How To Apply Thermal Paste? (Best Practices)

| Published On:
NeoGamr.net is supported by its audience. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More
how to properly apply thermal paste

Applying thermal paste can be a difficult and overwhelming task for newbies. Stories, misconceptions about burned-down hardware can terrify anyone inexperienced. It is an often well-debated topic among the PC gaming community.

You must have seen PC builders discussing, arguing, and engaging in discussions about different ways how thermal paste can be applied either on GPU or CPU.

But in all honesty, you can apply thermal paste any way you like considering you are not pouring generous amounts on your component.

For best results approach with minimalist-method. And If you are still asking yourself, How to apply thermal paste? then you might want to relax and take a back seat, this reliable thermal paste application guide will help you avoid minor mistakes and set you on your journey of PC building. It’s honestly exciting.

Let’s take a first look at the guide as I am going to cover up the whole process.


Why Do You Need Thermal Paste?


Thermal paste is a crucial and must-have component if you want to keep the CPU cooler during a heavy workload. You apply thermal paste on top of your processor before you close the heatsink.

It works as a bridge between your CPU and IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader), closing unnecessary gaps and enabling efficient transfer of heat between these components.

image of thermal paste on cpu

Without thermal paste, your PC might overheat and cause severe lag during workload. Throttling issues will occur more often, resulting in BSODs and shutdowns, and in some cases, your components may catch fire.

Thermal paste keeps the temperatures of your components in check, ensuring fewer throttling issues and better performance.

You may get confused about choosing the right brand of paste since they all look the same and don’t have any distinguishing features.

Lower quality pastes usually dry up after a few months of use, forcing you to apply several times. It can be quite vexing, so It is advised you choose the brand manufactured for your CPU to avoid any drawbacks and heating issues.

Most of the time, if you are purchasing an after-market CPU cooler, it comes pre-applied with thermal paste.


How Often Should You Replace Thermal Paste?


Thermal compounds are built to provide you with years of usage. Some also outlive the lifespan of your computer system, but of course, many other factors come to play.

What kind of cooling system are you using? Are you a gamer who spends 24/7 streaming and playing high graphic games? Is this pc in use for mining or any other industrial services?

Keeping your system clean and dust-free is also a key deciding factor in whether it’s time to replace the thermal paste. Over time the thermal paste begins to dry gradually, but that does not mean it has become useless.

image of a person applying thermal paste on cpu

CPU and GPU produce a tremendous amount of heat and they should be monitored physically and digitally. I advise you to keep the dust off the fans of your system casing, they should remain clean so your PC case has clean and sustained airflow. Monitoring CPU and GPU temps regularly by in-game software can help you identify whether it’s time to replace the paste or not. If you ever get the feeling your pc is running hotter than it should be only then you should consider applying thermal paste

Maintaining your PC overall helps increase the lifespan of your PC components and you’d also spend less money and less time troubleshooting issues


Application Techniques For Applying The Thermal Paste


And here we are, the question you have been asking yourself, how do I apply thermal paste?

You will be surprised to hear that there is more than one way to correctly apply thermal paste. It all comes down to personal preference, but everyone should have a basic understanding of this procedure. You know how the saying goes, “Better safe than sorry”

The DOT method

Apply a very small amount of paste right in the center of your chip. Make sure it’s no bigger than a grain of rice or a single Pea.

Lower your heatsink and press it down very gently. Avoid slamming it down with full-body force. The paste will spread out evenly to the side without overflowing.

DOT Method of applying thermal paste

You can also lift the heatsink again to see that everything is fine. This method is most commonly used among the majority of PC builders because of how simple and safe it is, and any newcomer can learn it quickly

The X method

You can make X shape diagonal lines that connect parallel corners or place dots on each corner with one in the middle. In both cases, the spread will reach all sides evenly upon pressing the heatsink.

The X Method of applying thermal paste

Be careful not to make complete X, save some space on each corner, or otherwise thermal paste might leak from corners

The LINE method

One of the most simple and safest methods, this is exactly as it sounds. Draw a vertical line in the middle of your chip, and that’s it. Now you are good to install your CPU cooler.

The Line Method of applying thermal paste

The paste will spread to both sides evenly, and there is little to no risk of thermal paste leaking to the sides. Simple and Reliable it is.

The Spiral Method

This method involves the most use of fluid. You start by moving the syringe in a circular motion on the surface of the chip and making small circles that cover the whole area of the CPU without even placing a heatsink.

The Spiral Method of applying thermal paste

This can help maintain low CPU temps, but an expansive fluid applied on the CPU may leak from sides.

The Finger Method

The most simplistic and handiest method, you apply some paste on your CPU and manually spread it with your finger like how you butter a sandwich.

The Finger Method of applying thermal paste

This method is easy, but if you are not evenly covering the CPU with your finger, you can unintentionally leave some dry spots ending up with air bubbles. Good choice for beginners but not often recommended


Things To Look Out For


Every CPU cooler requires thermal paste, but in many cases, you will be provided with pre-applied paste at the bottom of the heatsink when you are purchasing your new Cooler.

However, nothing lasts forever, and someday you will find your PC is not giving peak performance or it is running hotter than expected. That’s when you know your thermal paste has dried up, and now it’s time to invest in some Quality grade Thermal paste.

Replacing thermal paste is the only option if you want to enjoy a cooler and smooth experience

Few things everyone should keep in mind when changing or replacing the thermal paste.

  • Always go for thermal paste manufactured for your specific component i.e, your processor or graphics unit. Cheap and unfamiliar brands should be avoided at all costs. Talk with a professional at some point, get to know more about compatible products you should use for your components.it helps,
  • Spreading is something not everyone is familiar with, especially if you are new, so my advice is to avoid spreading paste with your finger or other foreign objects. After you have applied the paste, rest down your cooling block on top of your processor and let it do its job. It is more safe and reliable. The incorrect application will cause air bubbles to develop, and believe me, they are not good for thermal conductivity
  • Keep in mind that every time you remove your CPU cooler, you have to clean and re-apply the paste. I advise you to invest in some thermal paste syringes. keep them in the drawer, store them. No one knows when they could come in handy

How To Clean Off The Thermal Paste (Avoid This Part If You Are Applying For The First Time)


Every CPU cooler needs a thermal paste for efficient performance. In most cases, you get pre-applied thermal paste on purchasing of CPU cooling block.

But nothing lasts forever, at some point in life, you will experience throttle issues, lags, you will notice your processor is running hotter than expected. That’s when you know your paste has dried up, and now it’s time to replace it.

It’s a very simple procedure, and anyone can do it correctly, even if you are new to this. Don’t worry, it’s not rocket science. just make sure to follow the correct method that I am about to explain

Avoid using toilet paper as it may leave some bits on your CPU that will affect your positive heat transfer. Your best option is a microfibre cloth, as it does not leave tiny bits of fiber when cleaning. You can make use of cotton swabs to reach tiny spaces.

  • For cleaning liquid, you will need isopropyl alcohol with high amounts of concentration. I usually prefer 99% It quickly dries up when left unintended. Refrain from using other liquid cleaners as they can be conductive and damage your components if spilled
  • Unmount your cooling block, dip some of the alcohol on your piece of cloth and thoroughly clean the surface of your chip as well as the bottom of your heatsink. You will find it clean and shiny as the day you bought it if it is done carefully
  • Once you are done with scrubbing you will be left with a clean processor and shiny, brand new looking heatsink, just like it was on the day you bought it, that’s when you know you are ready for the next step. How to apply thermal paste

How To Apply Thermal Paste To CPU


Now that you have cleaned your processor and fan, it is now time to apply some cooling paste. It is advised you use thermal paste recommended by your CPU manufacturer. Cheaper and lower grade brands are unreliable and do not produce expected results

  1. Selecting the correct and compatible paste

People tend to gravitate towards expensive products, the more expensive it is, the better it will perform. It is true to some extent, and in this case, you will always want a better and higher quality adhesive for your processor.

The higher quality paste will enable better heat transfer between the heatsink and your CPU more efficiently.

image of a thermal paste tube and cpu

Quality does make the difference, and spending a few bucks over isn’t a big deal, thermal pastes aren’t that expensive. You are better off buying a few and storing some for your later uses

  1. Applying the paste on your CPU

Considering you have cleaned your processor and heatsink thoroughly, you are now ready to move forward to the next step.

As I mentioned above, there are a few different methods that most people use. it all comes down to personal preference. Just make sure you are spreading the paste evenly across the IHS for the best possible results.

Pour down a little pea-sized DOT exactly in the middle of your CPU. Carefully mount your heatsink on the CPU in a straight motion so that the paste spreads out evenly.

Let the cooling block do your job for you. Make sure your paste is reaching all sides and corners of the CPU without any signs of overflowing.

showing how to apply thermal paste on cpu

The uneven paste will produce air bubbles on the surface, and it can disrupt efficient heat transfer through the components. Once you have tightened the screws of your heatsink, you are ready to boot up your PC without any worry

This is one of the most popular and simpler methods used all around the world. It is safe, it is reliable, anyone can do it, and it gets the job done most of the time.

  1. Other methods and things to look out for

If you are wondering, you can use the “cross method”, “the line method” or the “spiral method”. All of them generally will yield the same results. You can even draw your favorite emoji if you like, and it will work as long as there is no spillage and paste is even on each side.

Apply too much you will increase the chance of spilling over the motherboard, apply too little your paste will dry up sooner than it should. Be precise with your method, and there is a low chance you will face any throttling issues, your PC won’t give up on you anytime soon.


How To Apply Thermal Paste To GPU


Replacing your GPU thermal compound is a little more complex than replacing paste on the CPU. it requires you to disassemble your GPU and manually remove the heatsink. This may require you to proceed with extreme caution and, if needed consult with professional technicians.

Whenever you buy a new graphic processing unit, it comes pre-applied with thermal paste. The majority of the time, people upgrade their units before they feel the need to replace the thermal paste. Thermal paste that comes pre-applied can last years of operation (all other factors considered)

showing how to apply thermal paste on gpu

However, at some point, you may feel your GPU isn’t working as per potential, and your temperature charts in-game are a little too high than they should be, that is a sign of your thermal paste giving up, and you should replace it as soon as possible.

Without any question in mind, always prioritize company-manufactured thermal pastes recommended for your GPU brand. Cheap products will dry up in a very short period. Better to invest in high-grade thermal paste than to replace it every few months.

  1. Remove the card from your system

Unplug any cable attached to your GPU. before extracting your card for the case. Apply outward force in a straight motion and press the clip at the end of your PCIe slot. You have successfully pulled out the GPU unit from your case

  1. Cleaning and disassembly

Use a can of compressed air to blow off any excessive dust. Using a screwdriver, undo all small screws you can see on the backplate.

If you are facing resistance in opening the check again for screws, you may have missed it. Don’t exert extra force. gently pull the heatsink from GPU in opposite direction.

You can use the plastic lever to loosen a bit before trying. Old dried-up thermal paste can be quite problematic during the process of removal as the dried thermal paste can cause the heatsink to stick firmly on the GPU.

  1. Thermal paste removal and application

You will need some cloth and alcohol rub to make the cleaning as smooth as possible.

Apply some of the alcoholic fluid on the removal cloth. You can use a microfibre cloth or paper towel. Avoid using toilet paper as it can leave tiny leftovers that can cause ineffective cooling.

Carefully wipe off the dried dup thermal paste without making a mess. Be gentle with it, avoiding any downward pressure on the heatsink.

How To Apply Thermal Paste To GPU

You can repeat this process a few times until the surface is clean and polished. Use compress air to blow off dust and particles around the heatsink. A cleaner GPU will provide better cooling and last longer.

Now you can proceed and drop a small amount of fluid in the middle of the heatsink chip resembling a tiny pea-sized dot. Now you can mount the heatsink back. The pressure will smoothly spread out the paste across the surface without any worries.

Refrain from applying too much, you don’t want it oozing around the corners of the intended area. Screw back your backplate, and you are ready to install your GPU in your case. Remember, you can always re-apply paste if you are not satisfied with the results.


How Much Thermal Paste Should I Apply To My CPU?


As I mentioned quite a few times in this guide, A small pea-sized drop is sufficient for effective results. You don’t need to worry about spreading it manually your heatsink will automatically spread it evenly across the area when mounted.

Some PC users may have different opinions, they will suggest detailed methods of spreading but in the end, it’s all up to you

Be tight-fisted when applying the paste. Don’t go overboard expecting better cooling and temps results. The result may be satisfying, but there is a considerable risk of leakage and short circuit, which is not worth it.

If you are worried about being cautious that you might apply too little paste, then don’t worry, you can always clean it off and re-apply. It’s all that you have to do. You can never learn without failing once, just don’t be intimidated.

Not too little. Not too much. Abide by this rule.


My FInal Conclusion:

Applying thermal paste is a great way to revitalize your GPU or CPU. You can enjoy a cleaner and smoother experience, or you can also overclock your CPU for an impressive boost in performance.

Correct and skilled application of thermal is crucial for your PC components to last longer.

Once you get familiar with these methods, the process will feel less burdened and more straightforward in the future. You will feel more confident in yourself when you will notice an exceptional improvement in your PC performance.

Always maintain and keep your components in top-notch condition. Your top priority should be adopting cleanliness and fending off any dust gathering on your components. This will hinder your PC’s overall performance, which is something no one wants to deal with.

With all these steps in mind, you will come across certain gains in improvement on both temperature and performance


Frequently Asked Questions

#1 – What is the best way to apply thermal paste?

You are free to choose your preferred method of application. One of the most popular and frequently used methods is the DOT method.

You apply a small pea-sized dot in the middle of your CPU and spread it evenly across the area. It is seen as a simple, safest, and reliable method without any risk of thermal paste overflowing from sides.

#2 – Can you apply too much thermal paste?

You are free to choose your preferred method of application. One of the most popular and frequently used methods is the DOT method.

You apply a small pea-sized dot in the middle of your CPU and spread it evenly across the area. It is seen as a simple, safest, and reliable method without any risk of thermal paste overflowing from sides.

#3 – How much thermal paste do I need in grams?

Thermal paste is meant to fill the gap between heatsink and CPU enough to allow the heat to transfer efficiently .1gram of thermal paste is sufficient for one-time use.

One small pea-sized dot is all you need to apply on the CPU surface. a 3.5g tube will be plentiful for several replacements if you intend to use them in future

#4 – How long does thermal paste last?

Many other factors are considered when judging the lifespan of thermal paste. Your system’s cooling, your climate and surroundings, your daily usage, and of course the quality of the compound itself.

In most cases., users can go without ever feeling the need to replace thermal paste for 3-5 years. Excessive use can decrease this lifespan to 2-3 years.

#5 – Is it worth replacing GPU thermal paste?

If you are using an old second-hand GPU, or your GPU is producing high temps on normal loads, you should consider replacing the thermal paste only if these conditions are met.

Newer GPUs come pre-applied with the thermal paste by their respective manufacturing company, so there is no need for any change. Also, keep in mind, that disassembling your GPU will void any warranty.

#6 – Can you use rubbing alcohol to remove thermal paste?

Yes, you can use rubbing alcohol to remove the thermal paste. You will high concentrate alcohol as it tends to evaporate faster, leaving no trace of liquids on your components.

Use lint-free cloth instead of regular toilet paper to avoid any leftovers on the processor. Carefully rub off dried thermal so that you avoid making a mess

#7 – How much does a thermal paste cost?

Thermal paste is not an expensive component and can be easily found in the market. Depending on the quantity and quality of the product, the thermal paste price range can vary between 10 to 25 dollars.

You can also get as cheap as 3 dollars if you can overlook the quality and use it on a short term basis

Your Author



Leave a Comment