Introduction: Repaint and Water Cool Your Laptop

I'm sure that many of you have a six or seven year old laptop collecting dust. But why let it sit there when you could transform it into the coolest(no pun intended) laptop on the block?

During this guide you will learn how to paint your old laptop, put any image you like on it, and water cool it for good measure.

First of all, I want to thank Jack Ruby for his water cooled laptop, which was my inspiration to do this.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Here are the materials I used:

- 2 1/4" X 3" X .2mm copper sheet
- About 5 feet of 5/16 OD X 3/16 ID clear vinyl tubing
- Lots of 5 minute epoxy
- Small pump- I used this one
- 2X nylon barbed T's, 1/4 inch
- 2X nylon barb to screw adapter, 1/4 inch
- Electric wire
- Electric tape
- USB cable
- Stock Athlon CPU heatsink
- J B Weld
- Small Motherboard Northbridge heatsink
- Thermal paste
- Spray paint for plastic, your color of choice
- Clear glossy acrylic spray
- Medium grit sand paper
- Laptop LCD hinges
- Assorted screws
- Dense 5/8 inch or so thick foam
- Masking tape
- Block of wax
- Modeling clay
- 3/4 inches of thin PVC pipe
- 6 inches of 1/4 ID 3/8 OD vinyl tubing


- Hot glue gun
- Screw driver
- 2 clamps
- Rotary tool with cutting and brushing heads
- 6 volt battery
- Pliers
- Scissors
- Wire strippers
- Box cutter/ craft knife
- Drill
- Drill Press
- 5/16 inch drill bit
- Metal cutting oil
- Goggles
- Soldering Iron + solder

Step 2: Preparing the Laptop for Painting

Before you actually go to painting your laptop, there are a few things you need to do to prepare it. First of all, completely disassemble your laptop, including the screen. Remove the plastic covers from all the drive bays. Separate any buttons from the main body of the laptop. When you are taking it apart, it is helpful to keep screws next to their corresponding parts. Also remove anything stuck to the body of the laptop, such as stickers and rubber feet.

Step 3: Preparing the Laptop for Painting, Cont.

Next you will have to tape up all the spots on the plastic you do not want painted over, like internal parts and screw holes. After you've done that, wash the casing with a cloth and rubbing alcohol, and lightly sand the plastic, to help the paint get a grip on it. If your laptop has some sort of indented logo on the back, fill it with epoxy.

Step 4: Painting the Laptop

To paint the laptop, I used white glossy Krylon for plastic. Unfortunately, it did not turn out glossy, because the paint had some sort of chemical reaction with what was already on the laptop. Spray 10 or more coats to get a decent finish.

Step 5: Adding an Image to the Back

What's the point of repainting your laptop if you don't put a cool design on the back? Print out a photo or design in the best quality you can. Paint an extremely thin layer of glue on the back of your picture, and fix it to the desired spot on the laptop.

Step 6: Glossing Your Laptop

To make your laptop nice and shiny, spray the entire thing with 10 or more thick coats of glossy acrylic spray. This will also seal in the picture you put on the back. Let the pieces dry for a few days, then reassemble the laptop.

Step 7: Constructing the Waterblock

The waterblock is the part of the watercooling system that pull the heat of the laptop's processor, and transfers it to the water. I designed my waterblock so the input and output were facing the same direction, because there was a lot of space in the laptop that way. then I made a clay model of the top half of the waterblock. To turn your clay piece into plastic, you need to make another mold, of the outside of the clay model. Put the clay model up side down in a container just wider than the clay model. I made mine with cardboard and duct tape. The pour melted wax around the clay piece, until is is completely covered by 1/4 to 1/2 inch of wax. When The wax has hardened, scrape out the soft clay in the middle. Then fill your wax mold with quick drying epoxy. When it is dry, you should be able to peel off the wax. Then use a brush on a rotary tool to clean any wax or clay off your epoxy waterblock piece. Sand the epoxy piece smooth.

Step 8: Constructing the Waterblock, Cont.

Now we need a way for the tubing to be connected to the block. I bought two barbed nylon adapter. One end has threads, and one is barbed. Using epoxy, glue the threaded ends to the inlet and outlet of the waterblock.

Step 9: Constructing the Waterblock, Final Step

Now you need some way for the waterblock to actually pull the heat off the laptop's CPU. Find a 2mm thick copper sheet, and cut it to the size of your epoxy piece. Just the plain sheet of copper doesn't have much surface area, so you will need something added onto it. I used a small heatsink I ripped out of a Bondi Blue iMac, but most computer's northbridge or southbridge heatsinks would work. Apply thermal paste to the base of the heatsink, spread a ring of J B Weld around the base, and clamp it onto the proper spot on the copper sheet. Scratch up the edges of the front face of the copper with some sand paper, and then glue the two halves of the waterblock together.

Step 10: Modifying the Pump

The pump I used in this project only had a small hole as an inlet, but you need some way to connect tubing to it. Cut a 3/4 inch slice of PVC pipe the same diameter as your pump, and drill a 3/8" hole in it. Then cut a 1 inch slice of 1/4 ID tubing, and glue it into the hole in the PVC pipe. Fill one end of the pipe with glue. Then glue the PVC piece to the pump, so the tube and the pump's outlet face the same direction.

Step 11: Building the Radiator

The radiator is the piece of the watercooling loop that transfers the heat from the water to the air. Most radiators you would buy are fairly square shaped, so they would not fit well on a laptop, and their fins are too closely spaced for them to work well passively. You are going to need to build your own radiator. Because of their shape, the stock AMD heatsinks are perfect for this. With a dill press, drill 4 evenly spaced 5/16 inch holes through the base of the heatsink, and then saw the heatsink in half with a hacksaw. Using J B Weld, glue the two halves of the heatsink end to end so the holes line up. To make a U turn at one end of the radiator, insert two 1 inch pieces of the tubing into the holes, with their ends cut at 45 degree angles. Cut an other piece of tubing, with both ends at 45 degree angles, and glue it between the two protruding bits of tubing to connect them.

Step 12: Radiator Mounting

Now you need a way to mount the radiator on the back of the laptop. Cut the hinges from a laptop LCD so the are as long as the radiator is wide. Glue them onto the bottom of the radiator so that the screw holes on the hinges line up with screw holes on the bottom of the laptop.

Step 13: Routing the Tubing

You need to rout the tubing so there are as little flow impedances as possible. It is preferable to have long slow curves to quick turns. To attach the 3/16" inner diameter tubing to the 1/4 inch barbs, use a 1/4 inch drill bit to drill out a bit of the insides of the tubes. For the radiator, coat and inch of the end of the tube with epoxy, and insert them into the holes in the radiator. If you want, you can use hose clamps to clamp the tubing to the barbs, but as long as to push the tubing far enough onto the barbs, I don't think it is really necessary.

Step 14: Filling the Loop

Filling the watercooling loop is quite a job. I recommend doing it in a bathtub. The two T joints in the loop are for a water inlet and an air outlet. In theory, water goes in one, and the air goes out the other. For this to actually happen you need the water you are filling it with to be under some pressure, so it forces out the air. I built a device to do this out of a milk jug. Cut a hole in the bottom and in the cap, and glue a piece of tubing into the hole in the cap. To fill it, attach the tube to the inlet in the loop, and fill up the milk jug. Using pliers, clamp off one side of the loop, so the other fills, and then switch sides. Go back and forth until the loop is full and air free. Seal off the loop by making caps out of 1 inch lengths of 1/4" ID tubing half sealed with glue. For good measure, hot glue around each joint in the loop.

Step 15: Powering the Pump

Now you need some way to power your pump. The pump runs on 2-6 volts. USB ports supply 5 volts, so they are a perfect option. To make an unobtrusive USB power connector, you will need to cut the end of a USB cable so it is only a centimeter long. Then solder 10 inch wires to the +5volt and ground pins on the USB end, which are the outer ones. Plug in your new USB dongle, and run the wires through the laptop to the battery slot, where the pump will be.

Step 16: Attaching the Watercooling Loop

Start out by mounting the radiator with the glued on attachments. Then stuff the pump into the battery slot. The waterblock will be a little trickier. First apply some thermal paste to the CPU. Stuff dense foam around the block to keep if from moving side to side. To keep it down, screw a piece from an Erector set diagonally across it between two screw holes on the bottom of the laptop. Glue the tubing to the bottom. Then wire the two pump wires to the two USB Wires.

Step 17: Feet

Finally, the laptop need some feet to keep all the water stuff off the ground. I simply cut some 3/4" thick pieces of foam and glued them to the bottom.

Your finished! Now go to a coffee shop and whip this thing out. I guarantee people will come up to you and ask about it. Hope you had fun!  You can view this project, along with others, on my blog, which can be found here: