Why is Thermal Grease Essential for a Processor – A Technical Guide

Thermal grease, which is interchangeably called thermal compound or thermal paste, is a substance between a processor and the heat sink. The thermal grease is available at electronic stores in small tubes, often accompanied by a small shovel-like tool known as an applicator.

A PC requires a tube of thermal grease when it is built because the grease helps it to run smoothly. Although, you will find some CPU heatsinks with thermal grease pre-applied to it that leave you only with the installation work part. Thermal grease is required when installing any cooling solution, which is at the time of a CPU cooler installation.

Thermal grease is used to assist in transferring the heat away from the CPU and into the heatsink, which further throws out the heat away from the hardware. Thus, keeping the CPU cool, specifically when the CPU is hard at work processing jobs.

You may also come across a term, like “stock thermal grease,” which is a kind of thermal grease that manufacturers apply, for instance, on a pre-built machine. But, several hardware enthusiasts prefer to use their favorite brand of thermal grease and replace it with the stock thermal paste. Therefore, to learn more about the essentialities of a thermal grease for a processor, continue reading.


Why Processor Needs Thermal Grease Solution?

Thermal grease or paste is a silvery-gray substance applied to a processor right before a cooling solution is installed. Because of the thermal grease, the heat efficiently transfers from the processor’s integrated heat spreader, i.e., IHS (the metal lid of the CPU), to the water block or base plate of the CPU cooler created to discharge the CPU heat.

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If you look through your naked eyes, the metal base of the CPU’s IHS and CPU Cooler will appear smooth. However, these metal plates consist of microscopic imperfections, the outcome of which can be insufficient heat transfer. Such minute imperfections stop the two surfaces from coming into complete contact with each other.

That is why thermal grease is applied to fill in the air gaps between the two surfaces, making heat transfer more efficiently. In layman’s terms, a thermal grease allows the CPU cooler to do its job efficiently, and a cooled CPU means fewer problems in its potential performance, viz throttling.

Steps To Apply Thermal Paste in Processor

As mentioned above, some CPU coolers come with pre-applied thermal grease, which only requires you to install it in your CPU. Hence, to find out if you have a pre-applied thermal grease or not, check your CPU cooler’s water block or base plate’s bottom portion that attaches to your CPU.

If you could see the silvery-gray paste there, you are not required to reapply the thermal paste at the time of the installation process. So now, let us learn how to apply thermal paste:

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1. Reading the relevant instructions is a must

Here, reading appropriate instructions means those guidelines that come with your thermal grease and CPU cooler. Every brand of the CPU cooler and thermal paste has its installation and application method, respectively. So, if you know about the process of the brand you’ve purchased will help you carry out the task smoothly.

2. Apply thermal grease to the center of the IHS of CPU

You have to use a small amount of thermal paste, roughly the size of a pea or grain of rice, precisely at the center of the CPU’s IHS. If the paste is pre-applied, skip this step.

3. Carefully install the CPU Cooler

To place the water block or base plate of your cooler onto the CPU, apply light, top-down pressure and hold this pressure at the time of attaching the CPU cooler to the mounting mechanism.

4. Go through the whole process for verification

After you’ve firmly attached the water block or base plate of the CPU cooler, you must go through your work from the beginning to ensure that every step looks correct. Check for spilling of thermal grease anywhere on the motherboard or over the edges of the CPU.

How Long Does Thermal Grease Lasts?

If you’re thinking about how long does thermal paste lasts, one application lasts a considerable few years. But, if you have removed your cooler from the CPU, you also need to replace the thermal grease. In situations like increasing temperatures of your CPU, we recommend that you consider reapplying thermal grease.

The Final Thoughts

Now, you must have understood what is thermal grease and how it is vital for the safe and optimum functioning of the CPU. Through this guide on thermal grease, you have gained knowledge about the benefits of thermal paste for a processor and how to apply it correctly to ensure that you get the best performance from your CPU.

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