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Today I am a Happy Geek (Computer Upgrade Time)

Last week with the help of some folks on Twitter, especially @msherretz and @GrndNagusMammon) I ordered some minor upgrades for my computer. I say minor because although the total purchase set me back a little over $200 I only upgraded my case, DVD drive, and CPU cooler:

While my CPU cooler was relatively new since I bought a new CPU back in November that came with an acceptable stock fan (I posted asking for upgrade advice at the end of October, but I never posted a follow up it seems) the case and DVD drive were aging, hell the DVD drive didn’t even open by itself anymore, I had to take off the faceplate and pull it out manually. The DVD drive is over seven years old now, it came in the Dell I got for Christmas in Grade 9…so that would have been Christmas 2005. I can’t remember when I got my next computer after that, was one or two years after the Dell, but it was a barebones kit that came with the case I just replaced, so it must be five or six years old.2013-02-01 19.15.43

That’s my old case and my new case side by side. The new case is about 2 inches taller and 2 inches longer, and over half an inch wider. So lots of extra space.

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This is the computer immediately after last falls upgrade, I can’t believe I didn’t make a post last time I upgraded my computer, it was such a more exciting upgrade. Maybe I did post about it, but just can’t find the post now. Since I didn’t though, I’ll catch you up on the last upgrade:

The other major components of my computer (purchased even before last fall’s upgrade) include:

  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (mine came with a slight factory overclock, but I can’t find that model now)
  • Corsair GS800
  • 4x 750GB Western Digital HDDs @ 7200RPM running in RAID 10 (yes I realize I probably could have bought a SSD for the price of those and the dedicated RAID controller I had to buy at the time, but it’s a long story, don’t ask)

Alright, so all caught up are we?

All three parts I ordered shipped separately (the case come’s in it’s own box, that’s probably why) and while two of the parts shipped out of Mississauga and arrived Friday, the CPU cooler shipped out of Edison, NJ and didn’t arrive until Monday. I opted to go ahead and do the case and DVD drive Friday night, since it was a big job anyways and it wouldn’t be a whole lot of extra work to do the CPU cooler Monday. So I cleared a spot on the dining room table and set to work.

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I don’t know how long it took me, but I’d estimate it took about two hours despite pretty much everything going smoothly. First obviously I had to take all the component out of my old computer (well, everything but the decrepit DVD drive and the puny 80mm fans I had in the case) and then transplant them into the new case.

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Just look at how roomy that is. It’s amazing what a difference a couple of inches can make (shut up).

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This case really is leagues better than the old case, it features support for up to six 120mm fans plus a bottom mounted PSU (which can be oriented so it draws it’s air from underneath the case) or four 140mm fans (plus the PSU). The top of the case has a spot for two 120mm fans (or one 140mm fan) which means it can support a 240mm radiator like in the Corsair Hydro H100. It’s also got a removable dust cover up there which strikes me (and everyone else) as odd since the top is usually meant for exhaust. I opted to leave it on in case it ever gets a negative pressure in there and draws air in from the top.

There’s also two dust covers at the bottom of the case (one for the PSU and one for an additional bottom mounted fan) and one in the front for the two intake fans (the cover is removed in the above photo).

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It’s got some really neat wire management features (you can see them in action in the above photo) but with the motherboard plate recessed to give more room to the main components, there isn’t a whole lot of space back there. The case is a tool-less design and the hard drives are perpendicular to the case, so you can’t change hard drives without removing both sides. Like i said it’s tool-less, so it’s fairly easy, but still will probably be annoying if I ever need to change hard drives.

2013-02-01 21.16.56Somehow I always manage to fuck things up, even in a super simple tool-less design, and this time was no different. I don’t know what these things are, but they broke off when removing the front panel (necessary to install the DVD drive). I mean it was an easy operation, it just popped off, but still I managed to break something. It hasn’t had any ill effect on the case, but it still bugs me that something broke at all.

You know how I said there wasn’t much room in the back for the cable management? I wasn’t exaggerating, I had to enlist my sister to help me get the side back on (we needed to apply pressure to the top and bottom of the case, while holding the back of the case so it didn’t slide across the table, and then slide the panel into place). There is no visible warping but it is really crowded in there.

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So after a long two or so hours I finally had transplanted all the old parts (minus the useless DVD drive) into the new case (accompanied by the new DVD drive). Despite the wire management features I just couldn’t get the 4 pin connector for the CPU’s power supply hidden, there was simply no option other than running it through the middle of the case. Looks kind of odd, but there is no window in the case, so it shouldn’t be too bad.

I used the computer like that all weekend until the CPU cooler came Monday afternoon. I was at the college most of the day so I didn’t get home until 7:30pm but it didn’t take long to install the cooler, maybe 30 minutes, though the instructions really weren’t the best. Here’s the finished result:

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The H80 is a big sucker, besides the radiator it also has two fans strapped onto it to push/pull the air through the radiator. Corsair recommends drawing air from the outside through the radiator, but that dumps CPU heat into the case, negating one of the advantages of liquid cooling, so I turned it around to expel the heated air outside the case. It’s hard to tell from this angle, but the second fan extends just a bit beyond the left most set of screws on the actual CPU mount (is that what that bit is called? CPU mount?).

I placed the fan that was where the radiator is now in the bottom of the case, drawing cool air in. Did I say cool? I meant toe freezing, my office is uncomfortable cold in the winter, the rest of the house is fine, even the rest of the basement, it’s just the one room. We shall see how well the dust filters hold up with this set up, this configuration will certainly test them, especially the bottom filters. Luckily they’re apparently super easy to clean.

This fan set up leaves three 120mm fans drawing air in, and the pair of fans on the rad (120mm as well) expelling it. The radiator only worries about keeping the CPU cool though, not bringing the air out of the case, so the case will have to rely on a slightly positive air pressure to drive the warm air from the top of the case and side vents if the radiator isn’t up to the task (the graphics card has it’s own external vents too, but it doesn’t pump out anywhere near the volume of air the radiator does). Oh yea, didn’t I mention that? If I take the dust filter off the top of the case I can actually feel the stream of air leaving the case, pretty neat.

The three fans that came with the case aren’t plugged into the motherboard, they’re plugged into a fan controller that came with the case, controlled by the little knob at the top of the case. I’m not sure if it works properly though, I can turn the knob to either extreme and I don’t notice a difference. I played it safe though and just left the knob at max.

Similarly, the H80 doesn’t listen to the motherboard, it draws it’s power from a molex connector, but it does plug into one pin on the motherboard to report the fan speed (that’s an awkward connection, both plugs share the same wire, they could have designed that better). Instead of a motherboard managed fan speed the H80 (and the H100 apparently) uses a built in control to manage the speed. It has three settings, low, balance, and high, that gives a range of operating speeds based on the temperature. I decided to leave it on balanced for now, after some heavier playing I’ll revaluate it.

The case fans are super quiet, they’re nearly silent, and it was really odd getting used to that this weekend. With the addition of the two fans for the H80 things are slightly louder, but not any more so than the old case and it’s fan. Did I mention the old case had a really fucking loud fan in it for over a year now? I think the bearings were bust on one of the fans because it could wake the dead, but I needed all the air flow I could get my hands on.

The best thing about the new setup? The front panels finally work. For years the front panels of the old case didn’t work, I had to plug my headset into the rear audio and mic ports. This wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that:

  • I had to dive back there and unplug the headset and plug in the speakers if I wanted to show somebody something, and;
  • I had to leave the cord on my headsets really long, so they kept getting tangled in the wheels of my chair.

So I am really pleased with my new purchase, even though they seem like insignificant parts of the computer. Hopefully I’ll have time this weekend to really push the system to the max and see how well all this new cooling really works.

About the author

Eric Dekker

Gamer. Student. Nerd. Author of The Golden Crusade. Find him on + and Twitter.