Ever wondered why after playing video games on your machine for years, it suddenly starts to heat up?
Ever experienced your CPU shutting down as soon as you run a number of different processes or whenever your CPU fan speed increases?
There can be many reasons for your machine shutting down due to overheating, and dried-out thermal paste is one of them.
In this post, we will show you how to remove thermal paste, and all components required to apply a fresh layer.
What is Thermal Paste?
Thermal paste is a thermally conducting substance applied between the CPU’s integrated heat spreader (IHS) and the heatsink.
The thermal paste absorbs heat from your CPU and dissipates it to the heatsink or cooler.
This keeps your CPU cool and prevents it from overheating.
Your CPU’s heat spreader has microscopic imperfections on its surface that create air pockets and prevent efficient heat dissipation.
Just so, Thermal Interface Material (TIM) or thermal paste is used to seal off such imperfection and promote efficient exchange of heat between CPU and heatsink.
How to remove Thermal Paste from CPU?
Once applied, the thermal paste will work its magic for 3 to 5 years. But in some instances, you might have to change thermal paste even before that.
In case you are upgrading your heatsink or CPU cooler, it’s wise to clean old thermal paste residue and reapply it.
If you are observing CPU heating issues during long gaming sessions, it might be an indication of poorly applied or dried thermal paste.
How to Remove Old Thermal Paste?
To remove old thermal paste you will require
- Thermal Paste cleaner or Isopropyl Alcohol
- Microfiber cloth
Follow these steps –
1. Remove CPU Cooler
First, switch off your machine and let it cool down for half an hour. Once it’s cooled, remove the power supply and battery unit if any.
Once the power supply/ battery pack is separated try to turn on the system again in order to flush out any residual charges.
Now open your CPU cabinet or laptop and loosen the cooling unit’s bolts and clips. For this step, it’s better to refer to your manual.
Nudge the cooler and rock it gently from side to side to remove it. Make sure you don’t yank on it as it can permanently damage your CPU pins.
2. Cleaning Thermal Paste
Once the cooling unit has been taken apart, use a clean microfiber cloth for clearing the thermal paste.
Do Not use cotton cloth or tissue paper for thermal cleaning. They can leave behind lint or small particulates that can hinder your CPU’s performance and even lead to overheating.
Now, over time, your thermal paste can harden and stick to the CPU heat spreader.
For such instance, a thermal paste cleaner or isopropyl alcohol will do just fine. Make sure the alcohol is more than 90% so that it can remove thermal paste residue as well as dry quickly.
Once you have removed the old thermal paste the heat spreader should look shiny and brand new. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then you can apply a fresh dab of thermal paste.
How to Apply Thermal Paste?
After you have thoroughly cleaned any thermal paste residue, it’s time to apply a fresh coat. All you need to do is put a tiny amount of thermal paste on the surface.
When you put the paste you need not spread it manually.
Gently affix the heatsink on the CPU, and the paste will automatically spread evenly throughout the heat spreader.
While putting the heatsink if it slides, then you have to start all over again with cleaning the thermal paste and reapply it, until you get it right.
How to Remove Thermal Paste from CPU pins?
Depending on your CPU’s make and build it can have LGA (Land Grid Array) or PGA (Pin Grid Array) sockets. To remove the thermal paste from CPU pins you will need
- A soft-bristled toothbrush
- Thermal cleaning solution or 90% + isopropyl alcohol
- Dry microfiber cloth
Dip your toothbrush in isopropyl alcohol and gently rub it over the pins which have thermal paste on them.
Make sure you don’t put pressure and do the cleaning as gently as possible. CPU pins are notoriously fragile. You wouldn’t want to damage any aspects of it.
Be it an LGA or PGA follow the direction of the pins and brush over the pins accordingly. Once most of the thermal paste is dislodged using the toothbrush, switch to a microfiber cloth for cleaning the tiny residues.
Take a dab of alcohol on the cloth and gently rub it over the surface of the pins. You need not worry about removing every bit of the thermal paste, just enough to promote proper connectivity.
Once you are done with the cleaning, let the socket sit for a few hours and let any residual alcohol dry out. And that’s about it!
Which Thermal Paste Cleaner should you go for?
99% Isopropyl alcohol Solimo is perfect for removing heat sink paste.
You can use it on a microfiber cloth or toothbrush to clean CPU pins too.
However, make sure you don’t use any other cleaner or liquid-based heat sink paste remover as it might corrode plastic parts or create connectivity issues if not dried properly.
You can get it on Amazon for $7.
How much Thermal Paste do I Need?
You need just a single drop to cover your CPU.
Squeeze out some thermal paste roughly the size of a pea and apply it to the surface. It shouldn’t be less and definitely not more. Else your heatsink won’t sit perfectly and can even spread the thermal paste to the side onto other pins.
Once you place the thermal paste don’t spread it manually rather, let the heat sink component spread it across the CPU evenly.
To sum up in a few words, even if you know how to remove the thermal paste, you must refer to your hardware manuals to carefully remove and secure the individual components.
Firstly you have to focus on cleaning the thermal paste which was earlier applied.
Microfiber cloth is the best means of getting rid of heat sink paste. In case you are not able to remove all residue, use 90% + isopropyl alcohol to loosen it up.
After a few strokes with the alcohol, you will be left with a shiny CPU. Once the surface has dried out, apply a fresh dab of thermal paste and attach the heat sink to it.
Make sure you are gentle with your overall approach and don’t tamper with any of the CPU socket pins.
Get Gaming Again!