Does Thermal Paste Expire? Explaining The Shelf & Expiration

Do Thermal Compounds have an expiration date? Will it last long after application on CPU. What if too much thermal paste is used.

Whether you’re eagerly assembling a new computer built with freshly delivered parts or simply noticing your computer running a bit too warm, the solution often involves reaching for that familiar tube of thermal paste you used last year.

But here’s the catch – when you go to use it, it feels a bit odd, maybe a bit hard or sticky, not quite the smooth consistency you remember.

The nagging question arises: Does thermal paste actually expire? Let’s unravel this mystery together and find out.

Does Thermal Paste Expire?

Wondering if your CPU thermal paste is still up to the task? Absolutely, it can lose its touch over time due to a few reasons. The solvents in the paste can evaporate, making it dry and less effective, especially if stored in a warm place.

Additionally, the metal or ceramic particles in the thermal paste and its carrier fluid might decide to part ways, leading to uneven application. Exposure to air could also introduce unwelcome dust or particles, affecting its thermal conductivity.

As for its shelf life, that varies by brand and type. If unopened, thermal paste can hang around for several years under proper storage conditions. However, once opened, it’s generally recommended to use it within 1-2 years.

Now, onto recognizing the signs of an expired thermal paste:

  1. Change in Viscosity: If it’s thicker than usual, that’s a sign.
  2. Difficulty Applying: If it’s not cooperating during application, making it challenging to spread or squeeze out, it might be past its prime.
  3. Dried-Out Appearance: If it looks crusty or flaky, that’s a red flag.
  4. Unpleasant Odor: A sudden off-putting smell is not a good sign.
  5. Separation of Components: If you see liquid separating from the main body, it’s a clear indicator.
  6. Brand-Specific Signs: Different brands have different formulations, so check their guidelines for unique signals of expiration.
  7. Performance Decline: If your CPU is running hotter than usual, it’s time to investigate.

What is the Unopened Thermal Paste Shelf Life?

The lifespan of thermal paste typically falls within the range of 6 to 24 months, depending on the specific formula utilized. However, it’s crucial to note that storage conditions play a significant role in preserving its effectiveness. When purchasing thermal paste from a physical store, consider the environment – if the air conditioning is on the fritz, your thermal paste might be enduring some challenges on the shelf.

Both heat and extreme cold can expedite the expiration of thermal paste. Therefore, the ideal storage conditions mimic those suitable for a delicate item like a guitar – a cool, dry place at normal room temperature is perfect. Excessive humidity should be avoided. So, when it comes to keeping your thermal paste in top-notch condition, think about the care you’d give to storing a musical instrument.

Thermal Paste Tube Expiration Once Opened

Once you crack open that thermal paste tube, its expiration clock starts ticking, and several factors come into play. The shelf life post-opening hinges on storage conditions and the specific compound in use. In general, if you seal it up properly and stash it away in optimal conditions, opened thermal paste can soldier on for up to 2 years.

Different thermal paste brands showcase varying expiration timelines. Take Arctic Silver 5, for instance, which boasts a lifespan of approximately three years once its tube sees the light of day. On the other end of the spectrum, Kooling Monster KOLD-01 stands out with an indefinite shelf life, both opened and unopened, thanks to its organic solvent-free composition.

How to Properly Store Thermal Paste in Tube?

When it comes to preserving the effectiveness of your thermal paste, understanding the right storage conditions is paramount. The two key considerations are the ingredients in the paste and the environment where it’s housed.

To accurately store thermal paste, the ideal environment includes:

  • Room temperature, approximately around 20°C/70°F.
  • Good ambient humidity, ranging from 40-50%.
  • Low light conditions, preferably avoiding direct sunlight.

This can be achieved by storing your thermal paste in:

  • A drawer in your room.
  • A shelf in your basement.
  • A hallway closet.

If you’re managing a store or warehouse, it’s advisable to control humidity and light exposure to maintain the paste’s integrity.

If you’ve opened a tube of thermal paste and want to store it until the next use, follow these steps:

  1. Twist the cap tightly back onto the thermal paste tube.
  2. Place the capped tube inside a ziplock bag for added protection.
  3. Avoid pulling the plunger back after pushing it in, as this can allow air in, leading to oxidation of the thermal gel.
  4. Steer clear of storing thermal paste in direct sunlight, extremely hot or cold places, or wet and humid areas.
  5. Avoid attic and basement storage due to extreme temperatures.

Does Thermal Paste Go Bad on a CPU?

Yes. The expiration of thermal paste on a CPU mirrors its expiration inside the tube. The organic solvent within the paste gradually dissipates into the atmosphere, leading to a reduction in viscosity, cracking, and powdering. This transformation is more noticeable on a CPU after some use compared to its manifestation in a tube.

While a tube of thermal paste might slowly lose moisture over time, especially if not exposed to extreme heat like an oven or open flame, the story changes on a CPU. The thermal paste on a CPU undergoes regular temperature exposures ranging from 50°C/120°F to highs of 80°C/175°F during stress tests or less-than-ideal cooling scenarios.

Does the Thermal Paste Need to be Replaced?

People often wonder how often they should switch out the thermal paste. The simple answer is:

Thermal paste can easily stick around for 10-15 years or even more, as long as the bond between the mating surfaces isn’t broken.

But if that bond does break – maybe because of bumpy travels or if someone twists the heat sink too hard – then it’s time to clean those surfaces and put on a fresh layer of thermal paste.

You don’t have to swap out thermal paste just because a certain number of years have gone by.

Some folks, who might not know a lot about it, believe you should change the thermal paste if its edges are showing, if it gets hard, or rusty, or if the mating surface breaks.

THAT’S NOT TRUE AT ALL. The best way for heat to move is when the metal surfaces are directly touching each other. So, if that’s still happening, your thermal paste is probably doing just fine.

Does too much thermal paste cause CPU overheating?

It’s the question that is usually asked whether too much paste is bad, whether can it kill or damage the CPU.

Yes, if too much paste is applied to the CPU and the heatsink then paste will become an insulator and cause overheating.

Most new users apply too much paste imaging that it may perform well but it isn’t the case. Too much paste affects CPU temperature and can damage components.

Do you need Thermal Paste for the CPU or GPU?

If the thermal compound is indeed expired you are going to buy a new one. You will find different brands which are reasonable when it comes to lower CPU temp.

We strongly recommend ARCTIC MX-4 to our users. It is the best thermal paste for CPU and GPU. You can even use it on PS4 to enhance performance.

Thermal paste expire
Continuous Use Temp-50~150 °C
VISCOSITY31,600 Poise
DENSITY2.50 g/cm³

FAQ – CPU Thermal Paste Expiry

Does Arctic Silver 3 or 5 expire?

All kinds of thermal paste have a shelf life (mostly 3 years) which is why people store up in freezers. To check whether it’s expired or not, squeeze some out on a piece of paper if it looks uniform and homogeneous, it’s probably fine.

Is dried thermal paste bad for your CPU?

The best Thermal paste lasts indefinitely or at least years. So if you think that your CPU has dried out the thermal paste, it’s OK. It only concerns you when you see an increase in CPU temperature.

How long does it take for the thermal paste to dry?

Thermal paste doesn’t need to be dried out, you just put it on the CPU or GPU and then immediately put the heat sink top while it’s still wet. You can even use your PC immediately after applying it.

Can too much thermal paste kill a CPU?

If you put too much thermal paste on the CPU then it will start acting as an insulator causing it to overheat but it won’t kill it. Too much paste only makes this whole exercise inefficient.

Does thermal paste expire in a tube?

It mostly depends upon the contents of the thermal paste. Besides each paste has a normal shelf life of around 3 years. But if you have capped the tube tightly then take out some paste to see if it’s smooth, not watery.