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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE Details, Pictures and Links - Updated 3/23

    Preface: So seeing this whole PC setup that Puget did inspired me. I actually caught wind of this when I found myself blowing three air canisters of dust out of my PC, thus resolving my overheating issue lol. I wanted a way to be completely dustless, and frankly, look good. I'm not a huge gamer, and I don't do overclocking, so this setup isn't even for "extreme cooling" for myself... this is partially for the fun of doing it, and the fact that someone will walk into my house and say "Oh, cool fishtank, where are the fish?" and I can reply with "No, that's my computer." I also wanted to use different elements of Puget's different versions to incorporate into my V1. For example, take their power plug receptacle they introduced in V2 and put that in my V1.

    I am planning on installing Ubuntu on the machine primarily since I'm going to be using very cheap hardware at first. I want to use the cheap stuff, go the non-intensive route, then later install a Windows platform if I so decide.

    The overall intent of this writeup is to document my work in doing this, as well as show others that for someone with ZERO(0) liquid cooling experience, this isn't as hard as it looks(hopefully hehe).

    I am slowly working on gathering all the materials needed for my preliminary model. Here are the materials grouped down by when/how I'll be needing them.

    I haven't yet decided on which one, but once I get the motherboard tray in tomorrow, I'll take the entire tray to the petstore and start dropping it in tanks to see which fits the best. I anticipate a small amount of modifications to the actual plastic cover of the tank to allow my motherboard tray to sit properly within the tank. So far, I'm leaning towards this tank, but the dimensions are very close to the motherboard tray dimensions, so I'm going to wait to be sure. I may end up cutting some of the motherboard tray down once I get it to allow it to fit. Part of the idea behind this is to allow myself to find/purchase LESS mineral oil to cut down on costs.

    Motherboard Tray
    I've purchased the Lian Li Replacement Removable Motherboard Tray as in the Puget Systems V1 model.( It will be arriving tomorrow, which I'll take it to the few local pet stores to drop it in some tanks to find the most compact fit(again, to save money on buying mineral oil).

    Mineral Oil
    This is actually proving to be a challenge to find it locally. Most vets have no idea what I'm talking about. I've managed to find a couple feed stores, and large animal vets, but none of them have been able to procure 5-10 gallons. I'm shooting for 5 because I'm looking at 5-6 gallon tanks. I figure the displacement of the computer components will at least be a gallon. Any extra is for my own testing or incidental loss of original, but I don't want to spend more than I need to. I could order it from STE Oil, but I'm trying to go the local route first. Some of the terms I've learned in what I'm looking for are "Technical Grade Mineral Oil" Viscosity 70T(which is the thinnest, and will move best)

    Computer Components
    Surprisingly, when I told people that I was building this, I had a ton of people offering me components to build with, just for the principle of them wanting to see it done. I also work in IT, so that may have something to do with all the spare parts laying around. In any event, I received enough spare parts from people to build an additional PC to what I already have, so I don't "risk" my higher end PC on the first test, similar to what Puget did on their first model.
    My first model will consist of the following(again, all based on free hand-me-down components):
    • 450W ATX Power Supply
    • Generic Motherboard
    • Intel Pentium 4 3.06Ghz CPU
    • Generic CPU Heatsink
    • 2GB DDR2 RAM
    • 80GB SATA drive

    These are just the core PC components that is the bare minimum to getting the system functional.

    From what I can think of, these are the basic components to getting the system functional plain and simple. Now as far as extra pieces of hardware that I'm going to use to compose the system, below is the "Extra" stuff I'm going to use and where it came from. Some of these you won't want to do without.

    Extra Stuff
    • Computer Power Socket - Got this to break the power cable and am planning on cutting a hole in the motherboard tray for this.
    • PCI Sata and Power Bracket - Considering I won't be using an SSD drive for my first model, I am going to incorporate this to allow for me to bring my power and SATA connections to a drive outside the liquid, using motherboard mounts and thumbscrews to support the hard drive off the surface of the tank.
    • Direct Connect Power/HDD LED's - This is really just to save the time/trouble of making them myself.
    • External CD/DVD Drive - I wanted something small but functional, so I got this to act as the external media device and also for installing the OS(So you'll probably need something like this anyway if you don't already have the OS pre-installed on the system).
    • Asus Wireless-N USB Adapter - I wanted to have as few cables as possible so I got this for a wireless device. I don't know about its range/quality yet, but I know the router won't be far away so I'm not too concerned about distance anyway.
    • Asus Bluetooth Dongle - Same idea as the above, I wanted few wires, and I already have a few misc bluetooth devices laying around to test with the system.
    • Power Switch - To toggle the system on and off, I decided I'd make my own so it could be exactly what I wanted.
    • Handles - Similar to the ones Puget sells, I'm not sure if I'll need handles yet, so I've omitted this from my pre-build purchases.
    • USB Hub - This is negotiable, as I don't foresee myself using all of the existing USB ports, but I wanted to keep the option available to myself in case the need arose.
    • Tank Gravel
    • Bubble Stone, Air Pump and Tubing

    • Radiator - I haven't decided on this yet since I'm not going to heavily test my machine, but I will be doing this in the near future once I get it built up to start.
    • Submersible Pump - Same as the radiator, but I'll probably get the one Puget offers
    • Tubing for the Pump/Radiator - Obvious.
    • PCI Quick Disconnect Kit - Something like this will allow for disconnecting of the tubing without removing the entire system once I get to that point.

    This concludes my part list and pre-build preparations, feel free to ask any questions regarding any of these parts or my intended implementation for them. I have more information I'll post shortly, but I'm going to lunch
    Last edited by jgruberman; 03-26-2012 at 07:41 AM. Reason: Added parts I got

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Pre-Build Prep: Power Switch

    Pre-Build Prep: Power Switch

    Well I decided to opt against the power switch sold by Puget and make my own because I wanted it to be a smaller, more discreet button. Here's what I bought:

    Normally Open Pushbutton Switch - The HUGELY important thing to be aware of is "normally open", or "N.O." on some packaging. This means that the circuit is open and not connected, so when you push the button, it momentarily closes the circuit, or "touches the connections". When the circuit is closed, the power signal is sent to the motherboard. If the circuit is closed for 5 seconds or more, the motherboard will hard shut down(as I'm sure you're familiar with from your regular case).
    HDD LED Extension Cable - I got two of these.
    Heat Shrink Tubing - So the project remains clean looking

    Cut the end off of one extension cable(the end that doesn't connect to the motherboard). Again, KEEP THE END THAT PLUGS INTO THE MOTHERBOARD!! (Illustrated below)

    Cut both ends off the other. Using soldering tools(ideally), solder the cable ends together. Cover with some heat shrink and shrink to fit. (Illustrated below)

    After the two extension cables are soldered together, connect either end to each end of the button prongs, solder and cover in heat shrink. I'll admit that I forgot to put the heatshrink on a couple times and had to cut the cable just so I could put the heat shrink back on... don't forget this After you're done with the button, it should look like something below:

    Upon completing the cable, soldering all connections, fitting heat shrink on all connections for solid connectivity, you should have something looking like this:

    I unplugged the existing power button cable from my good working PC's motherboard(while it was running since they are all open circuits and nothing is active), plugged in this one, then pushed the button once, and the PC went right into standby mode, just as if I pushed the button on the case. Tested the 5 second hold for hard reboot, and that worked too. So now here's my button in fully tested and working order.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Pre-Build: Motherboard Tray Prep

    Pre-Build: Motherboard Tray Prep

    So needless to say, I got the motherboard tray in today. And additionally needless to say, I forgot to take pictures of it in its entirety. My entire goal was to use less mineral oil(cuz it's a PITA to find) and a smaller, more conventional tank. Soooooo I wanted to try for this tank:

    So I got the motherboard tray in, and looking at THIS tank, a few issues arose.
    1) The tray is a little longer than I expected and sticks out of the top of the aquarium a few inches.
    2) The back panel of the motherboard tray is just BARELY sitting on the aquarium lid(this is good), BUT two small corners overlap the lid since it's a bow front.

    I decided for fun's sake, I was going to cut the motherboard tray down to the size of the motherboard give or take a few millimeters for a buffer. I figured that as long as I used a certain size mobo, it wouldn't hurt to cut it down for fitting purposes OR for looks since I wasn't going the acrylic tray look JUST YET. Here's what the tray SORT OF looked like before I cut it down.

    AFTER I cut the panel piece off. I used a dremmel disc, and for the edge, I actually sanded the egdes down with another dremmel tip. I figured that if I was going to cut it down, I might as well try and give it a stock look, and I think it came out a bit more custom feeling(Will see more with the parts on)

    Cutting Bit

    Sanding Bit:

    Finished Product:

    After fitting of components:

    Different angle, with the LED switch PCI bracket installed(last on the left):

    Top of the tray, with the button included from the above steps:

    For the button, I simply took a drill bit and drilled a hole big enough for the button and screwed the other side on. Somewhere around the button, I intend on putting the power plug receptacle once I get it from Puget. Tomorrow morning, I'm getting the mineral oil in the morning, and hopefully looking at a few more places for a 6 gallon tank before I spring for the 5 gallon tank shown above. I figured that the 6 gallon tank would work best as far as fitment. I'm getting 10 gallons of mineral oil so I have some extra because I'm driving 65 miles one way to get the oil, so I'll be damned if I'm going to make that drive twice. Stay tuned

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    Pre-Build: Mineral Oil Prep

    So I drove out to the country to get the mineral oil. Not only was the drive painful, but I felt like once I got there, I was in the middle of a horror movie, surrounded by "backwoods". Rusted pickup trucks, and random clotheslines with clothes everywhere. ANYWAY... I got the 10 gallons of mineral oil for $50... great price. I happened to find this guy on CraigsList that had liquidated his gel candle factory and was selling the oil for dirt cheap.

    Problem was, that when I got home, the dirt cheap part was literal, as there were little dirt particles floating around my newly gotten oil. This wasn't even that big of an issue, but me being a perfectionist, I wanted the oil clean. So I went to Home Depot and bought two 5-gallon paint containers and a 2 pack of paint skimmers. I wrapped the paint skimmer around the bucket(as was it's purpose), and THEN poured the oil from one bucket into another. But you know how when you pour liquid from one glass into another, the liquid catches the side of the glass and dribbles down? I didn't want that to happen on my 5 gallon containers in my living room, so I cut a small hole in one side to pour liquid out of, and another even smaller hole on the opposite side to relieve air pressure. If you don't cut that second smaller hole, you'll get that "glug glug" effect as it comes out, and is much harder to control the pouring flow.

    This is how it actually flowed while pouring(what I had intended)

    After all of the pouring, not only did I have the oil in nice pretty containers with measurements on the side and nice soft foam handles, I had removed some of the sediment and random crud that was floating around it.

    Next step: final fitting

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    Build: Final Fitting

    So I had a bit of a snafu. The 5 gallon tank in the pics above was simply too small. It fit absolutely PERFECTLY around the PCI slot side, but even after cutting, it was still too shallow. So... I returned that to Petsmart and ended up finding an Eclipse 12 on Craigslist for $20 I'm hoping this won't be a problem since I got 10 gallons of oil, hoping the displacement of all the PC parts is enough to make up for that last two gallons. I had a feeling that I'd have to do some modifications to get this one to work correctly, and I was correct. Since the tray fit perfectly in the 5 gallon tank opening, I had a feeling I'd have some work to do to get it to fit right in this one. This is when I realized the significance in the acrylic cutout that Puget did in their Original video around the 30 second mark. Fortunately, just for the purposes of fitment, there was a single beam across the middle of the tank. So I cut a piece of this beam off, and let the motherboard sit on the beam and the back lip... it seemed to do okay.

    BUT the problem with this setup is that the beam was a little flimsy, and I didn't quite trust it, especially with a hard drive sitting on top of it. The last thing I need it the tray to fall in randomly throughout the day and then the HDD is toast. So I decided to go to Home Depot again and buy some brackets that I could lay across the tank in a similar manner to how this tape measure is laid out, only UNDER the tray.

    I decided that if I got a bracket similar to the picture above on each side, that would be adequate and it would also allow for me to still easily pull it in and out of the liquid if I so needed to, while providing plenty of upwards ventilation rather than sealing the whole tank off(I may kick myself later for this). So this is what I bought:

    The straight bracket is 9 inches, and the corner is 6 inches on both sides. I figure I will either use the 9 inch one and have one on each side, or I can cut the 6 inch bracket in half and have a nice 45 degree angle on a side to help placement. Either way, I'll get one of these to work. Then I'll attach them to the motherboard either by screws or solder(or both) depending on how well they sit. After I get the brackets attached, I should be ready to pour the oil in and perform the first test in the liquid. Also, I'm waiting on a couple misc. parts from Puget today like the power plug receptacle, SATA/Power PCI bracket, and some mobo LED's. Tonight will be a busy(non oil pc) night for me, so I won't likely get a chance to do much until tomorrow. On the bright side, next comes the fun stuff!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    Re-Build: Bracket Fitment

    So I brought the brackets home on my lunch hour because I'm very impatient. I placed them on the tank in the proposed location that I planned, and they sat perfectly.

    I did a little bit of soldering just to get the plates to stick to the mobo tray to make sure that it worked how I planned, and I was able to lift the tray and it lift the plates too. So this is a better setup. It rests on the back of the tank, AND each side.

    I feel much better about its stability now. I broke off the solder because I didn't trust any loose solder above the oil. I purchased some screws/nuts and I'll drill holes in each bracket and screw them to the mobo so there are no faulty connections, or chance of solder getting into the mineral oil.

    When I get home tonight if I have time, I'll drill the holes, screw it in and check the final placement before oil gets in. Also, my package from Puget got delayed because Fedex doesn't know how to deliver to my apartment front office, so I have to wait another day or two to get the parts. Luckily, they aren't crucial parts, but I'll need them soon.....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    Re-Build: Bracket Attachment!

    So everyone is asleep in the house,
    the kiddo, the woman, except the dog chasing a mouse...

    So downstairs I go into the bathroom lab I've set up, close the door, and start marking and drilling holes. I bought a little baggie of 8 screws/nuts so I figured I'd drill four holes in each side... that'll give for PLENTY of support and stability holding these brackets to the motherboard tray. After the work is complete:

    Closer view(and I never cleaned the solder off the brackets, which is the discoloration):

    So the brackets are drilled, screwed in, and sittin' pretty. The motherboard tray is very stable now, and I'm at least comfortable for the time being with the tray sitting on the brackets, versus before and it resting on a single plastic beam. I loaded some stuff in as placeholders, and I realize that I couldn't have easily done this with the 5 gallon tank. Also, this will allow me to put some fun diver stuff in or whatever misc. junk you put in a fishtank. I still have to attach the CCRT lights to the motherboard tray... but that should just be a couple drilled holes and zipties. So far, we have:

    Very rudimentary, but I think tomorrow night I should be able to put the mineral oil in. Plus, find some nice full arm gloves or something similar when I start to deal with the oil. Or at least some way to easily get the oil off of me. This may not be the most orthodox way to do all of this, but I like to think this is the cheaper, "average joe" route. I'm sure one day, I'll buy the Puget system, but I like the experience and it's really fun to always have a new step to come home to after work... puts some promise to the work day coming to an end

    Next steps(maybe not in this order if I decide otherwise later):
    Find SATA cords(will take from the parts PC at work tomorrow hehe)
    Pour in oil, test system
    Place gravel
    Place air tubing/bubble stone
    Install CCRT lighting
    Take power supply out of housing for aesthetic appeal
    Connect SATA/Power bracket
    Install power plug receptacle in motherboard tray
    Find some petstore gadgets to place inside
    See if I can set a world record for fish holding its breath in mineral oil - This one is tentative
    Last edited by jgruberman; 03-26-2012 at 11:09 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    Final Assembly

    So after connecting cables and moving the hard drive for now so I could get it connected, I think it's all good to go. With the cover on the top, I have just enough room for everything that I need

    Little bit of a shaky pic, but you get the idea

    Aaaaaand after plugging everything in and finding the right power switch jumper pair on the motherboard.... wide angle, but shows the PC on, and the monitor lit up with the Ubuntu installer.

    Tonight: OIL!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Puget Sound vicinity

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    Hats off for a great documentary of your project. I'm more of a rusty pickup type guy from the country, so I chuckled a bit at that. LOVED the bathroom backdrop! Your "clean room"! Thanks for putting the project up on the forums for the non-mechanically inclinded to marvel over!

    Now add to the "to-do" list: robot fish! I keep begging, but that's been unpersuasive as far as I know.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2012

    Default Re: My Mineral Oil PC Project: COMPLETE with Details, Pictures and Links

    In all seriousness, if you get me the robot fish, I'll give it a try and record some video for you from submersion to what I would imagine, quick death.

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