Introduction: Watercooling a Laptop on the Cheap

Picture of Watercooling a Laptop on the Cheap

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

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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.
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.
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.
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

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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

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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

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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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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:
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

Picture of 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

see more pics here:


DanielK184 (author)2016-11-22

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

MathiasT7 (author)DanielK1842017-06-11

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

DiWhy Not (author)2017-03-20

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

SanketG15 (author)2017-03-06

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

RudyZ1 (author)2016-05-05

Love step 1. I am IN!

MekoA (author)2015-09-13

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

pinstripebob (author)2007-07-22

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.

jack ruby (author)pinstripebob2007-07-22

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

PCfreak (author)jack ruby2015-01-11

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

sqeeek (author)jack ruby2010-06-03 
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

pinstripebob (author)jack ruby2007-07-23

If you go to 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.

mods, mods, and more mods. hack it to run off a battery, and hack it to not need to be submersed. this is all about modding.

submersion keeps the pump cool so that it doesn't overheat.

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

Derin (author)pinstripebob2009-05-03

You could also use a windshield washer pump.

DixieN (author)2014-09-29

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

7PieceMeal (author)2013-07-14

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?

knexfreak32 (author)2012-05-14

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

knexfreak32 (author)2012-05-14

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

axel5890 (author)2012-04-06

what is the part number on that radiator you used?

zack247 (author)2011-11-06

to cool the ram youd probably need to make some waterblocks, but i dont see why it wouldnt be possible.

Matrix-technician (author)2011-03-22

You could install a low pressure check valve. works like a carburetor neddle.

Matrix-technician (author)2011-03-22

I would have mounted somthing like this on the bottom of my computer because of it's mass. I used tanntraad's "ible" to make a tiny removable radiator for my comp. My Dell inspiron 1500 has a nasty habit of reaching temperatures capable of burning your lap if you use it for more than 30 mins, but with the new cooling system the fan hardly turns on at all.

p0o0p (author)2010-11-04

goood work but how to make bump

E_MAN (author)gangster4292010-08-27

Yes. Any radiator would work. I use a 10' coil of copper tubing I got at my local hardware store.

jack ruby (author)gangster4292007-06-13

I don't see why not. It just looks like a big heat exchanger to me. Finding tubes the right size might be tough though.

cyberkeeper1 (author)2009-08-31

or dont connect the two colored wires to each other lol. that causes a big boom. always yellow or red to black

E_MAN (author)cyberkeeper12010-08-27


sqeeek (author)2010-06-03

 Just a random idea, would coolant fluid like what I'm always filling my car's radiator with work any better than water? 

rock3r4life (author)sqeeek2010-07-26

no, ethylene glycol (normal green car coolant) actually lowers thermal conductivity. its only there to lower freezing point, heighten boiling point, inhibit rust, and lubricate parts like the water pump. your computer isn't subject to as adverse conditions as you car's engine.

sqeeek (author)rock3r4life2010-07-27

Ah, that makes sense. Thanks.

sqeeek (author)2010-06-03

 Awesome, I thought those were solid copper. This looks like it's a heck of a lot easier (perhaps more effective, too) than building your own water block, nice job. 

sqeeek (author)2010-06-03

 Lol actually water's not that conductive unless it's a solvent, i.e. saltwater. Also, any power found in a laptop (with the exception of the inverter for the screen, which can hit as much as 200v) isn't gonna do much harm to yourself, i'd be more worried about the laptop getting zapped than yourself. 

Interesting thing is that when my dad can't figure out how to clear the BIOS of a wireless router that's been partially overwritten or something, he chucks it in a bucket of saltwater for half an hour, then rinses it, then sets it out to dry... Shorts out everything on the board, sometimes has the effect of clearing the BIOS as well. 

Anyway, sweet instructable :D i'm gonna try this with an old Toshiba I've got. It has a desktop processor in it instead of one of the low-heat mobile ones, and always tries to murder itself... 

Kasm279 (author)2010-03-03

What's that HP laptop in the last pic? 

Kasm279 (author)Kasm2792010-03-03

 err first pic*

jack ruby (author)Kasm2792010-03-04

 It's my *other* old laptop. Although at the time, it was my main computer. Just an HP laptop I bought from Walmart :)

Kasm279 (author)jack ruby2010-03-05

 What model is it specifically?

seabee890 (author)2010-02-28

Amazing job on the cooling fan, would be steampunk if you could get a bronze or copper radiator and a black light for the fan.  What are you running to generate that much heat ? lol   wscottc60, be careful how much you redneck this type of project, a intube because it has "a threaded bit at one end" may be a cheap way to cause a expensive problem. also if you want to power this with usb, make sure the usb does not cause a draw significant enough to counter the cooling system.   I want to make something lie this for a suitcase nuke style xbox 360 traveling system with tv included. wooo hooo. 

wscottc60 (author)2009-07-16

I was thinking about using an expanding balder for a reservoir capture tank. Something like a piece of innertube, might could even use the valve stem in as much as it is threaded.

iProton (author)2009-07-11

Oh noes! I spilled the system onto my laptop, fused the motherboard, blacked out the city and gained the ability to see future! LULZ.

cameron20020 (author)2009-06-11

lol dude you prolly dont even need those fans, with that massive surface area the radiator would have, but awesome job

junits15 (author)2009-03-27

I see that you used two diffrent oumps, where did you get them?

firestorm713 (author)2008-12-24

nice instructable. can't wait to try on my laptop...but i should probably wait until i have an alternate computer...I was surprised that you didn't use a blackice radiator or something...though this definitely qualifies as 'on the cheap'! The main question is, how effective is it? you should definitely post the temp. idk what would work with ubuntu tho...

djr6789 (author)2008-12-03

i just got a compaq presario for free but the graphics card is faulty the screen goes all fuzy

jack ruby (author)djr67892008-12-03

:( sorry, I broke the screen on my old presario. I just use the vga out.

Darkeru (author)2008-04-15

this is really sweet and I'm working on a related project and wanted to know instead of using water to cool a system, can i use something like alcohol?

cafriend (author)Darkeru2008-04-15

Alcohol is a perfect substitute, but in some cases I think it depends on the cooling blocks.

jack ruby (author)cafriend2008-06-01

I think Alcohol has a lower specific heat than water, meaning that water can absorb more heat than alcohol. Also, alcohol can be corrosive. Distilled water is also not able to conduct electricity (although it will absorb ions eventually and become conductive). Water with a bit of glycol will also prevent gunk from growing and will prevent corrosion.

downgrade (author)jack ruby2008-10-06

Distilled water can conduct electricity... deionized water (which is expensive) doesn't conduct electricity

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm Just this guy, you know.
More by jack ruby:Raspberry Pi Music Server With Built-in Crossover and DSPInexpensive, easy to build, peristaltic pumpWatercooling a laptop on the cheap
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