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How to Apply Thermal Paste

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  1. How to Apply Thermal Paste, Overview: step 1, image 1 of 1
    • Thermal paste is responsible for conducting heat from the processor to the heat sink. Reassembling a computer without applying thermal paste will cause the processor to overheat, resulting in permanent damage.

    • Before applying a new layer of thermal paste, you must first remove any old thermal paste from both the processor surface and the heat sink.

    the best way to clean a CPU or a GPU is to use a spudger and ISOPROPYL its an alcohol that dries fast




    What is isopropyl

    Ronald - Reply

    Please don’t use isopropyl alcohol to clean wounds—it is actually detrimental to cellular healing. Rinsing copiously with normal saline or clean water is much better.

    Yoron - Reply

    If you cam here from the PS 4 fan replacement page, I highly recommend the “pea” method instead.

    Donovan Ray - Reply

  2. How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 2, image 1 of 2 How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 2, image 2 of 2
    • Use the flat end of a spudger to scrape off as much solidified thermal paste from the copper core(s) of the heat sink as possible.

    Personally, I used a BD Alcohol Swab (Isopropyl Alcohol 70%) to wipe down the heatsink, and didn’t even bother with using the spudger to scrape off the old thermal paste. This ensured a quicker and complete removal of the old paste.

    MarkyMark - Reply

    Dont remove the thermal paste with the spudger. You might scratch the heatsink. Its not a great deal as the new paste will fill those scratches. But still better to not scratch it in the first place.

    sebastian.wittl - Reply

    I think it's best to begin the cleaning process with a completely dry coffee filter or paper towel first, otherwise the paste just gets smeared around. Once the bulk is removed, then clean with IPA and a filter/towel until it comes clean.

    Lance - Reply

  3. How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 3, image 1 of 1
    • After scraping off the solidified thermal paste, a residue is still present on the copper core(s).

  4. How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 4, image 1 of 2 How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 4, image 2 of 2
    • Use a coffee filter or a lint-free cloth and a little isopropyl alcohol (a.k.a. IPA, 90% concentration or greater) to clean the thermal paste residue off the thermal contact surface of your heat sink.

    • Instead of IPA, you may also use a dedicated cleaning agent, such as ArctiClean Thermal Material Remover.

    • Once the surface is clean, use a fresh piece of coffee filter or cloth and a little more IPA to remove any oils and prepare the surface.

    • Do not touch either the chip or the heatsink, or allow any dust or debris to get on them. Even a fingerprint can be a major obstacle to thermal transfer on a chip.

    • Allow the heat sink(s) to dry completely!

    Alcohol is fine, I use it and it not only does a better job but is far less toxic. That stuff causes all kinds of cellular damage to you.

    South30 - Reply

    You dont put the instruction on whether we have to put the new thermal paste back again or not? Do we have to, right?? thanks

    Eddy Setiawan - Reply

    If you use ~91% isopropyl alcohol to clean, it will evaporate rapidly and leave no residue (assuming you wiped away anything that wasn't the alcohol or water in the 91% solution you just used). Your prep is done, there.

    Mr. Porter - Reply

    I really wish the author would have stated what IPA meant. I had to Google it. The only information given, as stated, is “a.k.a IPA, 90% concentration or greater), giving no clear statement advising us that IPA is in fact isopropanol.

    Isopropyl alcohol (2-propanol) is also known as isopropanol or IPA.

    MarkyMark - Reply

    Why is it stated that the concentration of alcohol have to be 90% or greater?

    MarkyMark - Reply

    The other 10% is water. I don’t know if it has to do with the evaporation or protecting the electronics.

    Paul van Ekeren -

    Does it ABSOLUTELY need to be 90% or greater?

    DigiVore - Reply

    A friend told be about using lighter fluid a decade ago and I’ve been using that to get thermal paste off ever since. It’s super effective, only requires a little bit and it still evaporates. I highly recommend using that over alcohol unless you really like scrubbing. With lighter fluid it just sweeps it right off.

    J.Keys - Reply

  5. How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 5, image 1 of 1
    • Use the flat end of a plastic spudger to remove any solidified thermal paste from the surface of the processor(s).

    • Do not use any metal objects for this procedure. Be careful not to break any components on the processor's surface, or get any thermal compound loose on any components (conductive pastes could cause problems).

    you can also use a junk credit card or similar, or a plastic spoon

    Gaspard Leon - Reply

    Obsolete business cards are good too.

    Robert Calhoun - Reply

    How to remove thermal paste remover solution that has got trapped under the cpu chip?

    I have some liquid thermal paste remover that has got trapped under the cpu chip that I want to make sure it is completely removed.

    Osama Maddani - Reply

  6. How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 6, image 1 of 2 How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 6, image 2 of 2
    • Again, use a coffee filter or lint-free cloth and a little IPA or ArctiClean Thermal Material Remover to clean any thermal paste residue off the processor surface.

    • Use a fresh piece of coffee filter or cloth and some IPA to remove any remaining oils and prepare the surface.

    • Allow the processor(s) to dry completely!

    Be aware that this picture may not represent how your processor looks. Most of the PS3 fats have a heat spreader over the die. The pictures above show the processors without the heat spreaders.

    Jason Pirok - Reply

    @Jason Pirok yes I realised! Do we remove the heat spreader of the die tho?

    JB Tan - Reply

    Do NOT attempt to remove the heat spreader unless you have the proper materials to 'rebuild' it (which you probably don't). Just clean off the surface areas that you can see and you'll be just fine.

    Lance - Reply

  7. How to Apply Thermal Paste: step 7, image 1 of 1
    • To apply new thermal paste, use the application method recommended for your specific processor type—vertical line, horizontal line, middle dot, or surface spread. Note that surface spread has the potential to trap air bubbles.

    • If you're using the surface spread method:

    • Wrap the tip of your index finger with a piece of plastic (such as a sandwich bag or Saran wrap).

    • Dispense a very small amount of thermal paste onto processor core(s).

    • Use your finger to gently smear the thermal paste over the entire processor core(s).

    • If you accidentally apply a small amount of thermal paste on the green surface of the processor, it will not cause any harm.

    • The processor(s) is now ready for heat sink installation.

    • You do not need to apply any thermal paste on the heat sink(s), although Arctic Silver gives instructions on "tinting" the heat sink to reduce the break-in time of the thermal compound.

    Some people apply a little dab in the center, and then install the heat sink. It spreads it evenly unlike a finger, and is much cleaner. I use this method on cpus with a heat spreader, and ones with the bare die. You can also apply a dab, and use a razor blade to spread it evenly too. The finger method tends to leave air bubbles, and doesn't spread evenly. I use Arctic Silver 5, but sometimes have to spread it with a blade as it is so thick. I hear that Arctic Cooling MX-3 is suppose to be better. I hate that AS5 can be electrically conductive. It makes me nervous that i will short something out. I hate AS5 200 hour curing time. MX-3 is claimed to not need any curing time, and not electrically conductive, So if you apply the amount that Apple did with the 2006 MacBooks, you will still have a working computer. If apple applied AS5, like they applied thermal paste in 2006, I bet the laptop would be DOA.

    Just my little thoughts on thermal compound.

    Nicholas Ouimet - Reply

    the dab in the center is know as a pea. See for recommendations on applying the paste to Intel chips, either a pea or a line depending on CPU.

    nirv -

    Swapping out the heatsink on my 15" MBP seemed to go fine. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. My computer had been shutting down immediately and was unusable. I did some research and it sounded like the heatsink was the problem. After reassembling the computer, when I started it up, there was a little puff of smoke from the back left of the keyboard... and... no screen backlight came on.

    The repair solved the problem of my computer constantly shutting down, but now I can only see my screen if I shine a bright light on it.

    Does anyone know what could have happened? If the thermal compound was touching some little wire or something, could it have caused a short?

    jonahwy - Reply

    Quote from jonahwy:

    Swapping out the heatsink on my 15" MBP seemed to go fine. The instructions were clear and easy to follow. My computer had been shutting down immediately and was unusable. I did some research and it sounded like the heatsink was the problem. After reassembling the computer, when I started it up, there was a little puff of smoke from the back left of the keyboard... and... no screen backlight came on.

    The repair solved the problem of my computer constantly shutting down, but now I can only see my screen if I shine a bright light on it.

    Does anyone know what could have happened? If the thermal compound was touching some little wire or something, could it have caused a short?

    Did you use Arctic Silver? It's possible something shorted, but I'm leaning more toward a lose display cable. Try re-seating the cable.

    Nicholas Ouimet - Reply

    If it's a laptop, it IS a smear spread, not a pea or line. The link says so.

    Probably because the laptop pipe mounting pressure is not very high and won't spread it as much.

    Example, the 15" A1226 Macbook Pro has only 5 screws and 3 chips it touches, and they aren't very close to the cores.

    beachfitrob - Reply

    I've replaced the paste on many chips over the years. In my experience, the wiping method tends to leave air pockets unless you're extremely careful and spread the compound very smoothly. It's a lot easier, and more effective imho, to use the pea or line method on ANY chip. The pressure of a laptop heat sync is quite sufficient to spread the compound evenly.

    I do recommend using only compounds which are 100% non-conductive. I also recommend buying a compound with the longest lifespan, unless you are sure you want to go through this procedure every couple of years.

    MoldyOldyComputerGuy -

    I happen to agree with moldyoldy - use a non-conductive grease. The likelihood of the "heat sink" ( its actually a heat pipe) failing is pretty darn low. The crap heatsink compound is more likely the problem. Recently I dropped my early 2013 MBP retina. Long story. Anyway - for the next few days- machine acted odd - reported USB devices pulling too much current- then it started crashing, and finally started locking up- wouldn't boot until it cooled.I was concerned about having damaged the heat pipe, so pulled it off. The compound was dry and crumbly. Odds are the drop cracked this dry gunk and affected the heat transfer. So I cleaned off the old gunk ( denatured ethanol ) and reassembled using old school white heatsink grease. Grease. As in oily as !&&*, like it has been for the 45 years I've used the stuff. Currently, machine idles at about 110F, and never gets above 215F with all eight hyper threads at full bore. The idle temp is 20F lower than it was new. And will never dry out.

    baumann - Reply

    ^ like. I have a similarly misbehaving similar brute and similar skills and resources. I’ll be giving this a try.

    Rib Man -

    With all due respect, I am very skeptical about spreading the thermal paste with your finger, there are a lot of tutorial videos out there on Youtube that provide proof about all the bubble you are going to leave behind that will mess up your heat exchange efficiency

    alfx - Reply

    This aspect is a bit over-rated as to detail. The amount of thermal paste the Apple factories applies to the processor surfaces is huge, spilling onto the green surfaces of the processors. This can be seen once one removes the heat sink component that sits on the processors. Gobs and gobs of thermal paste abounds everywhere.

    dcelander - Reply

    I have a MBP retina 15” early 2013 which has got a black sticker covering the chip and revealing only the core, this sticker has got thermal paste stuck under it when i was using the solution on it , and the sticker has got damaged when I cleaned what was under it, my concern that is is it safe to reinstall the heatsink without this sticker, or will the heatsink make contact with the diodes in the chip and short something out ?

    Osama Maddani - Reply

    Thank you very much!!!! Couldn't have done it without this tutorial:)

    Charles Walton - Reply

    The Arctic Silver page wasn’t super informative. For 3rd to 9th gen core it suggested vertical line, but on the bottom under “previous gen core” it suggested surface spread for “Core™ i5 Mobile/Lap Top Processors Processors”.

    So I did the “Vertical Line”, the only problem being that the metal surface of the processor is very oblong in my processor and all the example images had square surface, so which way is vertical? I put it along the long side of the core, so it would cover the entire surface, but I’m not sure if it is now a horizontal line.

    Antti Valli - Reply

    I was once in a pinch for a thermal paste, and needed a lot of it (it was to repair the contact of cooling coils on a 500 liter beer lagering tank. Thermal paste is expensive. It really contains only two important things. Something with high thermal conductivity, and a material that holds that together. The very expensive ones, with silver have not been shown to be superior to ones with less conductive and less expensive material (i.e. copper) as the component that houses them makes that difference negligible according to my reading. I looked up the thermal conductivity of different materials and was surprised to find graphite has nearly as good conductivity as aluminum. Melted some vaseline, added the graphite (free from the local foundry) and it made a dandy paste that worked very well. Chilling rates on the fermentation vessel back to specs! Vaseline would be a poor choice in a heating environment, but with a little creativity you could probably I-fix-this if you don’t bump into any thermal paste.

    jeff - Reply


To reassemble your device, follow your device's disassembly instructions in reverse order.

1057 other people completed this guide.


For heat sinks with a spring on the screws: Wonder why there are springs on the heat sink screws? Do not over tighten them, the springs are there to help you apply the correct amount of pressure on to the CPU and GPU. If you tighten them all the way, it may not be the correct pressure! Leave maybe 1 mm of space, just before the screw stops turning. iFixit forgot to mention this important part, and also in the heat paste guide!!

m3kw - Reply

This is completely untrue. The holes bored in the heat sinks are in fact a larger diameter than both the threads and the shoulder of the heat sink screws. The screws should be fully tightened (as they were from the factory) to maintain correct pressure against the processors.

Andrew Bookholt -

I have two green lights on my xbox slim ... Should I do all of this to get rid of them? I'm not sure if they are supposed to be green. I bought my wii and remotes from a refurbishing place. I don't have the red ring of death, but I think it is from over heating.

OMG Hi -

Thank you so much for this! Have been struggling for months with CPU diode sensor reporting 262F/128C and CPU dropping to 0.8 Ghz due to Speedstep. Loosened the screws a little and the sensor is back to normal. I cannot thank you enough for this!

keet grey -

It didn't help my crashing MBP, NVidia bug.

gustmoge - Reply

Try reheating / reballing the gpu soldering. It worked for me more than 3 times.

mark -

If it was a mid 2007/early 2008 Macbook Pro 15”/17”, it is actually a GPU defect. It needs to be replaced with a revised version. In fact, dosdude1 made a video about that. If it’s a late 2008-mid 2010 15”/17” Macbook Pro, it’s actually a problem with a capacitor on the GPU buck converter circuit, it is not a problem with the GPU in these machines (C7771 on the 2008 and 2009 models, C9560 on the 2010 models.) If it’s a early/late 2011 15”/17” Macbook Pro with AMD Radeon HD 6xxxM graphics, it’s a GPU issue that can be fixed using the technique described at

Rupertus -

Actually, Tom's Hardware's guide said not to spread the paste out, but to have a solid line of paste vertically across the longest part of the metal cap and let the heat sink spread it out as it gets tightened. This method supposedly reduces the risk of air bubbles. My only curiousity is with processors that have little resistors or some such things placed around the metal heat cap, should those be pasted as well or not? Dell's processor came completely covered with paste, onto the chips as well, but I'm wondering if I should re-apply to the chips or just to the cap.

Frank - Reply

Note: This old thread still deserves a reminder: Those are capacitors and the type of paste used is CRITICAL. If it is non conductive (white, pink or any non metallic color) it's Ok if it gets on the capacitors. If the recommended paste is Arctic SILVER or any metal filled paste, do NOT let it get on the capacitors. Your best bet is to apply a slim line of paste along the longest length of the chip and use a credit card as a squeegee to spread the paste into a smooth film. Then apply a small drop to the center (optional). Wetting the surface helps.

airyu -


engineer taha - Reply

I use Noctua NT-H1 Premium Grade Thermal Compound on everything...It's non-conductive and does not harden.

LS Computer Systems - Reply

According to this list different Intel chips should commit to different applications of thermal paste. Hope this helps.

nirv - Reply

Thermal Paste

Application techniques

nirv - Reply

Readers to this post may also want to consider this thermal paste. Very highly rated. It's non conductive so even if it spreads a little more than it should it won't fry your equipment

nirv - Reply

Is it okay if I clean the remain thermal paste on processor chip with wet tissue that use for baby,

or alcohol swab?

Muhammad Inayah - Reply

Hello to everyone .

They gave me that link due to a recent upgrade i doing to my iMAC late 2013 with Nvidia Gpu 4gb.

I changing processor for a better one. The post is very good as all ifixit posts. For thermal paste i dont think Apple used right one because i have this machine for 2 months maybe 2500 hours at plug and when i opened it the past was already as 20 years old. Also around Nvidia chip there are big sighs of serious overheating means that cooler not doing its job and think most the paste.

For paste can make contacts there is a simple trick to test it before apply.

With Ohm meter spread some amount somewhere and measure the resistance.

The springs at the GPU chipset must screwed tight as it is from factory becareful to not twist them when righting the screws.

The job is not for normal people It needs some skills.Can easily something go wrong.

Also take care big attention to the connectors everywhere...

Thank you very much i hope i gave a little help as i took me too ..

Hell7 - Reply

You deserve a hundred billion trillion stars. You figured out how to fix the red ring of death at home.

Frank Pavia - Reply

re heating does not work rebaling wont work neather some components will because of the heat but be asured that it is a temp fix.

get another unit or try to replace the chip and drive. most likley they are "married"and cant be used because of the key.

google geek wish or licht in the box for broken ribbon calbe laso for sale on ebay. but wish or licht in the box are cheaper.

oleeverink - Reply

That's exactly what I was searching for.

Ivette Carlier - Reply

It’s very easy task applying Thermal paste on your CPU. I am also one who was facing such questions earlier but Google helped me into this as found few guides and videos. I found this guide which is quite useful.

stacy johnna - Reply

This guide and video really helped me a lot in applying thermal paste. I hope to get my computer fixed.

Tony kakkar - Reply

good idea


Really Good Conversation This article is about the use and knowledge of How to Apply Thermal Paste,

What would be the most optimal amount of paste and spread method for a processor without an integrated heatsink? For instance, a laptop processor with just the die coming into contact with the base of the heatsink?

TryoTech - Reply

How long should the thermal paste sit before turning my machine?

Edward Fritz - Reply

Amazing article great work go ahead yet hold up hold up pause... I have another article like this observe here

Thermal paste is used as a heat transferring agent that you can fill in the microscopic gaps that are present between two flat metal surfaces.

More Tips & Easy Way to Apply Thermal paste I Share . See Link Below In | Profile

Johns Hopkins - Reply

can someone please update this for modern knowledge? you really dont want to spread with your finger anymore, and scraping off the thermal paste has fallen out of fashion due to possibility of damage, just alcohol and a lint free cloth now.

Joe Pirkl - Reply

This calculator ought to not be made use of in circumstances where the warm resource is much smaller sized than the base of the '''Custom Heat Sinks'''. The concentration of the warm resource over an area a lot smaller than the warm sink base is not taken into consideration in this calculator.

Alexander Milne - Reply

I had these instructions and the ones that came with Arctic Silver Thermal Paste. Between the two, I felt comfortable with the process.

Rodney Steele - Reply

Quick question, what material is the heatsink of a retina macbook pro 15” 2012 ?? Is it copper ? Asking cause I want to use liquid metal thermal compound.

killerboy_ff7 - Reply

Merci pour ton aide

De Oliveira - Reply

Very helpful, I have never opened up my laptop before and was able to complete all the steps easily with my 's toolkit and supplies.

T K - Reply

I used this guide to replace a motherboard in a 2014 retina MBP 13”. I had never done this task before and the text and pics were very helpful. Thanks for creating it and for posting it! ifixit is and has been my go-to for repair guides and technical info for several years and will continue to be.

robertmatthewsaz - Reply

Can you upgrade a 2011 A1286 MBP.4/2.2/2x4GB/500/SD/HR-AG with a 2.4GH Logic?

Lori Weber - Reply

Do not over tighten them, I’ve done without knowing, because @ifix didn’t said in the guide, and now I’m replacing the thermal paste. Around the chip’s CPU & GPU the area it’s burned.

flame_nigga - Reply

What kind of thermal paste did you use?

SNP242 - Reply

thank you very much.

We have done some scientific research on this subject.

The perfect application pattern is a star.

Take a look at our paper, it is free.

Kind regards

Florian - Reply

Hi I have 2 Xbox ones they both turn on for about 1-5 seconds then don’t stay on it is not the power bank because I have tried multiple

James England - Reply

I have Dell Latitude 7480 That was overheating. I took off the heat sink to find that thermal paste had oozed around both chips, bridging both of them. I need to replace the fan and cooler and of course reapply paste. Is the correct way to just cover both chips like that?

Philip Ekema - Reply

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