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portable (USB powered) external laptop water cooling


New Member
Sep 1, 2006
87 (0.02/day)
Processor AMD Phenom II X4 940 @ 3.6 (16x225)
Motherboard DFI LP DK 790FXB-M2RSH
Cooling CoolIT Domino A.L.C.
Memory OCZ Reaper HPC 8GB (4x2GB) DDR2 1066 (PC2 8500)
Video Card(s) XFX HD-487A-ZDDC Radeon HD 4870 (OC'd to 825/1000) | XFX HD-489A-ZDFC Radeon HD 4890
Storage 2x Seagate 320GB SATA2 (ST3320620AS)
Audio Device(s) Creative X-Fi XtremeGamer 7.1
Power Supply PCP&C S75QB 750W | Thermaltake Pure Power Express 250W
Software Windows Vista Ultimate x64
ever Googled "laptop water cooling"? if so you've likely seen the few aesthetically grotesque solutions that exist out there (no offense to Bard Lund Johansen or Jack Ruby should they read this) like i have. then there's the Ben Heckendorn's Xbox Laptop 360 which is pretty much in a league of its own.

with 100+ degree (F) weather this summer in PDX my laptop frequently reached thermal levels that made me cringe (73C+ @ idle). this is mostly due to my having to disable the power saving/speed throttling function in the BIOS in

order for a certain OS to run on my laptop at the full processor speed (2.2GHz). i knew the answer to this was water cooling at the very least. so i thought of exactly how i could retain the portability of my laptop and yet cool my 130nm Mobile AMD Athlon 64 3400+ down and possibly permit me the perk of overclocking it since i am that much of a loon.

this mod, for some, might seem a bit to much to try on their own considering your warranty on both your laptop and your Tide Water go out the door in the end. however, if you have about $100 and a laptop that is past its warranty period and still isn't slow enough to compel you to go and get a new one this will almost certainly be a beneficial effort on your part.

the solution to my problem: the Thermaltake Tide Water (CL-W0052)

the power solution for the TT Tide Water: the AnyVolt Micro from dimensionengineering.com

managed to get the Tide Water for $52 from directron.com and the AnyVolt Micro and Voltage Regulator Breakout Board for $32.50 from dimensionengineering.com. despite not having a multimeter (yes i know), i elected to power something up via USB. seeing as the Tide Water comes with a molex connection i setup the AnyVolt Micro and Voltage Regulator Breakout Board with a USB in and a molex out to a Panaflo FBA12G12H1BX 103CFM 120x120x38MM fan and after some twisting of the screw on the AnyVolt Micro the fan damn near flew off my media system. that being the case i decided to plug in the TT Tide Water and sure enough everything powered up. pump pumping and the fan can be switched between low and high.

side note: originally when i bought the AnyVolt Micro and Voltage Regulator Breakout Board i was stuck on how to house such outside of the cooling unit and the Laptop. after getting these parts in my hand the perfect place appeared to me. the area inside of the Tide Water beneath their logo has exactly enough space between the casing and the pump.

picked up a multimeter and found that i had only brought the volts up to 9.3v so some more twisting and 12v was achieved. set the connection back up with the Tide Water and there was obviously a noticeable performance increase judging by the waves in the reservoir and the increased fan noise (on the high setting).

so after all that here's the thermal results with the stock vs. the Tide Water noted (with a 37C ambient temperature):

stock idle

Thermaltake Tide Water idle

SuperPi 1.5 Mod max temp

four hours of Prime95

results in and judging by them this is viable! went and got some shutoff valves from koolance.com. set everything up and of course disaster strikes... i replaced the tubing with clear automotive grade tubes and after some thought as to what to do with the fluid situation i decided on taking the same distilled water/Water Wetter mixture i use in my two desktops and replace the Tide Water's fluid with such. now Thermaltake proclaims that you won't have to do any fluid filling anytime soon ("10,000 hours of maintenance free from liquid refilling") but god help you if you don't have a syringe handy to do so with. the fill hole was smaller than any funnel i had on hand so a friend and i went to the drawing board. every concept we tried resulted in fluid spilling out from the fill hole due to the air pressure in the reservoir. of course some of the fluid got into the unit but it was thoroughly dried before powering it up.

unfortunately, when powering it up, the fan functioned fine but the pump pumped nothing. tried it with a regular 4-pin and still had the functional fan and the dead pump so it wasn't my power solution. damn. thankfully at this time my preferred (and one i have a "preferred" account with) retailer got these systems back in stock so i ordered a replacement Tide Water from newegg.com.

got the replacement Tide Water in and upon pulling the stock tubing off of it found that there was no fluid in the tubes themselves and the reservoir fluid level dropped below the fill line as fluid moved further into the unit where air once was.. no problem (i had prepared for fluid refilling since the last effort). after refilling the reservoir i proceeded to pump fluid into the pump and radiator. i filled the tubes and water block up to the point where only a small amount of air existed inside the system. powered it up with a 4-pin from one of my workstations and watched the minor amount of air slowly move through the tubes, block and back into the assembly until they came to a stop and the reservoir showed no signs of fluid movement...

pump dead yet again. RMA time. RMA time because as far as my experience goes with water cooling i have never seen a pump fail to handle a bubble here and a bubble there. in light of the amount of air that was in this unit to begin with that could actually have been the cause so i am going on that being the more likely seeing as i made sure to pump this thing to the brink of overflowing.

RMA with Thermaltake was pretty easy going. got the replacement in under a week from shipping the deceased unit. pulled the replacement out of the box and had fluid all over... there was fluid both in the bag and inside the unit itself. some of the screws holding the unit together were rusted even. so this one is heading back as well. hopefully the replacement will be the final as i am scrapping the idea of the tubes being disconnectable and settling with the system just being USB powered.

another replacement another problem.. this one arrived with floating UFO's inside the reservoir. some float too deep in the fluid to make out but one piece appears to be a piece of cardboard (it remains at the surface). back to TT with this one.

the third replacement arrived with issues but i will refrain from steering this one back to TT. more on the problem later.

so after all that let's see some OC'ing. the highest stable OC for both Super Pi and Prime95 has been 2.4GHz (10x240 @ 1T 3-3-3-8 using a 166 divider and 1.45v - the highest voltage the Motherboard provides which is likely the core of the limited OC). Super Pi can do 1MB-32MB runs at 2.5GHz but Prime95 doesn't pass the first or second rounds.. perhaps some tweaking can get 2.5GHz stable in Prime95 without any more voltage but for now here's the Super Pi scores:

now this is the part of this where i have to be critical of Thermaltake's RMA quality standards despite their good will to replace the Tide Water unit that was DOA due to the air discovered within it. a company, when sending a customer a replacement product, should not send them a part that they otherwise could not get away with selling via retail. the first replacement i received arrived with fluid all over the place and rusting to go with. the replacement of that system arrived with what appeared to be cardboard floating inside the reservoir amongst other unidentifiable pieces. the final replacement does not appear to have any issues at first glance but one just needs to look at the exhaust and they'll notice the amazing amount of bent radiator fins.. if it weren't for my wanting to be done with this project and the results i would have honestly considered asking for my money back and calling it quits on this endeavor.

that RMA critique aside Thermaltake has made a versatile product with the Tide Water considering my use of it. i just wish the pump had a bit more to it so that the tubing could be replaced and completely detachable as originally planned but even with the stock tubing the system is still portable with the right protection.

- Robert (PmR)DeathInJune