A thermal paste makes the heat from the processor chip transfer to the heat sink more efficiently. The CPU fan then cools the heat sink, cooling down the processor as well. Without a thermal paste, you will see a spike in the CPU temperature. And in some cases, it will even shut down.
The thermal paste only works when you apply it just the right amount. Apply too much thermal paste, which will leak from the sides, making it act as an insulator. Thus, increasing the temperature. Apply too little, and the paste will not reach all sides of the processor. This also results in a rise in the processor’s temperature.
This article discusses the amount of thermal paste you should use on a processor chip.
Does the Amount of Thermal Paste Matter?
The amount of thermal paste you apply to a CPU chip will determine how much it will heat up. However, if you apply the paste too little, it won’t spread across the surface area. Thus, trapping heat in the air pockets. And applying too much thermal paste will result in the paste leaking from the sides and coming in contact with the board.
This won’t be an issue as long as the amount of paste leaked is little and is non-conductive. However, if the paste is conductive, you must be very careful, ensuring that the paste does not leak and the touch board.
How Much Thermal Paste on CPU?
Depending on the size of the processor chip, the amount of thermal paste you apply will vary. If you have a wider CPU chip, you might need more thermal paste to cover the surface area. And if you have a smaller processor chip, such as on a laptop, a small amount of paste will work.
The amount of thermal paste and heat generated from the CPU also determines whether the paste spills from the sides. Therefore, we recommend you use a small amount of paste if your CPU reaches extreme temperatures.
Besides this, depending on the thermal paste’s viscosity (thickness), you may also see some leakage. Highly viscous thermal paste will not leak when you insert the cooler. But when the CPU reaches a high temperature, there is a chance the heat decreases its thickness, which results in the paste leaking from the sides.
And if you use a thermal paste with low viscosity, it is ideal that you apply a very little amount to cover the surface using a thermal paste spreader.
Now that we know some knowledge about how the thermal paste can leak, here are some shapes and sizes of the thermal paste that work best so that the paste spreads across the surface.
As the name suggests, the amount of paste used in this type is pea-sized. On normal desktop processors, AMD or Intel, this amount of paste is enough to spread across the processor.
Although this is one of the most commonly used thermal paste amounts, this is not the best. Once you place the heat sink above the paste, it will not reach all the corners. Even though it does not make a big difference in the CPU temperature, it is ideal that the paste covers all corners of the CPU chip.
When using a pea-sized amount, you should be careful that you do not use the same amount on laptop chips. CPU chips on the laptop are relatively small compared to the CPU chip used in a desktop PC. So if you use the same amount of paste on the laptop CPU, it may leak from the sides.
The X-shaped pattern works the best on spreading the paste all over the surface area. In this pattern, you apply the paste from one corner of the CPU chip diagonally to another corner. Repeat the same on the remaining corners.
Using this pattern, the paste will reach all the areas on the CPU chip with little to no leaks from the sides.
The X pattern will also not affect smaller CPUs. However, the nozzle on the thermal paste syringe can sometimes be a little wider. In that case, it is ideal that you use a thermal paste spreader on smaller CPUs.
Use a Thermal Paste Spreader
If you are unsure how much paste you should use, you can always use a thermal paste spreader to apply the paste evenly on the CPU.
However, make sure you dont apply a thick layer of paste. This will make the excess paste leak from all the sides of the CPU chip. Therefore, always apply a thin layer of paste when using a thermal paste spreader.
Besides the thermal paste spreader, you can use anything with a flat edge. Just make sure that it is non-conductive.
Why Do I Need To Apply Thermal Paste?
A thermal paste acts as a medium that transfers heat effectively from the processor chip to the heat sink. When the processor and the heat sink come into contact without a thermal paste, numerous air pockets form between the two surfaces. These small air pockets act as an insulator that traps heat. Thus, making the processor chip run at a high temperature.
What the thermal paste does is fills these air pockets. As the insulating factor is removed, the processor chip will have a lower temperature.
How Long Does a Thermal Paste Last?
Depending on the heat generated from the CPU and the paste quality, the thermal paste usually lasts for four to five years. However, if you constantly perform CPU-intensive tasks, the paste will dry much faster.
Furthermore, if you remove the heat sink, you must clean previously applied thermal paste and re-apply the new one.
Can You Run a CPU Without a Thermal Paste?
You can turn on the computer without applying a thermal paste. However, the CPU will turn off eventually due to extreme temperatures.
Without a thermal paste, the heat from the CPU will not dissipate to the heat sink. Thus, increasing the CPU temperature.