Thermal paste is a key component for keeping your computer cool, transferring heat from the processor to the cooler and out of the system. It also ensures that the temperature of the CPU stays at an optimal level so it doesn’t overheat and cause damage to your hardware.
A great thermal paste should be easy to apply and provide excellent thermal conductivity. It must be able to fill gaps between the integrated heat spreader of the processor and the base plate of the CPU cooler to prevent air from interfering with the transfer of heat between them. The paste should also be stable, not prone to running or drips, and remain effective for years without drying out or cracking.
There are several different types of thermal pastes on the market, some more effective than others. Liquid metal compounds offer superior thermal conductivity, but they are more difficult to work with and can be toxic if accidentally spilled on the motherboard or CPU pins. They are also more expensive than traditional thermal pastes.
Carbon-based thermal pastes are safe for novices and deliver excellent heat transfer. However, they do not conduct electricity as well as metal and can act like an insulator if a layer is applied too thickly. The performance of all thermal pastes depends on proper surface preparation and the application method. Some manufacturers recommend a line-based application, while others recommend using a dot or surface spread. You should always read the jar label and technical spec sheets carefully for recommendations specific to your CPU.