Hi, I'm Gerardo.
Computer repair since I was a teenager and went around on my beautiful Califfone doing "assistance" to high school classmates.
I've seen all the colors.
You have no idea how many computers have merged because of one thermal paste consumed, or because it was chosen of poor quality. And I had to intervene to save them.
That's why I decided to write the definitive guide to thermal paste, to finally get some order and share with everyone what I learned in these 20 years of work in the computer assistance world.
But I must premise something important: I am a perfectionist maniac.
I have made gods then manic tests, crazy, of comparison of the same CPU, in the same case PC replicated, mounting however different thermal pastes, and I have come to some very interesting conclusions, that made me understand that thermal pastes are only apparently similar, but in reality they can guarantee very different performances.
However, thermal pastas can also be used on game console to improve its performance, for example, some time ago it was very popular to fix thermal paste on the PS4 … in this case the same rules used for the PC apply.
Looking for a great sink? There is a guide on the subject that can help you.
What is thermal paste used for?
Thermal paste is the link between the CPU (or the GPU or CHIPSET) and the heat sink.
In the PC not all the energy is used by the calculation process, a part of it is dispersed in heat.
A good cooling system and an excellent thermal paste guarantee the longevity of our machine.
Thermal paste is a type of compound with high thermal conductivity, which means it can quickly and optimally transfer the heat produced by the CPU of our computer to the heat sink, which will then send the hot air outside the case, allowing therefore to our processor to remain fresh and vital.
Between the CPU and the heat sink, air pockets can be created that prevent the heat from passing easily and therefore to the heat sink to do its job 100%.
The PC processor tends to heat up drastically, without a good thermal paste to act as a "bridge", or with a now worn out paste, you risk playing the health of your machine. Especially if it is customary to exploit it to the maximum of its performance through graphic editing, video or videogame use.
Although in modern processors there is a system that makes the entire system shut down in advance to prevent it from burning beyond a certain temperature, it is never good practice to work at very high temperatures for long periods of time, since the components of our computer are not destined to last forever and can be easily worn out if kept for a long time at full load.
Thermal paste is a very simple compound, often made of zinc oxide and silicon, but despite its simplicity and relative cheapness, there are quality thermal pastes on the market that conduct heat much better and allow the CPU to make the most of it by always guaranteeing performance top in the most demanding games and applications.
How much thermal paste is needed?
Normally 4g of tube is enough for 7-8 applications.
But I always recommend taking the larger tube because it can happen to make mistakes, and having more thermal paste allows you to do tests, perhaps on a piece of paper, estimates, to actually see how many pasta comes out based on the pressure of the tube or syringe, and thus avoid errors when it is "crucial" time to apply it to the CPU.
How to apply thermal paste?
Are you now wondering where exactly to put the thermal paste?
The part of the chip where the dough rests is called HeatSpreader.
The two leading companies in the production of CPUs adopt two different styles to build their heatspreader:
The thermal paste is used to level the imperfections of this surface, as long as it is positioned in a workmanlike manner avoiding air bubbles.
Normally it is good to never move the cooler from the CPU unless you intend to replace the thermal paste, or remove it and apply new one, alternatively you should avoid any movement of this.
This is the fundamental rule not to be violated in any case, do not exaggerate or risk creating damage to the CPU and finding yourself a completely smeared system.
Just put a very small dose of thermal paste, that is the size of a grain of rice, at the center of our CPU, then letting the heat sink pressure on the CPU spread it across its entire surface.
The hottest part of the CPU is in the center, that's why we recommend placing a grain of rice right there and letting the dough spread.
A fundamental thing to remember is that the hot air tends to rise downwards while the cold air tends to go down, so it is good to place the outgoing fans always above and behind in our houses.
How to remove thermal paste?
The thermal paste once put in tends to wear out over time, then comes a day that one decides to replace it because maybe the overheating of the CPU has annoyed it.
It may also happen that you realize you have misplaced the thermal paste and that you need to reapply it.
In both cases it will therefore be necessary to remove it.
In fact, it is absolutely impossible to re-apply the new thermal paste on the old one, it would only create great problems for our system.
To remove the thermal paste, isopropyl alcohol is needed, which is commonly found in pharmacies, as it evaporates almost immediately and is therefore the optimal choice.
In any case avoid the use of water, which can create water vapor, and therefore destroy our CPU.
A piece of cotton must therefore be rubbed off first, removing the part of the residue visible to the naked eye, then wetting a piece of alcohol and taking away the rest.
Then clean it all off with a dry cloth and apply the new thermal paste as if starting from scratch.
Easy, isn't it?
How long does the thermal paste last?
There are people who never change the thermal paste, and others who change it once a year.
It depends on a number of factors, but indicatively the thermal paste should be changed every three years.
In the event that you make extremely intensive use of your computer, think about bitcoin mining or non-stop video and 3D rendering, it will be better to annually replace the thermal paste in our system.
However, there are cases where you can stay with the same thermal paste for the entire life cycle of our CPU, GPU or CHIPSET, without ever having to change it.
Best Thermal Paste (THE FINAL GUIDE)
All the thermal pastes I have chosen in this guide are of quality, therefore they do not have electrical conductivity, but only thermal, that is they only allow heat to pass (fulfilling their duty) and prevent electricity from spreading, thus avoiding ruining the computer.
ARCTIC MX-4 the queen of thermal pastes
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The Arctic MX-4 is my favorite thermal paste, for various reasons.
The first is that it is very easy to install, even for those who are beginners, the second reason is that it has a highly competitive price.
But the third reason is that it was the thermal paste that performed best in my tests over the years, always guaranteeing maximum performance.
The numerous reviews of online users confirm my observations, and I am pleased not to be denied, because despite everything I always believe that common knowledge, the experiences we can share, are those that make us better understand by "natural selection" what is better for us as a PC user community.
The Arctic MX-4 does not conduct electricity but only heat.
The most complex part when it comes to positioning the thermal paste is to mount the heat sink without generating air bubbles, so it is always better to put only a grain of rice in the center, avoiding to spread it.
It is always advisable to close the pasta cap after each application, to prevent it from drying out.
The MX-4 is the perfect mix of good price and excellent performance, without having to stray into the world of deluxe thermal geek paste, for those who want to overclock their machine to the maximum and therefore need the turbo.
For all others the Arctic MX 4 represents the best choice at the moment, it is in fact the queen of thermal pasta in my opinion.
Excellent alternative thermal grizzly
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The Thermal Grizzly is a great alternative to Arctic.
It works great, and has a very smart dispenser, so perfect for those who don't want to waste even a drop.
In my personal test came second, but almost on an equal footing with Arctic, in fact it guarantees impressive cooling performance considering the price at which it is sold.
It is not conductive, so it does not transmit electricity, only heat.
The Thermal Grizzly is a great product that in the end could also be on the absolute top of the podium, and even online there are many overseas users who prefer it to all the others. De gustibus, but we are talking about very high levels anyway, and the personal experience to decide in this case has a lot to do with it.
Noctua NT-H1 how many memories …
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Another pasta that deserves mention in my guide is the Noctua NT-H1, which occupies a particular place in my heart because it is the one we used in a retreat in Germany, one of the most beautiful periods of my life …
This is a thermal paste that can give a boost to your CPU and to your system in general, ensuring great performance
It takes very little to work at very great, perfect because it means that the tube can last a long time.
The composition is free from metallic micro-grains, which means that there are no problems when it is laid down, because it cannot transmit electricity but only heat, an extra security that allows us to sleep peacefully.
It also lasts several years and there is no need to reapply it.
Cooler Master E2 cheaper alternative
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Here is an interesting thermal paste, produced by Cooler Master, I know a friend who is crazy about this pasta, because he says there is no need to spend more for a thermal paste.
I don't agree with him, because I always want the best from my machines, but for the sake of news and since it's a quality thermal paste I want to include it in my guide.
Inside the pack, in addition to the thermal paste, there is a mini spatula to spread the dough thoroughly and a wipe soaked in isopropyl alcohol to remove the residues of the previous paste.
It is a pasta that in the end has good performances, in fact after having applied it you can immediately feel the fan turning more slowly and the processor temperature decrease.
Recommended for those who have cheap computers and don't want the best of the best.
What thermal paste to use?
There are three types of thermal paste:
The creamy pasta: the one I talk about in this article and the creamy paste that is applied with the micro syringes in the package
The thermal pads: the thermal pads are not real pasta but solid panels to be applied by hand, they have the advantage that they are much easier to assemble, we certainly avoid smearing, but they do not allow the CPU to perform at the highest levels since they create thickness and prevent perfect and fast cooling of the machine
the liquid thermal paste: the liquid thermal paste is the best you can find, it is made of silver liquid metal, which has a great thermo-conductivity.
I am old school, old school, I always used thermal paste and I prefer to stay that way, remembering that day, in a summer of so many years ago, when my uncle taught me to build my first PC, be blessed, I he started a world that brought me so many joys and satisfactions.
This is why I could never use thermal pads, mine is an ideological and heartfelt choice first and foremost, rather than practical.
Cooling down the computer is not a simple affair, since the 1980s there have been great strides in the progress of the computational speed of our systems and at the same time they have become increasingly difficult to cool.
Increasing the computing power also increases the need to "push" the CPU, so the cooling problem is constant.
Having a good cooling system inside the case of your PC is essential to ensure high performance throughout the system life cycle.
Not many people know that a badly cooled system also performs badly and can create annoying "bottlenecks".
A friend of mine so as not to replace the thermal paste "So much for nothing" he said, he burned a very expensive motherboard.
He phoned me one day in desperate tears.
I didn't really know what to tell him, since I had been recommending the thermal paste replacement for months and he didn't seem to want to listen to me …
As I said at the beginning of this guide of mine, I would like to reiterate it now: it is good to never rely on Chinese products with the mirage of saving a handful of euros.
As my grandmother in Abruzzo used to say: The Sparagno It's Never Gain, and this maxim is more true than ever in the computer world.
Better to invest a few euros more today than to cry tomorrow for a disaster already announced.
Computers are in fact more and more at the center of our lives, they are increasingly performing and protagonists as far as daily use is concerned, so we cannot pretend anything and leave our precious machines to neglect, left to themselves.
Choosing the best thermal paste for your needs more than a right is a DUTY.
I greet you friends, next time