Thermal paste is a compound used to improve heat transfer between the heat-generating component of a computer, such as a CPU or GPU, and the heat sink or cooling fan. It improves heat conductivity and dissipation by filling in microscopic gaps and irregularities on the component and cooler’s surface. To prevent overheating, which can damage the computer permanently and reduce its performance, is crucial.
A CPU or GPU can only cool optimally if thermal paste is applied correctly. If applied incorrectly, the thermal paste can create air pockets or uneven layers, interfering with heat transfer and reducing cooling efficiency. It is even possible for a component to overheat and become damaged if it is applied improperly.
Several steps are required to apply thermal paste, including cleaning the surface of the component and cooler, applying a small amount of paste to the center of the component, and spreading it evenly with a credit card or other flat tool. Apply the paste thinly and evenly, avoiding excess that could lead to air pockets or messy spills. It is important to secure the cooler firmly to the component after the paste has been applied, so there is good contact between the two surfaces.
Preparing for Thermal Paste Application
The best performance and cooling can only be achieved with properly prepared GPU or CPU surfaces and heatsinks before applying thermal paste. Preparing surfaces and gathering the tools and materials needed for the application will be covered in this section.
Cleaning the Surfaces
To prepare for thermal paste application, clean the GPU or CPU and heatsink surfaces first. If debris or dust particles are present, the thermal conductivity of the paste will be reduced, resulting in poor performance. You should wipe away dust and debris with a lint-free cloth or a microfiber cloth mixed with 70% or higher isopropyl alcohol, but avoid harsh chemicals or solvents that may damage the surfaces.
Gathering Necessary Tools and Materials
To apply thermal paste correctly, you will need a few essential tools and materials. These include:
- Thermal paste: Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut or Arctic Silver 5 are good thermal pastes to use on GPUs or CPUs that support high temperatures.
- Cleaning materials: The surfaces should be cleaned with a lint-free cloth or a microfiber cloth dipped in isopropyl alcohol.
- Application tool: A thin plastic bag or glove also works well for applying thermal paste. Alternatively, you can use a credit card or an applicator tool.
- Screwdriver: The GPU or CPU heatsink may need to be removed with a screwdriver.
Choosing the Right Type of Thermal Paste
You can choose from a variety of thermal pastes on the market, but not all of them are suitable for every GPU or CPU. It is important to choose a thermal paste that is compatible with your device and meets its cooling requirements. Some thermal pastes are better suited for high-performance CPUs, while others are better suited for GPUs or low-power CPUs. Check that thermal paste is compatible with your device before purchasing it and read reviews to ensure it is effective at cooling your device.
Applying Thermal Paste
Once you have prepared the surfaces of the GPU or CPU and the heatsink, it’s time to apply the thermal paste. Here are the steps to follow:
Applying the thermal paste in the right amount
If you apply too little or too much thermal paste, it can negatively affect cooling performance. A pea-sized drop or a small line of thermal paste is usually sufficient. If you apply too much, it can spill over the sides and make a mess. It can also cause the paste to get into unwanted areas and damage the components. Conversely, too little paste can create air pockets that can block heat transfer.
Spreading the thermal paste evenly on the surface
It is important to spread the thermal paste evenly on the CPU or GPU surface once it has been applied. The thermal paste is spread using a plastic card or credit card. Gently press the card against the paste and move it in a circular motion to spread it evenly. Avoid applying too much pressure to the paste, as it may push it out of place. You can also use a thermal paste applicator, which is a small plastic tool that spreads the paste evenly.
Placing the heatsink correctly on the GPU or CPU
Apply the thermal paste evenly onto the heatsink and place it back onto your CPU or GPU. Be sure the heatsink is aligned correctly with your CPU or GPU. Avoid shifting the heatsink around too much, as this can cause the thermal paste to shift.
Tightening the screws or clips to secure the heatsink in place
Last but not least, ensure that the screws or clips holding the heatsink in place are tightened evenly so that the CPU and GPU are not subjected to uneven pressure. Do not over-tighten the screws or clips, however, as this may damage them.
Reassembling the CPU or GPU
After the thermal paste has been applied, it’s time to put everything back together. Here are the steps to reassembling the CPU or GPU:
Reattaching the heatsink
Ensure that the screws or clips on the heatsink bracket line up with the mounting holes on the motherboard or the mounting holes on the CPU after applying the thermal paste. To ensure the thermal paste spreads evenly between the CPU or GPU and the heatsink, ensure that you apply even pressure while attaching the heatsink.
Tightening screws or clips
Gently tighten the screws or clips holding the heatsink to the CPU or GPU with a screwdriver or other appropriate tool. To ensure the heatsink is securely attached and evenly seated on the CPU or GPU, tighten the screws or clips in a cross pattern, increasing the torque on each screw or clip gradually.
Double-checking for any loose or misaligned parts
Ensure all parts of the computer are securely attached and aligned before you turn it on. Make sure the heatsink is properly seated on the CPU or GPU and that all screws and clips have been tightened. Be sure to re-connect and secure any cables or wires that were disconnected when you removed the heatsink.
It is now time to turn on the computer and monitor the temperature to ensure that the new thermal paste is working effectively. Once everything is securely attached and aligned, it is time to turn it on. If the temperatures remain high, you may need to reapply thermal paste or consider other cooling options, such as upgrading the heatsink or adding additional fans.
Testing the CPU and GPU
After applying thermal paste and reassembling the CPU or GPU, it’s important to test the system to ensure that the temperatures are within safe ranges and the cooling is working properly. Here are the steps to test your CPU or GPU:
Booting up the computer and checking temperatures: Turn on the computer and check the temperature using the BIOS or UEFI firmware or software such as HWMonitor or SpeedFan after reassembling the CPU or GPU.
Monitoring temperature with software like HWMonitor or SpeedFan: Keep an eye on the temperatures of your CPU and GPU using HWMonitor and SpeedFan, free software tools that show you the fan speeds and voltages of your system.
Troubleshooting common issues like overheating or incorrect application: Check if the thermal paste was applied correctly and reapply if necessary if the temperatures are too high. If you notice that the temperatures are too high, the thermal paste was likely applied incorrectly. If the temperatures are still high, make sure the heatsink and fan are properly attached.
If you are still having issues with overheating, consider upgrading your cooling solution, such as getting a larger heatsink or liquid cooling. If the temperatures are still not within safe ranges after troubleshooting, it’s possible that there is an issue with the CPU or GPU itself and it may need to be replaced.
In conclusion, applying thermal paste correctly is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and preventing overheating of your CPU or GPU. It helps to dissipate the heat generated by the processor and transfer it to the heatsink effectively. Failure to apply the thermal paste correctly can lead to serious issues, such as system crashes, reduced lifespan of the processor, or even permanent damage.
Your CPU or GPU performance can be affected by the type of thermal paste you use and how it is applied. It is recommended to apply the conductive thermal paste for maximum heat transfer, but careful application is required to prevent short circuits. While the non-conductive paste is easier to use and more secure, it may not provide the same level of performance.
Regular maintenance and the use of proper thermal paste can ensure your computer stays cool and performs better for years to come. Reapply thermal paste every couple of years or when upgrading your CPU or GPU.