Computer Thermal Compounds

Get the Right Type of Thermal Paste for Your CPU

Thermal paste is used to aid in the transfer of heat from the CPU to the heat sink in a computer. Without it, computers can run quite a bit hotter and less efficiently, sometimes even to the point of shutting down. There are a few different types of thermal paste available, but choosing the right one for your needs on eBay is easy.

What different sorts of thermal paste are there?

There are four main types of thermal paste, and which one you choose will depend on its intended use, as well as how much you want to spend. Be careful if you are using a metal-based paste, as this is conductive and can cause short-circuits if you use too much or spill it on the motherboard or CPU pins. Thermal pastes come in syringes, pots, single-use sachets, or pre-applied to thermal pads. Pads or syringes are the easiest to use and the least messy. The main types of paste and their features are listed below:

  • Metal-based: Best for overclocking. Conductive. Takes longer to cure. Easy to apply.
  • Ceramic-based: Non-conductive. Cheaper than metal pastes, and only a few degrees difference.
  • Carbon-based: Much more expensive, depending on exact type. Non-conductive. Longer lasting.
  • Silicon-based: Comes pre-applied on thermal pads. Easy to use. Not as effective as other pastes.
How should you apply thermal paste, and how much?

First, you will need to remove the old paste. Carefully pour some isopropyl alcohol on the old paste and let it sit for a couple of minutes, then wipe off with a soft cloth. You can buy dedicated thermal paste removers, but isopropyl alcohol works just fine if the percentage is high enough - 70-90% should be fine. Squeeze a small pea-sized amount of the new paste onto the cooler base. If there is a spreader tool supplied with the paste you can use it, but its not really necessary unless youre using a liquid metal paste. Re-attach the CPU to the heat sink. The paste will spread out, forming a thin layer as you apply pressure.

How often should you replace thermal paste?

Some people replace the thermal paste in their computers whenever they clean them, but its not really necessary. In fact, you wont see much of a difference when you change it unless the old paste is more than around five years old.