December 5, 2021

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How to apply thermal paste

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Thermal paste can keep your CPU cool and efficient. And there can be two main reasons why you want to use thermal paste. Either you’ve purchased a new CPU, or you want to replace the old thermal paste with the new one.

No matter how easy it may appear at first, this process is quite complex. A slight mistake, and you can damage your motherboard. It’s the reason we’ve created this guide. Below, you’ll learn about all the steps from getting the paste to applying it. So, let’s begin.

Applying The Paste to A CPU 

Step 1 – Getting the Right Paste

Before you start applying the paste, you need to have one. And it should be of the best possible quality. Though the cheaper ones also get the job done, you should spend a little more to purchase an effective one as it’ll help in better heat conduction from the CPU to the heatsink.

Once you purchase a good-quality thermal paste, you’ll get a container along with it. It’ll look something like a medical syringe. Its purpose is to help you carefully squeeze the thermal paste over the CPU without spilling it on the sides.

Most of the time, users tend to apply less paste than required with the help of the syringe. So, your likeliness of applying more than the required past is quite low.

Step 1 – Installing the Chip

The CPU chip should be handled with care. And you should only apply the thermal paste once you have installed the CPU on the motherboard. Ideally, the paste should be applied to the tip of the chip to conduct the heat towards the heat sink. And it shouldn’t be brought into contact with any connectors.

Let’s say that you want to apply the thermal paste on a brand-new CPU that is attached to an old model of the motherboard. You’ll have to detach the retention arm or the socket latch and unscrew the screws in such a case. It usually depends on the motherboard you’re working with.

Once you’re performed the above operation, you’ll now have to hold the chip from its sides. It’s done so that the pins are not damaged. A small triangle acts as an indicator to help you align the CPU in the motherboard socket.

Step 2 – Applying the Paste

Once you’re done handling and securing the chip, you should go for the heatsink and add it over the CPU. Now, as it has no adhesive properties, you cannot add it using the thermal paste. So, before you attach the heatsink to the chip, you should apply the thermal paste over the CPU.

Now, you cannot just go ahead and apply the thermal paste you like. There are several methods you can use. However, the two most commonly used methods are the ‘cross’ and the ‘dot’ method.

Dot method

As the name suggests, you need to squeeze out the thermal paste in the form of a dot or pea exactly in the middle of the CPU. Now, you need to lower the heatsink using a gentle but equivalent force on all sides. Make sure not to slam it. It should always remain within the bounds of the CPU, so applying the paste with a gentle pressure would do.

Never forget to check the capacitors installed around your CPU. And always use the paste according to that size. The dot method is commonly used and is also safe. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll cause any spillage.

Cross method 

Like the dot method, the cross method is another effective way of applying the thermal paste. You need to form a cross with the thermal paste starting from one corner and ending on the other. You should do it in a way that you see an ‘X’ or cross on the CPU.

Always stay away from the edges. While drawing the crosses, make sure that you’re well within the boundary of the CPU. Like the dot method, you need to apply a gentle yet equivalent force to spread equally on the CPU.

Several other methods can draw different shapes like the ‘line’ and ‘spiral’ methods. However, the results they yield are almost the same.

Step 3 – Install CPU cooler

Installing a CPU cooler is another simple-looking yet complex mechanism. You should apply light force for placing the water block or the base plate of the cooler on your CPU. You need to hold it that way until you attach the cooler with the mounting mechanism.

Make sure to apply the force in a way that does not let the cooler slide. Also, you need to ensure that the pressure evenly distributes the thermal paste that you have applied. Light pressure is always the key, as if you increase the pressure, it can damage the CPU or the motherboard.

It is important that you place the cooler in a diagonal pattern over the motherboard. It should ideally form an “X.” Tighten each screw once you have inserted all of them in the holes. It is done to make sure that even pressure is being applied on all sides.

Step 4 – Double-check your work.

Now that you’re done attaching the water block of the cooler, you need to check whether everything works fine or not. Make sure that there’s no thermal paste spilling on the edges of your CPU. In case there’s some paste spilled on the edges, you need to clean using alcohol and repeat the process all over again. And if there isn’t any spillage, then congratulations, you did it right.

Things to Look Out For

You can always apply the paste using methods other than the drawing ones. However, you need to ensure that the amount of paste used is adequate. If you use less than the required amount of paste, the heat conduction will be poor, and you’ll face overheating problems with your GPU and CPU.

And if you apply more than the required thermal paste, there can be a different issue. Although it’ll conduct the heat properly, there are chances that it will spill on the edges. It may not look like a big problem but cleaning it off using alcohol and starting the process again is quite an issue.


The thermal paste may not be a topic of concern for most users out there. However, for professional gamers, or PC builders, it can prove to be really effective. With the correct application and regular reapplication, the thermal paste can maintain an optimum temperature for your CPU and GPU.

This way, it can help those crucial computer components to last for long. So, make sure that you use the thermal paste and apply it correctly.

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