Pc Thermal Paste is one of the least exciting but most crucial parts of a PC build. It makes sure the heat sink can transfer heat to the motherboard, preventing overheating that causes blue screens and random shutdowns. But the best paste doesn’t just transfer heat; it does so efficiently. And that’s why it’s important to change it out regularly, every couple of months or so, as the old paste degrades and dries out.
There are many different pastes on the market, but they all have a few things in common. They’re all designed to fill the microscopic peaks and troughs of the two surfaces in contact with each other, which inevitably retain air particles (see figure 1). Since air is a terrible conductor of heat, these imperfections prevent the CPU from cooling effectively. A good paste fills these troughs and smooths the surfaces.
The newest generation of pastes uses ceramic-infused materials that are both more efficient than metal-infused ones and easier to apply. Some of these, like Arctic Silver’s new MX-5, have a fluid consistency similar to that of toothpaste. This makes them easy to spread across the surface of the processor, and they can even be used vertically on a taller cooler.
Other pastes use suspended metal particles, which are a bit more efficient at conducting heat but also require more attention to apply properly because they’re electrically conductive. Pastes that use metals such as silver, for instance (like Arctic Silver 5) have to be handled with care because they can easily run and short-circuit components if accidentally squirted on the wrong areas. Non-metallic compounds like ceramic and carbon aren’t as conductive and are therefore safer for people with less experience to use.