How to Remove Thermal Paste Off CPU Pins (Beginners Guide 2023)

How to Remove Thermal Paste Off CPU Pins

So you dropped some thermal paste on the pins of your expensive CPU by accident, and now you’re worried it’s broken for good, right?

Well, there’s no need to worry. You can fix it if you try hard and don’t give up. I’ll show you how to do everything about how to Remove Thermal Paste.

So, how do you get the thermal paste off the pins on the CPU?

Use a soft brush dipped in 70% isopropyl alcohol to clean the thermal paste off the pins on the CPU. If you hurry or put pressure on AMD Ryzen CPUs, the pins can easily bend. There are no pins on Intel CPUs, so they are easier to clean.

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How To Remove Thermal Paste From CPU Pins

Before I explain the process in detail, you need to know about the different kinds of CPU sockets.

There are two kinds of sockets for CPUs:

  1. LGA (land grid array)
  2. PGA (pin grid array)

In LGA, the pins stay in the socket on the motherboard, and the CPU has round pads that touch the pins. LGA is used by the Intel Core and AMD Threadripper lines.

So these CPUs don’t have any pins, just round contact pads. They are easier to clean.

In PGA, on the other hand, the pins are on the CPU itself, and the holes for the pins are on the motherboard socket. AMD Ryzen series uses PGA.

Because of this, it’s a bit harder to get the thermal paste off of Ryzen CPUs.

Most thermal pastes made recently don’t conduct electricity (except liquid thermal compounds). So you only need to take off enough so that the pins can connect to the socket properly.

It won’t be a problem if tiny bits of paste stay on the CPU as long as they don’t get in the way of the connection.

What to do if thermal paste falls on the CPU?

Here’s how to get the thermal paste off the CPU pins:

1. Apply 70% Isopropyl alcohol

To clean, you will need a soft toothbrush. Isopropyl alcohol with a concentration of 70% or higher will be used to clean. You’ll need some tissues to dry the brush in between each wipe. If you want to, you can also use a magnifying glass.

  1. Put a little bit of isopropyl alcohol in a bowl and soak the toothbrush in it.
  2. Try to brush the thermal paste off the pins in a straight line while being gentle. Don’t push on an AMD Ryzen CPU; if you do, the pins might bend. The surface of Intel CPUs is flat, which makes it much easier. As I said before, you don’t have to get rid of all the paste for the CPU to work. Only take off enough paste so that the pins can make good contact with the socket.
  3. Remove the toothpaste from the toothbrush. You’ll notice that the paste gets stuck in the brush between wipes. Wipe it off with a tissue, or it will get back into the pins.
  4. Remove excess alcohol. When you think you’re done, leave the CPU out in the open air to let the extra alcohol evaporate or use a Q-tip to soak it in. Once again, don’t put pressure and be patient.
  5. Make sure the CPU is working. Put the CPU in its place on the motherboard and put some new thermal paste on it. Put your CPU cooler on and see if the computer starts up.

If it does, congrats! You did it, so give yourself a pat on the back.

If it doesn’t, don’t lose hope. It might need a little more cleaning. Do the steps again.

2. Use Thermal Paste Cleaners

There are products on the market that are made to clean thermal paste. Choose one of these. As a cleaning tool, you’ll need a pack of Q-tips. If you need to, you are welcome to use a magnifying glass.

Use a small amount of thermal paste cleaner where needed on the CPU. Don’t put on too many. It’s better to use a small amount at first and then add more as needed than to use a lot at once.

It will take time for thermal paste cleaners to stick to the thermal paste. So just wait 5 minutes.

Gently brush the tips with the Q-tip. Don’t be too rough, or you could do a lot of damage, especially if you’re cleaning an AMD Ryzen CPU. The Intel CPU has no pins, so it is a flat surface.

Most of the time, a few soft wipes are enough to clean.

In a hurry? Check out my new post on How hot is too hot for CPU

So, don’t rush and don’t put pressure on yourself. You only need to take off enough paste to make good contact.

Change Q-tips. The q-tip will get clumps of thermal paste on it. So, you should get a new one.

Take away the extra liquid. After a few wipes, when you feel like you’ve cleaned enough, you can start to dry off the extra liquid. You can get rid of the extra liquid with a new Q-tip.

Check the CPU to see if it works. After the CPU is clean and dry, try putting it on the motherboard socket with new thermal paste (appropriately applied). Put the CPU cooler on and see if your computer will start up.

Does the computer start up? Good, you’ve got it.

The computer won’t turn on? Don’t give up! Take the CPU out and try again to clean it. The CPU pins might not be making good contact because small bits of paste are stuck somewhere.

Why Use Thermal Paste On CPU?

At first glance, the CPU heat spreader on top might look perfectly flat, but that’s not the case.

On a microscopic scale, the heat spreader is covered with tiny holes and grooves. When you put your CPU cooler on, these grooves and pockets will act as air gaps that don’t move heat as well as they should.

So, your CPU won’t get enough cooling and may even stop working.

Thermal pastes fill the tiny holes and grooves so that the CPU heat spreader and CPU cooler surface touch each other without any gaps. These pastes also move heat quickly, which makes the cooling work better.

Are There Any Alternatives To Thermal Paste?

Yes, there is something else you can use instead of thermal paste. There are graphite thermal pads that are easy to put on and take off. Since it’s a pad and not some paste, there’s no chance of it getting on the CPU pins by accident.

Check out our expert-recommended CPU or GPU

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it bad if thermal paste gets on the CPU?

The thermal paste itself won’t hurt the CPU, but it will make it harder for the pins and sockets to connect. The computer won’t turn on. So, to get the CPU to work, you need to take off the thermal paste.

Can alcohol be used to clean CPU pins?

Yes. You can use 90% isopropyl alcohol to clean thermal paste off of the pins on a CPU. If you don’t drop too much, you’ll be fine.

What happens if too much thermal paste is used?

Too much thermal paste will make it much harder for heat to move. Over time, it will turn into a thick, hard lump that could stop your PC from starting up at all.

How do you remove thermal paste from motherboard pins?

For this step, you’ll need your cleaning agent (isopropyl alcohol, acetone, or Arcticlean 1), Q-tips, and maybe a magnifying glass. Basically, you’ll use the cleaner and Q-tips to gently remove the paste from the pins.

Final Thoughts

With a little bit of time, you can get the thermal paste off the CPU pins. You just need to be careful and try not to bend the CPU pins while you do it.


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