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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.

A stock Radeon fan attached to the Corsair HG10 A1 cooler bracket. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Now use the same three fan screws to attach the fan to the HG10 A1 bracket. Before you do this though, route the fan wiring so it will reach the fan header connector on the video card. You'll need to basically lay the fan on the bracket and then lay the bracket on the GPU's PCB to confirm the correct routing. 

Once you've attached the fan to the bracket, install the included black plastic fan shroud included with the HG10 A1. To do this, use screws that Corsair included with the kit.

One last step before you attach the bracket to the PCB is to install the four correct standoff studs to the bracket. Which studs you use will depend on which cooler you use; check the manual.

Pick the correct offset studs  for your cooler and install them to the bracket. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

With the bracket set up, you're ready to mount it to the PCB. You may, if you want, attach the cooler's water block or cold plate to the bracket, but it makes for a clumsy affair. The right way to do it is to attach the HG10 A1 bracket to the PCB and then install the cold plate. 

Remember to remove the plastic tape that protects the thermal pad on the bracket before attaching it. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Attach the bracket

Now you're ready to attach the bracket to the GPU's PCB. Before you do that, make sure to remove the protective plastic from the bracket's thermal pads. These pads make contact with the RAM and voltage regulation modules on the card and help wick heat into the metal frame. Now simply install the cold plate or water block onto the GPU.

If you're using a new cooler that already has a thermal pad or thermal paste on it, you're good. If you are indeed reusing one, clean the surface and reapply thermal paste. I recommend ArctiClean for removal of gunked-on thermal paste. One word of advice: When you torque down the cold plate, don't get too crazy. That is an exposed GPU core, and cracking it or chipping it means you have destroyed your video card. Luckily, there is a metal shim around the perimeter that should reinforce the card against damage.

For this project, I decided to test out Corsair's idea that you can just use your old cooler, so I went with an older H60 cooler, which is attached using the thumb screws that come with the HG10 A1 bracket. After you've installed the GPU, make sure you power up the pump and fan by plugging them into a nearby header connector on your motherboard. You may also want to go into your motherboard's BIOS and increase the voltage to that power connector. Some motherboards won't supply enough voltage to run the pump at the correct speed, which can cause problems.


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