How To Apply Thermal Paste On CPU And How Much Paste Is Enough?

How To Apply Thermal Paste On CPU And How Much Paste Is Enough

Are you unsure of how much thermal paste to use when fixing your CPU?

Well, it turns out that the amount of thermal paste you use matters.

We’ll explain the different methods for applying thermal paste, discuss factors to consider when using it correctly, and look at common mistakes to avoid.

Plus, we’ll also touch on important topics like monitoring temperatures and offer up some suggestions on removing existing or old thermal paste from a CPU.

Let’s get started!

Does How Much Thermal Paste On CPU Matter?

Yes, the amount of thermal paste matters when it comes to providing proper cooling and heat transfer between a CPU and its cooler. Too little paste can cause inefficient heat transfer resulting in high temperatures on the CPU that could damage components over time.

On the other hand, too much paste can make a mess and potentially short-circuit parts. The ideal amount is just enough so that it covers the surface without making visible gaps or flooding out of place while still allowing efficient heat exchange with minimum air interaction.

Generally speaking, less is better when applying thermal paste – aiming for a thin layer that reaches every corner of the CPU’s Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS). To ensure optimal cooling performance, take your time to apply it evenly around all sides of IHS using appropriate techniques such as pea-sized amounts, X shapes, dot Method, etc.

Additionally, look up any reviews or recommendations provided by fan communities before purchasing specific brands of thermal pastes to guarantee an optimal outcome for your system builds.

Also read: Do you need thermal paste for water cooling?

Recommended Methods for Applying Thermal Paste

There are several methods to consider when applying thermal paste, such as the pea-sized amount, X-shape, thermal paste spreader, and dot method.

Pea-Sized Amount

The pea-sized amount method of applying thermal paste is the traditional and commonly recommended approach. This method requires placing a tiny, pea-sized amount onto the center of the CPU before mounting it to a cooler or heatsink.

The amount of paste should not exceed approximately half a grain of rice in size, as many paste formulations are considered overkill if applied in greater quantities than believed necessary.

By using no more than one small glob, the risk for errors decreases while computer engines remain cool with safe operations according to most professionals and manufacturers’ suggestions.

The X-Shape

The X-shape is one of the recommended methods for applying the thermal paste on a CPU ( and our favorite method! 🙂 )

This method involves evenly spreading two lines of thermal paste diagonally from corner to corner across the center of the CPU or GPU, creating an X pattern.

The result is an even and controlled spread when the cooler is engaged, ensuring that air gaps are minimized for optimal heat transfer.

In addition, this technique helps avoid overuse by focusing just enough amount in each area rather than dumping too much thermal paste onto areas which can cause serious cooling issues resulting from excess overflow.

The X-shape application also makes removal easier should there be any need to replace the existing thermal paste later on without having to clean up several scattered blobs with precision instruments like scalpels and tweezers before reapplication done manually or using automated tools like rework stations.

Using a Thermal Paste Spreader

Applying a thermal paste to a CPU can be tricky, especially for beginners.

To help make the process easier and more consistent, many experts recommend using a thermal paste spreader.

This tool helps ensure that an optimal amount of thermal paste is applied to the center of the CPU evenly and without any air gaps or excessive overflow.

It’s also useful for reducing any chance of mistakes that may occur from overapplying or underapplying paste when compared with other techniques such as the pea-sized method, dot method, or X-shape method.

A good practice when using a thermal paste spreader is to start slowly and apply no pressure while spreading it out on top of the CPU before applying slight pressure if needed If done correctly, this will result in an even coating of thin Thermal Compound across the entire surface area ensuring efficient heat transfer between both components.

Using the Dot Method

The Dot Method is one of the most popular techniques for applying thermal paste onto a CPU. It involves applying a small dot of thermal paste directly on the center of the CPU’s Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS).

Once the cooler has been pressed into place with sufficient pressure, it will spread out evenly over the exposed surface, ensuring optimal heat transfer to prevent overheating. This method is simple, offering consistent results without significant risk of mistakes.

Additionally, apply no more than a pea-sized amount or a small line about 1mm thick as using too much may negatively affect performance due to air pockets forming under its surface.

Factors to Consider When Applying Thermal Paste

CPU type

Making a wise choice when it comes to the amount of thermal paste is best ensured by considering the type of CPU. Different CPUs use slightly different amounts, or even types, of thermal paste.

Additionally, the type and quality of the cooler also impact how much thermal paste you should use.

For example, Intel’s 13600K processor requires 1-2 grams for using a low-profile air cooler while 1366 socket CPUs require 0.5 grams for proper cooling.

Even if your CPU does not come with pre-applied thermal paste from its manufacturer, understanding your chip’s characteristics can help ensure appropriate quantities are used for efficient heat transfer and optimal performance when rebuilding or replacing components on desktop computers.

Cooler type

Generally, air-based coolers require a smaller amount of thermal paste compared to liquid and all-in-one coolers.

Liquid and all-in-one coolers typically use thicker material on their heat spreader plates which leads to a greater surface area requiring more thermal paste than an air cooler for optimal performance.

Additionally, some CPUs come with a pre-applied layer of thermal paste already applied on the CPU cooler while others don’t; it’s important to check whether you need additional cooling before beginning your application process.

Thermal conductivity of the paste

A higher thermal conductivity rating indicates that the paste’s ability to quickly transfer heat through it is greater.

In other words, better-rated pastes are more efficient at transferring heat away from the processor when you’re under load and preventing overheating inside your CPU.

Generally speaking, electrically-conductive types of pastes offer superior performance over non-electrically-conductive types due to having multiple pathways available for electricity and heat to move through more easily — however, these pastes require grounded hardware to be safely used in a PC build.

When selecting a paste, it’s important not only to factor in its advertised performance but also to think about how well it will integrate with both existing cooling systems as well as any future upgrades you may want to make down the line too!

Importance of Proper Application

1. Ensures optimal heat transfer

Thermal paste plays an important role when it comes to efficient cooling for the CPU.

Applying the right amount of thermal paste helps in transferring heat away from the CPU and into the heat sink.

This ensures that the processor can remain cool while it processes data, avoiding damage or a decrease in performance due to overheating or lack of ventilation. Using too much thermal paste, however, may cause increased temperatures as there will be more material between the CPU and cooler preventing proper cooling contact.

Applying just enough can help maximum efficiency by ensuring that air gaps are eliminated while giving an optimal surface area for maximum heat transfer.

With the correct application of thermal paste on both sides of each surface (CPU and heatsink), you’ll achieve better overall performance and improved heat management which is vital for ensuring your system remains stable throughout its use.

2. Prevents air gaps

If there are air pockets, that can impact heat’s ability to travel effectively away from the processor.

Proper application of thermal paste ensures no small air bubbles remain in these tight spaces, thus allowing for optimal heat dissipation during high-powered bouts of processing.

To ensure this does not happen, you must spread the paste evenly onto the surface so it flows freely and leaves no space unfilled with paste.

A thin layer should be applied carefully to fill all gaps while avoiding overflow situations – too much will reduce performance rather than improve it.

By efficiently blocking out unwanted atmospheric particles and filling recesses along the contact area between components, proper use of thermal paste can effectively enhance heatsink performance and preserve your valuable hardware over time!

3. Avoids excessive paste overflow

Excessive thermal paste application can lead to serious issues, such as air bubbles, overflow, and spillage. This can reduce heat transfer between the various surfaces of your processor and cooler, potentially causing short circuits.

It’s important to avoid applying too much thermal paste when fitting the liquid-cooled system together. Excessively thick or thin layers of paste will not spread evenly across the surfaces which would prevent efficient heat development and risk spilling over onto nearby components on the motherboard like RAM slots or PCI connectors – this could cause irreversible damage!

Following recommended methods for a pea-sized amount, X-Shape or Dot method with proper cleaning BEFORE you apply a fresh layer every time will help you ensure that just enough thermal paste is applied without overflowing so optimal performance is achieved while also preventing damaging spills into other areas of your system’s hardware.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

1. Using too much paste

Using too much thermal paste on a CPU can lead to high temperatures due to a heat transfer issue, as well as the potential for any excess preventing proper cooling.

While not typically damaging (unless it is conductive and gets everywhere), this can reduce both the short-term and long-term performance of your computer’s CPU by causing instability and reducing its lifespan.

Excess thermal paste may also spill out from between the CPU and heatsink onto surrounding components like circuitry on the motherboard or GPU, creating a further risk of damage to these parts if they come into contact with it.

As such, using just enough applied paste is recommended for optimal performance – anything too much or too little will cause issues with heat dissipation which could overall negatively affect your system’s health and eventual longevity over time.

2. Using too little paste

Not using enough thermal paste can be as damaging to your CPU and the entire system as using too much. If you don’t apply sufficient amounts of thermal paste, likely, there won’t be effective heat transfer from the processor to the cooler meaning temperatures will rise instead of fall.

This means your PC runs hotter than necessary which in turn lengthens workload times, increases fan noise levels, and can lead to wear or damage on components over time due to excess heat.

It’s also possible for improper application with insufficient paste (too thin or missing spots) to create air gaps between the heatsink and CPU which worsen this situation even more by drastically reducing performance, while negatively impacting cooling without proper pressure being applied at all points when connected.

3. Uneven application

Applying thermal paste incorrectly can result in significant performance and stability issues.

When applying thermal paste, a big mistake is the uneven application of the paste, as this can lead to air pockets or other irregularities that can cause poor heat transfer between the CPU and cooler.

To avoid this outcome, make sure you pay attention and take your time when applying it.

With CPUs from both Intel & AMD, always apply the amount recommended for their socket types- there should be just enough to provide complete coverage across its contact surface without resulting in extra spillover or overflow.

If too much thermal paste is used then it will leak out from underneath the heatsink; if too little paste is used then not all parts of the processor are sufficiently cooled which could lead to overheating issues later on.

It’s important to spread the thermal paste evenly over the center of the CPU so that adequate cooling is achieved.

The importance of proper application goes beyond ensuring optimal temperatures- an even amount of thermal compound helps ensure system stability by enabling steady transfers between components with no hotspots or inconsistencies present which could affect its overall running behavior.

4. Spreading the paste too thin

Spreading the thermal paste to a GPU is critical to ensure efficient heat transfer and performance.

If it’s spread too thin, it can cause inadequate heat transfer and leave air bubbles in between the CPU and cooler which may result in potential overheating issues.

This could damage parts of your build over time if not addressed properly.

Applying a layer of paste that is neither too thin or thick will help boost the need to transfer from the CPU to other components such as keeping humidity levels down during hot days.

Furthermore, too much might also cause overheating problems because excess paste might start leaking onto other components inside the system. It’s best practice to follow manufacturers’ recommendations when applying thermal paste, which varies greatly based on the model and type of processor/cooler you have installed for optimal performance.

Thermal Paste Removal

Methods for removing old thermal paste

When replacing the thermal paste on a CPU, it is essential to carefully and thoroughly remove any old existing paste. 

Isopropyl alcohol with a soft cloth is one of the most common methods for removing thermal paste from CPUs.

During this process, careful attention should be taken to ensure no damage is done to the surface of the center of the CPU as too much pressure while rubbing may cause scratches or chips.

Additionally, using a dry microfiber cloth can also help gently rub away traces of old thermal paste without being rough or causing any permanent harm.

Furthermore, once all remnants are removed, it’s beneficial to apply your chosen solution – such as rubbing alcohol or cleaning products specifically designed for this purpose – to fully cleanse and prep the surface before applying new thermal paste onto it.

Importance of thorough cleaning before reapplication

It is imperative to thoroughly clean the CPU and cooling device before reapplying thermal paste.

People often overlook this crucial step and neglect to remove old remnants of thermal compounds from previous applications.

If all traces of existing thermal paste are not removed, no matter how small they may be, these can negatively affect or even completely impede heat dissipation in more advanced processors.

Unevenly distributed air pockets created by solidified particles throughout the mating surfaces between the processor and cooler will lead to an inefficient process of heat transfer.

Moreover, any residual contaminants left on a CPU might contribute to corrosion over time which would eventually cause permanent damage leading to component failure or machine shutdowns under load conditions if overclocking is attempted.

Thermal Paste Recommendations

High-quality thermal paste brands

Thermal paste is essential for preventing overheating and allowing optimal performance of your CPU.

Some brands stand out above the rest due to their reputation, longevity, and performance in terms of heat transfer as well as any special add-on products or technology they offer.

ProlimaTech PK-3 Nano Aluminum and Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut are highly regarded amongst enthusiasts and professionals alike due to their extreme thermal conductivity which is eight times better than regular thermal paste along with its non-conductive properties.

Cooler Master MasterGel Pro v2 also has excellent thermals and uses a silicone-based microgel formulation that ensures an extremely smooth application process compared to other types using thicker fluid formulations.

Arctic, Noctua, and Gelid all have excellent pastes with great price value while the best high-end thermal paste for CPU and GPU.

Our pick is the Prolimatech Pk-2 Nano Aluminum which offers exceptional conductivity at a newly affordable cost per milliliter making it an ideal choice over other more expensive top-tier ones like Thermal grizzly kryonauts.

Conductivity ratings to consider

When choosing a thermal paste for your CPU, it is important to consider the conductivity rating of the product.

Thermal pastes have their thermal conductivity rating which is measured in watts per meter-kelvin (W/mK).

The higher the rating, the better heat transfer capabilities the paste offers.

Generally, you can expect ratings anywhere from 1.5 to 12 W/mK depending on the type of thermal paste used and its formulation.

For instance, Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound boasts an 8.5 W/mK rate—one of the highest-rated compounds available on today’s market.

Selecting a paste with an appropriate conductivity rating for your specific CPU and cooling setup has a direct impact on both thermals and performance; higher ratings offer improved heat transfer capabilities that keep processors running cool and efficiently under demanding loads or overclocking settings.

Reviews and recommendations

When it comes to selecting the best thermal paste for cooling your CPU, reviews, and recommendations can be invaluable.

With a multitude of brands and products on the market, seeking expert advice and considering user feedback are key to finding a quality product that delivers optimal performance.

Reviews from respected industry experts can help you compare different models based on their cost effectiveness, brand reputation, and real-world experiences with using them.

Additionally, depending on your cooler type or usage requirements such as overclocking or gaming computers, there may also be special considerations when evaluating thermal pastes which can be found in reviews or discussed in forums with other users sharing similar needs.

User ratings from customers who have used certain types of thermal paste before may provide great insight into how well it is performing compared to alternatives and offer additional perspectives related to durability as well as ease of use.

No matter what kind of PC setup you are building looking at trusted reviews and doing research before purchasing can save time while helping ensure that you find the right fits for both budget affordability and superior PC cooling capabilities.

Checking and Monitoring CPU Temperatures

Monitoring CPU temperature is critical for preventing overheating issues and optimizing device performance.

Not properly monitoring your CPU temperatures can cause your desktop or laptop to slow down or even shut off unexpectedly, not only leading to data loss but also potentially damaging the components of your computer.

You can easily monitor CPU temperatures by using the dashboard features provided by the operating system or programs like CoreTemp, which measures processor temperatures.

The dashboard feature in Windows 10 displays live alert readings of different hardware components including the CPU, so a user can quickly notice any unusual thermal behavior such as sudden spikes while gaming, etc., with corresponding suggested adjustments.

On modern computers, there’s usually also an applet embedded into UEFI that allows for basic settings tweaking like custom fan curves, voltage curves, etc.

By paying attention to these alerts you can be proactive about preventing excessive heat exposure before it causes permanent damage.

Additionally, some programs allow users to customize their alert thresholds so they are more aware when their systems surpass safe limits.

It’s always best practice however to occasionally check how your system is performing using benchmark testing software such as 3DMark or Prime95– running several iterations at max load so that you have reliable empirical data detailing performance metrics which will show if any improvements need to be made.


The application of thermal paste on a CPU is crucial for ensuring optimal heat transfer and avoiding damage from overheating.

small, pea-sized drop of high-quality thermal paste is generally enough to ensure effective cooling.

It’s important to apply an appropriate amount of thermal paste as using too much can cause hardware problems or shorten the life span of components due to excessive heat.

On the other hand, not applying enough will not provide adequate cooling capacity either.

Whether it’s just regular maintenance or replacing your old cooler with a new one, always take the time to apply the right amount of thermal paste correctly -this way you make sure your computer runs cool and efficiently with no trouble in sight.

Q: What is thermal paste?

A: Thermal paste improves the transfer of heat between two surfaces by filling in small gaps and imperfections, resulting in better thermal conductivity and heat dissipation. Its primary application is between the CPU and heatsink.

Q: Do I need to apply thermal paste when installing a new CPU?

A: When installing a new CPU or replacing an existing one, it is recommended to apply fresh thermal paste. Over time, the effectiveness of the paste diminishes, and applying new paste helps maintain optimal heat transfer between the CPU and the heatsink.

Q: What happens if I apply too little thermal paste?

A: If you apply too little thermal paste, there may not be enough coverage to fill in all the gaps and imperfections between the CPU and the heatsink. This can result in poor heat transfer and potentially higher CPU temperatures. It is important to ensure adequate coverage but avoid applying an excessive amount as well.

Q: How do I remove the old thermal paste?

A: To remove the old thermal paste, you can use isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and a lint-free cloth or paper towel. Apply a small amount of alcohol to the cloth and gently wipe away the old paste from the CPU and the heatsink until both surfaces are clean and free from residue.

Q: What is the best way to apply thermal paste?

A: The best way to apply thermal paste is to place a small amount in the center of the CPU’s metal base and then spread it evenly using a plastic card or a dedicated thermal paste application tool. This ensures proper coverage without applying too much paste, which could lead to uneven thermal conductivity.

Q: Should I spread the thermal paste or let it spread on its own?

A: When you connect the heatsink to the CPU, allow the thermal paste to naturally spread.. Placing a small amount in the center and relying on the pressure from the heatsink ensures that the paste spreads evenly across the CPU’s surface, creating a thin and uniform layer.

Q: What is the recommended thermal paste pattern to use?

A: The recommended thermal paste pattern is a small dot or rice-sized line in the center of the CPU. 

Q: When should I replace the thermal paste?

A: Experts suggest changing the thermal paste every 1-2 years or when you observe a considerable rise in CPU temperatures. Over time they dry up / expire, the effectiveness of the paste diminishes and  changes in consistency, and replacing it helps restore optimal heat transfer.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...