Mounting the Heatkiller Video Card Waterblocks and Chrome Plating the Backplates
Mounting video card waterblocks can seem a little intimidating if you have never done it before. Many members here would consider it a “piece of cake”, and usually they just show you the card once they have installed the waterblock.
So for the people that aren’t as familiar with the process, I’m going to show you how to do it!
Here’s a look at the Heatkiller waterblock next to the video card with the stock cooler still on.
The first step is to remove all the screws from the stock backplate.
There is one more screw under this sticker. It didn’t peel off easy, so I hit it real quick with the heat gun.
Now that the screws are removed the backplate just lifts off. Even better when all the thermal pads stick to the backplate.
I removed the I/O bracket then flip it over, and the stock cooler lifts right off.
The mid-plate then lifts off, and most of the thermal pads stuck to that too.
Clean the thermal paste off of the GPU, and all the areas that were covered by the thermal pads. Some people just use alcohol, but I prefer the two part ArctiClean product
. Part 1 is a Thermal Material Remover
and Part 2 is the Thermal Surface Purifier
All cleaned up and ready for thermal pads and thermal paste.
Some waterblocks come with several sheets of thermal pads and you have to cut them down to the correct size. This waterblock comes with all the thermal pads already cut to the proper size. I can certainly cut the thermal pads to the needed size, but this is a big plus in my opinion.
Lay all the thermal pads out per the instruction manual. Then one by one I peel off the lower side plastic, and gently put a little down pressure on them so that they stick well.
Also of note if you look at the instructions for the Alpacool waterblocks and the EK waterblocks, they do not use as many thermal pads as this Heatkiller block does. You would think that this waterblock should cool more components, and be more efficient than a block with fewer thermal pads
Next I put the thermal paste on the GPU. There is no thermal paste included with the waterblock like the EK blocks do, but most enthusiasts will have thermal paste on hand. Personally I would much rather have the thermal pads cut to size, and provide my own thermal paste. I used the same Gelid Extreme thermal compound I used on the CPU.
After the thermal paste is applied then I remove the top layer of plastic on the thermal pads.
The instructions show to lower the video card onto the waterblock, but I find it is easier to do it the opposite way, lowering the card onto the waterblock. The waterblock box works great for this. I moved the waterblock so it hangs over the edge to make room for the I/O ports to hang over the edge of the box.
Here I put the card onto the waterblock, and gently pushed it down without putting any screws in. I then pulled it back off so that I can see if the thermal paste is making good contact with the waterblock, and the thermal pads are in the correct places. You can see here that some of the thermal pads stayed on the card, and some stuck onto the waterblock.
I put it back together and put all the screws in except for the seven screws that have to go through the backplates and tightened them up. Tighten the screws gradually in a crossing pattern, and careful not to over tighten the screws!
Chrome plating the backplates
I really wanted nickel plated backplates for this build, and Watercool has said they have nickel plated backplates planned… but it’s been a while now, they are a small company, and I’m sure this is way down their list of priorities.
I decided to just buy the only backplates they offer which is black anodized ones, and then have them plated myself. If you remember back when I had the pump mounting brackets chrome plated, the plating shop that I was using had to close their doors. So I had to find another plating shop.
I did find another plating shop, and brought the backplates down to show the guy what I wanted. I asked him what the difference was between nickel plating, and chrome plating as I am no expert in this field.
He explained the entire process to me:
- First they strip off the anodizing
- Then they polish the aluminum
- Nickel plate them
- Another round of polishing
- The next step is the chrome plating
- Finally one more polishing
With just the nickel plating he said that they can tarnish slightly easier, and get a slight yellowish tint. For a large job just doing the nickel plating would be cheaper, but for this small job adding the chrome plating, it was still less than their minimum charge anyway so chrome plating it is
Here’s a before look with just the stock anodizing.
Now with the chrome plating. They really look incredible in person!
I did make one mistake in this process which I did not realize until I went to install these backplates. As it turns out the backplates come with small spacers inserted into the backplate where the screws go through. They are black and blended right in with the anodized backplate metal, so I did not notice this before taking them to the plating shop.
I figured it out when reading the instructions and it said make sure all the spacers are there, and I’m thinking I don’t have any spacers in the included hardware. Then I looked at the before pictures I had taken, and I could see them. So they either got lost, or melted while in the plating shop. I can't believe I did that
Luckily I was able to procure more spacers from Watercool. The black spacers you see below are the replacement ones from Watercool. I did get this package of white plastic stand-offs of various lengths while I was waiting for the ones to arrive from Watercool. The 2mm stand-offs in this kit would have worked too.
Mounting the backplates
There’s a few pre-cut thermal pads for the backplates. In this case they are clearly outlined on the back plate, so I put the pads on the backplates first.
Also I picked up replacement screws that match the chrome plating much better than the black screws that come with the backplates. They are stainless steel counter sunk M3 x 12mm.
Reflecting off of black background.
Reflecting off of white background.
Here’s the waterblock side.
And a few fun shots with the video card box.
Needless to say I’m very happy with how these turned out