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Raise the roof

I’ve no­ticed a lot of com­ments about fit­ting twin-fan all-in-one liq­uid cool­ers into the top of var­i­ous cases. For me, though, the prob­lem is al­ways in­ter­fer­ence with mem­ory and other mother­board com­po­nents.

I re­cently built a new PC in a Cooler Master N300 case, as I wanted the ex­ter­nal drive slots and a smaller case than my old one. Trial fit­ting be­fore in­stalling the mem­ory was fine, but once the mem­ory was in­stalled, the cooler fouled the mem­ory heatsinks (not par­tic­u­larly tall ones). The ra­di­a­tor and fans needed to move away by around 20mm. To solve the is­sue, I made up two brack­ets from strip alu­minium, drilled mount­ing holes for the orig­i­nal ra­di­a­tor screws, and drilled and tapped holes to take 3mm screws for the holes in the case. Any­one build­ing a PC will have loads of th­ese screws ly­ing around. To finish off, I sprayed the strips satin black to match the case.

Although the ra­di­a­tor doesn’t line up ex­actly with the per­fo­ra­tions in the case, the airflow isn’t af­fected and it looks fine from the out­side. Out of in­ter­est, I also tried a 120mm Cooler Master all-in­one unit I had ly­ing around, but it would still have fouled the mem­ory, so it wasn’t a case of mis­match­ing brands. Why case man­u­fac­tur­ers do this sort of thing is a mys­tery to me. I’m not pick­ing on Cooler Master; they all do silly things. Great mag by the way. I wish I had the time (and money) to do a cus­tom build like some of your con­trib­u­tors. TED DRURY

Ben: That’s sadly of­ten a prob­lem with thick ra­di­a­tors in smaller cases, Ted. You don’t need to in­stall your ra­di­a­tor in the roof, of course, but that’s usu­ally a good place for it. Proper room for ra­di­a­tors with­out foul­ing com­po­nents is one of the key fac­tors we eval­u­ate in our case re­views. To be fair to Cooler Master, the N300 is a bud­get case that costs un­der £40 – it prob­a­bly wasn’t de­signed for dual-fan ra­di­a­tors, but I have to say I ap­plaud your com­mit­ment to fit­ting your hard­ware. It might not look pretty, but tak­ing a drill to your hard­ware so you can make it suit your ex­act needs is what this hobby is all about!

VR laun­dry tips

Hav­ing read Joe Martin’s Vir­tual World ar­ti­cle in the Septem­ber is­sue, he states that clean­ing the sup­plied foam face cush­ions isn’t easy, as they can’t be soaked due to the Vel­cro. Oops, no one told me, or I didn’t read the in­struc­tions in my ea­ger­ness to see an­other world in 3D.

I’ve had my HTC Vive for around a year, and I only have the orig­i­nal foam face masks, which I use nearly ev­ery day in Elite, as well as in more en­er­getic games. The wide one is used the most, and is now need­ing re­plac­ing due to fair wear and tear. How­ever, it’s in very good con­di­tion af­ter a year, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the use it’s had and the num­ber of times I’ve cleaned it. I soak it in hand-hot water with wash­ing-up liq­uid for a bit, then in slightly less hot water with Mil­ton fluid, gen­tly mas­sag­ing and rins­ing at each stage, then let­ting it dry af­ter a gen­tle squeeze. It works for me, with no smells.

The main is­sue I have is the HTC site. It wouldn’t work for me a year ago and doesn’t work for me now; I had to buy the head­set from Scan. STEVE WRATH

Joe: Hi Steve, it’s great to hear some­one at least has had suc­cess clean­ing their face cush­ion, but per­son­ally I wouldn’t go back now I’ve tried a fake leather

re­place­ment. It’s just so much eas­ier to wipe it down than to risk dam­age by wash­ing. As for the HTC site – it works for me, but I’m not sur­prised you’ve had is­sues. I can’t even get HTC’s PR de­part­ment to re­turn my emails!

Un­der the weather

I’ve read the ar­ti­cle on mak­ing an ex­ter­nal box to house a wa­ter­cool­ing ra­di­a­tor by Antony Leather. At no point does he men­tion any need for an­tifreeze in the cool­ing so­lu­tion. As an ex­pe­ri­enced re­frig­er­a­tion and chiller en­gi­neer, I know that as soon as the tem­per­a­ture out­side drops be­low freez­ing point, you’ll risk the ra­di­a­tor freez­ing up and burst­ing due to the ice for­ma­tion in­side the pipework of the ra­di­a­tor coil.

The fix is to add an an­tifreeze into the cir­cuit – either Mo­noethy­lene Gly­col or an equiv­a­lent. The prob­lem you have with th­ese an­tifreezes, though, is mak­ing the so­lu­tion more vis­cous than water, so your cir­cu­la­tion pump has to work harder. I sus­pect there will be no war­ranty on the pump if it runs on gly­col so­lu­tion, or the ra­di­a­tor if it’s mounted out­side. There’s also a po­ten­tial cor­ro­sion is­sue if the fins of the ra­di­a­tor are made of alu­minium, and you live by the coast or near a busy road.

The cor­rect way to do this job would in­volve a heat ex­changer, a sep­a­rate gly­col pump, an ex­ter­nal ra­di­a­tor and a con­trol gear to pre­vent the sec­ondary cool­ing cir­cuit from sup­ply­ing water at be­low freez­ing point. It’s cheaper to have air con­di­tion­ing fit­ted to the house. Also an air-con­di­tion­ing unit will heat the room in win­ter when your hands are go­ing blue with the cold. PHIL MOR­TIMER An ex­ter­nal ra­di­a­tor box will be fine out­side in hot weather, but will cause prob­lems in the win­ter

Antony: Hi Phil, you make some im­por­tant points that I missed in the guide, although it was only re­ally meant to deal with hot pe­ri­ods in the UK, rather than sub-zero or even sub-room tem­per­a­ture con­di­tions.

I did men­tion the need to bring the unit in­doors in win­ter in my ad­ja­cent col­umn (it’s not par­tic­u­larly use­ful there, ad­mit­tedly), not just to pre­vent the coolant from freez­ing but also to pre­vent sub-am­bi­ent coolant caus­ing con­den­sa­tion is­sues in your PC.

In­ter­est­ingly, May­hems claims its pre-mix Pas­tel coolant can cope right down to a tem­per­a­ture of -8°C, which should be enough for most peo­ple’s needs, and most ra­di­a­tors have cop­per fins th­ese days too.

How­ever, I’d per­son­ally only rec­om­mend us­ing an ex­ter­nal ra­di­a­tor box to deal with your PC in warmer con­di­tions, where th­ese is­sues aren’t a prob­lem.

Oops, no one told me, or I didn’t read the in­struc­tions in my ea­ger­ness to see an­other world

Com­pact bud­get cases, such as Cooler Master’s N300, won’t give you much room to fit a dual-fan ra­di­a­tor in the roof

Joe finds fake leather cush­ions eas­ier to clean

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