In this guide we are going to mount a water block (and backplate) to a Graphics Card, step by step instructions will explain what to do and in the end, you’ll have a ready to water cool GPU, you will only have to put it in your system and connect the tubing. For this guide, we’ll be using EK Waterblocks so instructions might differ from other manufacturers.
Okay here we go, the first and most important thing to do is to make sure you have everything that you need, here is a little list that you can check off so you know absolutely that you have everything.
- Graphics Card (In this case an ASUS GTX780 DCII)
- Waterblock (for that specific GPU)
- Backplate (for this specific GPU, optional)
- Mounting screws
- Thermal Paste
- Thermal Pads
- Tools (Scissors, two Allen Keys supplied with the water block and backplate or your own Hex bit screwdrivers and a normal Philips Head Screwdriver)
In this guide, we’ll be using thermal paste and thermal pads sponsored by Thermal Grizzly instead of the standard type that comes with the water block and backplate.
I removed the air cooler from the Graphics Card beforehand, this is easily done by removing the screws on the backplate or back of your Graphics Card and disconnect the fan cable (there might also be another little header for LED power on other Graphics Cards), you can then clean the GPU with a simple soft cloth or for thorough cleaning you can use rubbing alcohol and q-tips and then remove the VRM heatsink. Be sure to safely store all screws and parts you take off so you can assemble it back if you wish to sell, RMA or just go back to air cooling it.
Now onto the part of installing the water block.
Step 1: Cutting and applying the thermal pads
For this part I’ll have to check the manual since the thickness of the pads on the VRAM and VRM might be different and I’m not using the standard thermal pads. The manual tells me that both need 0.5mm thick thermal pads.
*EKWB makes clear which thermal pads are for which by their shapes, the long thermal pads have to be cut into smaller parts to apply to the VRAM while the wider shorter thermal pad needs to be cut so it can be applied onto the VRM’s (This does not apply for every water block).*
Grab the thermal pad for the VRM section and place it on the VRM’s to decide how much we have to cut off if you want to be sure where to cut you can mark the spot where you want to cut.
After you cut the thermal pad to length, you can remove the film on one side and place it on the VRM section, then remove the other side of the film.
Now we go to the VRAM thermal pads.
Take the thermal pads that are meant for the VRAM section and measure how big the piece has to be to cover at least the whole memory module, then cut one piece off.
You can check if the piece is large enough if it is indeed the right size you can simply use that piece as a guide and cut all the pieces that you need, in my case I cut a total of twelve small pieces, one for every memory module.
Take a piece and remove the film on one side, place the thermal pad on a memory module and remove the other side of the film, repeat this to cover every memory module.
Step 2: Apply thermal Paste to the GPU
EKWB advises to apply thermal Paste in an eight lines cross form, in this guide we won’t use that method since the Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut comes with a special applicator tip to spread the thermal paste even and thin for the best performance, if you use the standard or other thermal paste I advise you to use the eight lines cross form as the image underneath shows (image from a manual by EKWB).
With some help of the special applicator nozzle, I applied a thin and even coat to the GPU.
Step 3: Mount the water block
Now you put the water block on the Graphics Card, of course, you want to place it so the screw holes line up.
Take four off the small screws and put the included washers on them, before screwing them in the four mounting points around the GPU, this will secure the water block onto the GPU, in case you do not have a backplate you should also use the 6 other screws to secure the water block completely to the card.
Step 4: Mount the backplate
*If you do not have a backplate your card is ready to be used inside your system after being connected to your water cooling loop*
The backplate also comes with a thermal pad that goes on the backside of the card to further cool the VRM’s, remove the film on one side and place it on the specific place so it gets pressed onto the backside of the VRM’s, then also remove the film on the second side.
Place the backplate on the Graphics Card so the holes on the backplate match those on the card.
Proceed by securing the backplate and water block to the Graphics Card with the supplied screws.
Your Graphics card is now ready to be put into your system and hook it up to your water cooling loop.
I have two cards so I assembled the second card.
And I had an EK bridge to mount the two together and here is the result with a bonus picture where I lit it up.
Have fun water cooling 🙂
Thanks to the thermal pad and thermal paste sponsor Thermal Grizzly for their support. Let us know in the comments if there’s a guide that we can put together to help with your build.