Picking the right case for water cooling
Author: Justin Koziol
Editor: Devin Zuczek
Summary:
After you feel confident in the components you have selected, it is equally as important to select the right case to house your computer and water cooling hardware.

Date:9/05/09
Selecting the right components for your water cooling loop is a key step on the path to building an efficient system. As the old adage goes, something is only as strong as its weakest link. Few things are more disheartening then researching and spending a sizable amount of time and money on nice components, only for them to not work well together as a whole.

After you feel confident in the components you have selected, it is equally as important to select the right case to house your computer and water cooling hardware. Regardless of how efficient your water system is, if you put it all in the wrong case, any performance benefits you would normally gain will be tossed out the window.

Today we are going to discuss some things to look for in selecting a computer case to use in conjunction with your water cooling system. Some of our suggestions may seem obvious, but you would be surprised at how many people overlook the obvious and wind up asking questions in online forums as to why their system is underperforming.



First and foremost, you will need to select a case that offers good cooling overall. And by that, I mean a chassis that uses 120mm case fans. Keeping your other hardware (besides what is being cooled by the water loop) is just as important as cooling those other components, especially when overclocking. Most DIY water systems aren’t of the compact version, so you should also anticipate the chassis being fairly large in size. A large case gives you plenty of room to run tubing and well as room for your pump and reservoir.





The size of radiator you want to use also plays a role in selecting a case. If you choose to use a double or triple 120mm radiator (and you want to keep the system inside your case), then you will no doubt want to acquire a case that will accommodate that. There are many cases on the market that are double 120mm ready, but you will have to look a bit harder to find something that supports triple 120mm radiators. A good place to start that search is Mountain Mods.





If an external radiator is something you plan to use, you can save yourself some modding time by selecting a case with pre-installed watercooling ports on the rear. There are a handful of cases like this on the market, with the above example being an NZXT Tempest.

Of course, if you like getting your hands dirty and using a Dremel, modding a chassis opens up a whole new world of possibilities. If that is the path you plan to take, it might be a good idea to go with an aluminum case. Aluminum is a much softer metal than steel, and thus is much easier to cut… not to mention it weighs a lot less too.
These are what I would consider to be the most important features to look for when selecting a case for your water cooling system, but of course there are a few other, smaller aspects that are also important to consider.





Many water cooling users like to have a large case window on their case. Sure, who wouldn’t like to show off their slick new water cooling system? But in reality, having a side panel window also allows you to keep an eye on your cooling loop, giving you peace of mind.

Finally, I would also suggest a case that offers plenty of spare 5 ¼” drive bays. If you decide to use a bay reservoir, be aware that this will eat up 1-2 bays. And since water cooling is partly about having a quite system, most users also use some sort of fan controller, not to mention your optical drive and other accessories like card readers, etc.

Hopefully we have given you plenty of things to think about before you go out and buy your next water cooling chassis. It’s always better to think things through and make an informed decision, that way you don’t run into compatibility issues during installation and well, we all know what kind of nightmare that can be.

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