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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    89 Discussions

    0
    BrienC2
    BrienC2

    8 weeks ago

    This is interesting! I keep wondering why liquid cooling laptops isn't a thing, and I keep thinking it's because laptops are designed to be self contained and portable. Moving a liquid cooling system around is, in itself, a problem. Connections are much more likely to fail, leaking water. Water leaking inside our laptop is a bad thing.

    A second major issue is that most of us will still have times when our laptop has to be used without the liquid cooling system and relying on air cooling. The modifications to the heatsink and existing cooling system will likely result in the laptop cooling even worse than before when the liquid cooling isn't connected even IF we design it so that it can be disconnected without leaking.

    It's an interesting idea, and several clever solutions are needed for it to be practical. Challenge accepted!

    0
    DanielK184
    DanielK184

    3 years ago

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

    0
    MathiasT7
    MathiasT7

    Reply 3 years ago

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

    0
    DiWhy Not
    DiWhy Not

    3 years ago

    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

    0
    SanketG15
    SanketG15

    3 years ago

    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
    RudyZ1
    RudyZ1

    4 years ago

    Love step 1. I am IN!

    0
    MekoA
    MekoA

    5 years ago on Step 13

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

    0
    pinstripebob
    pinstripebob

    13 years ago on Step 3

    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.

    0
    jack ruby
    jack ruby

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

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

    0
    PCfreak
    PCfreak

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    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

    0
    sqeeek
    sqeeek

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    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

    0
    pinstripebob
    pinstripebob

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    0
    James (pseudo-geek)
    James (pseudo-geek)

    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    0
    DreamTheEndless
    DreamTheEndless

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 3

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

    0
    Yerboogieman
    Yerboogieman

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    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

    0
    Derin
    Derin

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    You could also use a windshield washer pump.

    0
    DixieN
    DixieN

    6 years ago on Introduction

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

    0
    7PieceMeal
    7PieceMeal

    7 years ago on Introduction

    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?

    0
    knexfreak32
    knexfreak32

    8 years ago on Step 5

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

    0
    knexfreak32
    knexfreak32

    8 years ago on Step 2

    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