© 2015 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. A two-stage 4-bed/stage silica-gel + water adsorption system is developed for combined cooling and desalination, which adopts air cooled heat rejection obviating the disadvantages of cooling towers. Each stage has four adsorbers: three beds with identical design and one bed having a marginally different design. The present paper describes the design features and constructional details of the various components of this system. The results presented herein focus only on the performance of the identical beds. The start-up transience of various components namely, the evaporator, the adsorber beds and the condenser, is presented in detail. The cyclic steady state characteristics of the adsorption system in 2- and 3-bed modes of operation are compared. Near identical specific throughput from the system is observed irrespective of the mode of operation.