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How to apply Thermal Paste when building your own CPU or GPU?

Finding out building your own PC requires you to apply a paste is probably not something you find easy to digest if you are a beginner or relatively newer with handling your tech on your own. But it is important you learn how to do it if you are to have a smooth and positive experience, to begin with. This article will chronicle how to apply thermal paste in a simple and efficient manner so that you don’t get overwhelmed but also carry it out with precision.

It is okay to feel like it can go wrong because that just means you will be extra cautious while carrying out the small process. However, once you read the entire thing and learn all the facts, it will automatically give you enough confidence to do it easily. The article will include the guide on the process, along with things you need to take care of before and while applying the thermal paste. Give it a read and make up your own mind.

Why do you need Thermal Paste?

Why do you need thermal paste

If you have found out about the thermal paste but still need to know why it has to be done, there is a rational reason behind it. Usually within every electronic device, the chip that makes the thing work produces heat that needs to be guided out of the device in order to keep it cool and continue working efficiently. The thermal paste is supposed to carry that heat, regulating it from the chip towards the heatsink.

There is also a likely chance that the CPU or GPU you are building comes with a pre-applied thermal paste to ensure maximum regulation of heat transfer. In this case, you do not have to worry about the entire manual process of applying the paste, or by any chance messing it up. In another case, this entire process applies.

Often the thermal paste gets confused with a thermal adhesive, both of which are completely different in terms of purpose and usage. As hinted in the name, thermal adhesive works as a bond that keeps the heatsink connected to the integrated circuit. They might look and seem familiar in terms of their appearance and texture, but that is the extent of their similarity. Instead of having similar adhesive properties such as the thermal adhesive, the main job of a thermal paste is to make sure your CPU or GPU does not get heated, by conducting heat transfer towards the heatsink.

Whether you feel your previous thermal paste was not efficient or you got the chip in your system replaced, you need to apply this thermal paste efficiently. There are certain ineffective ways to apply that paste that you need to steer clear of. But a bit of knowledge on the topic and you will be good to go without any complications. There are certain types of applications too, also different depending upon the device you have i.e. CPU or GPU. Every different one will be detailed in the application step of this article.

Change of Paste

Change of paste

 There are some things you should look out for when you are attempting the process by yourself for the first time. This includes knowing what is the right amount to put on the chip, which is neither too less nor too much, and a much pre-process decision of realizing when you need a change of paste.

This one should be the first step you do, analyzing the problem with your system and device to find out what is causing the problem. Changing or looking for a different thermal paste does not come up as a routine part of the process but rather as something that becomes necessary for you to do if the situation arises. Most commonly, it comes out of your system overheating, but that does not directly lead you to change the thermal paste as a solution.

If you have overheating issues, check your system’s interior to figure out the cause. There could be an issue with the fan or the dirt and dust within your CPU. In either case, the solution is different and you can reach it through individual solutions. However, if none of those issues end up being the reason behind the overheating, it is a sign that you need a change of paste. Choosing the right one depends upon you, but make sure you get a good one so it addresses all the right requirements. This step will make or break everything you do after in applying the paste to the chip.

Choosing your Thermal Paste

Choosing your thermal paste

Though it has been mentioned earlier, it does not hurt to repeat that you really need to focus on what kind and quality of thermal paste you are getting when learning how to apply thermal paste. The right choice here will define whether the process of manual application ends up being successful or not. Whether it’s a replacement or just a new paste for a new chip in your PC-building process, you need to make sure you have the right product.

Something that often gets overused here is that the more money you spend on the thermal paste, the better it will be. Even though there is truth in the reciprocal of quality with a product’s price, a generalization does not necessarily work out all the time. This is why we suggest you look around for recommendations, talk to a few experienced people who have built their own PCs before, and do a little bit of research on product type, etc. Shifting your focus from price towards quality will do you and your system good.

Not to rely on a cheaper option, and not ignoring quality and value to go for a highly-priced product is a balance that you will have to maintain when finding your ideal thermal paste. Not that it is too expensive to begin with, therefore the balance is easier to maintain than it seems.

Using an adequate amount

Using an adequate amount thermal past

The reason you are at the point where you need to apply the thermal paste on your own is that your system is likely overheating, due to any likely fault. This also could mean that you were not using enough paste previously that could carry the heat towards the heatsink efficiently. This means making sure you are not using less than an adequate amount so the purpose you are using the paste for gets fulfilled and the system does not get overheated.

At the same time, using or putting on too much paste is not good either. It will not cause a similar problem such as the overheating one, but it will be a mess. It can be an additional task for you to clean the mess of overapplied or more than necessary paste on the chip. Therefore, making sure of the amount is very important for the process.

Checking the Chip is fixed

Checking the chip is fixed of thermal past

For those building your first or one of the initial PCs, you need to ensure you install and secure the chip in place first before applying the paste on it from above. You cannot make changes in the order of business here, such as pre-applying the paste before you fix the chip in. The past has to go on top, before the heatsink comes down, no other way.

If you are at a point where fixing the chip seems overwhelming or complicated to you, take guidance from a manual such as this one, there are several tutorials to be found online. Depending upon the different product parts you are using, old or new, the process will change and vary. Make sure the motherboard and CPU you are using are both compatible, you know how to carry out the process of fixing the chip in the CPU successfully.

Applying the Paste

Applying the thermal paste

Applying the paste comes last for obvious reasons after you have done the entire research, learning, getting your right replacement, making sure other things in your system are fixed, etc. For order-related reasons, the last step before this one should be your chip secured firmly in place. To reiterate the previous point of the thermal paste’s properties, it will not and cannot hold something together, because it is not an adhesive.

Therefore, do not rely on the thermal paste to do that for you, make sure the chip is connected already before application. Now goes the thermal paste, then your heatsink. There are two common ways you can start this, here are your options.

  • If you have not previously paid attention to patterns and usage, putting a product or spreading it in a straight line is one of the easiest ways to spread your product without also spilling it over. Try drawing out the paste in straight lines, whether they are two parallel lines or across doesn’t matter, all you need to make sure is that it is enough and it stays on the surface. Also, make sure you leave a border space around the chip before drawing out the lines so there are no chances of spill-over when pressed
  • Another easy and simple way to go about this one is to just leave a dot of the product on the chip instead of any specific pattern that needs to be drawn out. Make sure you gauge the size of the chip properly, so you know how small the dot of the paste needs to be. It ideally should not be bigger than a rice grain because when the paste gets pressed by the heatsink it is going to spread evenly on the chip. For an easy guide, use the capacitors nearby for a size guide, make sure you have a close to the right amount

An additional thing to note here is that even though CPU and GPU are different devices with several different features, this process more or less remains the same for them. You can use the guide of application for either of the systems and it will work out fine. What you need to specifically make sure of in the GPU is to remove the chip from within your graphics card, so that it is properly exposed to carry out the process.

This concludes our guide on how to apply thermal paste on your CPU/GPU, preventing overheating and fool-proofing your PC building process. Make sure you don’t skip a part in the steps above, as often happens when you are skimming a guide or tutorial to perform later. It is important to learn the entire thing chronologically before you move ahead on trying it out as it will protect and maintain your system.

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