The purpose of this post is to discuss applying and re-applying thermal paste as well as some general tips. This is generally a really simple task that cannot be messed up unless you forget to do it or apply too little. Thermal paste is of course the paste you put on your heatsink which is then applied to a processor. You can also apply this to other components like the graphics card. It may be a good idea to cool graphics cards, especially if they are one of the top graphics cards from AMD or NVIDIA. It will protect your investment.
Do not use anything but thermal paste. It has been tried and does not work. Examples of what not to use include but are not limited to:
- Liquid Metal
- Thermal “Pasta”
- Thermal Pads
- Candle Wax
In all seriousness and jokes aside, thermal paste is the best and it is proven. It is not a good idea to try to use an alternative. An application of thermal paste will bridge the bond between the heatsink and processor. It will reduce pockets of air that act as heat insulators for the processor.
How to Apply Thermal Paste
Applying thermal paste is really simple. You can’t mess it up unless you use too little. Intel says you only need to apply the size of a grain of rice or pea. But there are many who use a generous amount of thermal paste, enough to cover the surface area of the heatsink and processor.
Before applying thermal paste, make sure the two surfaces that it will bridge are clean and dry. Make sure you have your components ready for install.
How To Remove and Re-Apply Thermal Paste
Removing old thermal paste is a simple exercise. Reapplying thermal paste does not need to happen unless you notice your CPU temperatures rising or if you remove or change out the heatsink. This is especially true if you upgrade PCs every 3-5 years. If you keep your PCs longer than that, it may be a good idea.
Your first step in removing old thermal paste is to apply isopropyl alcohol to the area. Then, remove it with a microfiber cloth or paper towel. Let it dry and then re-apply thermal paste to the area. Put the heatsink back in place and screw down tightly.
What If I Touch the Thermal Paste area?
Touching thermal paste once it has been applied is a common occurrence. It is really not a big deal and nothing to fret over. The important thing is that the thermal paste is still there. If the area touched took away thermal paste you will need to re-apply it or add more. If there is any residue such as hair or specs of dust or dirt on the area between the heatsink and processor, it should be removed.
What’s the Best Thermal Paste?
Thermal paste is generally a commodity. That means most of the brands out there manufacture the same compounds to get thermal paste. Deciding what thermal paste to get comes down to a brand-trust and price decision. The most important thing when buying thermal paste is to make sure you get it from a reputable source. The last thing you want to do is put something that has the consistency of mayo on your processor. Here are a few on Amazon.com that have high reviews and are priced competitively.
Thermal Paste vs. Thermal Grease
Thermal paste and thermal grease are used interchangeably to describe the same thing: thermal compound. There are two types of thermal compound, one’s that are conductive and others that are non-conductive. The conductive thermal compounds may contain silver, copper and/or aluminum. Conductive thermal paste are superior in application but present risk when applied as it can short-circuit electrical components if mis-applied. Non-conductive thermal compounds are zinc or silicone based and do not natively present a risk like that.