How to change the thermal paste of your processor (CPU) – Ultimate Guide

Thermal paste (also called thermal grease) plays a crucial role in managing the temperature of your processor (CPU), promoting better heat conduction to the heat sink. Over time, this paste may degrade and lose effectiveness, requiring fresh application. Whether you’re installing a new processor or want to replace existing thermal paste, here’s how to do it step by step.

Summary

  1. What equipment is needed?
  2. How to apply or replace your processor’s thermal paste?
  3. When to change the processor thermal paste (lifespan)?
  4. Signs It’s Time to Replace Thermal Paste
  5. Which thermal paste to choose for a processor?
  6. Types of thermal pastes
  7. The best thermal pastes on the market
  8. Conclusion

What equipment is needed?

To replace the thermal paste in your processor, you will need several tools and supplies. Here is a list of equipment generally needed:

  1. Quality thermal paste.
  2. Isopropyl alcohol and a soft cloth or paper towel.
  3. Screwdriver (to remove the cooler or water cooling).

How to apply or replace your processor’s thermal paste?

To apply or replace your CPU thermal paste, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off your computer, unplug it from power, and open the case.
  2. Locate the heat sink, then use a screwdriver to disconnect the cooler or water cooling pump associated with the processor.

3.Use isopropyl alcohol and a soft cloth to carefully clean the old thermal paste from the top of the processor and heatsink.

4.Allow it to dry completely.

5. Apply a small amount of thermal paste (the size of a pea) to the center of the processor. Don’t spread it out; the weight of the heat sink will spread the paste evenly when attaching.

6. Replace the cooler or water cooling pump on the processor and tighten the screws following a cross pattern to ensure balanced pressure.

7. Don’t forget to reconnect the power supply to the cooler or water cooling. Turn on your computer and check the CPU temperatures using thermal monitoring software such as HWMonitor to ensure they are within an acceptable range.

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When to Change the Processor Thermal Paste (Lifespan)?

The lifespan of your processor’s thermal paste depends on several factors, including the quality of the thermal paste, the operating temperature of your computer, and how your PC is used. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • High-quality thermal paste: If you use a high-quality thermal paste like Arctic MX-6, it can last for several years, sometimes up to five years or more.
  • Lower quality thermal paste: Cheaper thermal pastes or those that come pre-applied to stock coolers may require replacement more frequently, every two or three years.
  • High temperatures: If your PC regularly operates at high temperatures, thermal paste may degrade more quickly.
  • Heavy Use: A PC used for resource-intensive tasks, such as gaming, graphic design, or cryptocurrency mining, may require more frequent replacement of the thermal paste.

Signs It’s Time to Replace Thermal Paste

  • If your CPU temperature is abnormally high.
  • If your PC shuts down or restarts on its own, this could be a sign of overheating.
  • To check the condition of your thermal paste, you will need to open your computer and visually inspect the compound between the CPU and heatsink. If the paste is cracked, dry, or non-existent, it’s time to replace it.

Which Thermal Paste to Choose for a Processor?

Choosing thermal paste for your processor depends on several factors, including your performance needs, your budget, and your computer DIY skill level. Here are some popular thermal paste types and brands you might consider:

Types of Thermal Pastes

  • Silicone-based thermal pastes: Affordable and easy to apply, suitable for standard computer configurations.
  • Metal-based thermal pastes: High thermal conductivity, well-suited for demanding computer setups, but more difficult to apply and can conduct electricity.
  • Ceramic-based thermal pastes: A good compromise between thermal performance and ease of application, without conducting electricity, suitable for various computer configurations.
  • Carbon-based thermal pastes: High thermal conductivity without the risk of electrical conduction, suitable for high-end or demanding computer configurations.
  • Diamond-based thermal pastes: Offer high thermal conductivity and are often used in high-end computer setups.
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The Best Thermal Pastes on the Market

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is one of the highly regarded thermal pastes known for its performance and reliability.

1- Thermal Grizzly

Indeed, Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut thermal paste is well-regarded in the PC enthusiast community for its high-end performance, particularly in scenarios where overclocking is involved. Here are some specifications of Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut:

  • Composition: Nano-aluminum and zinc oxide.
  • Capacity: 1 gram.
  • Density: 3.7g/cm³.
  • Thermal conductivity: 12.5 W/(mK).
  • Operating temperature: -200°C / +350°C.

These specifications highlight its ability to efficiently transfer heat between the processor and the heatsink, making it a popular choice for users who prioritize optimal thermal performance, such as those engaged in overclocking activities. The wide operating temperature range also ensures its suitability for various computer configurations and usage scenarios.

2- Cooler Master MasterGel

The Cooler Master MasterGel Maker is a thermal paste designed to provide good thermal conductivity and easy application. Here are some specifications for the Cooler Master MasterGel Maker:

  • Composition: Diamond nano-particles.
  • Capacity: 1.5 grams.
  • Density: 2.6g/cm³.
  • Thermal conductivity: 11 W/(mK).

With diamond nano-particles as its composition, this thermal paste aims to offer efficient heat transfer between the processor and the heatsink. The 1.5-gram capacity is sufficient for multiple applications, and the density and thermal conductivity specifications indicate its ability to perform well under varying temperatures.

The Cooler Master MasterGel Maker is positioned as an option for users seeking to enhance the cooling performance of their system without incurring high costs, making it a practical choice for those looking for a balance between performance and affordability.

3- Arctic MX-4

The Arctic MX-4 Thermal Paste is widely appreciated for its excellent value for money and dependable performance. Here are some specifications for the Arctic MX-4:

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  • Composition: Carbon micro-particles.
  • Capacity: 4 grams.
  • Density: 2.5 g/cm³.
  • Thermal conductivity: 8.5 W/(mK).
  • Operating temperature: -50~150℃.

Key features that contribute to its popularity include its durability, lack of electrical conductivity, and affordability. The carbon micro-particles in its composition facilitate effective heat transfer between the CPU and heatsink. The 4-gram capacity is suitable for multiple applications, making it convenient for users looking for a balance between performance and quantity.

Moreover, the Arctic MX-4 is recognized for being safe to use, making it a reliable choice for those who prioritize both performance and the protection of their components.

4- Noctua NT-H2

The Noctua NT-H2 thermal paste is a premium choice known for its high thermal conductivity and user-friendly features. Here are some specifications for the Noctua NT-H2:

How to change the thermal paste of your processor (CPU) – Ultimate Guide
  • Composition: Micro metal oxide particles.
  • Capacity: 3.5 grams.
  • Density: 2.81 g/cm³.
  • Thermal conductivity: Although not explicitly communicated by the manufacturer, conservative estimates place it around 9 W/mK.
  • Operating temperature: Between –50°C and 200°C.

This thermal paste stands out for its inclusion of cleaning wipes, enhancing the ease of both application and cleaning processes. Its micro metal oxide particle composition is designed to facilitate efficient heat transfer between the CPU and heatsink.

Noctua NT-H2 is positioned as a premium option suitable for a range of applications, including high-end gaming setups and professional workstations, indicating its versatility and ability to perform well under demanding conditions. While the exact thermal conductivity is not specified by the manufacturer, the conservative estimate suggests that it offers a solid level of performance in heat dissipation.

Conclusion

Regular maintenance of your processor’s thermal paste is essential for maintaining optimal performance and extending the life of your hardware. Much like the importance of dusting and cleaning your PC, the upkeep of thermal paste is crucial. By following these steps, you will be able to apply or replace thermal paste efficiently and safely, contributing to a cooler and more efficient operation of your PC. This simple yet critical task can make a significant difference in the overall health and longevity of your computer system.

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Mohamed SAKHRI

I am Mohamed SAKHRI, the creator and editor-in-chief of Tech To Geek, where I've demonstrated my passion for technology through extensive blogging. My expertise spans various operating systems, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and Android, with a focus on providing practical and valuable guides. Additionally, I delve into WordPress-related subjects. You can find more about me on my Linkedin!, Twitter!, Reddit

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