How To Apply Thermal Paste

If you know anything about making PCs, you’ve probably heard of thermal paste. This stuff is also called thermal grease, heat paste, CPU paste, thermal gel, and thermal interface material (TIM), among other things. No matter what you call it, using thermal paste correctly is a key part of making sure your CPU works right.

In order to work correctly with a CPU, it’s important to know not only how it works but also how to use it properly. Let’s find out more with EveryReview in this article!

When should thermal paste be used?

When building any kind of cooling system, thermal transfer material is used. People usually mean the process of installing a CPU cooler when they talk about thermal paste in the context of making a PC. For example, the cooling solution is already built into a graphics card when you buy it. If you don’t want to use aftermarket options like custom liquid cooling, you don’t need to worry about putting a cooler on a GPU. As with most things, you can pick out the CPU cooler you want, but you’ll probably have to install it yourself.

Terms You Need to Know

We need to define some of the words we will use so that we can properly explain how thermal paste works.

Central Processing Unit (CPU) – The part of a PC that does all the work. It runs all the operational orders and tells the computer’s other hardware what to do. If a computer is like a body, then the CPU is like the brain. It is very important for any PC to work. A lot of tasks are done by modern CPUs every second, which makes them hot. A CPU needs to be properly cooled in order to work at its best. This is usually done with a cooling system that was made just for this reason. Now this is where thermal paste is useful. You can read more about the production process if you want to know more about how CPUs are made.

Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) – The “lid” of the CPU made of metal. This is a heat sink that moves heat from the processor to a CPU cooler and protects the processor inside. This is the part of the CPU that is still visible after it has been put into the motherboard. This is where you put thermal paste.

CPU Cooler – The device that keeps your CPU running at optimal temperatures. CPU coolers usually use air or liquid to relocate the heat created by the operation of the CPU.

Base-Plate – The metal base of an air-cooler that attaches to the IHS of the CPU. This design allows the transfer of heat through convection to the fins of the heat sink, where it can then be redistributed with a fan.

Waterblock – The apparatus that attaches to the IHS when using an All-in-One (AIO) liquid cooler or a custom cooling loop. It transfers heat from the IHS to the heat transfer fluid, which then relocates that heat to be redistributed by fans at a radiator.

Thermal Paste – A silvery-gray substance that you apply to a processor before installing a cooling solution. It allows for an efficient transfer of heat from the IHS of the processor to the base plate or water block of the CPU cooler that is designed to dissipate that heat.

Why Do You Need Thermal Paste?

Even though the metal base of the CPU cooler and the IHS of the CPU look smooth to the naked eye, these metal plates have microscopic imperfections that can result in poor heat transfer. The two surfaces aren’t in full contact due to those imperfections, so thermal paste fills in those air gaps, allowing for a more efficient transfer of heat.
Simply put, thermal paste helps your CPU cooler do its job, and a cooler CPU means less potential performance issues, such as throttling.

Important Preparations for Thermal Paste Application

Most processors need some kind of thermal solution to work at their best, but there is a special way to place a CPU cooler in a PC.

Every CPU cooler needs thermal paste, but a lot of them already have it on them, which makes installation easier. Check the bottom of the base plate or water block of your CPU fan that connects to the CPU to see if sticky stuff has already been put on it. You don’t have to add more silver paste during the installation process if it’s already there.

Before you start, here are some things to remember:

Make sure the CPU is clean and doesn’t have any old thermal paste on it. If there is, use isopropyl alcohol and a microfiber cloth or paper towel that doesn’t shed to carefully remove the old paste from the CPU lid. Let it dry before going on.

Before you put on the thermal paste, make sure that the rest of the CPU cooler is ready to go. Read the directions and make sure you’ve done everything up to the point where you can attach the CPU cooler. Also, make sure you have all the tools you might need handy.

Clean CPU thermal paste

Things you should never do:

Make sure you use the right amount of thermal paste, which is about the size of a rice grain or pea. Not enough might not cover the area that needs to be covered in order for it to work. Too much of it can make the paste less effective because the metal surfaces are too far apart. It could also leak onto the motherboard during installation.

It might be tempting to put the thermal paste on the CPU by hand. Most of the time, the pressure from the base plate or water block should do it for you. If the paste is applied by hand incorrectly, air bubbles can form in it, which can lower its heat conductivity.

Air bubbles can also form when you use paste more than once. If something goes wrong during the download and you have to take the CPU cooler off, follow the steps above to get rid of all the paste, and then try again with a new application. If you really need to reuse an application—while you wait for new paste, for example—you can. But keep in mind that this is only a short-term fix, and you should do a true reapplication before using your CPU cooler for a long time.

How to Apply Thermal Paste – Step by Step

Before you start the installation process, you should read this whole part to get a sense of what to expect and help you plan ahead.

Before you start, read all of the directions that apply. The ones that come with your CPU fan and thermal paste are part of this. It’s important to know the specifics of your brand of thermal paste and CPU cooler before you start. This will make the process go more smoothly.

Put thermal paste in the middle of the CPU’s IHS. (You can skip this step if thermal paste has already been put on your cooler.) A small amount, about the size of a pea or a grain of rice, should be put on the middle of the built-in heat spreader.

Put in a CPU cooler. To put the base-plate or waterblock of your cooler on the CPU, apply light pressure from the top down. Keep that pressure on while you connect the cooler to the mounting mechanism. Do not push too hard, just enough to keep the cooler from moving and spread the thermal paste out evenly. You do not want to damage the CPU or bend the motherboard. It’s important to hold the cooler in place while you connect it to the motherboard diagonally, making sure the screws are tightened as if you were drawing a “X” with them. Do not fully tighten the screws until all four are in place. After each one is in place, turn it a few times before moving on to the next one to make sure the pressure is even.

Check your work again. When you’re done, make sure everything looks right by looking at the base-plate or water-block of the CPU cooler. There shouldn’t be any thermal paste on the motherboard or around the edges of the CPU. If there is, you used too much paste. Wipe it off with alcohol and start the process all over again. You’re done if everything looks clean and the cooler doesn’t move when you touch it. You’ve finished this very important step.

How Often Should You Replace Thermal Paste?

You shouldn’t have to repeat it more than once every few years, but you should get new paste if you take your cooler off for any reason. Also, if you notice that your CPU temperature is going up, you might want to refill thermal paste.

If you’re not sure what to do, ask the company that makes the thermal paste and do what they say.

Keep cool out there

People don’t talk about thermal paste as much as they talk about game hardware like the CPU or GPU, but it is an important part of keeping those parts working at their best. It is possible to get the best speed from your CPU if you know how to use thermal paste correctly.


1. How should I put thermal paste on the best?

Some people call one of the most popular ways to do something the “line method.” It sounds just like this. Put a thin line of thermal paste down the middle of the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader). Then, secure the IHS and let the pressure of the CPU cooler spread the paste as you do so.

2. Do you need thermal paste?

In the end, you should always spread the thermal paste if it’s not easy to work with. However, thermal pastes that don’t flow well are usually not the best pastes either. In the end, you might still get air bubbles and worse temperature performance.

3. Do I need to let thermal paste dry?

In short. To sum up, thermal paste shouldn’t be dry, and it doesn’t need to be dry before a computer is turned on. The lubricant should stay greasy so that it can fill the space between the processor and fan.