Thermal paste is a must have item for all computer technicians or engineers. This thermally conductive compound removes air that sits in miniscule gaps between the central processing unit (CPU) and the heat sink, preventing overheating. It can also be applied to other electronic components such as semi-conductors, diodes and transistors.
What are the properties of thermal paste?
Thermal paste is made out of silicone oil and metal oxide, creating a heat conducting substance. The paste like properties make it perfect to fill all air gaps and move heat away from the CPU toward the heat sink while the no-creep aspect allows easy application. It also has the advantage of working immediately after it is applied. Thermal paste will work at temperatures ranging from -400c to 1800c making it very versatile and a very efficient thermal conductor.
The chemical formula of thermal paste allows it to be resistive and offer long term stability, making it highly suitable for the purpose.
Why do I need thermal paste?
A heat sink absorbs any excess heat created in the CPU by the power source. The tiny air gaps that exist between any slight corrugations in the two components prevent the heat being transferred efficiently. The thermal paste completes the heat transfer process and allows the computer to function as it should.
Purchasing thermal paste
Thermal paste is available in either an already filled syringe or in a 20ml tube. Both methods allow for very convenient application. The paste lasts in the container for four years and can be used for several applications. 20g tubs are also available for purchase.
How is thermal paste applied?
Before you begin, clean the surface of the CPU and the heat sink with an isopropyl wipe. Apply a dot no bigger than 3mm, or the size of a grain of rice into the centre of the CPU. For larger processors you will need two dots evenly placed. Alternatively, you can spread a thin layer completely over the processor.
Do a quick check that all your hardware is in place than install your heat sink. Ensure you mount it correctly the first time otherwise the spread of the thermal paste will be disrupted.
Removing old paste
If your CPU seems to be running very hot, your thermal paste may have dried up and become ineffective and will need to be replaced.
Use a hard, flat scraper to remove the old paste, taking care not to damage the CPU surface.
Once this has been completed, simply reapply as explained above. Replacing the thermal paste will allow your CPU to run efficiently once more.
Applying thermal paste is the best way to ensure your heat sink operates efficiently by drawing all the heat away from the processor. If the CPU overheats, the computer will shut down. Remember not to apply too much or too little, to ensure it does its job as it is supposed to.
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