbil water bottle from petsmart. It has a detachable clip on the back and 3/16 tube fits right in the hole where the metal drinking tube went.
Power supply.
I'm using a 13.5 v psu for the fans and a 12v psu for the pump (the one that came with it)

Step 4: Dismantle Computer

See manufactures recommendations for how to do this.
Or be like me and just pull out all the screws you find. Whatever.

Step 5: Prepare Cooling Block

Most laptops have an integrated cpu cooler block/ heat sink.
Remove this and figure out how to get water through it.
The compaq has a single copper pipe across the top. I cut a section of it off. Then cut off the end. Then I removed the copper mesh inside.
Then I flared the ends of the tube.
Then I stuck tubing on them by heating them gently and stretching them over the pipe. I borrowed this method from Bard Lund Johansen.
The tubes are also glued/caulked on using a 'household welder' adhesive.
Just for good measure a short (1/2 inch) length of 5/16 tube was slid over the top to keep it all snug.

While the block is off you MAY want to try lapping the cooler. That is up to you. It is VERY time consuming, and I just don't know about the gain. BUT I did it, so... just look at that shiny cpu cooler.
I think I lapped it even more after i took this photo.

Step 6: Route Tubes

Find some way to route tubes to the outside.
This will almost certainly take some cutting.
Plan your route carefully and avoid sharp bends.
Bonus: Use the stiffness of the tubing to support the now much heavier screen.

Step 7: Mount Stuff on Back of Screen

I opened up the screen (be careful, lcd's are fragile) and drilled some holes. Then I threaded the mounting zips that came with the trans cooler through the holes.
Then I cut some foamies brand (from wally world) pieces of foam to little squares and punched holes in them. These are to stand the radiator away from the back of the screen.

Step 8: Mount Rad and Fans

Now get that radiator nice and comfy using the zips.
Then place a gasket made of foam on top of the rad for each fan. This will keep your air moving to/from where you want.
put the fans on.
Attach and snug everything using the round clips for the zips (they work like a two-piece zip tie)
Marvel at being 3/4 of the way there.

Step 9: Mount Other Stuff

Now that the radiator is mounted you have to attach your pump and reservoir.
Of course, you already spent all your time agonizing of the mounting and routing locations (didn't you?) so this part just means attaching the hoses and sticking everything down with heavy duty (outdoor strength) double stick tape.
Now, a word on attaching an routing tubes:

At first I was using small plastic elbow bends to make sharp corners with my tubing, but those limited flow too much. So I went with the method used here: http://folk.ntnu.no/bardlund/hack.jsp
Bard told me to heat the tubing gently and bend it and stretch it.
I heated using my gas stove.
I bent the 5/16 tubing by placing a thick copper wire inside, and holding it near the flame to GENTLY heat it. I then held the section of tubing in cool water for 1-2 minutes so it cooled fully. Then I removed it and attached it to whatever. This way I could make elbow bends that fit over the 5/16 inlets and outlets of the pump and rad. They don't reduce flow and they look pretty nice. The other advantage is you can just shove the smaller tubing right inside for a water tight fit. If you're nervous, just use some glue.

Step 10: Wiring

This is tricky and may take some playing with.
I'm using two separate wall wort power supplies for the pump and the fans. Do whatever works for you. Be careful and don't blow up your expensive fans like I did (D'oh!).
If you have a computer power supply now might be the time to press it into service, as it has a choice of voltages to play with.

Step 11: PRAY

Fill it with water.
Use distilled water.
Turn it off and pull the battery (you should have done that long ago, but just in case)
flip the switch
Watch for leaks (there will be leaks)

Step 12: Fix Leaks and Reassemble System

Fix all the leaks and put everything back together.
Keep the cooling system running with no leaks for at least 24 hours before powering up.
Be prepared to troubleshoot odd problems.
My reservoir kept leaking, I discovered that it was building up lots of air pressure inside and blowing out the glue seal. I installed a needle valve from a lawnmower carburetor, that seemed to fix it.
If any one has other solutions, let me know.

Step 13: Enjoy

Enjoy your new stable running system
Install Ubuntu
Post instructable
revel in being the first person you know with a water cooled laptop.
try to figure out how to cool the ram in the laptop
Plan another one... this time battery powered and self contained.....
drink beer
sleep

see more pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14815197@N00/

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    88 Discussions

    do you still have this? i need to know the temperature drop,.... there are several free hardware temperature monitoring programs out there

    1 reply

    didnt you see he wrote it didnt work initially, soooo xD

    you could use the original cooling fan to pump the water by putting it in a plastic case and water-proofing it then adding tubing, and if you don't use your CD slot, try taking it out and make an electable water tank

    I will try to do this interesting can we use or design it so to use water current similar to solar heater but reverse, i will try and let you know

    0
    user
    RudyZ1

    2 years ago

    Love step 1. I am IN!

    I'm thinking of doing something similar. I'm interested in how it runs!?

    Harbor Freight, a tool company that sells mostly junk, has some tiny water pumps for really cheap. I got one that works pretty well for $3. I guess the only problem there is that it's meant to be plugged in to a household 110V outlet rather than, say, a USB port for power.

    8 replies

    Do you have a part # ? The pump I was using has died and a cheap replacement is in order. Thanks for the tip!

    i think the one pinstripebob is talkin about is item number 68372

    me personally id use this one item # 66093 which is solar powered i have one running of a 5v power supply

    www.kidwind.org/xcart/product.php 
    Try that one. 

    Lol if you get one from Harbor Freight, be sure to buy at least 5, you'll need to keep replacing them. ;)

    Bought a Sawz-all from them once... lasted a good 3 minutes. But now I have an awesome 110v speed controlled motor to do something fun with, so no complaints :D

    If you go to http://www.harborfreight.com/ and search for "mini pump," you'll find a couple that are under $10. The only problem is that they need to be submersed in fluid. You could just stick it in a soda can and seal it with some silicone.

    Add some copper tubing on the inside, and make the pumped water go through the copper tubing to cool it and have a pump. =D

    Goodluck getting thru airport security with that lol. looks badass tho

    Awesome, a bit large but I dig it. Now do you have to use rubber tubing or can there be one long copper tube loop?

    While your computer is disassembled you may want to use some thermal grease on older laptops if it is dried up.

    I have a Compaq Presario cm2000 1255 about 14 years old (older than me) it still works like a charm. couldn't pass up a 5$ laptop