You have to apply thermal paste when you build new PC or upgrade CPU or cooler only, if you want better performance of your system. A thermal paste is also known as Thermal Interface Material. If you are thinking, what thermal paste is? The answer is “it’s a thermal grease a kind of thermally conductive compound which is commonly used as an interface between heat sinks and heat sources. It allow efficient CPU heat transfer to the cooler mounted directly above it.
You can apply thermal paste in two major components e.g. CPU & GPU. In this guide, focus in drawn on applying thermal paste on CPU (Intel & AMD). This guide also include the best way to apply thermal paste. Two renowned method namely “Vertical Line” for Intel CPU’s & “Pea Dot” for AMD CPU’s are also explained here.
The Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut Paste, Akasa AK-TC TIM Clean CPU & Heatsink Cleaner and Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste are used in this guide. You can buy these thermal paste from Amazon, eBay or from PCpartpicker.
Before you get start, bear in mind that thermal paste is applied only on the top of the CPU, not the bottom or anywhere else. It should applied to the smooth metal plate where manufactures imprints relevant information.
Why It’s Important To Apply Thermal Paste
It’s a proven fact that if you apply thermal paste on heatsink or on CPU, it will dissipate heat effectively and prevent your PC from overheating. But spreading thermal paste is itself an art. For example, if thermal grease is applied without flattening the layer, you will soon notice that CPU core temperature increases even under nominal load. But if you have used too much amount of thermal paste, then behold to witness the bubbles coming out from CPU and heatsink. Now these bubbles create pockets they absorb heat but doesn’t transfers it outside.
Among other methods which of course you can use, apart from “spread” technique are X-shape, double- and even triple-line methods. Here in this guide, we have selected the best ways to apply thermal paste on CPU which are “line and pea bot” methods. These methods are used in all modern computer processors.
Before taking start it is also important to explain here, that there are different types of thermal paste having different types of composition.
How To Remove Old/Dried Thermal Paste
Those who have built new PC’s can skip this part of removing thermal paste because these systems don’t have pre-applied thermal paste on them. However, if you have already applied thermal paste on your CPU then you should definitely remove it before proceeding further.
In order to apply thermal paste you need to remove CPU cooler from processor and gently clean thermal paste with paper towel. You can also use TIM cleaner to clean any remaining residue, for that apply few drops of TIM cleaner and then gently rub it in a circular motion on processor. If you follow this method it will clean the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreaders). If there’s residue thermal paste by the CPU latch, feel free to open your CPU latch and clean the latch and sides of your processor. The same method is also used to clean CPU cooler’s heatsink. Once you done cleaning process, you can start applying new thermal paste.
Apply Thermal Paste Using Intel Vertical Line Method
Vertical line methods is feasible for Intel CPU’s because they have rectangular die under the IHS. So, using vertical line method can help you maintain ideal CPU temperature. It has been observed that temperature of Intel CPU’s remain higher on certain cores. For instance, temp of core 3 on Intel i7-3770K is hotter due to it’s closeness to IGPU module processor.
To use vertical line method, gently squeeze syringe of thermal paste so that a small quantity of thermal grease come out. Now hold the thermal syringe down on processor and draw straight line on it. As shown in following picture.
Now mount CPU cooler on it to spread paste, you can also use piece of plastic for the same purpose. If you use plastic technique you will notice that there are small amount of bubbles. This is the result of uneven pressure from the plastic part. But if you install CPU cooler properly instead of using piece of plastic, you can avoid air pockets.
Apply Thermal Paste Using AMD Pea-Dot Method
Unlike, Intel CPU’s which have rectangular shape, the AMD CPU’s have square surface under the IHS. That’s why, on these CPU’s thermal paste is applied in circular/ round motion. If you properly apply thermal paste on AMD CPU’s then your processor can even spread temperature through their CPU cores.
AMD CPUs generally have a square die under the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreaders), so a more circular and round thermal paste application is preferred over the oval and rectangular shaped thermal paste application. Through our experience (and with correctly applied thermal paste), we found AMD processors to have an even spread of temperature through their CPU cores.
Pea dot method (a.k.a middle dot method) is the best and feasible way to apply thermal paste on AMD CPU’s. But to get optimum result with this method, you have to hold and push syringe just above the surface and put a small pea size dot at the center. Because when it comes to applying thermal paste, less is more. A small pea-sized drop is all you need. So, don’t spread it around, either the heatsink will spread it out evenly as you screw it in.