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Lets Talk About Thermal Paste! How Do I Use It Properly?

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  • Thermal Compound
  • Systems
Last response: in Systems
May 22, 2014 8:27:05 AM

Ok, from what I can tell this is a topic that seems to generate alot of disagreement. I have seen tons of vids on it, read alot of different things, and gone on several of the paste sites trying to figure it out. I figure I will tailor this question to me and find out.

1. Is TIM and thermal paste the same thing?

2. I have read about "tinting". From what I can tell that is actually taking the thermal paste, spreading it about, then basically scraping it off with a razor or credit card to get all the tiny pits filled before actually doing the standard application

3. What is the recommended pastes to use? .

4. Does the CPU need to be cleaned before application?

From what I am seeing, I am guessing you should

a. Tint the heatsink at contact point, then tint the cpu.

b. Then apply a rice size to pea size amount of paste onto the center of the CPU and place heatsink onto it rotating 1 to 2 degrees. I have also seen Arctic Silver suggests placing a vertical line down the CPU 1 mm wide instead of the rice.

Any thoughts on those?

More about : lets talk thermal paste properly

May 22, 2014 8:43:30 AM

1. I have not run into "TIM" before, but I see that MAY be a way of saying Thermal Interface Material, so yes, that's the same thing.

2. I have never done "tinting" as you outline, but I doubt it is needed. See item 4.

3. I have been happy with Arctic Silver, but I know there are several good products, so I won't recommend any particular one. Others may.

4. My best advice is to go to the website of the maker of your paste. There, look up their instructions for your particular CPU module. That will advise whether to clean any surface before applying paste (and if so, how to). It will also tell you how much paste to apply - that will vary according to the paste and to the size of the CPU module - and how to spread it around. For example, for my CPU with Arctic Silver the instructions said to use a rice-grain size blob placed in the centre of the CPU, place the cooler on top straight down, twist gently with moderate pressure for 5-10 degrees each way, then align the heatsink and fasten it down. But each CPU is a little different, so pay attention to YOURS and to your paste's maker's instructions.
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May 22, 2014 8:51:39 AM

The point of thermal paste is to fill the small imperfections in the surfaces of the CPU and the heat sink. You use it much like body filler on a car, apply small amount, smooth out the filler, try to put the heat sink on straight and bolt it down.

If there's a rule of thumb here, it's this: "A little dab will do ya." It's not dependent on the size of the heat sink or the CPU. Not only that, but some pastes are electrically conductive and can cause problems if you put too much on and then it squeezes out the side.

Arctic silver 5 has been around for many years, and I know people swear by the stuff. A small tube will last you several heat sink installs. Just make sure you steer clear of the thermal epoxys, and thermal glues. That stuff is PERMANENT.

This is what I do, apply small dab of paste, spread with gift card or business card, wipe up any mess I made, and install the heat sink.
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May 22, 2014 8:51:47 AM

Someone Somewhere said:
1) Yes, though TIM is usually used to refer to the bit directly contacting the die.

2) Never heard of it.

3) http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/thermal-paste-perfo...

4) Only if it has previously had paste applied. If it's new, you don't need to.


so you suggest just getting a paste.. putting pea size amount on and putting heatsink on? Also, do you prefer the pea size method or the vertical line method?
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May 22, 2014 8:56:57 AM

Pea size (or a little smaller), generally. Vertical line is only necessary when you have a very rectangular target, like a laptop CPU die or similar.
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May 22, 2014 9:18:14 AM

Whats differente between high mounting pressure and low?

I have a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO coming in.
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May 22, 2014 9:19:45 AM

TBH, I'm not sure. I think it's an attempt to avoid huge numbers of complaints for having the wrong testing methods.
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May 22, 2014 9:31:37 AM

angry, I highly recommend you reading this thread:

http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2124987/paste-ap...

The link within the replies goes to a very very detailed explanation of the proper application technique and why in a way that clears up all confusion. (at least all i had). You do not spread it or smooth it yourself. and for absolute best application result, there is actually a slightly different method for if you have AMD or Intel.
I got a very good lesson in thermal paste! While it starts out differently, in the replies is all you need to know about paste

oh and as for which is good, I also got another lesson in this thread:

http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2124706/good-pas...

If you read thru the 2 and follow the link in the first one, all your questions and then some will be answered.
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May 22, 2014 9:50:23 AM

Whats differente between high mounting pressure and low?

Let's clarify a little thing here. When you are applying the paste and spreading it around a bit, you do what the instructions say - maybe a bit of straight-down pressure, a bit or rotation, whatever the instructions say. AFTER that when you actually fasten the heatsink down on the CPU to the mobo is when the mounting pressure comes into play. At that point you have no control over it. The mounting and fastening system is designed to apply a specified clamping pressure and you should not attempt to change that.
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May 22, 2014 9:53:53 AM

drdenby said:
angry, I highly recommend you reading this thread:

http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2124987/paste-ap...

The link within the replies goes to a very very detailed explanation of the proper application technique and why in a way that clears up all confusion. (at least all i had). You do not spread it or smooth it yourself. and for absolute best application result, there is actually a slightly different method for if you have AMD or Intel.
I got a very good lesson in thermal paste! While it starts out differently, in the replies is all you need to know about paste

oh and as for which is good, I also got another lesson in this thread:

http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-2124706/good-pas...

If you read thru the 2 and follow the link in the first one, all your questions and then some will be answered.


ok I read through. Figured what I Thought on application.

One question I do have left is.. and it appears that somebody mentioned it in one of those threads..

Should I go get a different paste or am I alright using the CoolerMaster Paste that comes with the Heatsink?

system is an i5 4670k with nvidia gtx 580i and asrock z97 mobo. I am not overlocking
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May 22, 2014 10:00:49 AM

I went ahead and spent the $5 for Arctic Silver CMQ2 and put it on just as the guide recommended for Intel processor (horizontally across the middle "third" of the HOTSPOT)
and I am getting very cool results from speedfan. I figured that it was worth $5 to be sure and have peace of mind. And I would say I have enough left for at least 5 more applications.
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May 22, 2014 10:30:46 AM

Arctic Silver stuff makes me nervous cause I read that once applied it sticks and no removing

I know this heatsink has a fan with it... only looks like the temp difference between this and say Arctic Silver 5 is 1 degree. Does not seem like much..
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May 22, 2014 10:39:46 AM

Go ahead and use it and then install speedfan. If you see worrying temps, you can always take it apart clean it off and use a different paste.
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May 22, 2014 3:41:37 PM

drdenby said:
Go ahead and use it and then install speedfan. If you see worrying temps, you can always take it apart clean it off and use a different paste.


first time building.. frustrating thing is parts are in and now to find a paste means ordering more ugh..
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Best solution

May 22, 2014 9:01:35 PM

Use what you have for now and monitor the temps. In mean time you can order some more to have on hand just in case.
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May 22, 2014 10:02:19 PM

angry12345 said:
Arctic Silver stuff makes me nervous cause I read that once applied it sticks and no removing


Arctic silver removes fine. It's thermal adhesives that don't pull off.
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