Mid-range PC - mid-life upgrade

Hi team,

I’m looking at doing a mid-life (my rig’s, not mine, I hope) upgrade for my current gaming PC.

The build always was a mid-tier PC (from memory I spent circa $1,800 NZD about three years ago - NZD was high at the time so circa $1,500 USD).

Here’s what’s under the hood currently:


Phase 1 of the upgrade will be primarily to liquid cool and overclock the i5 4690K CPU and look at whether a new PSU is required.

Phase 2 will be to get a new GPU and possibly a bigger screen. These upgrades will hopefully see me through another couple of years.

Here’s the draft version including a new GPU:


Main upgrades:
-liquid cooler for CPU
-1080 GPU
-another 256 GB SSD

I’m currently looking into how to fit the liquid cooling inside my case – I’d prefer to penny-pinch here a bit and hack a solution with the current case rather than buy a bigger case, but things do seem quite snug inside.

The N300 case is a relatively small case (http://www.coolermaster.com/case/mid-tower/n300/). There are two 120mm x 240mm meshes for radiators, one on the right side behind the HDD cage and another on the top.

It looks like the top radiator slot isn’t up high enough: the RAM modules stick out from the motherboard only about 30mm below the mesh and I think the radiator + fans won’t fit: I’m looking at CoolerMaster MasterLiquid ML240L for the cooling and it needs 57.15mm height with the fans.

That leaves the right side grille but even that looks like I may need to remove the right side of the HDD cage to fit the darn thing. I’d prefer to keep the front mesh free for the cool air intake.

One thing I’m wondering is – is my 550W PSU enough? It seems like I could be running a bit short on power. The Partpicker wattage calculator shows the wattage going from 391W to 426W but that doesn’t include overclocking.

Any thoughts / feedback re the proposed set up are welcome – this was my first PC-build and I’ve hardly been following the trends so definitely not an expert.

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I’d overclock the crap out of that 4690K on air. I’d also look for 32GB of the fastest DDR3 RAM I could find … your mobo supports 3000 but you’ll probably only be able to find 2400 … CL10 tho!

Last but not least, a 1080Ti. :slight_smile: or whatever is coming out this Autumn. You’ll need at least a 650 watt PSU for that.

Hopefully you’re running Windows 10.

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Your preference is air rather than liquid cooling, why’s that? I only have the default cooler at the moment so anything will be better than that, of course. Have you had to pay much attention to the case airflow if you’re air cooling?

I need to read up on RAM - I know nothing.

Yeah - the GPU is the one that’ll make by far the biggest impact, so can’t skimp on that.

Yep, running Win10.

I’m sure if I learned about liquid cooling I’d like it. :slight_smile: I just don’t want to deal with it. Get a nice CPU fan. I also like well ventilated full tower cases. Go big or go home is what I say. :slight_smile:

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I have come to believe that preventive maintenance is a thing for PSUs. I had three PSU failures in my gaming rigs in the past twenty years, usually after 4-6 years.

So besides the fact that you might need more Watts, that’s another factor to consider.

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I would also suggest a higher rated PSU if you are putting a 1080 series GPU in there … At least a 750w on a side issue I have just had a evga 750w PSU quit on me after about 2 months … At least they have good warranty system

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Which begs the question, do you guys shut down your rigs when not in use, or keep them running?

I always shut down.

Since 3 years or so I even pull the chord.

My limited shallow depth of water cooling extends to the Corsair H90 product - a self contained water cooler system. I call it ‘shallow depth’ both for the pun and the fact that you don’t have to mess with it. Other cooling systems require effort to assemble and make it work :slight_smile:


As for the graphics card, as mentioned above, I think that Nvidia is coming out with something new in a few months … so it might be wise to at least wait for that announcement to either offer a better product or drive down the cost of the current gen a little.


My PSU is like… uh… 9 years old. I only shut down when I need to. Never had a problem (of course now it’s going to break).


Well, according to people in the know, the gtx1180s are a long ways off.

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On the liquid cooling question, that’s basically one of whether you plan on OC’ing your CPU or not, right? In other words, if I ran my 8700 at 3.7, and had a reasonably well ventilated case, it would probably be happy with a CPU fan. But, I am OC to ~ 4.8 and have a compact case. So, liquid cooling is a necessity if I want a stable system @ 4.8. Had I a big well ventilate gaming case, I could probably go 5.0.

Similar here … using the h80i so far seems very good

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now seeing reports of July 30. Who knows?!

Regarding PSUs: get a decent UPS. That will make a huge difference in PSU life.

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When I was building my current PC 3 years ago, I was well aware of the risk of a PSU dying and possibly taking everything with it. This I researched and researched and finally bought a Seasonic X-750.
When I unpacked it from the black velvet sack, I knew I had not gone too cheap. However, to this day I think I bought a PSU that is too expensive compared to the rest of the rig. Ah well, better than too cheap AND I got 7 years of warranty with it. Which means it will probably last 10 years or more.

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Thanks for the input, guys - really valuable.

I ended up starting the process last night by getting and installing a Cooler Master ML240L - the ‘big air’ air coolers don’t fit my case so decided to go ahead with All-in-One liquid cooling.

Similar to @Fridge’s H90, the system is self contained. Fitting it into the N300 case was a bit of a mission and I ended up removing the HDD rack to make everything fit, but otherwise it was just like any other component - no playing with liquids or anything.

I’ll put up some pictures once I’ve dealt with the horrible cable mess. @Linebacker’s ‘go big or go home’ approach makes a lot of sense…but alas, I’m stubborn and want to make this work in the old case. You can ‘I told you so’ me later if it all turns to custard. :slight_smile:

It’s actually almost liberating to take apart & rebuild an ‘old’ computer - when all the components were new and it was my first time building, I was so scared of breaking something that it was a bit stressful.

The next step for me is to research and invest in a good quality 750W PSU, I think - that should have enough wattage headroom for any foreseeable upgrades. The good thing about a bottom-mounted PSU is that you don’t have to remove other components before installing.

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Big +1 on the Seasonic. I bought my X-850 five years ago … love it.

It turns out nobody imports Seasonic PSUs to NZ, how strange.

I’ve read a couple of in-depth articles at Tom’s Hardware and preventative PSU replacement looks more and more relevant.

For example, the electrolyte capacitors have fluid inside them that over time loses it’s characteristics and the amount of fluid actually decreases through evaporation. So PSUs definitely have a finite life (although I guess realistically the fans are more likely to give up the ghost before the electrolyte juice runs out).

I’ll just buy some blue Gatorade to refill the capacitors with, that stuff is full of electrolytes, isn’t it!

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PSU’s crave it!

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