How to apply Thermal Paste in 2021

How to apply Thermal Paste

Panicking for your gaming setup is a natural thing and an autonomous process, especially if you are about to discern your PC burning to death. Yes, I’m verily talking about temperatures. If you are a PC gamer and have to spend a good deal of time in the realm of hardware, then the term “thermal paste” is something you must have come across. The alternative names are as follows: Thermal grease, heat paste, thermal gel, and thermal interface material (TIM).

Today, I will be shedding light on a question that has been debated for so long and warranted a discussion on our site. The question is as follows “how to apply thermal paste”. Many of the YouTubers have demonstrated exceptional skills in applying thermal paste; still, some bookworms are more into following the guidelines; thus, this is for you!

Usually, people prefer the “grain of rice” or “Pea formula” method, but it entirely depends on what component you are using. Naturally, GPUs need a little more than the usual thermal gel when compared against CPUs, so there’s no hard and fast rule. Anyhow, it’s time to discuss this in detail, so let’s begin!

When should you apply thermal paste?

There’s no definite time period when it comes to applying thermal grease/paste. It entirely depends on the current temperature of your components. For instance, GPUs usually throttle down at 90 Degrees, on which the performance is astronomically degraded. If your GPU is touching such a boundary (you can check the temperatures through Speccy software), then yes, you are in need of a thermal repasting session. The same formula applies to CPUs and other components. Not to mention, with CPUs, you get dedicated/external coolers, so do bear in mind that you need to monitor the temperature of the VRMs and the CPU itself and not that of the cooler.

A step-by-step guide to applying thermal paste

In this portion of the article, I will be enumerating all the steps to follow. So, get ready!

Taking off the cooler

Taking off the cooler

First things first, you would need to unlatch the cooler if there’s any on your CPU. With every CPU, you do get cooler, so if there’s none, I would definitely recommend purchasing a cooler first. Anyways, you would need to unscrew the screws that are directly located atop the cooler.

Removing the old thermal paste

Removing the old thermal paste

After that, take off the cooler, and wipe off any dried thermal paste. Yes, when you purchase a pre-built setup, the assemblers have already applied the thermal paste, so you need to ensure that the remnants of the previous grease have been wiped out completely. It’s to ensure that whatever paste you reapply settles well and does not have a hindering performance. I would recommend you to have grabbed the base plate professionally and then apply 70% isopropyl solution on a wipeable cotton cloth/tissue. Now, simply rug through the CPU, and remove any dried-out paste. When you are done with this, let your chipset evaporate any water particles (remember that the isopropyl solution has 30% water, too. You don’t need the water sitting atop your cooler at any cost).

Applying the new thermal paste

There are two types of methods you can practice, and both of them work like a charm.

  • Pea-sized paste
Pea-sized paste

In this method, you only apply a little thermal paste to the concerned component and force it against the heatsink. The pea-sized drop will itself expand and solidify according to the temperature. I always recommend my readers to root for the pea-sized method as it doesn’t require you to roll your way out of the CPU. Simply, put a little dot-sized paste, and the heatsink itself will do everything else.

  • Cross-method
cross method thermal paste

There are a few people who prefer the cross method. And it makes use of a little more than usual thermal paste, so this at times can be dangerous. However, the percentile for coming across component breakdown is infinitesimal. Simply put a cross on the chipset, and then smooth it out. The paste will be evenly distributed.

Things to avoid when applying the new paste

  1. Do not pressurize the base plate when applying the thermal paste because it can lead to long-term damage to the plate itself.
  2. Spreading the thermal paste at one’s discretion can be misleading. Always ensure you don’t spread it haphazardly over the chipset as it can lead to the formation of bumps on the chipset.
  3. Kindly avoid reusing the same paste as it can give rise to air bubbles. Due to this, the opposite can happen: Temperature rises exponentially. Let’s say before the air bubbles formed; the temps were touching the 80 Degrees threshold; now, due to the air bubbles, it will simply skyrocket to 90 or beyond. You should know that the air traps heat, hence the apparent change in temperature.
  4. Using sharp objects for smoothing out the paste can indefinitely damage the component.
  5. Using a local paste/toothpaste. Please, for the love of God, don’t ever use toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste can act as a temporary solution, but you won’t be able to remove it when it solidifies. And, in an effort, you might not be ever able to reapply any type of thermal paste at all.

How to know you have successfully applied the paste?

There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by stressing your PC. Yes! When you are done applying the paste, reboot your PC, download a stressing software if you have none, and then stress-test your components. If the temperatures are within the given threshold on 100% CPU/GPU usage, then voila, you have done it successfully. This also means that the paste is working all fine. Also, do this for a couple of days, and record the results. And if the results are consistent, you are good to go; now you can play the games 24/7. Also, if you have any questions regarding the thermal pastes, do let me know in the comment session.

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