Cleaning CPU heat sink prior to thermal pasting

Hi folks,

I am about to apply a fresh batch of Arctic Silver 5 to my new CPU/heatsink to replace the stock thermal paste that came with the unit. In preparation for cleaning off the old thermal paste, I followed an Tom's Hardware forum post in which one commentor recommended a cleaning with WD-40 (!) and a paper towel followed by isopropyl alcohol. Because no one corrected this would-be advisor and I didn't know any better, I did as s/he recommended.

Shortly afterward, I went to the Arctic Silver website, whereupon I discovered that one is never, ever to use WD-40 or other petroleum distillate-based cleaners on a heatsink. Horrified, I came here to ask about the extent of the damage I have done. In my defense, I used only a minute amount of WD-40 and immediately wiped down the heating surface with two applications of alcohol.

So, my question: Is this a "my CPU will run a few degrees hotter than it would otherwise" kind of issue, or is it the "buy a new heatsink" variety?
8 answers Last reply Best Answer
More about cleaning heat sink prior thermal pasting
  1. The heatsink is the stock cooler that comes with the Phenom II X4 965 processor. It has a sizable fan.
  2. Best answer
    1) You can get a two piece cleaning kit from arctic silver. Part 1 gets the old stuff off, and part 2 cleans the surface.I don't know if it is really worth it though.

    2) Alcohol will do a good job, the purer, the better.

    3) Don't use your fingers, as that can leave oily residue. Use a paper coffee filter instead.

    4) If you shine a small flashlight on the surfaces, you can see how well your cleaning job is.

    5) Lastly, don't worry. This is not rocket science.
  3. Thanks. Any particular techniques or advice you have on getting the best clean? I don't have any lint-free wipes on hand. Is a coffee filter the way to go? Paper towel? Q-tips? Gloves? Does it matter?
  4. coffee filters
    eyeglass wipes
    no q tips!
    plain white printer paper if nothing else
  5. Coffee filter it is! Thank you all very much for your help.
  6. One last tip:
    Be careful not to apply too much material, or it will act as an insulator.
  7. Also after cleaning heatsink with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol has fragrances and higher percentage of water) and heat spreader of cpu
    I "tint" (apply small
    amount of paste, rub it on heatsink and heat spreader with plastic bag and clean it off with edge of credit card (no metal) so it colors the heatsink and CPU heat spreader)
    then I use small line down middle of cpu and then let pressure of heat sink spread paste
    By tinting before applying paste the very light covering (coloring) should fill in
    microscopic pores in metal therefore achieving a better bond between CPU heat spreader and heatsink
    I learned this from this guide from Arctic Silver (there are better pastes but you cant doubt their experience)
    here is link:
    that is for intel there is also on same site application methods for AMD
    it is different for different cpu architectures.

    Sheesh I am glad I took Keyboarding classes (still can do 60 wpm on a good day)
  8. Best answer selected by cdva47.
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