Thermal paste is essential for keeping the CPU cool. The processor transfers heat to the cooler via the paste, which helps maintain a consistent temperature and also allows for easier mounting of the CPU to the motherboard. It’s therefore a good idea to replace it every so often, or swap it out entirely when you change the CPU cooler. To do this, you need to clean off the old paste. In this article we’ll explore how to do so quickly and easily, with a technique that’s been used by PC builders for decades.
First, make sure the motherboard is unplugged from power and you’re working in a dust-free area. It’s also a good idea to unplug any other devices connected to the computer, like the case fan. This way, you can be certain there’s nothing electrically charged around your sensitive components and it will make it easier to open the computer up when necessary.
Then, grab some isopropyl alcohol, or IPA, and a cotton swab. The swab must be lint-free as even small pieces of lint can inhibit the transfer of heat and lead to a poor thermal interface. The alcohol is to be wiped across the edge of the processor and the surrounding area, preferably in a circular motion.
You’ll want to use the IPA to remove any residue from the edges of the processor, especially the lip. This is a difficult area to work with and it can be easy to smear the new paste over it if you’re not careful.