We demonstrate how to upgrade a PC for super-silent, energy-efficient, ice-cool performance.
Liquid coolers were once the preserve of hardcore modders with money to burn: the kit was expensive and notoriously leaky, but it was the only way their high-end processors could cope with the heat generated from all-night gaming sessions.
Thankfully, times have changed. Today’s liquid coolers are as sought after for their energy-efficient credentials as they are for drawing heat away from red-hot components. Noise reduction is a further benefit.
Now that affordable, easy-to-install and eco-friendly technology has made its way to the mass market, you no longer have to be part of the modding scene to add such hardware upgrades to your kit. Over the following pages, we’ll show you how you can create a souped-up, liquid-cooled system that’s also kind to the planet.
The process will make some noticeable changes to the way your system runs, but the upgrade itself isn’t as fundamental or complicated as it might sound. Nor are you building a system from scratch. Instead, we’ll show the process of retro-fitting performance-upgrade components to your existing system.
A wealth of components are available for cooling and silencing your machine, but we’ll stick to the main three: as well as the liquid cooler, we’ll look at a quiet-running power supply unit (PSU) and an eco-friendly graphics card.
Cooling kit used to be expensive and difficult to install. Most coolers had separate pumps, pipes and cooling systems. They required constant maintenance or there was a good chance they would spring a leak over your electrical components.
Today, a choice of low-maintenance and easy-to-install cooling kits is available. Most cost less than £100.
Two such cooling kits really stand out. We chose the £51 CoolIT ECO Advanced Liquid Cooling (ALC) system from Dabs for our workshop, as it’s both hard-wearing and incredibly easy to install.
Another great choice is the Corsair Hydro Series H50. Like CoolIT’s liquid cooler, the H50 is both small and affordable. It’s also an all-in-one solution that’s easy to install and there’s no need to keep topping up the coolant. The Corsair liquid cooler is slightly more expensive than the kit we got from Dabs – we found it for £66 from Special Tech.
Power supply unit
The amount of power you need is determined by how much wattage your system draws. Many of today’s PCs require a 500W PSU. For our workshop we used the Nexus RX-6300 630W, which costs £99 inc VAT from Quiet PC. This PSU has Active Power Factor Correction (APFC) – a feature worth looking out for, since it helps PSU efficiency and stability, reduces total harmonics and corrects input voltage.
This PSU is almost silent in operation and, according to QuietPC, has an 82 percent efficiency rating when drawing power from the wall outlet. As well as being better for the environment, the improved efficiency will make a difference to your electricity bills. Its modular cable layout makes installation easier; you only need to insert the appropriate connector. It will also help minimise cable clutter inside your system case.
Any new PSU should come with enough spare cables to install your various components. However, installing the new connectors to every component in your PC will make the installation more difficult. As we’re retro-fitting, we don’t have to take out all the cables in our PC. As long as the cables are in good condition we might as well use them. The new cables can be kept as spares for future use.