In computer applications thermal paste (or thermal grease, thermal interface material) is a grease-like substance that helps in the flow of heat between two metal surfaces. Thermal paste is used in computers and electronics bridge the surfaces on metal-to-metal contacts (such as the contact between a CPU and a Heatsink) and to eliminate the creation of insulating air pockets created by grooves and imperfections.
What do I need to know about thermal grease? You will use thermal grease in your build when attaching your processor cooler to your socket. A lot of cooling fans will come with a thermal pad pre-applied to the bottom of the heatsink. If that is the case then you will not need to apply anything in addition to that. Some builders opt to scrape off the thermal pad and use a thin layer of grease for better conductivity. Thermal pads are designed to be easy to use and are generally regarded to as being inferior to a proper application of thermal grease.
What is thermal grease made of? Commercially available thermal grease used in PC applications are typically ceramic based or metal based. Ceramic based thermal compounds (also known as silicone based compounds) are built from a ceramic powder and are oftentimes white in color. Metal-based grease will typically have particles of silver or aluminum in them and are better conductors than ceramic compounds. These heat sink compounds are typically silver in color.
When applying thermal grease is more or less better? This is one of the most common questions for a new builder. With thermal interface materials you always want to use as thin a layer as possible. The thicker the thermal grease layer the further away the two metals are from each other – defeating the purpose that the thermal material serves. Aim for as thin a layer as you possibly can (but make sure that the layer is sufficient enough to completely cover the surface).
How do I apply thermal grease? There are many tutorials and videos out there that show how to apply thermal grease. Here’s a good one from Arctic Silver: http://www.arcticsilver.com/instructions.htm Again, you want as thin a layer as possible when applying thermal grease. Be careful not to get any in your eyes or on your clothing as thermal grease is also very difficult to clean off.
How do I remove thermal grease? The best way to remove thermal grease is a two-part process called Arcticlean. You can also use rubbing alcohol if you don’t have Arcticlean handy but nothing is as quick and easy to use as the Arcticlean 1 & 2 combo.
See all of our thermal grease products on outletpc.com