How-To: Properly Apply Thermal Paste and Install a CPU

56

Comments

+ Add a Comment
avatar

dschnizzy

I have only used the stock cooler on one build, I have always bought a better cooler. One thing I learned, is this article has it wrong when it comes to spreading the compound. I typically used Arctic Silver 5 just because its been solid and has provided good temps. When you put down the thermal paste, about half a pea size to start, you take a lint free cloth and a little bit of Isoproply alcohol high proof rubbing alcohol, clean a new razor blade so its clean, any dirt or debris on the blade will interfere with the compound. Use the sharp edge of the blade and evenly spread the thermal paste over the top of the chip. I remember reading and article a long time ago to spread the paste evenly, doing whatever you can to keep the paste smooth on the chip.Just my two cents, but its kept my temperatures lower on well over twenty builds.

avatar

nodice2014

Re-apply thermal paste only if you have broken the seal, after it has dried.

avatar

sdbshb

I see a couple people have asked how long before re-applying the thermal paste on their CPUs.  The Answer is easy... The majority of pastes require an annual reapplication like AS5 and Tuniq... if you really want to know look on their official website.  There are few pastes that last longer than that officially... one being arctic cooling's MX2 or MX3 which lasts eight years.  Once again I suggest going to the official site of whatever paste you are currently using and check.  Again you get what you pay for!

avatar

nodnol

I had an AMD Duron computer for 9 years and never reapplied thermal paste. CPU temps were stable the whole time. It was the most stable system I ever worked with.  I don't think anybody would buy a compound that would require dismantling the CPU/heatsink every year for cleanup and reapplication.

avatar

TheZomb

Unless your doing overclocking it should be fine to never reapply thermal paste. Every computer has a different setup too. You typically don't have to worry about reapplying and low to midrange procs,as long as you keep your comp dust free you should be fine. If you but a high end processor or even a last gen high end proc which might now be midrange, you should monitor your temps and if they get to high try reapplying.

avatar

Justinius Maximus

I just got off the phone with Colin, a tech support guy with Arctic Silver. It turns out that NONE of AS's thermal paste products require reapplication, unless the contact between the chip and the heatsink has been compromised in some way. (This includes excessive vibration, such as might happen when transporting a PC with a spring-loaded heatsink.) Further, the recommended way to apply the thermal paste varies by CPU. For example, to apply AS5 to an Intel CPU: http://www.arcticsilver.com/intel_application_method.html# 

Helps to go to the source instead of parroting what you read in some forum.

avatar

TheAngryMoose

I'm loving the first rule of artic silver compound in the link you provided.

 

Arctic Silver Thermal Compound Precautions: 

 

1) Don't put it in your mouth.  

 

avatar

Metalmorphasis

Right dead in the center. Works perfect all the time no crap!

avatar

Alperian

If I were a company selling these 'preparations', I would probably recommend using 25 gallons per virtual core. The whole article above was summed up in the line:

"...agent that serves to fill in the microscopic gaps that naturally occur..."

All this BB sized stuff is inaccurate and excessive. One does not need to be an engineer in thermodynamics, or quote the second law to know that just a thin smear is all that is needed.

                                                                                           

Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice Doggy' until you can find a rock.

 

avatar

nodnol

Do you think the term "thin smear" is more accurate than the term "BB sized" ? In terms of quantity, I find "BB sized" to be far more graphically representative. Also, explain why you think "BB sized" is excessive.

avatar

QuakindudeMod

Maybe you should contact the guys who make ICD7 and teach them something. Because the way the article you've commented on recommends to do it is correct. It's also the way just about every manufacturer of thermal interface material recommends to apply it. And for a general, all around method of application, you can't go wrong using it.

 

*****MaximumPC Moderator. Report inappropriate/SPAM comments to
QuakindudeMod at Gmail--dot--com with a link. My personal comments do not necessarily
reflect the opinions of MaxPC or Future US*****

avatar

Justinius Maximus

Maybe you should check with the manufacturer of a particular thermal paste before making a blanket statement. As I posted above, Arctic Silver has varying application recommendations depending on the CPU. Check it out:  http://www.arcticsilver.com/intel_application_method.html#

The author of this article would be well-advised to direct interested readers to the manufacturers' pages instead of making simplistic, blanket statements about such things as thermal paste application methods. This is the sort of inaccurate junk that ends up being parroted all over anonymous forums, to the detriment of its members and the public at large.

avatar

Audie

I'm lazy but tidy. I use masking tape to create a square exposed area on the CPU about 1/8th inch from its edges. I lay a bead of paste on one side of the masked square and use a credit card to spread a think, consistent layer of paste. Remove the masking tape and you are good to go, just like the pre-applied pastes. When I remove a sink, I find the pressure has typicall spread the paste exactly to the edges of the CPU. The scraper tends to accumulate paste and it can be a little wasteful. One of these days I reckon someone will create and market little masks.

avatar

LD

Arctic Silver has specific instructions for the Core i7 and i5.  You don't use a single dot in the center of the CPU.  Instead you use a small line of paste oriented according to the cores.

avatar

ironious

You mean you dont use 3 tubes and spread it all over the heat pipes like inside my laptop?

avatar

schneider1492

sounds like something apple's authorized techs would do. lol

avatar

Athlonite

I'd like to ya try the bb / pea size drop with Shin-Etsu's thermal compound LOL you'd push your CPU throught to the other side of you mobo and on to china befor it spread like that 

 

 

 

 

ASUS M3A32MVP-DELUXE AM2+, AMD Athlon x2 7750BE @ 2700MHz + Tuniq Tower 120

2x Corsair Dominator Twin2x2048C5D-8500 (4x 1GB) DDR2-1066MHz 555-15CL2 2.10v

HIS Radeon HD5770 FAN 1GB DDR5 cclk/850MHz memclk/4800

2x WD2500AAJS Raid0 Boot/

avatar

nekollx

 i just used a pea sized square then lowered the fan on.

------------------------------
Coming soon to Lulu.com --Tokusatsu Heroes--
Five teenagers, one alien ghost, a robot, and the fate of the world.

avatar

rludwic

I'm using a Prolimatech Megahalem and find the 2 line divided by thirds on the CPU works out best for me. I also found that OCZ Freeze works much better than AS5 and my previous favorite Zalmans Super Thermal Grease 1. The OCZ Freeze has my overclocked I7 (4.2GHz) running at idle at 34C and at 100% load in LinX at 76C. Pretty decent temps for an air-cooled 4.2GHz I7 (1366 pin).

avatar

pl4t0

when i apply the paste, i always go through a meticulous process of using a credit card to spread it very evenly, just right.  I used to use the method displayed in the article, but once I was very careful and cautious about how it was spread, it LITERALLY lowered my CPU temps by about 8-9 degrees.

avatar

Carlidan

I was wondering how long does thermal paste last before you have to reapply it?

 

“Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equal.”

avatar

pl4t0

because it's a grease, if I'm not mistaken, I don't think you ever have to reapply it, because it'll never harden or substantially change its state.  But there is the definite possibility i'm mistaken, this is just in my own experience.

avatar

mikebravo

Say Yull, why not pop down to the local liquor store and buy Everclear or the equivelent. At 190 proof it will clean most anything, including your stomach lining.

avatar

nodnol

It will also kill your brain cells.

avatar

JohnP

  The best stuff for removing old paste is Goof-Off, available in Home Depot and probably grocery stores. That is not Goof-off 2 or whatever its called. Follow the cleaning up with isopropyl alcohol.

  Artic Silver 5, a highly rated paste, will not work well with a wipe on technique as it is very sticky. The best way is with a sharp metal edge. I use an old box cutter blade that I dulled up some. 

avatar

WaterRabbit

Just wanted to add something to your "box cutter blade idea" the factory coats all of those blades with oil to prevent rust and sticking. If you still plan to use them I suggest a really good cleaning and rinse with alcohol to remove the oil and then clean everything you touched. Take Care.

avatar

DBsantos77

 Read my post below on Gelid compound.

-Santos

avatar

ghen

I much prefer the ziplock bag method. This way I can make sure I get a nice even spread before plopping down the heatsink. No second guessing. It takes a while to get perfect, but I'd rather take the time than worry when I push the OC'ing boundries.

avatar

HeartBurnKid

I usually use a plastic bag to smear the thermal paste evenly around the CPU.  Never tried just letting the weight of the HSF do it for me.   Wonder how the techniques compare... this one is definitely less work.

avatar

Athlonite

tis all good if your using a fairly runny type of TIM anything thick like the shin-etsu stuff and you need to spread it first  

 

 

ASUS M3A32MVP-DELUXE AM2+, AMD Athlon x2 7750BE @ 2700MHz + Tuniq Tower 120

2x Corsair Dominator Twin2x2048C5D-8500 (4x 1GB) DDR2-1066MHz 555-15CL2 2.10v

HIS Radeon HD5770 FAN 1GB DDR5 cclk/850MHz memclk/4800

2x WD2500AAJS Raid0 Boot/

avatar

Modred189

As another tip, when i clean off my CPU TIM, after using alcohol to get the old TIM off, I use a bottle of compressed air to evaporate any remaining cleaner. 

avatar

johnny3144

high % alcohol evaporate by itself in seconds. 

avatar

Tophar

I would really love to see more articles like this targeted at first time computer builders.

avatar

Gaius Octavius

We novices that are picking this knowledge up and comparing opinions really appreciate more technical tips, comments and articles to learn from. Articles from one author's viewpoint are fine, but the responses from other techies are incredibly valuable.

avatar

WaterRabbit

Yes, I agree I learn so much from the articles and the comments are both informative and entertaining! More Tech Tips, More Tech Tips, More Tech Tips......................

avatar

nekollx

 i always though their walk thoughts for building their custom pcs covered all the main points. Only this was really missing details..

------------------------------
Coming soon to Lulu.com --Tokusatsu Heroes--
Five teenagers, one alien ghost, a robot, and the fate of the world.

avatar

DBsantos77

 Meh, Arctic Silver 5 is good, but way outdated. I switched to Gelid Extreme Compound, keeps my 3.6 Ghz Phenom @ 17 C on Idle, 35 C 100% load with Prime. Gelid is five degrees lower in both scenarios, respectively. I also did avery sloppy job on spreading it, I'm probably going to follow this tut when I get home and re-apply the compound.

Gelid kicks AS5's ass when cooling, but it's pricey, I paid $18 for my compound from the 'egg.

Also, Gelid's compound doesn't require the "set-in" time that AS5 requires, which is four to five months for the compound to work at peak performance...pretty long time if you ask me. I clean out my machines dust every month, including the CPU heatsink.

-Santos

avatar

nsvander

By my estimates, 17C is around 63*F and 35C is around 94*F, so how cold do you keep the room where your PC is? 

avatar

nekollx

 How timly, I JUST not my new CPU yesterday, and am hoping the new HDDs arrives today for a new build of the family pc.

------------------------------
Coming soon to Lulu.com --Tokusatsu Heroes--
Five teenagers, one alien ghost, a robot, and the fate of the world.

avatar

Spartacus

Welcome to 2005... What about Tuniq TX-2, 3, and IC Diamond 7? Swapping a cooler's paste from AS5 to TX-2 lowered temps by 4C and from TX-2 to IC Diamond 7 dropped another degree. AS5 was the best. Keyword: was.

avatar

Lummoxx

In response to some of the questions, the end goal is to have a thin as possible layer of thermal paste between all contact points of the heat sink and CPU.

From what I understand, the "perfect" heat transfer occurs between the metal to metal contact, and the paste is intended to fill any gaps.  For example, a truly perfectly flat heatsink, mated to a truly perfectly flat CPU, would require no thermal paste at all.  And by perfectly, I mean exactly that.  Since even the cleanest cut by the most modern equipment still looks like a jagged forest under magnification, this is a currently unattainable ideal, and hence, the use of thermal paste.

I remember when lapping the heatsink was often brought up in these conversations, I guess it's fallen out of favor?  It was done since even the best heatsinks had visible grooves from the manufacturer.  I spent quite a bit of time once giving a heatsink a near mirror contact surface.  Not saying it was time well spent, but...  :)

avatar

Stomy

Oh god, don't reminde me of lapping, not that it's gone to the way side but most of the "air cooler" click argue the point of it as it can be hard to judge peoples results.  I sill recomend it for the water cooling and above (hey if your going to put that much effort into a cooling solution you might as well go all the way. but yeah my friend and I falt myself fo not watching him as he did it, but he laped a hole into his first old P4 prossesor I still regret not taking a picture of it lol.

avatar

Devo85x

 Do you have any tips on removing it?  I am upgrading my liquid cooling setup and need a way to get the paste off the cpu so I can change the waterblock, any tips?

avatar

m1k3_flrs

Its on step one. High percentage alcohol will work on removing the residue of old thermal paste....

avatar

Yull

Use isopropyl alcohol!

In most cases - at least here in Europe - rubbing alcohol is made with ethyl alcohol mixed with water or acetone or methyl alcohol, these additives decrease somewhat the capacity of grease removal...

 

avatar

K0BALT

When I do it............. I wipe off the old paste with a dry, lint-free cloth. Then get another clean cloth and use rubbing alcohol to finish it off. Acetone works well also.

_______________________________________________________________________________

~ i7 920 @ 4.4GHz, (2) GTX295's Quad-SLI, EVGA X58 3X SLI, 6GB DDR3 OCZ Gold ~

avatar

K0BALT

... the 'X' pattern of paste on the cpu tends to spread better than the traditional dot, in my experience. I actually just tested both ways last night with my i7 and a waterblock.

Heatpipe coolers should use 2 lines about half the width of the cpu on the base in between the pipes.

_______________________________________________________________________________

~ i7 920 @ 4.4GHz, (2) GTX295's Quad-SLI, EVGA X58 3X SLI, 6GB DDR3 OCZ Gold ~

avatar

brotherj

"Don’t be tempted to just reuse this old paste, as it dries out over time"

If I don't do any upgrades to cooler, cpu, or mobo for a couple years, how long would you recommend I wait before putting on a fresh coat?

avatar

Athlonite

unless it says how long a life it has on the packaging then every 12~24 months dependent on the quality of the product your using

 

"i ride sheep" 

ASUS M3A32MVP-DELUXE AM2+, AMD Athlon x2 7750BE @ 2700MHz + Tuniq Tower 120

2x Corsair Dominator Twin2x2048C5D-8500 (4x 1GB) DDR2-1066MHz 555-15CL2 2.10v

HIS Radeon HD5770 FAN 1GB DDR5 cclk/850MHz memclk/4800

2x WD2500AAJS Raid0 Boot/

avatar

Stomy

thats a hard question to answer for a few reasons, some thermal paste clame their product works best after it "cures". Some can degrade over time all though that is very rare. I would recomend running something like Speedfan- www.almico.com/speedfan.php do a through cleaning and record the temps, after a few months do another cleaning and compair. If after a while you notice a increase in temp then hey go ahead and redo your paste and see if that helps.

Log in to MaximumPC directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.