What is Thermal Paste and Why Do I Need It?

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

July is "PC Cooling Awareness" month here at Affordable Computing. One of the first topics we want to touch on is "TIM" or thermal interface material! Also known as thermal compound, thermal grease, thermal paste and a variety of other names, TIM is any material that sits between two components with the purpose of enhancing thermal transfer. A modern microprocessor like a CPU can generate a lot of heat! TIM sits between the CPU and the heatsink (usually made of copper and/or aluminum) in order to help transfer the heat away from the CPU and into the cooler itself where it is often dissipated with the assistance of a fan.

TIM doesn't last forever and will dry up with age. When this happens, it loses much of its ability to transfer heat away from the CPU and into the heatsink to be dissipated. This means that if your TIM is aging/dry, you could have excellent airflow and a high-end liquid cooler and still experience unusually high operating temperatures which can negatively impact performance and potentially the lifespan of your components. Not all thermal compounds are the same. There are many different options out there that vary in composition, thermal conductivity (a measure of how well it transfers heat) and lifespan.

Here at the shop, one of our preferred options is Arctic MX-5. It is reasonably priced, easy to apply, has good thermal conductivity, requires no curing time and lasts for years without the need for re-application. On top of all that, it is not electrically conductive which means that if you were to accidentally drip paste where it shouldn't be, there is no risk of shorting out your components.

If you are unsure how to replace your thermal paste we would love to see you here at Affordable Computing and we will be more than happy to help you.

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