How To Apply Thermal Paste To A GPU Or CPU

An untrained person could find the simple task of applying thermal paste to the GPU or CPU to be overwhelming, but this article will assist you.

Every aspiring PC builder needs to be skilled at applying thermal paste.

If you’re using thermal paste for the first time, you’ve probably heard enough terrifying tales of hardware being destroyed by fire.

Because it feels and looks “gluey,” thermal paste is frequently mistaken for thermal adhesive, although they are extremely different. A heatsink is attached to an integrated circuit using thermal adhesive. The heat is transferred from the chip to the heatsink using thermal paste, which lacks adhesive properties.

If you have bought a new chip or if your existing thermal paste needs to be replaced, you might need to apply thermal paste. The thermal paste can be applied in various ways, which are relatively effective.

Let’s examine the process for achieving this for both the GPU and the CPU.

What is Thermal Paste?

A type of grease called thermal paste helps transfer heat away from particular computer parts. The application of thermal paste to GPUs is less known than the application to CPUs before they are mounted on the motherboard.

A few characteristics of thermal paste make it perfect for removing heat from computer components. The temperature is further lowered as it transports the heat generated by the CPU or GPU to the heat sink.

Furthermore, because it seeps into cracks and slams up against the surface where it is applied, it helps establish extra contact points.

The thermal paste can also reduce the amount of air transported between the heatsink and the component by plugging air-entry openings. Thermal paste can also lower temperatures by lowering the heatsink’s efficiency as a result of air transfer.

What Advantages Does Thermal Paste Offer My GPU?

Heat is a major factor in the deterioration of graphics cards. The lifespan of the card might be drastically shortened by excessive heat. Additionally, it restricts the GPU’s performance potential. The card will eventually turn off or reduce its performance to protect itself as temps increase.

Your GPU’s temps can be reduced dramatically by applying new thermal paste. It’s one solution that works if you’re encountering issues. For instance, since I was certain I could fix any issues, I got my 1080 TI from EVGA from the B Stock.

When it first debuted, a test showed that it would crash when attempting to play games with high visuals like ARK. In a matter of seconds after the game began, the temperature would soar to nearly 85 degrees before it ended.

We took the card apart, got rid of the old thermal paste, and put on new. We restored the card and performed a stress test after it had been put back together.

It worked in the same game in low temperatures with no heat-related issues for me (below 80 degrees). I still use it occasionally even though it isn’t my primary GPU any longer, and years after using the thermal paste, it still functions flawlessly.

The Thermal Paste Being Applied To A New CPU Or GPU

It might be a little discouraging when a novice buys a high-performance CPU and learns they must carry out an unusual operation that can damage their hardware. The different possible applications of thermal paste make the matter even more perplexing.

Saying there is no risky technique to apply thermal paste would be misleading. There is, but with some direction and common sense, you can use the right amount correctly.

It’s crucial to be aware that some CPU coolers ship with thermal paste already applied. You’ll have to do it manually if that is not the case for you.

Step 1 – Getting The Right Paste

Selecting the best paste is crucial before starting the process.

Here, the general maxim holds the more expensive the thermal paste, the better the performance. Although there are a few exceptions to this rule, as always, this strategy will typically work.

A cheaper one will typically serve the purpose fine, but a higher-grade thermal paste will transport heat from your CPU to the heatsink more effectively.

You are better off paying a few extra dollars because the thermal paste isn’t particularly expensive, if only for your peace of mind. Applying thermal paste slowly and accurately is possible because it typically comes in a container like a medical syringe.

Therefore, applying too much paste requires purposefully squeezing out too much paste. The truth is that you’re much more likely to apply too little.

Step 2 – Installing The Chip

Before you start, remember that you should only use thermal paste once the chip has been placed and firmly fastened to the motherboard. It has nothing to do with the connectors and will be positioned on top to transmit heat to the heatsink.

Depending on your motherboard, you may need to remove the screws, detach the socket’s latch (retention arm), or both install a new CPU. In any case, you should refer to the handbook for your particular motherboard model.

To prevent harming the pins after this, hold the chip carefully by its sides. To precisely line the CPU with the motherboard’s socket, there is typically an indication (a little triangle).

Step 3 – Applying The Paste

It’s time to factor in the heatsink after the chip has been fastened with latches or screws. Remember that the thermal paste won’t hold it together because, as we explained, it lacks adhesive qualities.

Before the heatsink can be attached, the thermal paste must first be applied to the chip.

There are other approaches, but the “dot” and “cross” methods are the most popular.


Put a dot the size of a rice grain in the centre of the CPU using the “dot” approach, then firmly but gently lower the heatsink. Of course, you shouldn’t use your entire body’s force or slam it down. You set it down while attempting to level it out on all sides.

For this procedure, it’s a good idea to maintain the paste roughly the same size as the capacitors surrounding the CPU. The most well-liked and generally secure way to apply thermal paste is this one.

This approach is rather dependable and won’t result in any additional spills.


Use the “cross” method, exactly what it sounds like if you want to be even safer. You begin by drawing a straight line from one corner to the other. Then you do it again to link the remaining two corners, with the two lines intersecting in the middle.

Necessary: Try to stay as much as you can inside the CPU borders; don’t draw the lines to the edges.

Similar to the previous way, the heatsink is lowered using an equal force distribution.

There are many additional “drawing” techniques. However they all generally produce the same outcomes. The “line” and the “spiral” methods are precisely what they sound like and can be used. Even a smiley face is acceptable, but we’re still determining if it will help the outcome.

Things To Look Out For

There are two other methods for applying thermal paste, although they don’t include patterns like the ones stated above.

If you use insufficient thermal paste, your CPU or GPU may overheat because there will need to be more of it to conduct heat correctly.

But if you use too much thermal paste, you’ll run into another issue.

Of course, the heat will circulate adequately, but if there is too much paste, pressure on the heatsink may lead it to pour over the sides. Although it is not a significant issue, removing thermal paste from the motherboard can be time-consuming.

Although the CPU procedure has been outlined, the GPU process is essentially the same.

Tricks & Tips for Thermal Paste

Applying the thermal paste to your GPU can be a great experience if you know a few helpful hints.

Do I Need to Put Thermal Paste on My Graphics Card?

Applying the fresh thermal paste to your card is okay if your temperatures are high or you have a favorite brand you wish to utilize.

Nevertheless, if your temps are average, there is no need to do this. Taking apart your card to add new paste could result in more issues than it is worth if your card operates as it should.

Consider carefully whether the gain justifies the risk.

Are Thermal Pads Advantageous to Thermal Paste?

One of their key advantages is that the paste won’t leak from the chip you use thermal pads on. It remains put where you set it.

Thermal paste will fill the gaps better than a thermal pad, though. Use paste rather than a pad if you’re adding something to your GPU and proceed more slowly.

What Shape is Best for Applying Thermal Paste?

Place a dot in the center of the chip for beginners. When you press the heat sink on, it is better to ensure it doesn’t leak out the sides. Some favour making a little X over the chip with a larger X in the middle. Others prefer to draw a thin line over it going back and forth.

In the end, it mostly comes down to personal preference. The central dot ought to function correctly.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last on a GPU?

Most individuals think it lasts for two to three years. You will likely need to change the thermal paste at some time because a graphics card typically lasts much longer than that.

If disassembling your GPU makes you uncomfortable, contact a qualified computer repair professional and inquire about costs. The pricing of the service is affordable.

How Much Thermal Paste Should I Use?

You don’t even need to use that much. A rice grain-sized amount or two-sized dollops ought to be adequate. If necessary, you can permanently remove the paste and reapply. It is even more challenging to clean if it drips onto other parts. Use a little at a time and err on the side of caution.

Does Thermal Paste Expire?

Expect your thermal paste to wear out eventually. It ultimately loses its effectiveness, much like most other things. Consider buying a new tube if it’s older than two years.

Changing The Thermal Paste

There are numerous valid reasons to change the thermal paste on your CPU or GPU.

Determine whether the fans need to be cleansed of dust or if they are working properly if either component appears to be overheated. It may be time to change the thermal paste if you follow these recommendations and the overheating problem persists.

To begin, you’ll need some brand-new thermal paste. Once you’ve got it, you may remove the GPU or CPU’s heatsink from the motherboard.

By removing the heatsink from your chip, you can evaluate the effectiveness of the thermal paste you previously applied.

If the paste wasn’t applied evenly when you used the “dot” method, use the “cross” method this time.

Before continuing, removing the heatsink and chip from the board is advisable as the following action may unintentionally damage both.

Even if both methods are effective, combining the two is unquestionably the best way to eliminate the residual paste. To get rid of the most significant piece of paste, use a paper towel or if you don’t have one, a microfiber cloth.

When handling the chip, hold it by its sides to prevent breaking the pins and rendering the chip useless.

After dampening the cloth with rubbing alcohol that contains the most isopropyl alcohol possible, gently massage the paste off.

Start slowly to get a sense of how fragile the chip is. This is the recommended course of action. Not that it will crumble in your hands, but it will serve as a reminder to avoid using excessive force immediately.

You might discover particular crevices that are still dirty after removing most of the residual paste. The following action is advised even if you are unable to see this.

To get to those hard-to-reach places, use an alcohol-soaked cotton swab. The GPU or CPU’s cleanliness can only be ensured in this way.

You can start applying the replacement paste after carefully cleaning the old paste. We won’t go over them again because they are the same as when you apply them to a new CPU.

Change your application technique if the previous paste has spread unevenly or if your paste has suddenly ceased transferring heat correctly.

Ibtisam Ellahi
Meet Ibtisam Ellahi, founder of Hackdt. With over 2 years of experience in the tech industry, Ibtisam brings a wealth of knowledge and passion for all things technology to the table. He started this website with the goal of sharing his love for technology and providing valuable information to the tech community. Ibtisam's experience and expertise make him a trusted source for the latest tech news and insights. When he's not staying up-to-date on the latest advancements, you can find him testing out the latest gadgets and products. Join Ibtisam on his journey to explore the fascinating world of technology.
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