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Attn: Mineral Oil Doubters, Your Questions Answered Here! (...Future FAQ?)

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
Hi,

I've been taking a lot of heat (har har har) for building a mineral oil setup lately, and I'm not sure why. Why the mineral oil haters?

Anyway, I'd eventually like to create a guide (an FAQ probably) about mineral oil cooling. I thought perhaps I could field some of your questions here, and add them to what I've started below. Hit me with your best shot!

FAQ

Q: What is mineral oil cooling?
A: Mineral oil cooling typically involves submersing various portions of your computer, if not your whole computer (motherboard, power supply, graphics cards etc.) into mineral oil. Mineral oil often goes by the following names: "baby oil", "white oil", or "transformer oil". Most setups involve some sort of tank (fabricated or a common aquarium) with about at least 5 gallons of oil or more, depending on what components you wish to cool.

Q: What is the goal?
A: Mineral oil has a higher thermal conductivity (it carries heat) better than air. More importantly, mineral oil allows you to cool your entire computer at once: CPU, GPU, RAM, even your PSU. Oil cooling can cool things that even water cooling can't: think of all of those minor ICs scattered about your motherboard. Not to mention, mineral oil computers are virtually dead silent.

Q: Mineral oil is a liquid, won't it short-circuit electronics?
A: While mineral oil is a liquid, it is not water. Mineral oil (at least high grade mineral oil) is completely non-conductive.

Q: Won't mineral oil eat away at my components?
A: Generally no. The exception might be rubber components or electrolytic capacitor (i.e. non-solid capacitors). There are reports of rubber-capped electrolytic capacitors bursting as the oil eats the rubber and seeps into the capacitor itself. Most newer, and better quality motherboards, have solid capacitors ("solid caps"). I have heard (but not experienced, yet) that mineral oil will harden the housing on plastic cables--something else to be mindful of.

Q: Won't my fans burn out in mineral oil?
A: If the fans are spinning, probably not. There is a common misconception that mineral oil computers should use no fans or have the fans set on low. While I agree with the former point as a viable option, I have to disagree with the latter. If anything, causing the fans not to spin will burn them out; this is easily observed when a case fan gets somehow obstructed and the DC motor burns out. From my experiences, I prefer leaving the fans in: I find that they help with circulation.

Q: Won't the oil heat up over time?
A: To an extent, yes. The easiest way to solve this is to install a simple radiator and a cheap pump. My whole set-up cost less than $30 (free fountain pump that someone threw away, $1 of vinyl tubing, and a $25 radiator from Pep Boys.) Other options include using a glass tank versus an acrylic case (glass radiates heat better than acrylic), using C1E, Cool 'n' Quiet, etc, or using more oil (more oil means a higher overall thermal capacity of your system).

Q: Isn't it messy and hard to clean?
A: Mineral oil is messy, but it is not impossible to deal with. If you decide to build a mineral oil PC, plan your design out thoroughly before submersing your components. Mineral oil can be washed off of components with soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Small amounts can be easily dabbed up with a paper towel.

Q: Doesn't this kill your upgradeability?
A: Not necessarily (see above). Provided that you design your setup in such a way that components are easily accessible, upgrading is still viable. A pump or a siphon could help drain the oil from the tank, allowing you to access the components within.

More to come soon (with your help of course!).

Links :
  • Legoman's Mineral Oil PC at [H]ard Forums (A 20 page discussion about one man's custom mineral oil setup. Extremely informative. http://hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1391450
  • Puget Systems Mineral Oil PC (The company that helped bring mineral oil to the masses via their V1, V2, and V3 DIY kits. These guys also put together a very methodological guide, and are definitely worth checking out. http://www.pugetsystems.com/submerged.php

Pictures:
Temporary pictures on Skydrive (Silverlight required): http://cid-7142818c16762bc6.skydrive...8C16762BC6!145
Edited by WildcatWhiz - 2/11/11 at 3:30pm
    
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post #2 of 60
Stop teasing and put up some pics pls.
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post #3 of 60
Here's the problem with mineral oil cooling:

Yes, initially the temps are awesome, but the oil also keeps the heat within the case - there is nowhere for the heat to dissipate, unless you run it through a rad with a pump (normal WC setup). If you do that, no matter which pump you go with the oil WILL kill your pumps.
    
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post #4 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by WildcatWhiz View Post
Q: Won't my fans burn out in mineral oil?
A: If the fans are spinning, probably not. There is a common misconception that mineral oil computers should use no fans or have the fans set on low. While I agree with the former point as a viable option, I have to disagree with the latter. If anything, causing the fans not to spin will burn them out; this is easily observed when a case fan gets somehow obstructed and the DC motor burns out. From my experiences, I prefer leaving the fans in: I find that they help with circulation.
I personally haven't tried mineral cooling or heard much about it but why would you have your fans running at all if it is completely sub-merged in mineral oil?

aren't you just wasting power that way?
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post #5 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobicon View Post
I personally haven't tried mineral cooling or heard much about it but why would you have your fans running at all if it is completely sub-merged in mineral oil?

aren't you just wasting power that way?
Keeps everything moving. If you leave mineral oil to sit it's going to heat up.
    
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post #6 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Epona View Post
Keeps everything moving. If you leave mineral oil to sit it's going to heat up.
This. Thanks!
    
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post #7 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboTurtle View Post
Here's the problem with mineral oil cooling:

Yes, initially the temps are awesome, but the oil also keeps the heat within the case - there is nowhere for the heat to dissipate, unless you run it through a rad with a pump (normal WC setup). If you do that, no matter which pump you go with the oil WILL kill your pumps.
There are easy ways around this. Here are a few (which I hope to add to the FAQ!):

*The easiest way (as you noted), is to install a simple radiator and a cheap pump. My whole set-up cost less than $30 (free fountain pump that someone threw away, $1 of vinyl tubing, and a $25 radiator from Pep Boys.)
*Use a glass tank versus an acrylic case. Glass radiates heat better than acrylic.
*Use C1E, Cool 'n' Quiet, etc. These power saving features will keep the oil cool longer.
*Use more oil. The more oil, the better thermal capacity.

I have found that I can run all day (8 hours) at about 4Ghz on my CPU, with Cool 'n' Quiet, withOUT my pump/radiator setup. It all depends on how much heat you are trying to dissipate.
    
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post #8 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboTurtle View Post
Here's the problem with mineral oil cooling:

Yes, initially the temps are awesome, but the oil also keeps the heat within the case - there is nowhere for the heat to dissipate, unless you run it through a rad with a pump (normal WC setup). If you do that, no matter which pump you go with the oil WILL kill your pumps.
What gave you that idea? There's people who've had mineral oil PC's run fine with pumps for over two years so far.
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post #9 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazy9000 View Post
What gave you that idea? There's people who've had mineral oil PC's run fine with pumps for over two years so far.
Quite true. Mineral oil is not THAT much thicker than water.
    
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post #10 of 60
The pump having to work a little harder could be offset by the mineral oil keeping it cooler as well. If you're that concerned about it, turning the speed on the pump down would help too.
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