A Korean tech site has investigated and ranked 17 thermal-paste alternatives. Quasar Zone chose a collection of likely-looking household items and discovered that an antibiotic ointment and a ‘love gel’ were top contenders, but BBQ sauce was no better than a bare heatsink.
PC builders, DIYers, and tinkerers may sometimes have to improvise when the situation demands it. A common tech staple that gets used up and not replenished is thermal paste, sometimes called TIM (Thermal interface material). Stuck in this situation, you might be lucky enough to discover some old paste or pads at the back of a drawer, or you might even live near a computer store. Others will naturally start to wonder if anything else in the garage, medicine cabinet, or kitchen cupboards will suffice.
Quasar Zone used Zalman ZM-STG2M as its reference point. Using this TIM, in a system that mixed an Intel Core i9-12900K running at “full-load” for 10 minutes, the commercial Zalman paste and DeepCool AK620 cooler kept the CPU at under 80 degrees Celsius. An average of 79.11 degrees Celsius was observed with this sensible combination, to be exact.
The two most successful TIM alternatives managed very similar performance, just a degree or so higher than the Zalman. The best alternative, if you have it at hand, is a Fucidin ointment (see images above). This is an antibiotic cream for various skin issues.
Very closely behind the ointment was a ‘Love Gel.’ This clear and slippy gel was difficult to apply and see on the heatspreader (image above). However, its score is very close to the purposely formulated Zalman paste and the Fucidin cream.
Some other alternatives that weren’t terrible in the test included tomato ketchup, hand cream, and sunblock. The application of most of these very common items resulted in an average CPU temperature of about 83 degrees Celsius during the tests.
Quasar Zone tested four notably bad thermal paste alternatives, which weren’t any better than no paste at all, as they all “failed” the test with temperatures over 95 degrees Celsius. Vaseline’s bad performance among these was so unexpected that it was re-tested, only to fail again.
So, we seem to have a handy indicative list of household items that we could use for thermal paste “in an emergency.” However, it must be noted that precautions need to be observed. For example, some of these products might be electrically conductive and cause damage if they get elsewhere in your computer. Other TIM alternatives might boil and cook or otherwise change their form after prolonged heating. For example, the Fucdin ointment deposited a “black band” after its spell as a TIM. Perhaps the best performers now need longer-term tests for integrity/stability.
Now might be a good time to check your own supply of TIM. If you think it might be a good idea to stock up, please check out our extensive guide to thermal pastes with 90 alternatives ranked, including denture adhesive and toothpaste.
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Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.
That's hilarious! 🤣Reply
Yes... Oh yes :devilish:Reply
Cool article, LOL!!Reply
Good thing they stayed away from a famous love gel, that also generates "warmth / heat" in addition to its usual function......;)
Fun Stuff! Very enjoyable.Reply
Deeper research needed to find alternatives or maybe fix problems with these examples ! ? ! ? ! ? !Reply