Cooling systems are one of the most important considerations of building a PC, and thermal pastes are one of the most crucial elements of cooling systems. Thermal pastes help transfer heat from the central processing unit (CPU) to the cooler. But one of the most popular questions among DIY computer builders is, do processors come with thermal paste already applied, or do you need to purchase and use it yourself? The answer may vary depending on the specific coolers and CPUs in question.
Some processors do come with a thermal paste applied to them. This is especially true for the processors with pre-installed stock coolers, which use a pre-applied layer of thermal paste to transfer heat from the CPU to the cooler. However, if you seek to replace the stock cooler, you must apply thermal paste yourself.
Some processors come with neither the thermal paste nor the heatsink. In this case, you’ll have to purchase and apply your own thermal paste. This is primarily true for high-performance CPUs made with overclocking in mind.
Knowing if the processor comes with or without the thermal paste is essential and can help you better plan your system’s cooling. An excellent thermal paste can also significantly improve your processor’s temperatures.
How to Apply Thermal Paste on the CPU?
Here is a general guide on how to apply thermal paste to a CPU:
- Clean the CPU: Before applying the thermal paste, use a lint-free cloth or isopropyl alcohol to ensure that the CPU doesn’t have any dust or debris.
- Apply the thermal paste: There are several methods of applying it, but a generally preferred method is to apply a pea-sized portion in the center of the CPU. Make sure not to use too much of the paste as that could damage the CPU.
- Install the Cooler: After the paste is applied, install the cooler with the instructions provided for it.
- Power on and test: Once the cooler is installed, run the PC to see if it makes any difference. Use a program like Core Temp to monitor the CPU temperature.
Applying thermal paste is a relatively simple process, but it may trouble those new to build PCs. This is why a high high-quality thermal paste is needed.
What are the Best Thermal Pastes?
Thermal pastes are crucial enough to reduce any heat-trapping gaps between the CPU and the heatsink.
Choosing the right thermal paste can significantly affect your CPU’s cooling performance and the overall stability of your system. Choosing the best thermal paste may be difficult due to the variety of quality pastes in the market, but here are some of the best thermal pastes:
- Arctic Silver 5: a well-known and highly regarded thermal paste that is beloved among DIY computer builders. Made with a silver, aluminum, and zinc oxide blend, it has excellent thermal conductivity and stability.
- Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut: A high-performance paste known for good overclocked performance. It is easy to apply and clean up, and has excellent thermal conductivity and low thermal resistance.
- Noctua NT-H1: One of the most commonly recommended pastes by professionals and enthusiasts alike. Aside from having excellent thermal conductivity and low viscosity, it is also easy to apply and clean up.
- Cooler Master MasterGel Maker: A high-performance thermal paste that is designed for use with both air and water coolers. Surprisingly, it is easy to apply and features excellent thermal conductivity.
Considering the aspects discussed here alone, the best paste for you may depend on the needs of your CPU.
What Processors Come with Pre-Applied Thermal Paste?
As discussed above, while some processors come with pre-applied paste, others do not. This is typically determined by the type of cooler included with the CPU.
CPUs with pre-applied thermal paste are almost always sold alongside stock coolers. However, specific CPUs are designed to work better with aftermarket coolers and do not come with pre-applied thermal paste due to the lack of stock coolers.
It is essential to apply suitable thermal paste on your CPU for the best temperatures and thermal conductivity.