Before we answer your question, we will ask you this. How important to you is the life of your CPU? Applying the thermal paste to your CPU is extremely important.
However, another critical factor is the quality of the paste. The thermal paste helps with the proper conduction of heat flowing from the CPU to the cooling system. The better the quality of the thermal paste, the better the conduction. Therefore your CPU will last longer.
Nowadays, most processors come with the factory-applied thermal paste, so you won’t have to add any of your own. The biggest mistake, though, is when people who used their CPU’s more than three years forget to renew their thermal paste, and they start seeing these high temperatures and low performances.
Table of Contents
The Top 5 Most Asked Questions About Thermal Paste
How long does thermal paste last
Thermal paste, like any other component, has a lifespan, and something could go wrong. Most of the time, manufacturers mention a thermal paste’s lifespan to be 3 to 5 years.
Of course, that estimate may vary on certain occasions, depending on the thermal paste’s quality and the system’s temperature. That means that if you overclock your CPU, it will be using more power and more heat, resulting in more paste loss.
If your processor keeps turning off, you might need to check if your thermal paste is expired. But does thermal paste expires? You might ask. That’s a tricky question! It depends on many reasons. Every paste mixture differs, that depends on the manufacturer. You can find many brands on the market, like ARCTIC, Noctua, Thermal Grizzly, Arctic Silver, Coolaboratory, Cooler Master, Corsair, etc. So we can’t give you a simple answer to that.
But some factors indicate your thermal paste is expired or not efficient enough. For example, if you detach your cooler of the CPU and you can see that the paste is dried out and concentrated on the center of the square, that shows that you need to clean it and re-apply the thermal paste.
Is thermal paste conductive
Thermal paste is thermally conductive and usually, in most cases, electrically insulting. So no, it’s not electrically conductive, but also depends on the grease compound made of. Thermal pastes are both electrically and thermally conductive, and others that’s non electrically conductive but have high thermal conductivity.
Here are some examples:
This is both not electrically and not thermally conductive.
And this is electrically but not thermally conductive.
Nevertheless, to ensure the paste’s electrical conductivity, you must research or measure how much the current flow is resisting. Every material will conduct the electricity differently dependant on how high it is.
Can too much thermal paste kill a CPU
A thermal paste can’t kill a modern CPU. But there are several occasions where people had their processors destroyed by applying to much thermal paste. So the answer is: It Depends!
In simple words, the thermal paste is applied only to bridge the gap between your CPU and the cooler. Its function is to replace the trapped air in the pockets between the processor and the cooler. If the paste covers and fills the space between, it causes no airflow thus, the heat sensors will cause the motherboard to throttle the CPU clock down.
Another alarming situation is that if you apply too much thermal paste to the CPU, it can sometimes mess things out around that area, and after the paste will dry out, it will be challenging to clean it up afterward. You see, the trick with thermal paste is less is more! And by less, we mean thickness, not area coverage.
Make sure when you apply it to the square body’s surface to see through the layer but still make sure the entire surface is covered. The thickness plays a vital role because when you put the cooler on top of the paste, it will apply pressure and squirt out ten times more of what you expected to be.
Here is two examples:
What happens if you spill thermal paste on the motherboard
What happens while you applied the thermal paste on your CPU and accidentally spilled a few drops on the motherboard? Nothing! As long as it’s not on a connector or slot, though. If you didn’t spill any water on it, nothing would happen. Don’t get scared if you spilled thermal paste on the motherboard and rush things up. Calm down and pick some Isopropyl Alcohol and start cleaning it with a cotton swab or a towel.
In conclusion, dropping thermal paste on your motherboard isn’t catastrophic unless you won’t clean it properly.
How to clean thermal paste off CPU pins
So you tried to re-apply some brand new thermal paste on your CPU, and you accidentally dropped some on the processor’s pins what you can do to clean it on how to avoid destroying your processor.
The situation here is a little bit more complicated than cleaning your motherboard from the thermal paste. Using standard Isopropyl alcohol will work on the top of your CPU but not for cleaning the processor’s pins’ paste.
Some people use nail polish removers to remove the thermal past of accidental drops, which is a terrible idea. The nail polish remover liquid will damage most plastics. It will also release the glue that holds the lid of the CPU onto the PCB chip. Nail polishers are Acetone based, and it should only be used for removing nail polish.
The essential lesson is not to remove the CPU from the socket without cleaning the top of the chip’s thermal paste. The most important task is to be gentle with the pinks when you’re removing the paste!
Here’s a summary of the do’s and don’ts:
How to apply thermal paste on the CPU
Applying thermal paste on the CPU is not a difficult task, though it might be tricky for some people, that’s why we decide to put together a simple step by step guide on how you apply the thermal paste on the CPU.
Before we start, if it’s a new CPU, you won’t have to apply anymore paste to it. Just go ahead and connect it with the motherboard and the cooler. If you want to renew the paste and re-apply it, then you have to get rid of the old one and then start applying the new thermal paste.
Here are the steps:
Spill a dot on the center of the square surface.
Start spreading the paste till 0,5 cm before the corners.
What's the best thermal paste
Arctic Cooling needs no introduction. This brand is around the market for many years. They created these thermal pastes for both CPUs and GPUs, and their quality and functionality is of the chart. The Arctic MX-4 is the best carbon-based thermal paste in the industry period. It became trendy because of its low price, and it’s efficiency and functionality.
Beware the applicator doesn’t have any metal parts in the mixture, so it’s not an electrical conductor thermal paste. Another cool feature of this paste is that it doesn’t need any preparation, so that you won’t wait. The mixture is easily spread and applied on the surface to get the job done fast enough.
Nevertheless, if you have overclocked your GPU or CPU or are willing to do so, you will need to find another thermal paste because the Arctic MX-4 is not a preferable choice for overclocking. The comparison of thermal pastes is all about temperatures.
If you’re looking for a thermal paste mixed for overclocked systems, you need to check the Noctua NT-H1 specially designed for this.
MX-4’s mixture doesn’t include any metallic particles, so if you accidentally spill some drops on your motherboard, there’s no need to panic. Even if you drop it on the CPU pins and make direct contact with it, you will only need to worry about cleaning it up.
Providentially, even the risk of spilling a drop is little because of its soft consistency. MX-4’s performance and efficiency are made to last a long time. According to the Arctic, you won’t need to worry about reapplying the thermal paste for up to eight years.
Complexity of Installation
MX’4’s installation is easy because of the smooth consistency of the mixture. Even if you are a beginner on building PCs and it’s your first time applying a thermal paste on a CPU (check out the best CPUSs), you will find a comparatively little risk of creating a mess or unintentionally using too much. The tube’s design makes the process easy to avoid problems voiding your hardware or creating spills elsewhere.
About Arctic MX-4
Arctic MX-4 Specs:
|Storage Time||8 years|
|Usage Time||8 years|
|Long Term Temperatures||-|
If you are familiar with PC cooling, then you surely know the brand Noctua. Their cooling products, like the fans, are globally known as the best in the market and their thermal pastes for high-quality standards.
When you overclock your PC, the temperatures are higher than the regular clock times. Noctua NT-H1 thermal paste is a mix precisely for this purpose. The price is relatively lower than the other thermal pastes, and it’s installation as well.
However, you have to know that the container is a little bit smaller than the other ones, and you get a smaller amount of paste. Even though the price is low, it delivers one of the industry’s best thermal paste performances.
The unique mix of Noctua NT-H1 paste is not electrically conductive. It’s also non-corroding, which makes it also suitable for copper and aluminum coolers. The 3.5g of paste the Noctua tube contains makes it enough for a dozen of applications.
The recommended storage of this thermal paste is two years, which is enough to get by. The advertised lifespan of usage is three years; it’s enough to keep your system cool and run at temperatures below 90˚C.
Complexity of Installation
In general, Noctua applicators create these tubes for easy usages, such as NT-H1. Using the pea method is a unique feature provided by the NT-H1, so it’s easy to apply it, just a drop at the center, and you’re good to go.
The texture and mixture of the paste aren’t particularly slimy or hard, so it’s even easier to handle and apply it. The mix being loose is an adverse benefit because few beginners and inexperienced people might spill too much and get dirty your motherboard.
About Noctua NT-H1
Noctua NT-H1 Specs:
|Storage Time||Up to 2 years|
|Usage Time||Up to 3 years|
|Peak Temperatures||-50˚C to +110℃|
|Long Term Temperatures||-40℃ to +90℃|
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut
If you are looking for a very expensive paste, the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is the right thermal paste for you. It’s doubling the price of the Noctua NT-H1, and on top of that, it has less paste.
For this specific reason, it’s only suggested for the hardcore PC gamers who own high-end machines. This paste’s unique feature is that it doesn’t contain any conductive power, which is the most fitting for thermal pastes.
There is no time cap when you apply it, meaning that you can relax and take your time.
Contrary to its price, the Grizzly Kryonaut contrasts with a 4% to 5% lower temperatures and cooling abilities than the Arctic Silver 5 and the Noctua NT-H1, which are in this list as well.
The Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut has been made for many applications. The brand might not be so famous, though this thermal paste is known by the high-end hardcore gamers.
It’s designed to handle the most extreme temperatures, and it’s known for the high thermal conductivity, although it’s doesn’t come as an electrical conductor at all. We want to emphasize that the factory put cooling as their priority when creating this thermal paste.
Complexity of Installation
This thermal paste is relatively more challenging to apply than other silicon-based mixes. The syringe is simple to use, and it lets you get full control of the amount you want to drop.
However, the paste is quite firm, so you will need to use the tool that comes within the package to spread it evenly. An important warning is that the pea method isn’t going to work fine for applying this paste.
About Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Specs:
|Peak Temperatures||-250˚C to +300℃|
|Long Term Temperatures||-250˚C to +300℃|
Arctic Silver 5
Are you looking for a superior thermal paste? The Arctic Silver 5 has some of the most robust cooling capabilities in the market, made almost entirely of micronized silver. It’s one of the most high-density pastes out there, and you can see it once you squeeze it from the syringe.
As you see at the properties, it’s formed of 99,9% pure micronized silver, and it’s non-electrically conductive at all. It doesn’t differ from any other ceramic paste, but we recommend you not placing it on other components of your computer.
The purpose of the micronized silver in this mixture is because it’s almost the best material at conducting heat, meaning that it will assist consume more heat when the CPU works for a long time. Unlike the other recommended thermal pastes of this list, the Arctic Silver 5 HAS a settling time added to it, so mind the time when you start using the paste.
Arctic Silver 5, with the micronized materials, is way stiffer and abrasive than the other pastes in the market, so if you’re looking for that silver-colored touch, that one is undoubtedly the best paste for the job.
The Arctic Silver 5 is specially designed with micronized silver paste with ceramic particles for high performances and lasts for a very long period. The aluminum oxide, boron nitride, zinc oxide solution gives lower load temperatures than you’ll get from regular compounds.
The amount of paste that the tube contains is enough to cover a dozen CPUs and a half of large ones. You can press out about 16 square inches of one of the best thermal paste mixtures from one single tube at the lowest price of this list.
Complexity of Installation
If you are an experienced PC builder and you have tested many thermal pastes in the past, we guarantee you that you haven’t experienced something like Arctic Silver 5’s paste. It’s because they built this thermal paste with synthetic oil, which is entirely free from silicone.
That allows the paste to make the application process way different, making the other pastes unable to copy the Arctic Silver’s effectiveness. The good part is when you apply the paste and turn on the CPU, the heat of it instantly makes the paste thinner leaving behind only the most thermally essential elements.
Here’s the crazy part. After a few days, the paste gradually thickens until it’s reached its desired consistency. This process results not only in excellent stability but keeping the paste working for years.
About Arctic Silver 5
Arctic Silver 5 Specs:
|Peak Temperatures||–50°C to +180°C|
|Long Term Temperatures||–50°C to +130°C|
Cooler Master MasterGel Pro V2
Coolermaster is one of the most famous brands in the market, and anybody that knows little about PC building has already heard of the name.
They introduce the new thermal paste Cooler Master MasterGel Pro V2, an upgraded compound of its old version MasterGel Maker made for high CPU/GPU conductivity. It provides better heat dissipation and improves the heat transfer from the chipset to the cooler. Not only they changed and upgraded the aesthetic design of the thermal paste tube, but they made better adjustments to match your performance needs.
Despite the model, the MasterGel thermal paste comes inside a small 1.5ml syringe. It also comes with a cleaning cloth to clean old thermal paste off, or any thermal paste left over after applying the MasterGel.
MasterGel Maker has been improved for users demanding the best thermal conductivity for high-performance CPUs, GPUs, or even chipsets. The non-curing and non-electrical conductive features help bypass any short-circuiting and provide stability and performance for long-term use.
Complexity of Installation
MasterGel Pro V.2 is supplied in a syringe (4g volume). This paste also has a grey color, and its thermal conductivity is 9 W/mK, with a density of 2.6 g. The capacity is 1.5 ml. There’s also a cloth included for removing your old thermal paste. This is another relatively easy product to spread, and you shouldn’t have any problems with it.
About Cooler Master MasterGel Pro V2
Cooler Master MasterGel Pro V2 Specs:
|Storage Time||2 years|
|Usage Time||2 years|
|Long Term Temperatures|
So there you have it! Now you must have an understanding about thermal pastes and their purpose, we hope you liked our guide on what, how and which thermal pastes to look for. Out of five best thermal pastes our pick is to go with the Noctua NT-H1, as for price, quality and performance, but at the end of the article you should have decided on what’s the best thermal paste for your PC. All other four options are as great as Noctua’s with only few cons to share.