Regardless of how fascinating the idea of building your PC seems, the risks are inevitable, and many complications could occur during the process. It’s still amusing to assemble your PC, and with the proper knowledge, the process can safely be executed without damaging any high-end hardware components.
Mounting a CPU on the motherboard is one of the most crucial parts of building a PC and is the step where people new to building PCs typically struggle the most. Inaccurately applying thermal paste or not applying it at all leads to the CPU not even booting and, in the worst cases, being permanently damaged.
The good news is that almost all stock coolers come with thermal pastes applied to their heatsinks. Many extraneous CPU coolers also come with either pre-applied thermal paste or their thermal paste tubes.
Table of Contents
- How to Apply Thermal Paste
- How Much Thermal Paste to Apply on a CPU?
- Should You Ever Run a CPU Without Applying Thermal Paste?
- Should You Apply Thermal Paste on Coolers with Pre-Applied Thermal Paste?
- How to Remove Thermal Paste from the CPU
- Frequently Asked Questions
However, having a thermal paste alone solves nothing because correctly applying the paste is also of equal importance. Even minor miscalculations can potentially damage the CPU or other components.
But worry not, because we intend to guide you through applying the thermal paste on your processor and heatsink in this article and cover some frequently asked questions about thermal pastes.
How to Apply Thermal Paste
If one follows the guidelines, applying the thermal paste on a processor might as well become one of the most enjoyable steps of building a PC.
To properly apply thermal paste, you’ll have to mount your CPU on the motherboard’s socket safely and securely. Follow that by using tiny dots of the paste around the corners and the center of the processor (the Penta-dot method), or apply a pea-sized amount on the center itself.
How Much Thermal Paste to Apply on a CPU?
Make sure not to apply excessive thermal paste, as it could potentially reach the parts of the processor it should not and damage it. The topic of how much thermal paste to apply on a CPU has always been debatable.
Still, benchmarks have shown how all good volumes of a thermal paste affect the CPU’s temperature almost equally. That is why applying only minimal thermal paste on a CPU is better.
Regardless of the amount, the CPU’s heat spreader must be fully covered with the paste after installing the cooler. The Penta-dot and pea-sized paste methods are usually successful at getting the correct quantity of the paste on the heat spreader.
Should You Ever Run a CPU Without Applying Thermal Paste?
CPUs are hot components and tend to have high temperatures while running. Processors without proper cooling solutions can have a temperature of 100 degrees Celsius or higher, which can heavily pressurize the CPU and cause the PC to stutter, freeze, restart, or even have a catastrophic failure if the situation does not improve. This is why coolers and heatsinks have always been requirements for a CPU.
The two main types of coolers include the regular fan coolers- which use a fan to cool down the heatsink while it counters the heat produced by the processor – and the more expensive liquid coolers – which repeat the process of absorbing the CPU’s heat, relying on a radiator for chilling, and then returning to the CPU.
All cooling solutions use cold plates (mostly made of copper or aluminum) to attach themselves to the processor. The primary purpose of the coolers’ cold plates is to absorb all the heat from the CPU’s heat spreader.
Thermal liquids are required because, despite the cold plates of regular coolers countering the CPU’s heat to an extent, micro-air bubbles can be trapped between the heat spreader and the cold plate, which could affect the processor’s life.
Applying Thermal Interface Material (TIM) fills the air gaps between the heat spreader and the cold plate and helps the CPU maintain a temperature lower than 70 degrees Celsius. A thermal paste encases the interface and massively increases the heat transfer.
Should You Apply Thermal Paste on Coolers with Pre-Applied Thermal Paste?
Mixing thermal pastes is always disadvantageous. So, if you have a thermal paste different from the one pre-applied on the cooler, you should never risk applying it unless you remove the previous paste.
The good news, as stated above, is that most Intel, AMD, and third-party coolers come with pre-applied thermal paste, which provides the CPU with the cooling it requires. Still, pre-installed thermal paste does have its cons, depending on the cooler itself.
It’s often improperly applied and can potentially cause the compound to reach the CPU socket while mounting. The problem lies with excessive thermal paste, which coolers are not always free from. The excessive paste can also make it hard to separate the CPU and the heatsink.
Stock coolers often do not have a high-quality thermal paste either, which makes people who overclock CPUs or use them for intensive tasks apply high-quality pastes of their own.
How to Remove Thermal Paste from the CPU
Applying your thermal paste would require removing the previous paste.
To clean the paste, use a microfiber cloth or a paper towel with high-concentration rubbing alcohol. Let the surface dry, and then apply the new paste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do AMD CPUs Come With Thermal Paste?
Yes, if your AMD CPU comes with a cooler, it has a thermal paste. But if it comes without a cooler, you’ll have to buy and apply the paste separately.
Do Intel CPUs Come With Thermal Paste?
Yes, if your Intel CPU comes boxed with a cooler, then it has thermal paste applied to it. But if it comes without a cooler, then you’ll most likely have to buy and apply the paste separately.
Do AMD Coolers Come With Thermal Paste?
Yes, all AMD coolers come with thermal paste already applied to them. This also applies to all coolers sold as part of a CPU.
While most CPU coolers do come with pre-applied thermal paste or a thermal paste syringe, there will be times when you might have to apply thermal paste on the CPU on your own, which is always a process to be precise with since any failures could lead to catastrophe.
Therefore, it is ideal to familiarize yourself with applying the thermal paste on CPUs to replace it with a higher-quality paste, even if there’s a pre-applied paste.