Setting up a New Computer


by
2451w

Fans

Airflow

There are two basic purposes of fans:

  • Exhaust/push
  • Intake/pull

Furthermore, there are two types of fans:

  • Static pressure fans
    • Spreads and dissipates air
    • Used for heatsinks and radiators
  • Airflow fans
    • Focuses air
PSU orientation

I always thought the PSU fans were supposed to point up, and anything else was a weird hack. Imagine my surprise when that was possible with my beQueit Dark Base 900 case.

I picked my Seasonic Prime PSU for many reasons, one of them being the convenient labelled connectors:

Connectors ordered by category.
The Prime Titanium has better ordering of connectors behind; the Hybrid button is on the front with the power switch.

You’d think that was the right way to orient the flipping PSU then, but if you looked at the other side of the PSU, you’d see the branding being upside-down. In other words, it’s not unheard of to orient a PSU fans-downward.

There may even be an advantage to this, to hear NZXT explain it:

If your PC case has some sort of grill below where the PSU sits, then you should install your PSU so that its intake fan is facing towards it. In other words, your PSU’s fan will be facing downwards. The reason for this is so the PSU intake fan will suck cool air into the unit from outside the case.

If your PC case does not have a vent for the PSU’s fan, then you should install the PSU with its fan facing upwards. The fan will be facing the rest of the components on the inside of the case; it will be pulling air into the PSU from inside the PC case. The air might be warmer than the cool air outside the case, but it will still be maintaining airflow.

Never install a PSU with its fan facing towards a solid panel; without proper airflow, the PSU has no way to cool itself, and it will burn out quickly. RIP PSU.

“Which Way Should a PSU Fan Point?”

One gets the impression that beQuiet really, really want you to orient the PSU a certain way, and they certainly are aware of Seasonic’s design, since they manufacture beQuiet’s own brand of PSUs.

Linus Tech did an informal test, but keep in mind that the result depends on the case design:

Good news is my temperature and airflow should be much better now. Bad news is the labelling on my Seasonic PSU might be the most useless feature ever.

Fan control and noise

You probably don’t want your fans to operate at 100% all the time. Instead, you want their speed to be determined by the temperature in your case.

Fans need the following:

  • Power
  • Pins
    • 3-pin
    • 4-pin (PWM)
  • Connectors
    • Power supply
    • Software (motherboard)
    • Hardware (built-in case controls)

Of the three connectors, only the motherboard option offers automated fan control. You will also want 4-pin, which supports PWM, the proper means of automated fan control. More pins, more features, makes sense, right? Furthermore, your motherboard needs to support PWM.

Connectors

The fan connector section of your motherboard might look something like this:

Manual overview of the motherboard's fan connectors

There are four connectors on my old-ass motherboard:

  1. PWR_FAN
  2. CPU_FAN
  3. CHA_FAN1
  4. CHA_FAN2

“CHA” being “chassis”, as in the computer case.

A lot of cases have sets of rear and front fans, but some also come with additional fans, which means our two chassis fan connectors don’t cut it.

To address this, you can get either

  • splitter hub or cable
    • Collective fan control
  • fan controller???
    • Individual fan control

From NZXT’s knowledge base:

Q: Why Can’t I Control Individual Fan Speeds On The GRID+?

A: The GRID+ uses a single channel power control so it is unable to control each fan individually. This is a feature we are considering adding in the next iteration.

PWM splitters

In searching for a splitter, I came across this Swiftech 8 Way PWM Splitter. Part of the description reads:

We generally recommend to use the “CPU_Fan” connector of the motherboard,because most motherboard manufacturers usually allow a greater range of adjustments on this particular connector. PWM capable connectors must necessarily be 4-pin, but not all 4-pin motherboard connectors implement or enable the PWM signal modulation by default. Please carefully consult your motherboard documentation in this respect.

Here is the illustration they show on the product page:

Swiftech illustration of their PWM splitter setup

Note that the illustration tells you to plug the CPU cooler into the port labelled “CH 1”, which is the only one reporting a device RPM signal to the motherboard. Other splitters label this port “RPM”.

If you revisit my motherboard’s fan connectors chart—though you may have to view the full image by clicking it—you’ll see that the only connector with PWM is the CPU_FAN.

All of this is pretty much the opposite of intuitive, and I didn’t figure it out until after I got my dumbass beQuiet Dark Base 900 which ships without automatic fan control—because beQuiet seem to try to hide the fact or something.

Last, and perhaps most important: plugging too many fans to your motherboard may kill it. Make sure you motherboard can handle all the volts your throw at it.

Options
Software
  • BIOS
  • Mobo software
  • SpeedFan

Dust

I am mainly concerned with dust due to my allergies, but it should go without saying that your fans won’t operate at full capacity if they’ve got half a sweater’s worth of dust and dirt in them.

To quote from my setup post:

Since there’s a central place of air circulation, there’s an opportunity to capture the dust before it enters and leaves the computer, helping both the computer and the occupants of the room.

For some reason, many computer cases don’t come with so-called dust filters for the fans.

Computer fans tend to have a diameter of 120mm or 140mm, so get a filter for either of those sizes.

Here’s what I got and fitted to my Dark Base 900 case—it was the only I could find, so it’s not a product recommendation:

Packaging for the magnetic fan filter.
Silverstone ultra fine 140mm magnetic fan filter.
Ten filter covers.
eBoot 140mm PVC black computer cooler fan dust filter case cover.

Note that the linked fan filters don’t come with any screws.

A lot of fan filters don’t actually fit the fans or the back of the case, because their bezels are too large—which I of course only found out after receiving my shipments. I have some more on this in my post about my setup.

Further reading

Cable management

There’s cable management inside the case, and there’s cable management outside the case.

If you want a general idea of how to approach cable management, check out this timelapse playlist of per-case cable management. Remember that you can slow down the playback speed in desktop browsers to help you with the details. There may even be a video for your case.

cableorganizer.com gives you a good idea of what tools are available.

For information on how to manage the cables outside the case, check out my own setup.

Aesthetics

RGB

ASUS Aura

ASUS has something called Aura, which is their RGB lighting system. They’ve also got something called “Aura Sync” for synchronizing the lighting of different components in your computer.

The problem with this is that it’s not some universal standard supported by a wide selection of products—which I guess is convenient if you want to coerce consumers into buying only your brand of products. As such, the concept isn’t super persuasive.

These motherboards have an RGB (or LED) header to plug your RGB/LED strips into to customize and synchronize your lighting.

Motherboard

Sometimes you want the looks of the LED lighting, and other times you just want the convenience of some lighting to help you see your motherboard for diagnosis and further customization, like this ASRock Z270 Gaming K6 Fatal1ty model.

I don’t like the neon hell of motherboards, but this soft lighting (at 2:55) is pretty cool and lets you revel in your work. The lighting stays on when the computer is powered off for your convenience. This is a killer feature.

RAM

The Trident Z RGB do not support Aura, so bear that in mind.

Cable sleeving

Cable sleeving lets your customize your cables with thicker, braided cables, but more important, colours. Like watercooling, this can quickly get very expensive, and it’s something you can always do at a later time.

You can either sleeve them:

You can also consult Lutro0’s Frequently Asked Sleeving Questions”

Sleeving cables yourself is a lot of work and somewhat complicated, so you can also just buy the pre-sleeved cables directly from stores like

Like any customization, some people find it tedious while others may find it to be the most rewarding part of it. To each their own. No one says you have to buy all the cables at once; maybe buy a few parts and see how it works for you. If it doesn’t, then you won’t be much poorer and frustrated for it.

Watercooling

I don’t plan on doing any watercooling so I won’t be doing a guide on it.

EKWB have a terrific “How does liquid cooling work”.

There’s a good video about EKWB’s custom loop configurator which selects parts to purchase for your specific setup:

You check out the configuration EKWB recommend for my build where the only customization I’ve made are

  • Which components I want cooled: CPU, GPU, not RAM
  • Colours
  • Hardness of tubing
  • Silence vs overclocking potential

I think I screwed up the reservoir and pump part, though.

EKWB’s kits section is very useful for seeing the different options side by side.

Beside the cooling benefits of watercooling, it can also contribute significantly to the distinct look of your rig with the right tubing and coolant colour:

http://flowerkidnena.tumblr.com/post/155457350418/dva-rig
Iron Man Final

The components you generally want to watercool are:

  • GPU
  • CPU

You can also watercool your

  • RAM
  • Motherboard
  • SSD

In order to cool your GPU, you need to funnel coolant through it. This requires a water block compatible with your specific model. In my case, I got a Palit GTX 1080 GameRock Premium. Fortunately, EKWB1 have released a water block compatible with this very model: the EK-FC1080 GTX JetStream. What this also means, of course, is that you will have to buy a new water block, whenever you get a new GPU.

Watercooling your CPU is a lot easier.

Crystals

“Wait, what?”

Crystals can be used to refract your lighting. Check it out:

Performance optimization

Overclocking

asdf

Delidding

Another thing some people do to get more out of their CPU is delidding:

There are caveats, and Intel probably know what they are doing, as der8auer points out in “The Truth about CPU Soldering”:

Stop hating on Intel. Intel has some of the best engineers in the world when it comes to metallurgy. They know exactly what they are doing and the reason for conventional thermal paste in recent desktop CPUs is not as simple as it seems.

Micro cracks in solder preforms can damage the CPU permanently after a certain amount of thermal cycles and time. Conventional thermal paste doesn’t perform as good as the solder preform but it should have a longer durability—especially for small size DIE CPUs.

Stuff like this is why I don’t try to mess with too much, even though people on the Internet tell me “it’s totally fine, dude”.

  1. The “WB” in “EKWB” stands for “water blocks”. ↩︎