Thermal paste is a very conductive chemical known as a heatsink compound, thermal compound, silicone grease, etc. It is applied between the CPU’s body and the heatsink or the CPU cooler. It is because the thermal paste is highly conductive and absorbs the heat from the CPU and transfers it in the air through the heatsink.
The thermal paste is not limited to your computer system CPU but is also used in other electronic chips that become overheated when working. In this article, we will try our best to clarify your concept about the relationship between thermal paste and your CP and the importance of using it.
Do You Really Need Thermal Paste For CPU?
You need thermal paste for the CPU because the thermal conduction process will slow down without it. As a result, your central processing unit will become overheated and burn out within minutes. You can buy a small injection of thermal paste for your CPU from a computer accessory store.
We apply thermal paste on the metal part of the processor. It is because when your CPU is in working condition, it generates enormous heat. The function of thermal paste is to absorb this heat from your CPU and transfer it to the CPU cooler or heatsink to dissipate or cool it down.
A central processing unit (CPU) with no or poorly applied thermal paste has air bubbles between its DIE and the heatsink body. These air bubbles not only trap the heat but also slow down the process of heat transfer. As a result, your CPU becomes overheated and loses its performance and efficiency.
In addition, a poorly applied thermal paste with air bubbles inside can not only overheat your CPU but it can also burn it out. If you are installing a CPU cooler without using any thermal paste, then beware because your new CPU cooler will be useless without it. We recommend you apply thermal paste first.
- Facilitates Heat Transfer
The primary function of thermal paste is to transfer the heat from the CPU to the heatsink. Thermal paste is always applied on the ICs having a heatsink on them.
- Prevent Direct Contact between Components
Direct contact between components may damage them due to heat transfer. Heat may also act as soldering fire and may damage both the heatsink and the component. That is why thermal paste is necessary to avoid such issues.
- Acts as a Cooling Gel
It acts as a cooling gel between the CPU and the heatsink. Whenever your PC is shut down after working for several hours, the thermal paste eliminates all the remaining heat from the CPU chip and keeps it cool.
- Reduces Fire hazard
Overheating in PC components may also start a fire. Luckily, thermal paste protects the components from overheating and reduces fire hazards. That is why using a good quality thermal paste is highly recommended periodically.
How Long Does Thermal Paste Last?
You can consider the thermal paste as a shield for protecting your CPU from overheating. Hence thermal paste is the one that gets most of the damage during this protection because it is not only a chemical but also is not made up of hard and durable metal. As a result, there comes a time when it expires.
How long the applied thermal paste lasts depends on the quality of the paste, its maximum temperature rating, your weather and room temperature, your CPU cooling system, and its time of usage, etc. A well-manufactured thermal paste used in suitable conditions lasts up to 10 years.
But if you consider extreme conditions or extreme usage and heat, it lasts for a minimum of 2 years. It has also been observed that a good quality thermal paste can last more or less 4 years in the worst conditions. No matter how long it lasts, the main point is whether you have applied it properly to your CPU.
Is Thermal Paste Permanent?
No, thermal paste is not permanent, just like the other hardware in your computer system. One day it expires, and your computer’s performance degrades because its CPU becomes overheated. Some motherboards don’t even turn on if the thermal paste has expired, while others let your CPU burn out.
If you have such an issue, consider changing your CPU thermal paste. We recommend you replace your thermal paste after every 2 years, especially when you have a high-end computer system. But if you manage to get a thermal paste that a well-known company manufactures, then have no worries for the next 4 years.
If you are talking about the permanent thermal paste in the sense of its adhesiveness, then no, it is not permanently stuck to your CPU or heatsink. You can use an alcohol swab or a dry cloth to remove it from your central processing unit (CPU); ensure that none of the paste falls on your motherboard when you do this.
Can I Use Toothpaste as Thermal Paste?
Toothpaste and thermal paste are two opposite chemicals. The thermal paste is highly conductive, so it can transfer heat through it, while the toothpaste acts like an insulator to stop heat and cold from migrating. Hence we will never recommend you use toothpaste in place of thermal paste.
There is another reason behind this recommendation. The thermal paste can high temperatures that the CPs can generate during work. On the other hand, toothpaste melts at those temperatures. As a result, it spills on your motherboard, causing a short circuit because of the conductive salts inside it.
How Hot Can a CPU Get?
The temperature of a CPU not only depends on the apps or games it is running at a time but also on the condition of thermal paste, the weather, the cooling system, the ventilation conditions, etc. If these conditions suit your computer system, you do not need to worry about the heat your CPU generates.
A CPU running simple apps and games can reach 65° to 70° degrees celsius, which is nearly 150° to 160° degrees Fahrenheit, an acceptable temperature range for a central processing unit. Some CPUs can generally work at 80° to 85° degrees celsius.
Two CPUs with the same number of cores and frequencies also generate different amounts of heat because of the two different manufacturers. Overclocking is also a reason behind the overheated central processing unit (CPU). You only need to worry when your CPU continuously works at 90° Celsius.
What Happens When You Don’t Have Enough Thermal Paste on the CPU?
You may have removed your CPU cooler or heatsink, and the amount of applied thermal paste decreased for some reason. It is also possible that you ran out of thermal paste, and now you want to assemble your computer system back with insufficient thermal paste applied to your CPU.
As we have discussed earlier, thermal paste is a vital component of your CPU. If you do not have enough thermal paste on the CPU, it will transfer its heat from the only part(s) where the paste is applied. And the other parts of your CPU’s die or heatsink will never be able to transfer their heat.
As a result, your CPU will become overheated even on running the smallest and the simplest apps and games. A central processing unit is made of silicone that damages because of excessive heat. As a result, either the cores of your CPU will burn out, making it slow, or it will stop working.
How Much of A Difference Does New Thermal Paste Make?
The old thermal paste loses its power of conducting heat from the CPU DIE to the heatsink to dissipate in the air keeping the CPU as cool as possible. As a result of it, an old and expired thermal paste causes your central processing unit to heat up instead of cooling down. This heat is hazardous for any CPU.
On the other hand, if you are curious about how much difference a new thermal paste will make. Then you should install software that tells you the CPU temperature stats. We bet you will see a decrease in the temperature of your CPU. In some cases, NT-H1 can cause 10 degrees drop in CPU temperature.
Is Using Cheap Thermal Paste OK?
Using cheap thermal paste is OK as long as a known company manufactures it and it is not a fake thermal paste. You do not need a million-dollar thermal paste because most of the pastes cost nearly the same except for the ones used for the CPUs of very high-end computer systems.
Do apply the thermal paste, no matter how cheap, because leaving and using your CPU without any paste will either burn out its cores or its internal circuitry because of its heat. We recommend you use a better thermal paste not only because it will last longer but also because it will work better.
How to Apply Thermal Paste on CPU?
How you apply thermal paste on the CPU of your computer system matters a lot because a poorly applied thermal paste has air bubbles or missings in it. As a result, your CPU temperature does not drop as you expected on using the thermal paste. Simply, a poorly applied paste becomes useless.
For applying the thermal paste, you first need a rubber glove. That is not only for the safety of your own, but it is also a professional method. If you intend to use a cloth, please don’t do it because tiny threads from that cloth will mix in the paste, preventing it from working properly.
First, install the CPU in its socket and then apply thermal paste on the metallic part of your CPU. The amount of this paste varies with the size of the DIE of your CPU. Make sure you do not apply so much, so it comes from sides like mayonnaise in a burger. That is very dangerous for your motherboard.
Now, gently and carefully spread the thermal paste on your CPU to cover its heat-generating part. Do not press too hard when applying the paste because it will make a very thin layer, and we do not want it. The layer must be thick but not too thick to spread after you fix the CPU cooler’s heatsink.
In the end, put the heatsink on your CPU and clip or screw it carefully. If you have placed the heatsink on your CPU, then don’t remove it and put it back because, in this case, air bubbles can make space between your CPU DIE and the cooler’s heatsink. We hope your CPU will work better after this all.
In this article, we have discussed what thermal paste is. How it works, and how to apply it on the CPU of your computer system. We hope this article will help you keep your central processing unit cool even when running high-end applications or games.
Hey, I’m Hammad. I write for this website to help you with the IT advice about PC, RAM, CPU, Motherboard, PSU, and other PC components.
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