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How to liquid-cool your graphics card in 20 minutes

Gordon Mah Ung | Sept. 2, 2015
Closed-loop liquid cooling can be yours for cheap, but read this first to make sure you and your GPU are up for it.

For my GPU project, I used a reference Radeon R9 290 card. In the interest of full disclosure, I did use a dead Sapphire Radeon R9 290X as a photo and video dummy. Both cards, though, use the same layout and are pretty much physically identical.

This upgrade is quite easy and can be done in 20 minutes—if you're comfortable building a PC. But there are risks. If you're uncomfortable taking apart your PC, or a klutz, or can't accept blame if you destroy it, don't attempt this. 

To remove the stock cooler, just unscrew the screws around the perimeter and the then remove the screws from the tensioner. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

To get the stock cooler off of a Radeon R9 290, remove the 12 large Phillips-head screws from the perimeter of the card. Then remove the four small screws from the tensioner. I recommend using a light-color coffee mug or cup to hold screws from your project, rather than placing them on your work surface, where they will roll away without a trace.

To remove the stock fan shroud on a Radeon R9 290 or 290X, you'll also need to remove two screws from the I/O part of the card. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Once all of these screws are removed, you can carefully separate the PCB from the cooler assembly, applying a little pressure to break loose the thermal paste. Don't force it. If you can't separate the two, check to see if you forgot a screw.

Here's what a Radeon R9 290 looks like in pieces. The Altoid tin will be used to store the screws and tiny bits. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Remove the fan shroud

Once you have the cooler assembly off the PCB, you'll also need to remove the plastic fan shroud from the cooler assembly. You need to do this because Corsair actually wants you to reuse the stock fan. Another green touch? The fan would otherwise go into the E-waste bin right?  To do this, you'll need to remove the tiny black screws around the perimeter of the fan shroud. There should be six of them. 

You resuse the stock fan so you'll have to remove the fan shroud. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Now separate the fan shroud from the cooler assembly by gently prying them apart. To remove the stock fan, flip over the heat sink assembly and remove the three screws that hold the fan. They're readily visible and form a triangular shape.


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