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How To Apply Thermal Paste To GPU & CPU (2021 Guide)

Your tech works hard to keep up with your busy digital life. Thermal paste is vital to the function of your computers and other devices as it works to keep them cool.

Need to know how to apply thermal paste to CPU and GPU? We have plenty of information below.  

Thermal paste, also known as thermal grease or thermal compound, is designed to transfer the heat away from your CPU and GPU and into the heatsink. You can typically find a thin layer of thermal paste between the processor and the heatsink.  

This process takes heat away from CPU and GPU parts and, by keeping them cool, ensures they work in top condition.  

See our article on the best CPU coolers for i9-9900

amd ryzen cpu

Benefits Of Thermal Paste 

Before we continue, we want to define some terms. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit; it is responsible for information processing and the general operations of your device.  

GPU stands for Graphics Processing Unit. The GPU renders all images on screen, decodes and renders 3D images, and all zoom and pan commands on the screen. 

For both CPU and GPU parts to work correctly, they need to be kept within a specific temperature range. If they get too hot, their function could be affected. Some benefits of keeping them cool include: 

  • Consistent and quality operation 
  • Longer overall lifespan 
  • High efficiency 
  • Less potential performance issues 

Things You Need To Know Before Applying Thermal Paste 

Before applying any thermal paste, these must be done and kept in mind. 

Preparations 
  • Make sure that the CPU and GPU are clean  
    Remove any old paste with isopropyl alcohol on a non-shedding piece of microfibre cloth or paper towel. If there is dust in hard-to-reach places, gently blasting those areas with short bursts of compressed air should clear it. Let it dry completely before continuing. 
  • Have everything ready  
    Make sure that you have all the tools, parts, and products necessary before continuing. Also, have a clean workspace, ventilate the area, and wear gloves to be on the safe side. 
Avoid 
  • Using too much paste  
    Wondering how much thermal paste to apply to a CPU? Only use a blob the size of a pea or grain of rice. Any more than that, and it could spill out of the sides and onto other parts. 
  • Spreading the paste yourself  
    It is tempting to spread the paste with a Q-tip or a finger, but do not do this. If applied correctly, the pressure of the other parts and gravity will make the paste spread over time. 
  • Reusing paste  
    Unless you are desperate for a short-term solution, we do not recommend reusing thermal paste. This can cause bubbles to form and may lead to glued together parts or dried paste. 

How To Apply Thermal Paste To GPU & CPU (Step By Step Guide) 

Applying Thermal Paste To CPU 

Materials needed: 
  • Non-shedding microfibre cloth or paper towel 
  • Screwdriver of relevant size 
  • Protective gloves 
  • Thermal paste 
  • Rubbing alcohol 
How to apply thermal paste to CPU: 
  1. 1
    Clean your workstation and assemble your tools 
  2. 2
    Read instructions carefully for both the device and the paste 
  3. 3
    Power down and unplug your device 
  4. 4
    Expose the CPU and heatsink according to manual instructions 
  5. 5
    Clean CPU and heatsink using the alcohol method above 
  6. 6
    Apply the paste to the center of the CPU 
  7. 7
    Carefully secure the heatsink on top as instructed 

Don’t fully tighten the screws until they are all in. Try to have even pressure and avoid bowing as much as possible. Using a zig-zag method may be helpful to create even pressure. 

  • Clean any excess paste 
  • Ensure the cooler is secure and everything is clean 

If the paste spills out, you will need to wipe it away with the alcohol-damp cloth and repeat the application process. 

  • Reassemble parts 

Applying Thermal Paste To GPU 

Materials needed: 
  • Non-shedding microfibre cloth or paper towel 
  • Screwdriver of relevant size 
  • Protective gloves 
  • Thermal paste 
  • Rubbing alcohol 
How to apply thermal paste to GPU
  1. 1
    Clean your workstation and assemble your tools 
  2. 2
    Read instructions carefully on both paste and device manual 
  3. 3
    Power down and unplug your device 
  4. 4
    Expose and open the card as instructed 

This is typically done by loosening the screws a bit at a time until it is completely loose. Be gentle and check for more screws if you meet resistance when trying to remove the cooler. If there are thermal pads around your GPU, leave them in place. 

  • Clean the GPU as described above 
  • Apply a pea or rice-sized blob of paste to the center of the GPU 
  • Secure the heatsink back onto the card as instructed 
  • Reassemble parts as instructed 

Don’t fully tighten the screws until they are all in. Try to have even pressure and avoid bowing as much as possible. 

  • Ensure everything is secure and clean 
  • Wipe away any excess paste if necessary 
  • Reassemble final parts as instructed 

As a rule, being careful and consistent in your disassembling, application, and assembling will ensure things go smoothly. 

applying thermal paste to cpu

How Often Should You Reapply Thermal Paste? 

People often ask how often to apply the thermal paste onto the CPU. The short answer is that you do not need to do it too often. However, if your device exhibits these symptoms, then you will need to reapply some paste: 

  • The PC temperature is consistently higher than usual 
  • You have not replaced the paste in 1-4 years 
  • The pre-applied paste is of poor quality or has been poorly applied 

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Can too much thermal paste be bad? 

It can be, depending on the amount and parts affected. When too much paste is applied, it spills out of the sides, causing a mess at best and damaging parts at worst. 

How hot is too hot for the GPU? 

176-185 degrees is often considered the standard working temperature for a GPU, with the ideal ranging from 149-185 degrees. The maximum working temperature for many GPU is usually 212-221, but thermal paste can help you avoid that temperature range. 

What happens if I don’t use thermal paste on the CPU? 

Not using thermal paste on your CPU or GPU can cause added strain on your device’s internal parts. This can, in turn, cause them to become less efficient or stable and cause the CPU, GPU, and heatsink to eventually fail. 


Conclusion

Thermal paste is a vital working part of many electronic devices; by being careful and precise in your replacement, you can increase the lifespan of your CPU and GPU with only a little occasional maintenance.