How To Apply Thermal Paste And How It Works [Complete Information]

How To Apply Thermal Paste

You must have heard about thermal paste if you have checked your CPU internally. Thermal paste is also known as thermal grease, thermal gel, heat paste, CPU paste, thermal interface material (TIM), and many more. It plays a vital role in the efficient operation and performance of a CPU. In this article, we will help you with the steps on how to apply Thermal Paste and how it works.

Thermal paste is an important element while installing the CPU cooler and choosing the best thermal paste is also very important. For instance, when you buy a Graphics card, the thermal solution is already there. You don’t have to work hard while installing a cooler on GPU, until and unless you want to buy custom liquid cooling. But, with a CPU cooler, you need thermal paste. In some CPUs, it’s already there and in some, you need to apply it while installing the CPU cooler.

The CPU is the brain of the computer system and it performs multiple operations at one time. Because of the multiple and highly complex operations, there is fluctuation in the temperature of the CPU. That time thermal paste manages the heat transfer and maintains the temperature of the CPU.

The high temperature can cause severe damage to the CPU and sometimes even to the motherboard of the computer. You just need a pea-size thermal paste to manage the heat or temperature issues in the computer system.

How To Apply Thermal Paste (Steps)

Check out all the below points thoroughly before initiating the installation process, it will help you to plan accordingly.

  • Read all the instructions before initiating: Before starting the process read the instructions of thermal paste and CPU cooler thoroughly. Every brand has different processes or pre-requisites, it’s better to know all.
  • On the center of CPU IHS, apply the thermal paste: If you have pre-applied thermal paste in your CPU cooler, go ahead with Step 3. If not, you need to apply pea size thermal paste at the center of the heat spreader.
Apply Thermal Paste
  • Installation of CPU cooler: Apply light pressure to place the cooler base plate on the CPU and while attaching the cooler on the mounting hold the pressure. You have to apply enough force to keep stopping the cooler from sliding and to distribute the thermal paste evenly.
Installation of CPU cooler

Make sure, you don’t apply high force, it can damage the motherboard of the CPU. Hold the cooler in place while screwing the screws to the motherboard and cooler. Slowly tighten all the screws one by one to manage the pressure.

Tighten the CPU Cooler Screws
  • Re-check: Check again if the water block or base-plate of the CPU is attached properly or not. There should not be any thermal paste all over the edges or on the motherboard. If there is, then you have to clean everything using isopropyl alcohol and should repeat the same process from the beginning. And if everything is right in place, and while touching the cooler doesn’t move from its place. Everything is on the point then Congratulations!! you have done a great job.

Few things to keep in mind while applying paste

We all know that most of the processor needs a thermal solution to enhance the performance but installing a CPU cooler in a PC is quite challenging.

Every CPU cooler requires thermal paste and even some CPUs have pre-applied thermal grease on them which makes the installation process easy. To know if there is a pre-applied thermal paste, check the water block of the CPU cooler or base plate. If you find any silver paste there, then there is no need to apply thermal paste while installing the CPU.

Make sure that your CPU doesn’t have any old thermal paste, it should be clean. If there is any old thermal paste remove it from the CPU. Use Isopropyl alcohol and a fiber cloth or paper towel. Let it dry to continue the process.

Clean CPU With Isopropyl Alcohol

Make sure that the rest of the CPU cooler is ready to install and then apply the thermal paste. You can take help of help-guide to ensure that all steps of applying thermal paste and installing of CPU cooler are done.

Important Terms One Should Know

  • Central Processing Unit (CPU): It is the information processing unit of a computer. The CPU executes all the operations in the PC and sends instructions to the other hardware in the computer. CPU is the brain of the PC. The latest CPUs execute high operations each second that generates high heat. For better functioning and great efficiency, the CPU needs to cool down by using a cooling apparatus.
  • Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS): IHS is the metal lid of the CPU. IHS works as a heat sink and distributes the heat from the processor to the CPU cooler. It also protects the processor from the inside. Moreover, it is the exposed part of the CPU after installation and the surface where you apply the thermal paste.
  • CPU Cooler: The CPU cooler manages the temperature of the CPU. It usually uses air or liquid to maintain the optimal temperature of the CPU while the system is performing highly complex operations.
  • Base Plate: It’s a metallic base of an air cooler that is connected to the Integrated Heat Spreader of the CPU. The design and the material of the base plate allow the heat transfer through the convection process. It transfers the heat to the fins of the heat sink, where it is radiated in the environment with the help of radiator fans.
  • Water Block: Water Block is the second part that is attached to the base plate. It ensures that water is contained safely while providing hosing for the optimal water cooling loop using an All In One liquid cooler or custom cooling loop to reduce the temperature of the CPU. However, it transfers the heat from the heat spreader to the heat transfer liquid. The heat transfer fluid then relocates the heat which is then radiated by fans at a radiator.
  • Thermal Paste: Thermal paste is a silver-grey substance. It enhances the heat transfer from the IHS of the processor to the base plate or water block of the CPU cooler, thus optimizes the overall heat dissipation of the CPU.

The Requirement of Thermal Paste

Microscopic Gaps CPU IHS

Indeed the metal base of the CPU cooler and the IHS of the CPU looks neat and smooth, but these metal plates have minor imperfections that can lead to poor heat transfer. Because of imperfections, these two surfaces are not fully contacted.

The thermal paste helps in filling these micro gaps to improve heat transfer efficiency. After applying thermal paste, your CPU cooler works better and rectifies problems like throttling.

Things To Avoid

  • Use the correct amount of thermal paste which is of pea-size. Apply a sufficient amount of thermal paste on the surface to be effective. And too much paste can reduce the effectiveness of the paste and also, it can spoil the motherboard during installation.
  • The manual pressure on the cooler base plate can be tempting for you. Let the pressure from the base plate or water block help you with the installation process. Wrong application, can cause air bubbles in the thermal paste which can affect the thermal conductivity.
  • Re-application of the thermal paste can cause more air bubbles. If there is any problem during installation, remove the CPU cooler. Now, clean all the paste and re-start the process again. For long term use, apply thermal paste properly and install the CPU cooler.

How frequent one should replace Thermal Paste?

In most cases, there is no requirement of replacing the thermal paste for years. But if you remove the cooler, you have to apply the thermal paste again. Also, if you are experiencing high CPU temperature, you should change thermal paste for better heat transfer.

If you are in doubt, consult a thermal paste manufacturer and follow all the steps.

However, people don’t talk a lot about thermal paste as some don’t even know its application and importance. But it maintains the optimum temperature of hardware like CPU or GPU. So, it’s important that you should have deep knowledge about the thermal application and how to apply it before installing the CPU cooler.

We hope this article helped you in understanding more about thermal paste.

Does thermal paste expire?

It depends on the components of the thermal compound. If the cap was placed properly, most of the thermal paste has a life of around 2 years.

Which is the best thermal paste?

Arctic Silver 5 is the best thermal paste.

Can a PS4 run without thermal paste?

No, it will cause severe damage if you don’t apply thermal paste.

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