You have to apply thermal paste when you build new PC or upgrade CPU or cooler, if you want better performance of your system. A CPU thermal paste is also known as Thermal Interface Material. If you are thinking, what is thermal paste? 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.
How much thermal paste should be applied on CPU? It will be explained latter in the post. But where to apply thermal paste, you can apply thermal compound on two major components e.g. CPU & GPU. In this guide, focus in drawn on applying thermal paste to 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 best PC thermal paste for CPU includes; Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut Paste, Akasa AK-TC TIM Clean CPU & Heatsink Cleaner and Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste. These are also used in this guide. You can buy 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 On CPU
It’s a proven fact that if you apply PC thermal paste on heatsink or on CPU, it will dissipate heat effectively and prevent your PC from overheating. But applying 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 important to explain here, that there are different types of CPU paste having different types of composition.
How To Replace Thermal Paste From CPU
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.
For applying thermal paste first you need to replace old thermal paste. After that, 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.
How To Properly Apply Thermal Paste on CPU
There are different methods to apply thermal paste but to properly apply thermal paste on CPU is still confusing zone. But we recommend that a dot of thermal paste almost equal to pea size is the sufficient paste which you can use. Well it also solves the question that how much thermal paste do i need?
How To Apply Thermal Paste To CPU 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 CPU 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.