Top 7 Thermal Pastes in 2018 – What To Buy and How To Use Them

Best Thermal Paste in 2018

New games and software seem to be designed to push the core of our devices to the max. It seems easy to overwhelm your PC these days and all that might cause underperformance of your CPU or GPU. One of the causes for that can be increased temperature of your core.

That is where the best thermal paste, one of those you will find in our review section below, comes to the rescue. This compound is able to be of great help to users who often spend time by their computers. We tried to gather all relevant information, including how to apply and clean thermal paste off CPU, as well as information about various types of compounds available.

What is a Thermal Paste?

You might have heard of this product but under a different name. People also call it heat sink paste, as well as thermal compound, gunk, grease, or thermal interface material (TIM). You should know that all these terms are used for the same product – thermal paste.

Thermal interface material is something you apply to improve heat conduction between GPU/CPU and a heat sink.  It is a paste that can conduct heat and prevent CPU from overheating is the vital reason why you should consider using it. Your processor is probably working a lot, especially if you are using your PC or laptop often. The heat sink installed is there to help it avoid overheating. But what happens when even the sink cannot perform to its full potential?

The truth is that happens more than you think. Even the top-quality heatsinks out there might have trouble with performance if you don’t combine it with one of the best thermal pastes available.

What does the Thermal Paste do?

The statistics show that using this product can improve heat conduction for up to 100 times. CPUs and heat sinks are reliable components, but they are far from perfect. It is impossible to make them completely flat. They have imperfections that are often microscopic and cannot be seen with a naked eye. However, if air gets trapped there, it will affect the potential of the unit to conduct heat. Air does not conduct heat nearly as good a paste specifically designed for that use.

Types of Thermal Paste

You can choose between three types of thermal paste available on the market:

  • Ceramic-based
  • Metal-based
  • Carbon-based

Ceramic powder emerged in silicone is the vital component of ceramic-based thermal greases. If you are looking for a standard and affordable paste, you should look for silicon dioxide. You can also find a powder that is made of zinc oxide and aluminum oxide.

The crucial advantage of this paste is that it does not conduct electricity. If you do not think you can be precise when applying the grease, choose the ceramic-based type. That way you won’t have to worry that you will inflict any sort of electrical damage or otherwise harm the other components exposed to the grease.

The capability of ceramic compounds is limited and they will probably not decrease your CPU temperature for more than 3°C. They do not excel in performance and that makes it not ideal for advanced users because. However, if you use your PC a normal amount of time during the day, it should be appropriate.

You will probably recognize metal-based CPU pastes for their characteristic gray color. Silver and aluminum are, in most cases, what you will find in the contents of these pastes. These metal particles secure excellent performance. According to tests, they can decrease the temperature of your processor for 7 to 9°C.

Although they might be the best choice when it comes to performance, you need to use metal greases carefully. They conduct electricity which means you need to be precise. No piece of it can be spilled on other components, especially motherboard or CPU pins. Having this paste on other pieces of hardware is putting them at risk because a short-circuit may occur and damage them. Despite that, this is the type of compound most often use to improve the performance of processors around the world.

Carbon-based pastes perform even better than the metal ones. However, the difference is only 1 or 2°C, but they cost a lot more. The reason for a high price is the fact that you will find exotic contents inside these pastes, such as graphene oxide, carbon particles, and diamond powder. The advantage of carbon-based compounds is that they do not conduct electricity, which means you can spill them over the other components. Aside from that, nobody can argue that they transfer heat impressively, but the price is still the reason why not many people decide to buy them.

We cannot say which is the best thermal paste for GPU just based on categories, but we have selected the ones that stand out in each category. Don’t forget to check the review section below!

How to Apply Thermal Paste

It might seem like something that you would rather let a professional (or a geek neighbor) do, but the truth is that applying thermal paste to CPU is a piece of cake. There is one thing to remember before you start the process. TIM is applied to the upper side of your processor. In other words, you are looking for a metal plate that is smooth and has the info about the model and the manufacturer. DO NOT apply thermal paste on the bottom side of the CPU. This side has a bunch of metal pins and squares, which means that you should easily recognize which is which.

It is something that users that know a thing or two about hardware are well aware of, but pay close attention if you are a newbie.  If you apply thermal paste to the socket that CPU uses to connect to the motherboard, you could ruin both components. Be careful, but don’t worry, the upper and bottom part of the processor is obviously different and the only thing to keep in mind is that you need the side that is smooth.

Now, some of the CPUs bought today already have thermal paste applied. There is a good way to check it – notice the plate located below the heat sink and fan assembly. If you see traces of grey material, the manufacturer already applied TIM when assembling the components and you are good to go.

What about how much thermal paste to apply?  There is no exact amount recommended by either of the manufacturers. AMD and Intel agree that a pea-sized form you squeeze out of the tube should be more than enough. The crucial thing to remember is that there is such thing as a too much thermal paste. In fact, it is something to pay close attention to. Once you apply the compound on the top of the CPU, you need to put the heatsink on it. If you go too far when it comes to the amount of paste you apply, it may spread to other components and potentially damage them.

Basically, the best way to apply thermal paste is to squeeze out a small amount and place it in the center of the top side of your processor. There is no need to spread it evenly like you are making a tasty sandwich. Once you press it with the cooler, the compound will automatically spread. If you think you didn’t apply enough of the grease and notice that your CPU performance has not improved, just clean it off and repeat the process with a bit more paste.

How to Clean Thermal Paste

We found that many users have a problem with this, but our guide on how to remove thermal paste will make things simple. Cleaning the compound is something that you need to do once you buy a new heatsink or if you take off the old one for any reason.

The crucial tool that you will need is isopropyl alcohol. The top choice you can make is the 99% one, but you can also use the 70%. Alcohol evaporates quickly and that is why the first option is better. You can get this item in your local drug store or perhaps even in the supermarket. Aside from that, you will need some paper towels.

Take off the heat sink component and identify the surface where the remains of the TIM are. The best way to clean thermal paste off CPU is to grab a paper towel and put some alcohol on it. Now, just rub the surface that you need to wipe and you will notice that the compound is coming off. Keep in mind that you might need several paper towels and more alcohol to be efficient in cleaning everything.

As you can see, cleaning thermal paste off CPU is not a complicated process. It should not take more than several minutes, but it is necessary to conduct it before reapplying a new portion of TIM to your processor.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last?

The truth is that TIM should not have an expiration date. As long as you apply it properly, time will not affect its performance. The crucial thing is that the bond between the fan/heatsink and the processor is not broken. If it seems that your CPU is not working properly, please acknowledge that temperature may not be what causes the underperformance. We suggest using one of a bunch of free utilities available online. For example, we tried the Free CPU Thermometer Monitor. If the tool shows that the temperature is higher than normal, you should reapply the thermal compound.

Keep in mind that, regardless of the reason, once you remove the heat sink and break the bond between it and CPU, you will need to apply TIM again. In that case, don’t forget to clean the previously applied compound first.

What Is the Best Thermal Paste?

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Thermal Grease Paste – 1.0 Gram

Product Features

  • Ceramic-based TIM
  • Superior heat transfer
  • Doesn’t conduct electricity

About the Product

If you are an experienced gamer or you are pushing your processor to its limits often, you will need a paste with superior performance at all times. That is why you should consider the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut. The pack includes a syringe, as well as an application spatula that will guarantee efficient spreading without any hassle. Even when you try to clean the thermal paste off CPU, you will find that it is an effortless process.

The heat transfer of Kryonaut is impressive. The contents are a mixture of tin-oxide and Nano-aluminum. It can decrease the temperature of your processor by several degrees centigrade and it does not require time to maximize its performance. It starts doing what it was applied for from the first time you need its services. The only downside of the product is that the price is rather high, especially for a pack this small. A single pack will only last for up to four uses. Regardless, the features and performance make this possibly the best thermal paste out there, which makes it worth the investment.

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Easy to apply and remove

Cons

  • High price for a small pack

Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G Thermal Paste

Product Features

  • Ceramic-based TIM
  • Impressive heat transfer
  • Doesn’t conduct electricity

About the Product

If this is not the best thermal paste for GPU, it is certainly the best-selling. When you score a high amount of sales on Amazon and an average review of almost 5 stars, you know that you have an excellent product. It is a ceramic paste that contains micronized silver, aluminum oxide, zinc oxide, and particles of boron nitride. This makes a combination that can decrease the temperature of your processor for 3 to 12C.

The package contains 3.5 grams of product, which should be enough for at least 10-15 uses, depending on the size of your core. The syringe enables you to effortlessly place the Arctic Silver 5 on your CPU. However, an application spatula would be a nice addition for an easy spread. Fortunately, the item does not conduct electricity, which means there is no danger if you spill it on other components.  Please acknowledge that it will take the paste around 50-200 hours of using your CPU to achieve its maximum consistency.

Pros

  • Excellent performance
  • Affordable price
  • Can be used at least 10-15 times

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with an application spatula
  • Needs time to achieve maximum consistency

Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut Thermal Grease Paste – 1.0 Gram

Product Features

  • Metal-based TIM
  • Phenomenal heat transfer
  • Conducts electricity

About the Product

This is a metal-based thermal paste best for experienced users and those that know their way about computer hardware. We are not underestimating your knowledge, but metal conducts electricity, which means you need to be careful when applying Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut. Otherwise, you might risk destroying other components of your PC and we are sure you don’t want to do that. The syringe is easy to use, but the trick is that you only need a small amount of grease. That is why we advise you to watch a couple of videos online explaining the process, such as this one.

The pack the Conductonaut paste comes in is small, but enough for up to five uses of the product. The heat conductivity is 7.3W/mK, which means it will do a fantastic job of lowering the temperature of your core. You can also consider this the best thermal paste for laptop money can buy.

Pros

  • Unmatchable performance
  • A small amount goes a long way
  • Suitable for laptops

Cons

  • A small pack, but the high price
  • Can destroy other components if spilled over them

Arctic MX-4 Thermal Compound Paste

Product Features

  • Carbon-based TIM
  • Outstanding heat transfer
  • Doesn’t conduct electricity

About the Product

Carbon-based pastes are, unlike thermal silver ones, considered to be high-end products for advanced users. Arctic Silver seems to do the impossible and deliver a premium item at an affordable price. For just a couple of dollars more, you will get an alternative to the AS5 that all the experts recommend.

This might be the best CPU thermal paste for beginners since it is simple to apply due to its consistency and it doesn’t conduct electricity. The microparticles made of carbon are what secure fantastic heat transfer. The manufacturer guarantees that only a single layer of MX-4 can last for the next 8 years or more, regardless of how much you use your PC.  The heat conductivity of this CPU thermal paste is 8.5W/mK.

Arctic Silver thermal paste MX-4 is available in two different packs – 4G and 20G.

Pros

  • Suitable for beginners
  • Doesn’t conduct electricity
  • High-performing and long-lasting

Cons

  • The syringe is sensitive – you might squeeze out more than you need

Cooler Master High-Performance Thermal Paste

Product Features

  • Metal-based
  • Fantastic heat transfer
  • Conducts electricity

About the Product

Who else to turn to for the best thermal paste for CPU than the company that manufactures hardware that has the goal of keeping your core cool? Cooler Master Thermal Paste is also suitable for VGA cards, mainboards, and other components. It is metal-based with silicon materials. The consistency and the ease of use of the syringe make it suitable for newbies. Keep in mind that the product conducts electricity, which means you need to apply it carefully.

The heat conductivity of the product is 8W/mK. It has a shelf life of approximately two years, while it can serve a lot longer if applied. If you want to remove thermal paste, you just need to use some alcohol and paper towels.

Pros

  • Excellent thermal conductivity
  • Reliable manufacturer
  • Simple to apply and remove

Cons

  • Requires careful applying because it conducts electricity

Thermaltake TG-7 Extreme Performance Heatsink Cooling Thermal Grease

Product Features

  • Carbon-based TIM
  • Solid heat transfer
  • Doesn’t conduct electricity

About the Product

For day-to-day users, this might be thermal paste best buy – worth trying for advanced users also. It might not have a heat conductivity of some other products on our list, but Thermaltake TG-8 has a solid rating of 4.7W/mK in that area. The manufacturer used diamond powder to fill all the gaps between the heatsink and CPU and that was a smart move.

The product comes in a syringe and 4 grams of the best thermal compound made by this company. You will also get a spatula to help you spread the paste to the desired area. As a carbon-based item, it doesn’t conduct electricity, which means you do not have to worry about damaging other components.

Pros

  • Suitable for beginners and advanced users
  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to apply

Cons

  • Room to improve when it comes to thermal conductivity

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound

Product Features

  • Ceramic-based TIM
  • Adequate heat transfer
  • Doesn’t conduct electricity

About the Product

The volume of the compound in a single unit should be enough for up to 10 uses on standard-sized cores. The manufacturer claims that this paste can provide top performance for around three years. Keep in mind that the recommended shelf life is shorter and set at 24 months.

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Compound is a ceramic-based with mixed contents of micro-particles that do not conduct electricity. If you are a regular PC user and you are looking to offload a couple of degrees centigrade off your core, this is an excellent product. However, it is not intended for advanced gamers and users looking to make a bigger difference in temperatures.

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Can be used up to 10 times

Cons

  • Not for advanced users and gamers

Conclusion

That concludes our best thermal paste in 2018 review. As you could see, even the premium compounds are not that expensive, so, unless you are bulk purchasing, cost probably won’t be a deciding factor. You should focus on the preference. Would you prefer to apply thermal paste easily and not worry about electricity conductivity? Perhaps you are a fan of liquid metal compounds that do an amazing job in transferring heat?

Either way, there is no chance to go wrong if you pick any of the products from this article. We made a list with only the best CPU thermal pastes, which means that you just need to choose an item based on your needs!

Besides programming and cars, I love video games and I have a huge passion for tech. That's why I'm up to date with every new thing that comes out. In my spare time I write because I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people.

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