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13900K, RTX 4090, 64GB DDR5, Custom Water Loop ft. EKWB
6 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
[UPDATED: 20 MAR 2023]

About Me
Born and raised in Ohio; I am a Process Engineer in the Plastics Injection Molding Industry. I’ve been in my position for 7 years and I’ve had the opportunity to travel to work on injection molding processes for all sorts of different parts. Some of the most interesting to this forum would be a laptop cover, a CPU socket prototype, and a 36-pin electrical connector. I can’t divulge any information on these due to NDA’s and whatnot. I'm new to this forum and I'm excited to share experiences with everyone.

Introduction to the Build
This build began with an RTX 4090 that I felt I needed to jump on; my local Micro Center happened to be stocking the shelves with Zotac Gaming RTX 4090 Amp Extreme Airo cards while I was shopping for other things.. Long story short, I built an all-new PC around that GPU. I am now rebuilding this PC to include a custom water cooling loop with EKWB water blocks. I’m excited to do some overclocking and compare benchmarks.

Original Build

I discussed with myself for about 5 minutes and ended up going a little overboard on the specs for the new PC.

Case: ASUS ROG Strix Helios
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Strix Z790-E Gaming WiFi
CPU: Intel 13900K
GPU: Zotac Gaming RTX 4090 AMP Extreme Airo
PSU: EVGA SuperNOVA 1300W P+
Memory: 2x G.Skill Trident Z5 32GB DDR5 RAM
Cooling: Lian Li Galahad AIO 360mm, 3x Lian Li SL120 Infinity fans (on the top-mounted radiator), 4x Lian Li SL140 fans (3 front, 1 rear)
Storage: 2TB Samsung 980 Pro M.2 SSD

Gadget Font Display device Audio equipment Multimedia

Purple Electronic instrument Gadget Computer hardware Entertainment

Hood Electronic instrument Computer cooling Computer hardware Gas

Rebuild with Custom Loop: Planning and Start

In early December 2022 I ordered the water blocks from EKWB for the CPU and GPU.
These arrived in the first week of March 2023; so about a 3 month lead time due to pre-order and back-order shenanigans. Very pleased with EKWB’s customer service. Once the items finally shipped, they arrived in ~3 days. Very fast shipping especially considering the items came from Slovenia.

In the time leading up to the arrival of the water blocks I began planning and acquiring the other items I would need.
I started with EKWB’s online configurator tool. My ROG Strix Helios Case has mounting space available for one 120mm radiator on the rear, up to one 360mm radiator on the top, and up to one 420mm radiator on the front. I told the configurator that my primary goal was to increase performance. The tool recommended one 360mm radiator, one 420mm radiator, and a standard D5 pump.

The next step was planning the loop. I decided to go with 16mm rigid tubing. The Helios case has no lack of open space so the larger diameter tubing should look great. I chose rigid tubing because one of my main gripes with AIO coolers is those loose hoses that just hang there; I think they take away from an otherwise good aesthetic. I didn’t want to just add more loose hoses to my case for that reason; just my preference.

With that knowledge, I happened to be able to snag the one 420mm radiator that my local Micro Center had in stock as well as a 360mm radiator. I went with Corsair XR5 radiators. I wanted to mount the radiators in the case to help get a better idea of the space available and plan what fittings I may need. After mounting them, I found that I could fit push/pull fans on the front 420mm radiator… so I did:

Automotive lighting Hood Automotive design Vehicle door Motor vehicle

On the front of the case there is a mounting bracket that is made to surround the fans that came with the case. To fit the radiator with push/pull Lian Li SL140 fans I did have to use a Dremel to cut the metal bracket a bit. The Lian Li power/RGB connector interfered with that bracket, so it was just a minor sectional cut to allow clearance for the connector.

At this point, I was able to start really planning for fittings and placement of different components. At a minimum, I would need two compression fittings per component. Two radiators, one GPU block, one CPU block, and one pump/res unit meant 10 compression fittings. The added complexity of the push/pull fans meant I will probably need some extenders and 90-degree fittings to get the fluid in and out of the radiators.

Watching plenty of YouTube videos on water cooling also made me realize the tremendous value of the ‘offset’ fittings (Bitspower calls them ‘Path Alignment’ fittings) so I planned to keep some of these on-hand. They should make it much easier to fine tune the tubing positions and make sure everything is nice and straight.

I also bought a leak tester on Amazon which I figure may be a lifesaver in the case there is a leak somewhere in the loop once it’s all put together.

Micro Center had 16mm pre-bent 90-degree tubing from Bitspower in stock so I grabbed two sets of those; 4 tubes per set. The bends appeared to be tight compared to what I’d seen online so I figure these should suffice. I may be able to get away with not making any bends myself.

The last item I purchased in preparation was a tube deburring tool. After making a cut, it’s important to clean up the edges of the cut before inserting a tube into a compression fitting; jagged edges may irreparably damage the internal O-ring on the fitting.

One upgrade I’d planned on making during this rebuild was to upgrade the 12VHPWR adapter cable that came with the GPU. I wanted all the power cables to match, so I purchased a CableMod PSU cable set. These sets are unique to individual power supplies so if you’re interested in these then make sure you select the appropriate set for your system.

All the items I’ve mentioned as part of the rebuild are linked below in the Links section.

Rebuild with Custom Loop: Cabling

Step number first of the rebuild was to take the PC apart and swap out the power cables with the new CableMod cables I had ordered. That was straightforward and easy although I did find that the Helios case’s cable routing cover was getting bent out of shape by the motherboard power cable. I tried to ‘train’ the power cable but couldn’t quite get the radius small enough to clear that cover. The solution to this was ordering a 90-Degree 24-pin ATX power adapter from Amazon. This was bittersweet because you can no longer see much of the pretty cable sleeving with the combs. While the motherboard was stripped, I did go ahead and mount the new EKWB CPU Cooler but I’ll add another section for that later on.

Building Gas Door Engineering Wood

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I’ll need to get another picture with the cover slid back over in its home position where it covers up that ugly white text on the adapter.

Rebuild with Custom Loop: GPU Water Block Install

Following EKWB’s online instructions made this a breeze except for one pesky fan connector on the GPU.

EKWB GPU Waterblock:
Hood Gas Automotive exterior Wood Auto part

Stock Card:
Hood Bumper Grille Automotive exterior Motor vehicle

Stock cooler removed:
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Pesky fan connector that required pliers to remove:
Circuit component Passive circuit component Hood Hardware programmer Electrical wiring

Cleaned GPU and applied new thermal pads supplied with water block:
Passive circuit component Circuit component Hardware programmer Electronic component Electronic engineering

GPU water block installed:
Audio equipment Electronic instrument Electronic engineering Computer hardware Electronic component

New thermal pads installed on Active Backplate (this picture was apparently taken before I had placed all the thermal pads; there are 3 missing from this photo I believe):
Wood Rectangle Flooring Wood stain Gas

Active Backplate installed:
Electrical wiring Computer hardware Electronic engineering Engineering Gas

M.2 Heatsink removed from Motherboard due to clearance issues (also had to remove that “G-Release” GPU release button cover by removing 3 screws from the back of the motherboard):
Computer Personal computer Circuit component Passive circuit component Electronic instrument

Rebuild with Custom Loop: CPU Water Block Install
This was very straightforward having installed CPU coolers in the past. EKWB’s hardware is the best I’ve seen; the bracket has captive screws that also have knurled rings that allow easy hand-tightening. Unfortunately I don’t have photos of this installation process because it was such a quick and easy process. But here’s a photo of the block after installation:

Audio equipment Computer hardware Automotive design Gadget Electronic instrument

Rebuild with Custom Loop: Installing Fittings and Pump/Reservoir
This is my first attempt at a custom water-cooling loop. At this point in the project, I began to play around with different ideas. Having the water blocks and radiators mounted it was much easier to see visually how things were going to line up. One example is the Pump/Reservoir location. I wanted the Pump to have a straight tube to the GPU inlet.

First tube installed:
Automotive design Motor vehicle Audio equipment Machine Gas

I tried using one of the 90-degree pre-bent tubes to mate with the GPU inlet but the mounting bracket for the pump raises that connection point on the pump up just a little too high. In the end, I think doing a 90-degree fitting from the GPU inlet made a better appearance than having the tube drop down out of the pump then going across and back up to the GPU inlet. This first tube also allowed me to mark the location on the PSU shroud where I needed to drill holes to permanently mount the pump/reservoir.

Permanently mounted reservoir:
Automotive tire Automotive design Motor vehicle Audio equipment Gas

Rebuild with Custom Loop: Fittings and Tubing (3/16/2023 Update)

I installed a second tube from the GPU outlet to the top mounted 360mm radiator:

Automotive design Audio equipment Electronic device Machine Engineering

This tube appears to be aligned perfectly along the X, Y, and Z axes. As expected, the push/pull fans on the 420mm front radiator complicated the fittings required to get fluid in and out of the radiators. Making these turns requires two or more fittings for each radiator port.

Top radiator inlet: two 90-degree swivel fittings, one 90-degree adapter fitting, one path alignment fitting, one compression fitting

Top radiator outlet: one 15mm extender, one 90-degree dual swivel fitting, one 90-degree adapter fitting, one path alignment fitting, one compression fitting

Front radiator inlet: one 15mm extender, two 45-degree swivel fittings, one path alignment fitting, one compression fitting

Front radiator outlet: one 25mm extender, one 90-degree swivel fitting, one 90-degree dual swivel fitting, one compression fitting

Top mounted 360mm radiator fittings:

Hood Motor vehicle Automotive tire Automotive lighting Automotive design

Front mounted 420mm radiator fittings:

Hood Automotive tire Motor vehicle Automotive design Ventilation fan

Some fittings are missing from these photos because they are on order. I’ve ordered two more 90-degree swivel fittings, additional compression fittings, and a drain valve fitting to make draining the system much easier later.

After taking a closer look and being very critical, I decided I didn’t like the first tube’s placement. It looked great on the X and Y axis but the Z axis alignment was just a tiny bit off so I’ve removed that tube and I will be cutting a new piece with different fittings to adjust this.

Pump to GPU tube removed:

Motor vehicle Gas Automotive design Audio equipment Electronic musical instrument

I may use a 90-degree fitting off the bottom of the GPU. Ideally, I’d like to have a 90-degree tube bend there but unfortunately the Y-axis placement of the GPU and the pump ports may not allow for that.

I’ve also ordered a 90-degree adapter for the case’s front USB port cable. That cable comes straight out from the motherboard is has a harsh bend to it. It sticks out like a sore thumb now with the 90-degree adapter on the motherboard power cable.

USB cable bend:

Audio equipment Gas Machine Electronic device Computer hardware

The drain valve will be placed in the pump return port on the front. I’ll be using one of the top ports as the reservoir return.

Pump/Reservoir fittings:

Kitchen appliance Gas Coffeemaker Machine Automotive design

Rebuild with Custom Loop: Fittings and Tubing (3/17/2023 Update)

Made some pretty significant progress on tubing. My Dremel 4000 makes quick work of cutting the tubing. Most of what I’ve seen online suggests that power tools were a no-go on cutting acrylic tubing unless it’s a band saw. The Dremel makes a good burr on the sides of the tube but that’s easy to take care of with the PrimoChill deburring tool and sandpaper.

Tube ends after deburring and sanding:

Household hardware Cylinder Nickel Gas Auto part

The last tube I need to cut and place in the loop is also the first one I installed and decided to replace (from pump to GPU). I’ve been using a tape measure to get a rough estimate of lengths required and I’ve been making the initial cuts to give me about ¼” to ½” excess. That lets me physically hold the tube near the ports it will be going into and make finer adjustments to the length.

Top radiator outlet to CPU:

Computer Computer hardware Motor vehicle Electrical wiring Automotive exterior

Top radiator outlet to CPU (different angle):

Motor vehicle Automotive design Automotive exterior Electrical wiring Audio equipment

CPU outlet to Bitspower Thermal Sensor:

Automotive exterior Motor vehicle Vehicle Auto part Machine

I used the foam packing that came with the thermal sensor to hold it up until I attached the tube at the other end of the sensor to the front radiator inlet. The 90-degree swivel fitting on the CPU outlet wanted to rotate unless I held it in place like this.

Thermal sensor to front radiator inlet:

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Thermal sensor to front radiator inlet (different angle):

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In these photos you can also see the front radiator outlet to top reservoir return tube.

Better shot of reservoir:

Product Electrical wiring Gas Computer hardware Auto part

The next steps are to finish the loop with the last tube from pump to GPU of course, and then to finish all the cable management. I’ve started on routing cables and getting things plugged in but there is still a considerable amount of work left to do.

Front view of how the build sits now:

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Peak at cabling on back side of case:

Automotive design Electrical wiring Computer cooling Computer hardware Art

As I said, there is a considerable amount of work to do on cable management, but it should clean up nicely. In this photo, I have some of the Velcro cable ties undone from routing the pump cables as well as the thermal sensor power.

The build is really coming together!

Rebuild with Custom Loop: Leak Testing, Filling, and Completion (3/20/2023 Update)

I had a very productive weekend with this project. Picking up where I left off on this post, I replaced the pump to GPU tube, and it now has a 90-degree bend in the tube instead of a 90-degree fitting off the bottom of the GPU.

Pump to GPU inlet:

Motor vehicle Automotive design Audio equipment Vehicle Automotive tire

All tubing and fittings installed:

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I’m happy with this look now; the only drawback is at one specific angle you can tell the tube isn’t perfectly straight along the Z axis. However, that’s only at a very awkward and specific viewing angle which I may show later. I’m confident that this is the best I could do with pre-bent tubing in this case.

With all the tubing in place and fittings tightened down, it’s time to leak test the loop! Having the ability to leak test the loop with air rather than any liquid is very important to the safety of the system in my opinion. This procedure can be quite tedious for reasons I’ll describe later but I am very glad that I was able to go through these steps and avoid potentially ruining thousands of dollars’ worth of hardware.

I used a Corsair Leak Tester which is basically a small bicycle tire pump in function. I connected the device to the drain valve and made sure the connection was tight and secure. Once it is connected, double check all fittings and plugs to make sure the system is airtight. The procedure is very simple; pump air into the system and watch the dial on the leak tester.

Corsair Leak Tester unboxed:

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Leak tester connected to drain valve:

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Looking at the labeling on the dial with the green and red areas, I started to wonder how much pressure my pump would output versus this air pressure. Long story short, I targeted 6-8 psi of air pressure for these initial air leak tests.

Within the first five minutes of pressurizing the loop I had a failure occur. The tube going from the thermal sensor to the front radiator popped out of the fitting on the thermal sensor. I’m extremely happy to have found this failure before putting liquid into the system!

Tube popped out during air leak test:

Gas Automotive exterior Auto part Metal Machine

I removed the fitting in question, inspected it for damage, checked the O-rings, and reinstalled it. When I reinstalled the tube, I paid extra attention to the tube going into the fitting. It seems I may have filed the edge of this tube a bit more than the others which gave me the feeling of the tube being properly seated without the O-ring inside the fitting being fully compressed against the outside of the tube.

After resolving that failure, I continued to repressurize the loop with the leak tester. I stood and watched the air pressure gauge for a few minutes, and I couldn’t observe any changes. So, I left it for about an hour to be sure there weren’t any slow leaks. Sure enough, when I returned, the gauge had dropped from 7 psi to 3psi. I gave every fitting one good snug down and tried the test again. Same results.

I can’t see or hear this leak even by jiggling the tubes and fittings. So, I figured the best course of action was to isolate and test every component along the loop. This is that tedious process I mentioned earlier. This procedure involves plugging off the reservoir return and plugging off each component along the loop. For example, plug the reservoir and the GPU outlet then use the drain valve to attach the leak tester. This setup allows you to pressurize just the reservoir/pump through the GPU water block and verify that everything there is tight and secure. Here are some photos of different scenarios that I tested.

Pump through GPU leak test:

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Pump through top radiator leak test:

Hood Motor vehicle Automotive design Computer cooling Electrical wiring

Pump through front radiator leak test:

Motor vehicle Automotive design Automotive lighting Automotive exterior Vehicle

After going through this procedure, the system was able to hold 7 psi air pressure for 6 hours. I called that a passing grade!

The next step is filling the system with distilled or demineralized water and run the pump. There are two primary reasons for this. First, we’ll want to run the pump and verify once more that there are no leaks. Distilled water will be advantageous over coolant because it will be easier to clean; just air dry versus physically cleaning any additives or residues left from the coolant. It is critical though to run the pump by itself. I recommend picking up an extra power supply to connect to the pump. Most pumps come with a 24-pin motherboard power cable jumper that will send voltage to the pump when the power supply is turned on. If you have power going to your motherboard and other components and experience a leak, that is when you’ll be dealing with potentially fried components. Without power going to all those other components, you should be safe even if there is a leak. The second advantage of starting with distilled water is you’ll be able to flush out any impurities, residues, or other particles leftover from manufacturing in your radiators, reservoir, or even plastic chips from cutting tubing. Better to do this with cheap distilled water than expensive engineered coolant.

So, with the additional power supply unplugged, connect the SATA or MOLEX power cable from the pump to the power supply and install the 24-pin motherboard power cable jumper to the power supply. Then fill the reservoir nearly to the top. Once that is setup, plug in the power supply and turn it on. The pump should begin to run within a few seconds.

Be very careful not to run the pump dry! I was caught off guard at how fast the pump would empty the reservoir after I first filled it up. It was a matter of a few seconds to go from full to nearly empty. Watch the water level after you turn on the pump and be ready to turn off the power supply and/or add more liquid to the reservoir.

Distilled water added:

Automotive tire Hood Motor vehicle Product Automotive lighting

I let this distilled water circulate for a few hours before draining it out of the drain valve. Getting all of the water out is a little tricky because it does get trapped in the radiators and water blocks. It required tilting the computer nearly upside down at times to get it all routed into the reservoir. I’m sure there was still a measurable amount of water still in the system when I was finished but I don’t think it’ll hurt anything.

Once I got all the water out that I could, I repeated this process with the EKWB Mystic Fog coolant; fill reservoir, run pump, stop pump, refill, etc. I’m very pleased with the outcome.

System filled with EKWB Mystic Fog coolant:

Automotive exterior Gas Automotive design Bumper Motor vehicle

The Mystic Fog coolant is supposed to have great RGB transferability properties.

I let the pump run with this coolant over night (12+ hours) with the reservoir unplugged at the top to allow air bubbles to escape. There were a lot of tiny air bubbles throughout the system when I first filled it up with the coolant. But these were 99% gone after letting the pump run overnight.

The next step was to finish cable management. This is not my best cable management ever but definitely not the worst! My biggest complaint with the cable management is the EPS power coming down from the top of the case. If I cared enough to redo it, I’d just order some CableMod Extensions so those cables had enough length to route down the back side of the case where they could be tied off neatly.

Cable management:

Electrical wiring Computer Computer hardware Computer case Technology

After verifying that all the cooling things worked and there were no leaks or other issues, it was finally time to turn on the PC!

First time turning on the PC after installing custom loop:

Computer Purple Entertainment Computer cooling Audio equipment

I was surprised to see how good the default RGB puke settings from the motherboard looked! The Mystic Fog coolant in acrylic tubing does its job picking up the RGB lighting even in a brightly lit room. But I had a plan in mind for the RGB already. I set the PC up on my desk and got everything plugged in and ready to go. The first thing I did was change the RGB and fan settings. You might have noticed a GPU holder in the case at this point; that is a ROG Strix Herculx GPU holder. I moved that closer to the front of the graphics card after moving the PC to my desk. The GPU with the water block, active backplate, and liquid is pretty heavy so I think having that extra support will be beneficial in the long run to prevent any tubes from pulling or PCI-E slot damage.

PC with personalized RGB:

Automotive lighting Motor vehicle Automotive design Gas Electric blue

Blue RGB lighting complete with Squirtle plushie. Squirtle is a Water type, and he’s a pretty cool dude. It makes sense that a cool water type dude should be the mascot for my Water-cooled build.

This is as far as I got with the build over the weekend, but I’ll probably make another update to this build log to show my full setup including desk, chair, peripherals, etc. sometime next week. I really can’t think of any need to overclock the GPU, but I am curious to see what’s possible with the 4090 and 13900K config.

I hope this Build Log has been enjoyable for anyone reading it! And if it somehow helps anyone in any way then that’s even better! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this project and it’s been a great time documenting and sharing the experience with you all.

I’ll leave you with the full build sheet:

Font Parallel Rectangle Screenshot


GPU Water Block:
EK-Quantum Vector² AMP/Trinity RTX 4090 ABP Set D-RGB - Nickel + Plexi

CPU Water Block:
EK-Quantum Velocity² D-RGB - 1700 Nickel + Plexi

Corsair Leak Tester:

16mm OD Compression Fitting:
Bitspower G 1/4" Enhanced Straight Compression Fitting - Matte Black - Micro Center

15mm Extender:
Bitspower G 1/4" 15 mm Block Extender - Matte Black - Micro Center

25mm Extender:
Bitspower G 1/4" 25mm Male to Female Extender - Matte Black - Micro Center

90-Degree Swivel Adapter Fitting:
Bitspower G 1/4" 90° Swivel Adapter Fitting - Matte Black - Micro Center

90-Degree Dual Swivel Adapter Fitting: Bitspower G 1/4" 90° Dual Swivel Adapter Fitting - Black - Micro Center

90-Degree Adapter Fitting:
Bitspower G 1/4" 90° Adapter Fitting - Matte Black - Micro Center

45-Degree Swivel Adapter Fitting:
Bitspower G 1/4" 45° Swivel Adapter Fitting - Matte Black - Micro Center

Pre-Bent 90-Degree Acrylic Tubing:
Bitspower Pre-bent 90 Degree 16mm Rigid Tubing - Clear, 4 Piece - Micro Center

Path Alignment Fitting:
Bitspower Path Alignment Fitting - Glorious Black 2 Pieces - Micro Center

Tube Deburring Tool:
PrimoChill PETG / Acrylic Reamer/Deburring Tool - Micro Center

90-Degree ATX Motherboard Power Adapter:

CableMod PSU Cables: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BJ33HFHD?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details

Drain Valve:

90-Degree USB Type E Adapter: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09S3MBRXB/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

ROG Strix Herculx:

· Registered
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I like it man. Well done
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Nice Job (y)
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