Well, you can remove the HSF and see if it looks good. Of course, then you have to clean both surfaces and reapply the paste. What type of HSF do you have, a normal flat surface one or a core contact (heatpipe) one?
hmm dont know, its the regular one that comes standard with the i7 920, there was some paste there already, my finger touched the outside the paste just barely, i then just put the heatsink on the cpu, the surface looked flat
One of the best ways is to check your CPU temperatures after running a stress test. If it looks normal then you did a good job. If it looks too high then you may need to revisit your heatsink-fan-past combo...
you wont' have to worry about the paste if you're installing the stock heatsink. However, your temps might still be high (the stock heatsink packed with intel processors are notoriously sub-par). You will be fine if you're not overclocking, however if you're looking to overclock or are concerned about the long-term effects of higher temps, consider an upgrade to an aftermarket cooler.
That should be fine, I doubt that did any harm. You could stress test the CPU (with prime95, for example) and record the max temperature and idle temp (with HWMonitor, perhaps) and post it here and we can see if it looks ok.
i've read about doing a dot of it in the middle and about doing two small lines of it.
I'm about to assemble my first build ever also next week, you can't press the heatsink down on it so spread it out, lift the heatsink up to make sure its good and even and then put it back down on the spread out thermal paste again?
I'm kinda a perfectionist and I feel like this is going to be frustrating.
Its not that bad. Honestly, I just put down the "grain of uncooked rice" blob down and put the HSF on and don't worry about it (except for checking temps to make sure they are ok). Unless it is a core contact/exposed heatpipe cooler, then I put lines of thermal paste in the ridges between the heatpipes.
I believe that is a Core Contact, though I may be wrong. Regardless, if the bottom is a flat plate, use the rice grain method. If it has heatpipes and "valleys", run lines of thermal paste along those.
You're right, there is no reasonable way to inspect the thermal paste spread. The best you can do is follow the recommended procedures and then measure the resulting CPU temperatures under no-load and load situations.
You did not mention it, but presume you removed the protective plastic film that was over the pre-applied thermal past before installing?