Thermal Compound Buying Guide

Thermal Compound Buying Guide – Maximize Cooling Efficiency

Finding the right thermal compound for your CPU can be confusing with so many brands and types available. When replacing dried out or degraded thermal paste, you need a high-performing new formula to prevent your processor from overheating. This thermal compound buying guide will explain the different options and help you select the ideal product for your specific needs.

You’ll learn how ceramic, metal and carbon-based pastes compare in conductivity, longevity, and ease of use. Whether you need standard silicone paste for budget builds, premium compounds for overclocking, or long-lasting liquid metal for high-performance rigs, we’ll cover everything you need to know to keep your CPU cool. With the right information, you can confidently choose the perfect thermal paste to maximize heat transfer between your processor and heatsink.

It is because of the following: Keeping the temperature of their CPU at a low level may be effective, but it is not most likely to result in the most outstanding possible outcomes. It is modifying the thermal paste once a year is also necessary. It will soon get dry and start to lose its effect. When allowed to sit idle for an extended period, the computer will begin to have the function of concentration and eventually overheat.

It might, over time, cause harm to the central processing unit. This article discusses the variables purchasers need to consider when selecting the appropriate thermal compound to provide their machine with the best cooling performance possible.

Also, check out our separate post on Best Thermal Paste for CPU

What exactly is meant by the term “Thermal Compound,” and why is it so essential?

This compound is a heat-conducting material between the heatsink and the device; it also cools. It is also known as thermal paste, grease, or conductive grease. The conductivity between the heatsink and the CPU becomes enhanced as a result. The heatsink moves the extra energy the processor makes away from the unit, where the fan or other cooling device can push the heat out.

You may use this thermal interface material between any two system components to keep everything running at a safe temperature. It results in a considerable thermal performance boost and helps avoid overheating, which increases the CPU’s lifetime. Because of this, a thermal compound is essential.

The Function of a Thermal Compound

The process by which a thermal compound helps enhance heat conduction is surprisingly straightforward. The CPU, heatsink, and cooler all have minute flaws that aren’t visible to the human eye. These minute defects can potentially entrap air, which, in turn, takes the heatsink’s overall performance to a lower level. Since heatsinks are generally supposed to conduct heat, it is likely common knowledge that air is a poor medium for the conduction of heat.

How to Apply Thermal Paste
How to Apply Thermal Paste

The thermal compound fills in the tiny gaps on and between the surfaces, enabling the covers to perform their functions efficiently. Once it occurs, the heatsink becomes positioned to transmit the heat away from the component, causing it effectively.

Go through our epic guide on How to Remove Thermal Paste Off CPU Pins

Because the heatsink and CPU gaps aren’t entirely level, the thermal compounds seem ideal for use as a conduit to enable more excellent heat transmission. Because all of the energy is absorbed by the CPU grease, we can be confident that it will only go to the heatsink and not to any of the computer’s internal circuitry. It is essential for personal gaming computers.

There are Many Different Kinds of Thermal Paste

It should be no surprise that the market is so competitive, given that thermal compounds are a product with a high margin. However, it is essential to keep in mind that not all of the items are the same. Although some thermal pastes on the market claim to endure temperatures of up to 300 degrees Celsius and even higher, the maximum temperature that a liquid metal thermal paste can operate at is limited to 150 degrees Celsius.

In a hurry? Check out my new post on How to Apply Thermal Paste?

A compound’s thermal and electrical conductivity, as well as its stability and fluidity, are all determined by the compound’s composition. Pastes can be created using a wide variety of substances, including the following:

Zinc oxide, Silicone oil Ceramic, Aluminum, Copper, Silver, Graphite, Carbon nanoparticles and a number of other anti-oxidant agents.

PC lovers can choose a thermal compound made of metal, silicon, a carbon-based material, or ceramic; nonetheless, selecting one with the right attributes to cater to their particular requirements is essential.

A gamer, for instance, who has their CPU overclocked to breakneck speeds, would want to know that the extra heat is being dissipated as efficiently as possible. Because of this, the gamer could choose a metal paste with the most extraordinary conduction capabilities.

Metal Thermal Compounds

However, in addition to becoming excellent heat conductors, these materials also have a high electrical conductivity. Because of this, applying the paste to the metal contacts of the motherboard requires an exceptionally high level of caution.

Ceramic Thermal Compounds

Due to the absence of any metal in their composition, they are not conducive. These are a lot more cost-effective, not to mention safer to work with, and they provide excellent outcomes. That is one of the reasons why they have such a large following. However, they will not be able to give a temperature reduction that is as significant as that provided by liquid metal thermal paste.

Silicone Thermal Compounds

After pre-applying on thermal pads, these are placed between the CPU and the heatsink. Silicone thermal pastes are very simple to apply, but they do not provide the same level of performance that other kinds of compounds.

It is in your best interest to steer clear of adhesive heat sink paste since it will permanently adhere to its utilized components. Therefore, if there were ever a time when something like replacing the cooler became necessary, there would be some difficulties in doing it.

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Things to Remember About When Purchasing Thermal Paste

Using the wrong paste will not only cause the computer’s temperature to rise but can also reduce its overall performance. If you use the appropriate amount of thermal gel and apply it correctly, you can prevent the CPU and GPU from overclocking or overheating.

These are a few of the considerations that computer fans should make before purchasing a thermal compound for their personal computers that will help to increase both the temperature and the performance of their machine.

Check out our separate post on How to Clean Thermal Paste off Motherboard

Thermal Conductivity

The paste’s heat conductivity is another concern. Choosing a paste with the proper thermal conductivity levels is crucial for achieving high degrees of flexibility and absolute dependability, both of which are necessary for the reliable operation of a high-quality, secure system. Every kind of thermal paste comes with its thermal conductivity rating, which indicates how well the paste moves heat away from the CPU and toward the heatsink.

A paste’s effectiveness decreases, even more when its thermal conductivity is higher than the temperature of the components. There are apparent differences in the amounts of resistance between liquid and non-metallic substances. The conductivity of non-metallic compounds ranges from 4 to 10W/mK, while it is generally 70W/mK for liquid thermal paste (watts per square meter of the surface area).

 When it comes to the ability of a compound to transfer heat effectively, a basic rule of thumb is that the higher the numerical rating, the better.

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Density and Viscosity

Choosing a thermal paste with the appropriate density is essential to facilitate a more practical application procedure. Because of this, it will be able to move across the CPU effortlessly. Unlike regular thermal paste, liquid thermal paste has a noticeably lower density, yet, applying runny thermal paste is traditionally difficult. When picking a paste, ensure it has the correct consistency to apply directly to the CPU or GPU without damaging it.

When the compound’s viscosity increases, it will get more viscous, developing the consistency of a natural paste. The heat sink compound generally adheres to the processor in this paste form better than other forms. Lower viscosity substances are often more liquid. When an excessive amount of the compound is utilized, it is common for these types of compounds to spill onto the motherboard readily.

Conductive or Non-Conductive

When applying a thermal compound to the computer’s CPU or other components, extreme caution is required since it is conceivable that the paste can conduct electricity, which might result in potentially dangerous short circuits. When applying the compound, choosing a carbon-based compound that is empty of any electrical conductivity is a good idea. It will help to guarantee that the application of the mixture causes no short circuits. Even if the paste comes into contact with any electrical components during the application, it is possible to avoid electrical shorts by selecting a compound with low conductivity.

TDP (Thermal Design Power)

The thermal design power gives an estimate of the total amount of energy that a CPU will use. It might serve as an estimate for determining how hot it is likely to become in the future. A CPU with a greater TDP will probably use more power and, as a result, produce a great deal more heat. It is an additional factor when looking for the great  thermal compound. You want to ensure it can manage the heat produced to keep the components safe, calm, and operating at their peak performance.

Cooling Solution

Let’s say the freezing mechanism being utilized isn’t very efficient. Even if you use the best thermal compound presently on the market, it will still be almost difficult to lower a system’s temperature under such scenario. Users of personal computers are responsible for ensuring that the cooling system they are employing can effectively combat the amount of heat generated by their CPU. If not, then it won’t make a difference in the kind of thermal compound you choose.

When it comes to life span, how long do thermal compounds last?

Most manufacturers typically guarantee unopened goods to have a storage life of up to three years. However, this doesn’t consider when the tube was first made. It indicates that even when fans purchase brand new compounds, they could have been lying on some shelf for quite some time, making it possible that the combination has already degraded. You should nearly always buy conduction oil and other thermal compounds from the more substantial establishments with increased foot activity as a preventive measure.

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How to Apply Thermal Paste?

How to apply thermal paste is key for getting proper heat transfer between your CPU and cooler. Only use a non-conductive compound specifically designed for CPUs. Clean old paste off with isopropyl alcohol and apply a pea-sized dot of new paste in the center of the processor. Do not spread it.

The pressure of installing the heatsink will smoothly distribute the paste. Apply even pressure when lowering the heatsink and secure tightly. This allows the thermal paste to fill microscopic gaps, preventing air pockets that insulate instead of conducting heat. Over time, reapply paste to maintain peak cooling performance.

The Bottom Line

In this article I have discuss a lot of information about thermal compound. Today, there is a great deal of choice regarding thermal compounds that can be purchased on the market. The shopping guide is an excellent resource for the best thermal compound to maintain a system’s coolness and significantly improve the system’s performance.


Does thermal compound go old with time?

Thermal paste has a shelf life, but depending on the brand, it might be years before it goes bad. The longevity of a thermal compound is governed by a number of factors, including the brand of thermal paste used, whether the paste is formed of metal, carbon, or silicon, how long it has been stored, and at what temperature.

What is the lifetime of the thermal compound?

Consider that not all thermal compounds keep their effectiveness in the same manner. Most inexpensive choices have two to three years, but premium compounds may last up to seven years. It is recommended to replace it every two to three years to maintain the chip’s optimal performance.

What thermal compound is required?

(If the thermal paste is already applied to your cooler, you can skip this step.) You need to use a little quantity around the size of a rice grain or a pea to the integrated heat spreader’s core. Implement CPU cooling.

Why is thermal paste applied to the CPU?

The tiny spaces between a computer’s CPU and heat sink are filled with thermal compound, sometimes referred to as thermal paste and oil. The ability of the heat sink to cool the CPU is significantly increased by thermal compound, allowing the CPU to run quicker and enhancing system performance.

Are thermal compound and thermal paste identical?

Thermal grease, also known as a thermal paste or compound, is a material often applied between a microprocessor and a heatsink to enhance heat transfer.

Does thermal paste repel water?

The thermal compound has exceptional thermal conductivity, high-temperature resistance, anti-aging, waterproof, and insulating properties.

What color does the thermal paste have?

As shown in the figure to the right, Ceramic-based thermal compounds have a color range from white to light gray and are composed of ceramic powder suspended in a silicone-based combination.