Up until a few weeks ago I had a water cooled pc at home.  Given the relatively exotic nature of water cooling I thought it might be interesting to consider after a year has passed I thought it might be interesting to do a little retrospective on the whole thing.

I started out this adventure with a cobbled together machine with roughly these parts:

CPU Core2 e6600 CPU
GPU Radeon 3870 GPU
RAM 4 Gigs Crucial DDR 2

The CPU clocked in at an anemic 2.66ghz. I didn’t feel like spending the money to jump up to an i7 rig at the time. With the large CPU cooler I had purchased I achieved a pretty reasonable overclock but between the CPU cooler, case fan, graphics card fan, and the power supply fan the system was annoyingly loud.

I picked up an asetek waterchill water cooling kit for about $120 shipped. As far as I can tell it was the best deal around, at the time. I priced out the individual components to build a custom kit and the asetek was far, far ahead. The loop included the CPU, north-bridge, and the GPU with a large radiator and three cooling fans. Setup was relatively straightforward, You measure and cut the tubing, assemble the pc and attach the loop, then test it with the power supply jumpered and disconnected from the motherboard. If it runs overnight with no leaks you can take the never wracking step of testing it with the machine connected and powered up.

The main components, minus wiring and mounting hardware are show below:
Water Cooling Kit

The performance increase was pretty much as expected.  I got a very stable overclock of about 1 GHz without over-volting.  The biggest win, was the overall decrease in noise.  For surfing/video I could easily crank down the pump and fan speed and the system would run whisper quiet.  Under full load, it was noisy, but the system would run under maximum CPU/GPU load and just barely crack 40 ℃.  Typically when the system was under that kind of load I had the sound turned up so high the fans weren’t even noticeable.

Alas, the it didn’t have the long life it should have.  After running the machine for about a year with not a hint of trouble I needed to fill up the water level.  I never appropriately mounted the radiator to the case and ended up dripping a little bit of water from the CPU block onto the PCI-E port on the motherboard, toasting both the graphics card and the PCI-E port.  Some quick mental math gave the sad numbers that repairing the system wouldn’t be worth the overhead, and so I’m parting the system out and saving towards an i7 build in the in near future.

I have to say that, if I was building a machine with up to date hardware I wouldn’t bother with water cooling.  Yes, it’s possible to get a significant performance boost, but unless the machine is loaded with a RAID array of SSD’s most applications and games are going to bottleneck at the hard-drive, GPU, or network.  When you consider the risk of totally frying the entire system, and combine that with the difficulty of replacing and testing for failure individual components in the loop, water-cooling isn’t worth the trouble.  Intel Sandybridge chips have been reported to easily overclock to 4GHz and beyond on air cooling and it seems that PC hardware has outraced performance demand for now. Still, they say the measure of any endeavor is “Would you make the same choice again, if you had the chance”  In this case I’d have to say a definite yes.  If you’re looking to keep an aging system limping along, or trying to cut the noise level of your gaming rig, water cooling might be the way to go.


I work in a .NET shop which means Visual Studio is the editor of choice. I’ve been on the platform for several years now and have come to know it relatively well. I wouldn’t declare myself to be anywhere near expert level but I know my way around enough to feel like I’m running in to some rough edges.

First the obligatory compliments before I start trashing Visual Studio. As far as hitting the ground running being productive in a new language it’s really hard to beat Visual Studio. The “intellisense” auto completion is generally excellent and works really well even with the more dynamic pieces of the supported languages. At the beginner stage it lends itself well to figuring out what you’re doing. Throw in the code analysis and the environment does a pretty good job WTF proofing an even moderately skilled programmer moving in to the Microsoft Platform.

With the niceties out of the way, the more I work on the .Net platform, the more I feel like all the “helpful” features in visual studio are getting in my way. Particularly a lot of pretty common tasks , such as opening new files, or moving a tab into another vertical window, essentially force the use of the mouse. Granted, some of these tasks can be accomplished with the visual studio command line, but often doing a simple tasks have awkward syntax. I’m usually relegated to grabbing plugins to patch the most egregious of these holes.  Other tasks, like starting debugging on the most recently run project cannot be accomplished at all from the command line, short of writing unstable macros.

It feels like there is a pretty start choice in editors out there. IDE’s like Visual Studio and Eclipse,  for example, which make it easy to explore a platform and to discover new features and editors like emacs and vim which are infinitely flexible but have a steep, steep learning curve and don’t support all the platform specific niceties that you get in a more language specific IDE.  I’d love to see the Visual Studio Team at Microsoft put some serious thought into making it easier to control the IDE from the command line and/or via shortcuts.  Ideally one could slowly make the transition from using everything via that mouse to running everything via the command line.  Short of this, I’d love to see the intellisense features of visual studio, and maybe a formal spec for the project formats so these features could be used in another editor, an Emacs.Net if you will.

Given how good the tool-chain is in most modern programming languages, this is a pretty minor gripe, but as a programmer and keyboard junky, it drives me absolutely crazy to have an IDE force me to use the mouse for things like “run the most recently run project”.