Thermal Paste – It’s A Touchy Subject!

One question we get a lot from our followers is: “How do I apply the thermal paste properly?

This is a very good question, if you don’t perform this task properly there could be some serious consequences and in the worst case scenario you could “cook” your CPU. Don’t panic just yet! This is very uncommon as most of the motherboards nowadays have a “protection mode” and they will reboot or switch off if your CPU temperature becomes too high. First things first, though – what is thermal paste and what exactly does it do?

Consisting of a number of adhesives, compounds and liquid materials, thermal paste functions as a filler that sits between a processor and the heat sink. Be that a CPU or a GPU, a processor creates electrical heat, and that heat has to go somewhere before it can cause damage to the processor itself. This heat is a result of the processor doing exactly what it’s supposed to: draw electricity in order to run complex instructions so that gamers can game…and the rest of us can stare at memes.

Too Much Too Little!

As the amount of heat that a processor gives of is extremely high, relative to the size of the Die itself, attaching the processor directly to a heat sink would cause the chip to burn out and possibly set a blaze! And that’s the last thing you want to happen to your brand new spanky new PC. Thermal paste allows the heat to transfer from one place to the other with efficiency and safety. Which is exactly what you want should you require cool components and general usability from your machine.

While not necessarily complicated in itself, there is a great deal of controversy over the correct method of applying thermal paste. Regardless over the preferred method, one thing specifically will always apply to all: Not too much and not too little. Not using enough thermal paste (or not spreading it properly) will raise the CPU temperature, which in-turn results to the CPU cooler having to work harder than normal in order to keep temperatures down. This means a louder PC, a hotter PC, and a reduced lifespan from your components.

Too much thermal paste will have adverse effects, restricting efficient transfer of heat from the CPU – or GPU, through the thermal paste and onto the cooling heat sink. This means the processor will stay hot as the heat will have no where to go. So how does one go about applying thermal paste appropriately? What are the methods?

Let’s Begin!
[Skill Level:
I Like It Rough]

Firstly, always ensure prior thermal paste is removed from previously used components. This can be achieved using isopropyl alcohol or any thermal paste cleaning solution such as ArctiClean by Arctic Silver, or TIM Clean by Akasa. Simply apply the solution to a microfibre cloth or household kitchen paper and wipe until the processor is clean and dry. Now you’ll be ready to apply some fresh thermal paste.

1. Rice Grain
We’re not talking food here.

Begin by gently squeezing on the tube of the thermal grease, aligned to the centre of your newly installed CPU – or GPU. Retracting the tube in a downwards fashion forming a small shape similar to a rice grain, make sure the amount of paste isn’t too thick nor too thin. Lastly, install your chosen heat sink on top of the processor. As the heat sink makes contact with the grease it will naturally cause the solution to spread out towards the edges of the processor. Once installed and the PC is up and running, users can use software such as HWMonitor or Real Temp to check their CPU temperatures, as well as pre-packaged software that comes included with specific types of motherboards.

For those applying the thermal paste to their GPUs, software such as GPUz as well as GPU overclocking tools will also be able to monitor the temperature. Users may experience fluctuations in temperature during the first initial use of the system, this simply results from the grease heating up and spreading throughout the surface area of the processor. After a short while temperatures will begin to stabilize. This applies for all methods of application.

2. Pea
No, not that Pea.

Proving to be far more simpler than the previous method of application, users need only apply a pea shaped amount of paste directly to the centre of the processor. As with the rice grain method, once the grease has made contact with the heat sink it will begin to spread across the area of the processor.

3. Spread
Can the dirty thoughts.

No doubt the hardest method of thermal paste application, but most enthusiasts swear by it. Taking on the manual labor of that which the heat sink would normally do, the Spread method involves a serious of swiping and scraping in order to provide equal application across the entire processor surface area. Using a credit card or a tool of similar measurements, users apply a small amount of thermal paste to the edge of the processor – formed as a line from one end to the other – pushing the grease to the other side for equal coverage. Enthusiasts users prefer this method as it provides reassurance that the total area of the processor is covered in paste. The issues with this method commonly amount to not enough grease being applied, therefore being to thin to actually transfer the heat.

Recommended Solutions

Thermal Grizzly
Touted as the number one product for the most extreme of overclockers, Thermal Grizzly products deliver the most consistent and reliable temperatures, ensuring CPUs and GPUs remain at the lowest regardless of the chosen cooler. With a vast range of products and sizes it’s hard to go wrong with Thermal Grizzly solutions.

Arctic Silver
Holding a great deal of respect amongst PC gamers, Arctic Silver has remained an all-time favourite. Variable within its tube sizes and proving to be a great for value, Arctic Silver stands with the best.

Arctic MX-4
Stable and reliable, commonly available in larger tube sizes, Arctic MX-4 proves great for beginners with ease-of-use and high-performance.

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