How To Apply Thermal Paste to CPU and GPU

One of the recent stuff I learned about PC care and maintenance is the thing about thermal pastes. Yes- being a self-proclaimed computer nerd for more than half of my life, this is the first I’ve personally tackled it! Well, a lot of people don’t know about it because they normally come pre-applied to your CPU / GPU when you buy them. But after some wear and tear, you better be prepared since you’re gonna need to replace it!

WHAT IS THERMAL PASTE AND WHAT IS IT FOR?

When the CPU / GPU’s temperature goes up, it transfers the heat generated to the heat sink attached to it, which the fan cools. Below is a picture of a fan with the heat sink and processor behind it, respectively.

Thermal paste is there for the CPU/GPU to transfer heat efficiently to the heat sink. As TechPowerUp defines it:

Thermal paste is a very high heat conductive paste that is usually used between a heatsink and a CPU/GPU) to get better heat conduction. It fills in all those microscopic imperfections on the heatsink and CPU/GPU that can trap air in them and cause a loss in the heatsink’s performance. Air is a very poor conductor of heat. Thermal Interface Materials (TIM) can be up to a 100 times greater conductor of heat than air.

Without thermal paste applied, your heat sinks and fans will not be as functional- useless even.

WHY DID I NEED TO RE-APPLY IT TO MY CPU AND GPU?

After doing investigative work upon the dawning of multiple BSODs on my machine, I pinpointed one of the factors to be the CPU and GPU overheating. Initially, I thought they were just malfunctioning and needed to be replaced already, but then I stumbled upon this thermal paste thing and tried it out. True enough, my PC’s temps were normal again after re-applying thermal paste! Pretty much saved me a lot of cash.

WHEN DO I NEED TO RE-APPLY THERMAL PASTE?

There is no definite time intervals on when to re-apply thermal paste since there are so many factors involved- type of paste used, average use, average heat generated, etc. but if one were to ask the pros, they’d say re-apply some every six months to a year just to be safe.

WHERE TO BUY THERMAL PASTE AND HOW MUCH?

All computer parts stores are sure to have one. It costs around P250-1,000 depending on the brand and quality.

HOW DO I APPLY THERMAL PASTE?

This tutorial takes a processor as an example, but  note that the same applies to GPUs.

1.) Let’s get started! First and foremost, remove your processor from the motherboard

Intel Core i7-2600k attached to an Asus P8Z68-M Pro

2.) Wipe your processor clean from any old thermal paste residue with alcohol-soaked tissue

3.) Wipe your heat sink clean from any old thermal paste residue with alcohol-soaked tissue

CPU / Processor removed and cleaned

4.) Inject a small pinch of thermal paste to your newly-cleaned processor…

Like so: (Actually, THIS WAS A BIT TOO MUCH. 1/2 or 1/3 of this is good already.)

5.) Using the edges of a calling card (or any similar object), evenly spread the paste throughout the surface of the processor enough to form a very thin layer on it. Make sure it won’t be thick since there’s a risk of it leaking to the motherboard, ruining it.

Here’s a view from the side. Mine wasn’t done with finesse but it’s a start. 😀

6.) Now that you have your processor coated with new thermal paste, return it to whence it came from and re-assemble back your machine the way it used to be.

There you have it! If done correctly, you’ll definitely see improvements on your machine’s temperatures, especially if the old paste hasn’t been replaced after a long while. It’s been two weeks since I replaced mine, and temperatures dropped about 10°c while on idle state. Now that’s something!

Anyway, I hope this article was useful to you! Planning on writing more PC Care posts soon. Ciao! 🙂

2 thoughts on “How To Apply Thermal Paste to CPU and GPU

  • September 10, 2016 at 1:18 am
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    Chad, this is a very wrong way of applying it. You don’t need to remove it from the board, just wipe it clean with little alcohol and a good microfiber cloth (or even tissues would work). Remember, you only need to apply the thermal paste when the CPU is attached to the mobo. This is to ensure that the pins are safe from any damages or from accidental spill of paste when applying. Just a pea sized amount would do, NO NEED to use a calling card to spread the paste, you can simply attach the cooling system on it directly, it will spread out evenly. This is the safest way to do it. Hope that helps. Nonetheless, your blogs are still awesome. Keep it up.

    Reply
    • September 10, 2016 at 4:21 am
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      Hi Jem! Thank you for the comment. And you’re absolutely right- the last time I did it, I had to learn it the hard way by accidentally bending the pins on the mobo as I removed and placed the processor back, making me buy a new one. I’ll update this blog soon and add those stuff you said. 🙂

      Reply

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