Cleaning Thermal Paste off CPU for Beginner

Codelyoko373

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I've been needing to replace my CPU fan as my current one is going to break soon so this means I need to clean off the thermal paste... which I've never done before.
I've looked up lots of different posts all over the internet and most have mixed opinions from stuff such as using a paper towel to clean off the thermal paste to just using Q-Tips.

Though I was just wondering if someone would be able to recommend basically... the safest method to cleaning thermal paste off since as mentioned, I've never done this and I'm a little worried I may cause damage to the CPU in some way which I've heard is a high possibility.

I've brought some Isopropyl Alcohol (100%) to use though what should I use it with? Most people say to use a paper towel but then others say never to use a paper towel cause it will leave residue on the CPU. I do have a Microfibre cloth, would that be ideal?
 
You'll be fine with a paper towel and IPA.

A few hints:

IPA leaves no residue, any excess will simply evaporate in a few minuets.

Choose your weapon: Paper towel, cotton bud or small piece of rag, it's all the same, none will leave excessive residue and any that IS left behind can be simply blown off.

Wipe IN from the outside to reduce the amount of crud that ends up on the edges of the CPU, and don't get too concerned about any that does, as long as none ends up on the back of the CPU or its contacts there's no cause for concern.

If you're REALLY, REALLY worried you can pop the CPU out of its socket to get it totally clean, hold it by the edges and corners, while grounding yourself to prevent any slight risk of static damage by touching: A masonry wall, a water pipe, a grounded electrical appliance that is plugged in or a heating radiator.
 
Microfiber is best, but honestly you can use anything in practice. I use toliet paper. Mostly because I always have it and it's cheap. First I wipe off as much as I can with dry toliet paper, then wipe the surface with alchohol. If you remove all the thermal paste any "residue" left by the toliet paper will simply blow off when the alcohol dries up. It residue isn't any more dangerous to the system then dust.
 

Codelyoko373

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Would I do that same process with a Microfiber cloth then? Wipe it first with a dry microfiber cloth, then wet it with the alcohol and wipe it again?
 
You'll be fine with a paper towel and IPA.

A few hints:

IPA leaves no residue, any excess will simply evaporate in a few minuets.

Choose your weapon: Paper towel, cotton bud or small piece of rag, it's all the same, none will leave excessive residue and any that IS left behind can be simply blown off.

Wipe IN from the outside to reduce the amount of crud that ends up on the edges of the CPU, and don't get too concerned about any that does, as long as none ends up on the back of the CPU or its contacts there's no cause for concern.

If you're REALLY, REALLY worried you can pop the CPU out of its socket to get it totally clean, hold it by the edges and corners, while grounding yourself to prevent any slight risk of static damage by touching: A masonry wall, a water pipe, a grounded electrical appliance that is plugged in or a heating radiator.
 
There are commercial products for removing thermal paste. But iso-popyl alcohol or acetone will work just fine. The choice of cotton swab, paper towel or a rag is up to you. Cotton can sometimes be a pain because it snags easily.

But it isn't a complicated process. Use the swab (or whatever) to wipe off the excess paste. Then use the swab moistened with iso-propyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) to remove the film leftover. Then repeat until it is clean.
 
@OP

Yes if you have microfiber cloth use one side of it to wipe as much off, then flip to the other side and wet it with alcohol and wipe off the rest. If you think of the cloth as a 3x3 grid you can usually get the job done with 1 cloth. But if you have a bunch then go nuts.
 

Codelyoko373

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Would it be better to use a microfiber cloth then a paper towel?

What I was going to do if I was cleaning the thermal paste now is use a microfiber cloth to wipe as much thermal paste as possible off and then use a Q-tip soaked in the Alcohol to clean the rest off.
 
@ Codelyoko373: Makes no real difference, microfiber or towel, just be a little careful not to snag it on the CPU or surround, you won't do any harm, it'll just be a little annoying to free it off once snagged.
Old stuff is usually difficult to remove dry, use a damp cloth throughout.
 

Codelyoko373

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Well it will be 3 year old thermal paste so yea... I imagine it's best to always use a Alcohol soaked cloth XD. Thanks, I'll most likely end up using a microfiber cloth instead of a paper towel
 

Codelyoko373

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Also, I was just wondering, Am I likely to damage the CPU when cleaning it when it's attached to the motherboard as that's the way I'll be doing it?
 
Obviously you don't want to hose down the entire area with iso-popyl alcohol. Just dampen a swab or paper towel enough to get the leftover residue off. You should be fine. It isn't that difficult of a task, and takes like two minutes.

Also make sure to ground yourself to the case to prevent issues with static electricity. I often rest one hand on the case as I'm working on it anyway.
 

Codelyoko373

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So as long as I use a paper towel with isopropyl alcohol on it after wiping the CPU with a dry paper towel, I don't have to worry about any of the residue left over from the first paper towel?

I also sadly don't have a static wrist band so I was just going to touch the side of the case often to hopefully prevent static.
 



I have an anti-static wrist band around here somewhere. And I haven't used in years. As long as you ground your self to the case you are likely fine. But if you are concerned by all means get one. I use my hand on the case itself. I haven't had problems.

The surface of the CPU doesn't have to absolutely microscopically free of residue. Simply "clean" will suffice.

About the iso-propyl alcohol, don't get too messy with it Regular rubbing alcohol is about 70 % iso-propyl alcohol. The other 30% is mostly water (water and electronics aren't that compatible). Keep the iso- propyl to a minimum, and you will be fine.
 

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