May 20, 2012

My Silent HTPC - part 3

Finally, the day (or evening) arrived! Time to assemble the hardware and get this show on the road. Both the motherboard and the chassis included manuals, so starting off as any pc build.

After removing the base for the stock CPU cooler, attach the supplied nuts to the holes. I had no problems with them not sticking well, but that may be because I had some hours break before trying to screw anything into them.

The chassis already had spacers for a m-atx board in place, so just align the IO shield and board and secure it using the provided screws. With so many similar screws it might have been better if Streacom supplied a number on each bag indicating which screw goes where, but you should be able to figure it out anyhow.

Install the CPU, the RAM and SATA cables (if you're installing the optical drive). The RAM should be installed because it's easier now - when the heatpipes are in place, you'll need a very small finger to push the "release button". The optical drive totally blocks the SATA connectors.

Asus F1A75-M Pro

Now, mount the CPU cooling block. I was afraid of overtightening mine, but using the criss-cross method and stopping when it "felt right" - the steel brace was just getting a little bent - I had no problems. Though I think the supplier could have done better here. Either with some springs or spacers or whatever. Anyway probably better to go to loose in the first run than too hard, and end up crunching your CPU.

A word on applying the TIM (thermal inducing matter) to the CPU, I always relied on just a "drop" of TIM onto the center of the headspreader before, and I did again. It's a lot easier than trying to spread the TIM by hand, and the block does a pretty great job at spreading it out even when you press it down. If the whole heatspreader isn't covered it's not really a big deal; most of the heat comes from the center.

Time to attach the heatpipes! First, do a dry run. It's messy with the TIM applied. Luckily, I did a dry run, and what do you know - the pipes don't fit. The long ones run just too far. The short ones were no problem. As it turns out, copper is a very soft metal. So you can bend them very easily, without applying any heat or force. Two things to be aware of:

  1. They are filled with gas or liquid, to aid with the heat dissipation. 
  2. They can crack... 
You don't want number 2 to happen because of number 1. So, use as little force as possible, and dont bend them too far. If the heatpipe is straight, you probably shouldn't try and bend it to a ninety degree angle. If it cracks open, you'll risk the contents getting in your face, and you'll have a hard time soldering the broken pipe back together. Make sure you insert the heatpipes in the blocks before bending anything. If not, you'll have to be very careful when forcing them through the block later, or in the worst case, bend them back.

Heatpipes in lower part of CPU  block - dry run.

Heatpipe inserted in block? Good. To adjust the heatpipe, I just clenched my fist a little tighter around it and that bent it just enough for me to insert it into the chassis. It's a tight fit because of the power button. I also had to bend the part that goes into the CPU block, but very very slightly, and keep the part that goes into the block straight! When the heatpipes are aligned and tightened to test, you can apply the TIM. 

Heatpipes in block, bent and with TIM applied.

I know the manual suggests applying TIM to the heatpipes while in the block, and then spin them - I did not. I figured you want the heat to spread from the inside of the chassis, out to the cooling ribs on the outside - it makes sense to apply the TIM only on the ouf-facing side of the heatpipe. So I attached the bottom screw in the side-wall blocks, left some drops of TIM in there on the heat pipes, attached the other screw and tightened. The TIM should now be spread out evenly and without leaving a mess.

Finally mount the top part of the CPU block, first of course laying a very thin line of TIM in the ridges on the lower part of the block, then applying the same amount of TIM in the ridges of the top part, and finally put them together and tighten screws. Done!

Click here for part four!

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