A lot of us are concerned about heat. Too much heat can wreak havoc with one's system, which is why it's so important to keep components cool. CPUs and video cards are prime heat sources, but typically very little thought is put towards the hard drive. Like anything else, running at high temperatures, a drive's life span can be shortened, as well as the possibility of corrupted data (or lost altogether) increases.
In a well designed case, this may not be much of an issue as most cases offer an 80mm intake fan in the front to draw cool air into the chassis. Normally, the hard drive is located in this region, and is cooled as a byproduct of the fan's true purpose. In reality, although the hard drive does get cooled, and where do you think the warmed air goes to? If you guessed into the rest of your components, you just won yourself a cookie (though you'll need to head to the grocery store and buy your own). Granted, the extra heat isn't really all that much, but it doesn't disappear into thin air is what you have to keep in mind. This theory holds true for most hard drive coolers as well, as the hot air has to go somewhere, and it rarely goes immediately out of the case.
Another problem which is becoming more of a concern these days is the issue of noise. Even silent fans generate some noise, and coupled with the various fans in your case and on your heatsinks, your computer can be the cause of many headaches if the noise levels are left unchecked.
This is where water cooling comes in. Although water cooling isn't truly silent, compared to a similarly performing air cooler(s), they are relatively silent. If you're already cooling your system with water, asetek has a new hard drive cooler that can be added to your setup. We'll be taking a look at the asetek Hard Drive Cooler, and see if it can cool your drive effectively, and see if it can do so without being a detriment to your existing water cooled setup.
asetek Hard Drive Water Cooler
" Push on fittings for tool-less and easy assembly of tubes on the HDD Cooler.
" Support for all internal hard drives.
" Easy mount of the Hard Drive Cooler on the hard disk.
" A machined finish that ensures a high and unique quality and perfect hard disk contact.
" An extremely good plainness and surface smoothness.
" Pure copper base plate - providing best possible heat removal ratio.
" Fittings (/tubes) for maximum flow.
" ALL fittings and mounting accessories included in standard package.
There are a couple versions of the asetek Hard Drive Cooler. We received the 3.5" bay version with ½" OD fittings, but they do offer a larger 5.25" bay cooler. Both sizes have 10mm and ½" OD fitting options.
The 3.5" bay cooler is essentially one big block. No assembly is required for the block itself. As with asetek's standard water blocks, the Hard Drive Cooler features a translucent housing that allows you to monitor the water levels and to watch for air bubbles.
There are two 3/8" ID fittings for inlet and outlet. There isn't any documentation on which is the preferred setup, but our tests show no difference in performance so feel free to use either one as the inlet and outlet depending on your case design.
A closer look on the blocks reveal the copper base plate that connects to the hard drive. The plate is machine finished, and mate quite well with our test drive. In some situations, there may be little contact with the drive itself when installing the block, but asetek also includes a gap filler to improve the contact.
Installation is quite simple. Depending on which version of the hard drive cooler you choose, you're going to want to make sure your case can accommodate the combined hard drive and cooler.
Pictured next to the hard drive cooler is a Seagate 7200.7. As you can see, the cooler is roughly the same length and width. The cooler is just slightly lower than the hard drive when you compare the height, but effectively, if your case can fit two stacked hard drives, you shouldn't have any problems getting the assembled kit to fit.
Setting things up is a three step process. First, you'll want to select a hard drive, and have the bottom (where there are four screw holes) facing you. Slide the cooler on top of it until the holes match up.
Insert four small screws and tighten each one into the holes. By itself, there is a slight space between the cooler and hard drive motor, so as mentioned earlier, you can place a gap filler (essentially, a heat conductive pad) which is included with the kit to maximize performance.
Next up is deciding on the water flow input and output. It doesn't really matter which one you use, but we used the left side (when facing the assembly from the rear) as the inlet and the right side as outlet. If you have an existing water setup, flow is important, so while our method can be debated, we felt the following worked best for us:
Pump - CPU - Hard Drive - Radiator - Reservoir
ASUS P5AD2 Premium: Intel Pentium 4 560 (3.6GHz), 2 x 512MB Corsair XMS5400 ProSeries DDR2 (4-4-4-12), ASUS Extreme AX800XT, 160GB Seagate Barracuda V, asetek Water Chill Kit, Lian Li V1000 Case.
We'll be gauging the performance of the HDD block with and without the gap filler. The baseline temperature will be the hard drive without any special cooling and the case intake fan in the V1000 turned off (though we will be demonstrating temperatures with the 120mm fan on as well). We'll be using the asetek KT12AT-L20 kit, which features a Hydor L20 pump, and a large 120 mm DUAL Black Ice Pro II radiator for the HDD block tests. The Lian Li's 120mm fan will be on during the water cooling tests, though note our comments in the conclusion later on.
To place the load on the hard drive, we configure the Seagate as one partition, and ran a disk defrag and virus scan at the same time and recorded the temperatures every minute until completion (13 minutes). Note that the drive contained a fresh installation of Windows XP, and defragged once prior to the start of these tests. After the defrag, the drives were allowed to idle until the temperatures lowered and stabilized. We then averaged the results to give an indication of the typical operating temperature in day-to-day use.
Ambient room temperature was maintained at 23°C/74°F.
|HDD Block w/filler
The asetek Hard Drive Water Cooler maintains the lowest averages, with and without the gap filler, when compared to the non-water cooled tests. With the gap filler, we see the lowest Idle and Load results, with a load temperature 14°C cooler than a drive without any cooling. While the drive runs much cooler with the 120mm fan running, it still doesn't come close to the water cooled results.
Based on our results today, it's obvious that most hard drives should be cooled to some degree. The Seagate Barracuda is generally cooler than most drives, and yet we've still hit 55°C at its peak without any cooling. Realistically, I think most of our readers will have at the minimum one case fan drawing air over their drives, and doing so can make a dramatic difference in the drive's operating temperature. Adding more fans will improve the cooling, but add to the overall noise.
What if noise is not much of a concern? To be totally honest, with a decent case design and intake fan placement, the HDD block is not required in our opinion. The average operating temperatures with a 120mm intake fan were not that far removed from the asetek Hard Drive Water Cooler without the gap filler. While the water cooled setup was better regardless, with the 120mm fans, the drive temperatures were very acceptable.
That being said, the asetek Hard Drive Water Cooler had a fine showing today, providing the best cooling performance for our drives. Interestingly enough, when we disabled the case's 120mm intake fan, temperatures did not change much (1°C higher at max load without the gap filler), so if you're looking for a reason to disable any hard drive air cooling to create a quieter setup, this is the way to go.
Pros: Excellent cooling performance, easy to use, good construction quality.
Cons: Not required if your case has good airflow over the drive(s). Eats up one 3.5" bay.
Bottom Line: A solid offering from asetek, that can make a huge difference in extending the longevity and reliability of your hard drive. If you already own an existing water cooling setup, you might want to consider this to round things out.
If you have any comments, be sure to hit us up in our forums.