Thermal paste is a special multi-component composition with high thermal conductivity, designed to improve the heat transfer from the processor to the heat sink. The thermal paste contains metal particles (copper, tungsten, silver, zinc, aluminum), crystals (diamonds), nitrides (aluminum, boron), and synthetic or mineral oils, and other non-vaporizing fluids.
When assembling a computer, thermal paste only needs to be applied to the processor. The other components come already assembled with heat sinks and thermal paste. In addition, if there is a problem with the graphics card, you may need to put a new thermal paste on the graphics processor. But, these situations are not common.
Thermal paste promotes heat transfer between the CPU and the installed cooler, so applying more may seem like the best approach. But, this is not the case with thermal paste. So, if you want to know how much thermal paste do you need for the CPU, here is what you should know.
Why should you put thermal paste on the CPU
So, for the heat transfer from the CPU to the heatsink to be as efficient as possible, you need to apply the right amount of thermal paste. If there is too much thermal paste between the processor and the heatsink, the heat transfer will deteriorate. The same will happen if there is not enough thermal paste. To understand exactly how much thermal paste you need to put on the processor, you need to understand why you’re using it at all.
The point is that the processor and heatsink are not perfectly flat, there are micro-irregularities on their surface. If you just place the heatsink on top of the processor, they will touch each other only at some points. Whereas the rest of the contact area will be occupied by air, which conducts heat very poorly. This is exactly the problem that thermal paste solves. If you put it on the processor before installing the radiator, it will fill all the microscopic air pockets. And since the thermal conductivity of thermal paste is much higher than air, the heat transfer is greatly improved.
From the above, it becomes clear that thermal paste is only needed to fill the microscopic pockets of air. And to do that you need to apply it to the processor with an even layer of minimum thickness.
How to put thermal paste on the CPU
In order not to put too much thermal paste on the processor, it is best to put it in small portions and then gently smear it all over the surface. You can start with a pea-sized drop of thermal paste.
After the first portion of thermal paste is applied, smear it gently over the entire surface of the processor. Try to achieve an even and even layer of minimal thickness. If the first portion of the thermal paste was not enough to cover the entire processor, add more and smooth it out again. Once the entire CPU is covered with the minimum possible layer of thermal paste, you can install the cooler and assemble the computer.
After turning your computer on for the first time, be sure to check the processor temperature. Without load, it should not exceed 45 degrees. If the temperature is higher, you have probably done something wrong. You may have put too much thermal paste on the processor, or you may not have secured the heatsink to the processor correctly.
How much thermal paste to use
Here, too, there are some stereotypes and strange rules. There is a huge number of users who believe that thermal paste should lie as neatly as possible and in small amounts. But there is another opinion.
There have been quite a few tests that have shown that the thicker the layer of thermal paste, the lower the temperature of the processor. Yes, in reality, the difference is not that huge. Often, chips coated with a thicker layer of thermal paste heat up about 2 degrees less than those with a smaller layer.
Is it possible to work without thermal paste for the computer
You can, but not for long. With insufficient heat dissipation the processor overheats, which significantly increases the probability of its failure. The same can happen if you overdo the amount of thermal paste – the heat dissipation in this case also deteriorates, with all it implies.
Therefore, regular and timely replacement of thermal paste is the key to stable, and most importantly, long-term operation of the processor. Of course, no one is immune to unpleasant surprises, but the use of high-quality paste significantly reduces their probability.