How to buy and install a closed-loop liquid cooler—it's not as scary as you think

Sealed all-in-one liquid-cooling systems are safe, effective, and easy to install.

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Installing a closed-loop liquid cooler

The NZXT Kraken X62 is designed for larger PC cases, boasting a full-length (315 x 143 x 30mm) radiator and twin 140mm fans for high performance. Like most coolers, it supports a range of modern Intel and AMD CPU sockets courtesy of dedicated mounting brackets.

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The NZXT Kraken X62 Liquid Cooler

The box also includes motherboard standoffs, mounting screws, a power cable set and Mini-USB cable for controlling the pump and integrated RGB LEDs.

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Opening the box.

Prepare your PC

A little preparation is required before you can install a closed-loop cooler. You’ll need access to all sides of your PC case (and potentially the top), so remove all panels and, if necessary, remove any components that are likely to get in your way during installation. GPUs, RAM modules, and drive cages are prime suspects.

Let’s assume you’re replacing a stock heatsink and fan assembly with your new AIO cooler. Unplug the CPU fan, then carefully loosen the retaining pins that hold the heatsink in place. You can now lift off the heatsink, exposing the top of the CPU.

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Clean off the residual goo before installing the new CPU cooler.

You’ll probably see some thermal paste residue on the top surface of the CPU. This needs to be cleaned off to ensure your new AIO cooler pump has a strong thermal contact with the CPU. For cleaning, you can use a lint-free cloth (coffee filter paper also works well) with 90 percent-plus isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

Alternatively, try a specialist cleaner such as Artic Silver ArtiClean, which emulsifies and dissolves the existing thermal grease. It’s bundled with a purifying solution that further prepares the CPU surface for the pump’s integrated thermal pad.

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Specialist solutions like ArtiClean make light work of thermal grease residue.

Install the pump backplate

With a sparkling CPU and free access to your case, you can make a start on installing the new cooler. The first job is to install a backplate on the rear of your motherboard, behind the CPU, that will be used to secure the pump assembly on top of the processor.

You should find a range of brackets included with your cooler which complement various AMD and Intel socket designs. The bracket may be equipped with adjustable mounts—be sure to check your closed-loop liquid cooler’s manual to ensure you select the right position. 

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Inserting the bracket.

I’m going with the LGA1151 bracket, which is designed for the Intel Core i7-6700K installed in this PC. Before installing, I need to move four sliders on the bracket to their innermost positions, which guarantees the correct fit for my motherboard.

On the rear of the motherboard, you should notice four holes surrounding the processor. Insert the bracket’s mounting points into these holes, then move around to the front of the motherboard. Secure the bracket in place with four screw-in standoffs.

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The standoffs secure the bracket and serve as mounting points for the pump.

You may notice that the rear bracket remains a little loose at this point, despite the standoffs being tightly connected. That’s expected, so don’t worry—everything will tighten up once the pump is connected.

Install the radiator fans

Before we connect the pump to the motherboard, let’s get the radiator fans installed. These ship loose in the box, so they need to be secured to the radiator before slotting the assembly into the case. You can install fans on either side of the radiator, depending on available room in your case and airflow preference.

The Kraken X62 ships with two fans, which I’ve found to be more than adequate to cool a powerful gaming PC with a high-end GPU. I mount these on the interior of the radiator (that is, the side nearest PC’s internals) to push air through the radiator grills and out of the case. Alternatively, you can mount the fans on the opposite side of the radiator to pull air through the grills. There are continual debates on whether “push” or “pull” configurations perform better. I prefer the aesthetics of push configurations, but feel free to experiment in your own case.

Installing fans on both sides of the radiator creates a “push/pull” configuration, where warm air inside the case is pushed through the radiator by one set of fans and then pulled out of the case by the second set of fans. Obviously, this configuration requires more space inside the PC (and will increase noise output) but can enhance cooling performance. That said, many modern coolers are supplied with high-performance static pressure fans (like the Aer P models bundled with the Kraken X62) and the difference may be negligible.

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As I’m going to push air through the radiator and out of the case, I’m installing the fans on the interior-facing side of the grill.

Whichever configuration you choose, be sure to check for any arrows or labels printed on the fans that show you the direction of airflow. The last thing you need is your fans pushing warm air from the radiator back into the case! The fans supplied with the Kraken X62 don’t provide much of a clue, but airflow direction is from the side with the black NZXT logo to the side with the purple sticker. 

Connect the fans to the radiator using the screws supplied. You’ll need to position the fans to ensure their cables can reach the motherboard fan headers neatly. Trial and error is the way forward here, but I found that positioning the wires toward the rear of the case in a central position worked best for cable management.

Install the radiator

With the radiator fans in place, we can now get on with installing the cooler into the case. You can choose to secure the radiator first, or the pump. I find it easier to secure the radiator, then screw down the pump.

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Look for radiator mounting points on the top, front, or rear of your case.

A good modern gaming PC case should include mounting points for a radiator. As mentioned, I’m installing this cooler at the top of my case, where a series of screw holes are available to secure the radiator.

Carefully insert the radiator into the case, ensuring that you thread the fan cables through any necessary slots as required. Be careful not to bash the pump or kink the rubber hoses that connect it to the radiator as you orientate the cooler into position. When you’re ready, use the supplied screws and washers to secure the radiator in place.

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The radiator is fitted.

Install the pump

Our next step is to secure the pump to the motherboard and CPU. You’ll notice that the pump has an integrated retention bracket that should fit neatly over the motherboard standoffs we installed earlier. You may need to connect this bracket to the pump if you haven’t done so already.

Place the pump on to the CPU (checking orientation to ensure that any branding or graphics are displayed correctly), ensuring the standoffs go through the holes on the retention brackets. Check the radiator tubing to ensure there are no kinks or blockages, then secure the cooler with the supplied thumbscrews. Once installed, you should find that the front and rear brackets are now tight.

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The pump is in place.

Connect the cables

Now that the pump and radiator are in place, we can connect the necessary power and control cables to the motherboard. The Kraken X62’s pump, like some competing closed-loop liquid coolers, is equipped with integrated RGB LEDs so there are a host of cables to hook up.

First is the power cable, which connects to the top of the pump.

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Connecting the power cable.

Three sets of connectors run from the other end of this cable. The first is a three-pin connector for the pump tach, which controls and monitors the pump speed. It should be connected to the CPU_FAN header on your motherboard.

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Connecting the pump controller.

The second is a standard SATA power connector, which can be plugged into a relevant connector attached to your power supply.

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Power to the pump is supplied via a SATA power cable, just like the ones used for your hard drives.

The third set of connectors on the power cable are for the radiator fans. Four fan connectors are available for push-pull configurations, but on this installation, we’ll be only using two of them. Slot the fan cables into the four-pin connectors as required.

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Connecting the fan cables.

Finally, a Mini-USB cable, for controlling the pump LEDs, connects between the pump and a spare USB 2.0 internal header on your motherboard.

With that, your AIO closed-loop liquid cooler installation is complete. You’re ready to test!

Next page: First power on, AIO cooler software

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