How Much Thermal Paste Do I Need? Everything You Should Know



Category: CPU / APU

how much thermal paste do i need

Heat transfer away from your CPU is extremely vital to ensure that your computer runs smoothly. However, if your CPU overheats, it can cause lots of problems that can be expensive and a pain to fix. This is why today we're helping you answer the question, how much thermal paste do I need?

Not using the thermal paste is out of the question. However, as long as you want to avoid blue screens, random shutdowns and other CPU malfunctions, you'll want to apply thermal paste between your CPU and the heatsink.

The last thing you want is your amazing monitors acting up because of an overheated CPU.

Therefore, in this article, we'll help you know how much thermal paste to use and how to apply it properly. Let's get started.


What Is Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste is a substance that allows you to transfer heat away from your CPU into your heat sink. This paste is important because it allows the heat sink to expel heat away from your hardware.

This ensures that your CPU always remains cool no matter what you're doing on your machine.

Thermal paste is especially important when you're using your CPU to run heavy tasks, and you want it to remain cool. Thermal paste can also be called stock thermal paste.

Therefore, if you see the word stock thermal paste while you're shopping, know that it means the same thing.

Sometimes, you can find that your machine has already been pre-applied with the thermal paste. Nonetheless, you'll find that many enthusiasts swear by applying the thermal paste yourself.

This is why today we're answering the question, how much thermal paste do I need? So that you can be able to apply the correct amount of paste to your machine.

Do I Need Thermal Paste?

Yes. Although your computer will boot whether you apply thermal paste or not, keeping it alive without the thermal paste might be the challenge.

Why? Because without thermal paste, there won't be effective heat transfer between your CPU and your heat sink. This means that your CPU has the danger of getting hotter if you don't apply thermal paste.

What happens when your CPU gets too hot? It overheats and causes various kinds of malfunctions. Some of these malfunctions include blue screens, throttling, and random shutdowns. Wouldn't you rather avoid all of this?

Therefore, if you're building your own PC, ensure that you include thermal paste in your list of things to buy. It may not be as exciting as buying the other parts, but it's just as vital.

It will save you great hassle down the line and allow you to have a more seamless experience. Although there are some alternatives to thermal paste, getting the real deal is a good idea.

The CPU thermal paste also allows your heatsink to work more effectively in transferring heat away from your computer. However, resist the urge to avoid applying thermal paste because you don't want to mess up your new processor with gray goop.

If you really don't want to apply thermal paste to your machine, you can get a heat sink that comes with pre-applied paste.

This will save you the hurdle of applying thermal paste yourself and worrying if you've applied too little thermal paste or too much paste.

However, note that if you get a heat sink that comes with pre-applied thermal paste, you may not be getting the best in the market. Therefore, the decision lies with you.

However, whatever the case, ensure that you have the paste applied for maximum heat conductivity.

How Much Thermal Paste Do I Need?

Less Is Enough

When applying the thermal paste, you may be tempted to apply a generous amount because you want the heat transfer to be as effective as possible.

However, this may not be the wisest or best approach because of how this thermal compound works.

Why is this the case? Because after you apply thermal paste, you'll need to place the heatsink above the CPU. Therefore, if you apply too much thermal paste, it will be squashed under the load of the metal and spread out.

This will create a mess and make the excess thermal paste spread to the outer edges of your CPU. Another danger that comes when you apply too much thermal paste is that it can seep out o the cracks and land on your motherboard.

This can cause unnecessary stress when you're switching out your cooler. In extreme cases, it can make your machine have electrical issues and even overheating issues.

This is why you have to have more control and intention as you are applying thermal paste.

So, How Much Is Enough?

A small blob should do it. This is about the size of a garden pea.

When applying this small blob, aim for the center of your CPU. This will allow it to be evenly spread across the surface once you install your heatsink.

If you purchase a paste that comes with a handy tool you can use to spread the compound evenly across the surface of the CPU, the better.

Nonetheless, this is not a must since the heatsink still does a good job of spreading out the compound.

However, ensure that you apply even pressure when you're installing the cooler. This will ensure that you don't have excess thermal paste seeping out of the corners.

What Happens When You Apply Too Much Paste?

To err is human. Therefore, don't beat yourself up so much if you happen to apply too much thermal paste. We have a solution for you.

Take some paper towels and some alcohol and wipe your CPU clean if you feel like you've applied too much thermal paste. Once it's clean, apply thermal paste again.

Thermal paste application doesn't have to be a complicated process. We hope that this thermal paste application guideline has helped you in your endeavors.

How Do I Apply Thermal Paste?

Before we get to the good stuff on how you can properly apply thermal paste, let's first look at a few things to do to ensure you do a good job.

  1. Ensure that your CPU is clean. If you have any old thermal paste on it, remove it before reapplying thermal paste again. You can use a clean paper towel and isopropyl alcohol to get the job done. Once you're sure that you've got the old thermal paste out, you can then proceed to the next step.

  2. Ensure that the surface of the heat sink is clean before reapplying paste. Then, do the same as you've done with the CPU above before applying thermal paste again.

Now, let's get into the actual way of doing things.

Different people apply thermal paste differently. The main thing that differentiates these tactics is the patterns to apply the paste onto the surface.

The easiest method is the pea-size method we talked about earlier.

Once you're sure that the surfaces of the CPU and the heat sink are clean, you can then proceed to lay your pea-sized blob of paste to the surface.

After that, take your heat sink and connect it to your CPU. Apply enough pressure to ensure that the two parts are well-connected.

For the best results, ensure that you apply pressure evenly across the four corners. This will ensure that the paste spreads well across the surface. Some thermal pastes come with an applicator.

If this is the case for you, you can use the applicator to spread the paste evenly across the surface. This is before you place the heat sink.

Nevertheless, whatever method you choose, ensure that there are no air gaps or bubbles in the paste before placing your heat sink. This is whether you use the pea-sized method or not.

This is because these bubbles and air gaps can act as insulators and hinder the heat transfer process.

Thermal Paste vs. Thermal Pads

Thermal paste conducts heat in the same way that thermal pads do. This is because the thermal paste we're talking about here is made of the same materials that make thermal pads. So you can think of thermal paste as liquid thermal pads.

The advantage of thermal paste is that you can manipulate it to fit the area you're working with perfectly. Another advantage is that thermal paste fills any air gaps between the CPU and the heatsink.

Why is this an advantage? Because if these air gaps are left unfilled, they'll act as thermal insulators. This can interfere with the heat transfer from the CPU to the heatsink.

Therefore, thermal paste is better if you want maximum heat transfer between the CPU and the heatsink.

Another benefit is that CPU thermal paste can easily conform to uneven surfaces. Therefore, if you're working with irregular shapes, thermal shapes will come in very handy here.

Lastly, the thin layer of thermal paste you apply can provide better conductivity than the thick thermal pads will.

Frequently Asked Questions About Thermal Paste

1. What is an integrated heat spreader?

An integrated heat spreader is also known as IHS and is the metal exterior lid of your CPU's processor. This IHS acts as a protective shell around the processor. It also acts as a pathway for heat exchange between your CPU and the CPU cooler.

2. What happens if there's no thermal paste on the CPU?

Thermal pastes ensure that there's proper heat transfer between the CPU and the heat sink. Therefore, if there's no thermal paste, there'll be less contact between your CPU and the heat sink.

This will leave space for air gaps and other particles to have space to reside. If this happens, there won't be proper heat transfer, and your CPU will run the risk of overheating.