Thermal paste aids conductivity, and it comes as either a pre-applied substance or after-market applied. It is used to bridge those mini-gaps between the lid of the computer CPU and the floor level of the heat sink. Without the thermal paste, there will be far less contact between the heat sink and CPU lid surfaces. There are microscopic gaps that can trap air and other particles in the CPU, and the thermal paste helps prevent such problems. For this reason, you need to apply the paste when necessary constantly.
So, What Happens If You Don’t Use Thermal Paste?
Not applying a thermal face between heat sink and CPU can cause the device to overheat, leading to eventual failure.
Are There Homemade Alternatives To Thermal Paste?
Thermal pastes are not recommended, especially when you have to apply them yourself. Since Thermal paste is frequently overlooked even though it is one of the most critical components of the PC assembly, you may have to use an alternative in cases where the original thermal paste is hard to find.
The most thermally-conductive homemade substance you can apply is butter, with a thermal conductance of 53.2C degrees. Moisturizing cream has 54C degrees, and Hair wax has 56C degrees, Toothpaste has 1 C degrees, yellow cheese has 67.9C degrees, and Banana has 58C degrees of conductivity.
Considering these temperatures, butter and moisturizing cream seem to have the best temporary solution in the absence of a thermal paste. The problem here is that liquefied oil may spill into underlying electronics since the motherboard is located beneath the CPU in a computer.
Hair wax and Toothpaste seem to be the best solution here. They both possess qualities of low temperatures without drying out entirely or cracking.
If you are impatient or under a strict deadline, you should consider toothpaste or hair wax as a temporary thermal paste. Once you are ready to replace the toothpaste or hair wax with the original thermal paste, you must use a sharp object to remove the dried-up material before applying isopropyl alcohol to a micro-fibre cloth used to scrub off the excess material.
Keep in mind that the computer-grade thermal paste will eventually dry up as well, requiring some periodic cleaning and reapplication of the paste.
Why Do You Need A Thermal Paste?
Though the metal base of your computer’s CPU cooler and the CPU’s IHS look so smooth and efficient to the eye, there are some microscopic holes in these items. The tiny holes or imperfections existing between the IHS and CPU cooler can lead to poor heat transfer and the eventual collapse of the CPU system.
Due to these imperfections, the surfaces of the two components are not in perfect contact with each other. Thermal paste will fill in these imperfections or holes to ensure the proper flow of heat around the devices.
The thermal paste helps your CPU cooler perform its job, and this means there will be much fewer performance issues, including throttling.
Though different brands of thermal pastes may look similar, you must not use one brand for another device. Stick to the thermal paste manufactured for your particular CPU to avoid any complications. Some thermal pastes may thicken more quickly than others, thus forcing you to reapply for new pastes every time.
The characteristic features of each thermal paste are written in the product manual; hence you can learn about the product’s temperature range and thermal conductivity features. The more you know about a thermal paste, the more you understand its proper application.
Preparing For Thermal Paste Application
Processors in the computer will require thermal solutions to operate at peak efficiency, and even though most computers have thermal paste reapplied, you still have to reapply the solution once in a while.
Check the bottom of the base plate to see if a thermal solution has been pre-applied. If the silver base plate attached to the bottom of the CPU is still intact, you may not need to add any new thermal paste.
The following steps are essential in preparing for thermal paste application;
1. Clean the CPU
Ensure the CPU is clean and there is no old thermal paste on it. If there is any old paste on it, gently remove the paste from the lid with Isopropyl alcohol alongside a microfiber cloth or paper towel. Let the solution dry out before you continue.
2. Ensure CPU Cooler is Ready
Ensure the rest of the CPU cooler is ready for installation before you commence the application of your thermal paste.
3. Check Instructional Manual
Check the instructional manual and see that every step has been taken up to the attachment of the CPU cooler. Also, make sure you have all the necessary tools nearby.
4. Use Correct Thermal Paste Amount
You must use the correct thermal paste amount. An insufficient paste application may lead to an inadequate application on the entire surface area.
5. Use Correct Paste Application
You might be tempted to spread the paste unto the CPU, and you should instead allow the pressure from the base plate to do this. Incorrect paste application can cause air bubbles to form inside the paste, leading to poor thermal conductivity.
6. Don’t Re-use Paste
Don’t re-use paste, and they can cause air bubbles to form. If there is a problem during the installation process and you have to remove the CPU cooler, you must clean the old thermal paste thoroughly and perform proper reapplication of the new paste.
How to Apply Thermal Paste
The process of applying thermal paste is straightforward.
1. Read Instructions Before Application
You must read the instructions that come with your CPU cooler and thermal paste before taking further steps. Every brand of thermal paste, for instance, is different, and knowing the one you have will make the thermal paste application smoother.
Apply Your Thermal Paste Only to the Center of the HIS of the CPU
You may skip this step if you already have a thermal paste pre-applied on the CPU cooler. You need to apply a little, not more than the rice grain size, unto the center of the IHS or Integrated heat spreader.
2. Install the CPU Cooler
Once you have applied the thermal paste, you need to put the CPU cooler in place. Use light and top-down pressure to place the CPU base plate of the cooler into the CPU and hold the tension while attaching the cooler to the mounting system.
Apply enough force to ensure that the cooler doesn’t slide off. This will also provide an even distribution of the thermal paste. Don’t apply too much pressure when installing the cooler, and this will help prevent pushing down the motherboard and damaging the CPU.
Keep the cooler in its position as you attach it to the motherboard in its diagonal position and secure the screws as if you are drawing the X symbol. Don’t tighten the screws until you connect all four. Secure the screws by tightening them one after the other with the same pressure.
3. Check the Installation One more Time.
Once the base plate of the CPU cooler has been attached properly, check your work one more Time to ensure that everything is set correctly. Make sure there is no thermal paste spilling to the edges of the CPU or the motherboard.
If there are spills of the paste anywhere, it means you used too much space, and you must clean such with an appropriate solution. You may have to start the process again if you have to clean excess thermal paste.
If the process is clean and the cooler doesn’t move when touched, this step is well-completed.
How Often Should You Replace Thermal Paste?
In most cases, you should only consider replacing thermal paste every few years. However, you may have to replace the paste if you have to remove the cooler for any reason. You may also want to consider reapplying thermal paste of your CPU temperatures are ridiculously shooting up.
If you are in doubt, you must consult the thermal paste manufacturer manual or online and follow the recommendations they give you.
Though thermal paste may not be discussed frequently like computer hardware like CPU and GPU, it is essential to keep the thermal paste running efficiently like other components to avoid CPU breakdown. Having proper knowledge of thermal paste applications will ensure you get the best performance from your computer CPU.
The use of thermal paste for improving the flow of heat within the CPU cannot be under-estimated. Lack of thermal paste can cause expensive damages and repairs to the computer. This is the reason why you should have a technician conduct a thorough check on your computer.
Some thermal paste manufacturers also produce different grades of similar products, and the higher the quality, the more lasting the paste will work. It also means that higher rates may cost more than the lower ones. Regardless of the thermal paste you use, you should pay close attention to the temperature records of your CPU.