Question Thermal Paste Question

kanewolf

Titan
Moderator
Wat's proper way of using thermal paste
There is no single way. Some prefer a small (pea sized) mound in the middle of the CPU and use the cooler to spread and thin it. Some use a pea sided mount and the edge of a credit card to spread. I use a nitrile glove to spread it. As long as you have an even, thin coat across the top of the CPU you are good. Think of it like cooking oil, it is intended to conduct heat and improve the mating surface perfection between your CPU and cooler. Most of the work is done by the downward pressure the cooler applies, you are just trying to fill in the microscopic imperfections.
 

Eximo

Titan
Ambassador
That depends on what you are applying it to, and in some cases, the thermal paste. Many pastes will come with application instructions, follow them.

Naked die GPUs and Laptop CPUs, cover it. Can't really have too much.

CPUs consumer Intel, a bead the width of the applicator nozzle in the same direction of the CPU die. This is most commonly 'vertical' with LGA 115x and 1200 in a standard desktop, on LGA 1700 it is lengthwise with the longer rectangle side.

Consumer AMD has 2-3 dies under the heat spreader. Common recommendation is five small dots. One in the center and one in each corner halfway between the center and the actual corner of the CPU.

Larger CPUs like Intel HEDT and AMD Threadripper. Large X shapes and small blobs between the legs of the X. (Or just a lot more, they are very large)
 
The "proper" way is simply having enough coverage over the hot spots of the heat spreader if there is one or completely over the die if it's bare.

There's no such thing as "too much paste". The mounting pressure will squeeze out the excess and at extremely thin layers, the differences in thermal conductivity of most pastes is pretty much negligible. Not applying enough for coverage I would argue is more "not ideal" than a harsher sounding "too little paste," as some is better than none, but a heat sink at all is better than nothing. Of course, having so much paste that it gushes out is a problem for conductive pastes (most aren't), but most of the time you're just left with a mess to clean up whenever you pop off the heat sink.

If you want some methods that are more or less tried and true, a pea sized blob or an X pattern should do, regardless of the processor type. If it's a bare die application, cover the die, and maybe add a dollop on the heat sink where it'll make contact.

Another thing to consider is reliability. Obviously not every paste is created equal in terms of thermal performance, but not every paste is created equal in terms of reliability in a wide range of conditions. For instance, Thermal Grizzly's Kryonaut is the darling for a lot of people, but it's actually a bad paste to use for bare die or other higher-heat applications as it starts degrading at around 80C. It's also a thinner paste, which could potentially lead to issues with pump out (where the thermal expansion/contraction of the paste is enough such that it literally moves out from between the heat sink and the part). This could be exacerbated by coolers that don't exert as much mounting pressure as others. Supposedly bare die heat sinks are lighter on pressure, because higher mounting pressures would result in a cracked die.
 
Nov 30, 2021
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Just to be clear I'm running a Asus Rog Strix Z690-A Gaming D4 with a i9-12900K Intel CPU. I'm going to install Artic Freezer 34 cooler. In their instructions that don't talk about putting paste on the CPU. They say to put the paste on each one of the brass tubes on the bottom of the cooler then install the cooler. As I discovered of the five different ways to apply paste.
 

USAFRet

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Mar 16, 2013
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Just to be clear I'm running a Asus Rog Strix Z690-A Gaming D4 with a i9-12900K Intel CPU. I'm going to install Artic Freezer 34 cooler. In their instructions that don't talk about putting paste on the CPU. They say to put the paste on each one of the brass tubes on the bottom of the cooler then install the cooler. As I discovered of the five different ways to apply paste.
If it is not preapplied, follow their directions.
 
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