Best CPU Thermal Pastes of 2020 – Ultimate Review

If you're overly obsessed with using your PC, you may have realized that your unit heats up with use. The major reason for this heating up is insufficient heat dissipation. This can be optimized by using a CPU cooler. And the perfect partner for a CPU cooler is a good quality thermal paste. Here's a complete guide to help you find the right thermal paste for yourself. 

Comparison Chart of the Best CPU Thermal Pastes

PRODUCTDETAILS
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Arctic MX-4

  • Available in five different sizes, from 2g to 45g
  • Features the ideal viscosity for thermal pastes
  • Composed of carbon microparticles that allow maximum heat conduction
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Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

  • Available in a 1 gram size that is ideal for single-use
  • The syringe packaging makes the unit easy to handle and apply
  • Designed to provide thermal conductivity of 12.4 W/MK
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Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G

  • Best for the money
  • 0.123 ounces of material in a syringe packaging
  • Main ingredient composed of aluminum for high-level heat conductivity
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Noctua NT-H1 Pro-Grade

  • Material has over 150 awards and recommendations, making it the perfect pick for all
  • High-end thermal compound that allows great temperature reductions
  • Longer shelf life allows greater use of the product over time
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Cooler Master HTK-002-U1

  • 1.28 ounces of thermal paste provided in a syringe packaging
  • Features an applicator for easier application
  • Templates allow the right application for the right sockets
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What Does CPU Thermal Paste Do?

Individuals that are not very familiar with this product may wonder what its function really is. In very simple words, what a thermal paste really is, is a heat transferring agent that is used on a CPU’s heat spreader. Since the processor of your CPU generates a considerable amount of heat, which may damage the unit, the heat needs to be dissipated. A thermal paste aids in this function, allowing better heat conduction.

Noctua NT-H1 Pro-Grade

So how exactly does the CPU thermal paste perform that function? When a heat sink is placed over a heat spreader present on the CPU, there is a gap between the two surfaces. This gap usually consists of air. Air is a heat conductive medium, but it is not as efficient when a larger amount of heat is being considered. In order to remove this air gap, and to replace it with a better conducting medium, a thermal paste is used.

Thermal paste has high heat conductive properties but is electrically insulating. So while it allows heat to be passed on to the CPU cooler, it prevents the flow of electricity into it. This allows your CPU to efficiently get rid of the excess amount of heat that the processor produces, ensuring a better functionality of the unit.

What Should I Look For When Buying CPU Thermal Paste?

Thermal pastes are not the most complicated products that you will find in the computer world. Therefore, finding the right thermal paste for yourself isn’t the hardest task ever. All you need to do is consider very simple aspects and find a unit that fits your needs. Here are a few factors to consider while buying a thermal paste.

Cost

All thermal pastes are more or less the same. The difference may lie in the main ingredients, which may be more expensive or cheaper than the others. Make sure that you do not spend too much on an item that provides you with a functioning that you could have experienced with cheaper material.

Viscosity

The viscosity of the material is very important when it comes to thermal pastes. If it is too thick, the material won’t spread sufficiently, and the CPU cooler won’t be able to sit well. But if it is too thin and runny, it will be hard to handle and make a mess. Thus, it is important to ensure that the chosen material has just the right consistency.

Quick Take - Best CPU Thermal Pastes

Just looking for the three best CPU thermal pastes? Here they are:

  1. Arctic MX-4
  2. Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut
  3. Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G

Review of the Best CPU Thermal Pastes

With the basic knowledge of what a thermal paste does, and how you can pick one for yourself, you can finally get down to finding a product that is perfect, just for you. In order to help you start, here are some of the best thermal pastes that the market has to offer.

Best Overall:
Arctic MX-4

PROS

  • Ideally designed to be used with the i7 7700k CPUs
  • Made to be highly durable, so the thermal paste lasts longer with the same efficiency
  • Users can invest in the right amount for themselves given the different sizes available
  • Viscosity of this material is just perfect for allowing easy handling and application for the users
  • Carbon microparticles added in the material enhance the heat conduction capacity of the material

CONS

  • Users may find the material to be a little tacky
  • Using the material on a few devices may void the warranty
  • Hardens considerably after long term use and may be difficult to remove

What Recent Buyers Report

Users that have invested in this product have been greatly impressed by its efficient functioning. All the buyers that have tested this product agree that it provides a heat dissipation better than that provided by other thermal pastes. And such an ideal functionality, at such an affordable price, is what they like the most.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This thermal paste is designed to provide everything a user would want with such a product. But what stands out the most is the different sizes it is available in. Users do not have to worry about buying too much or too little of the material. With the given size range, they can invest in just the right amount.

Who Will Use This Most

This product is one of those that comes with almost all the features one could ask for. Given these features and its ideal price point, this thermal paste would be the perfect choice for everyone that wants to attach a new CPU cooler to their system. But this product has been specifically found to work the best with all the i7 7700k units, and such users may prefer it more than the others.

Bottom Line

All in all, this product is one that just won’t disappoint you. It is a simple thermal paste that is made to provide the perfect functionality and enhanced heat dissipation, so overclocking and all-night gaming sessions no longer damage your CPU.

Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Thermal Paste, 1g

PROS

  • Provides the ideal heat dissipation for gamers and overclockers
  • Comes with an applicator that allows you to apply an even coat of the material
  • The syringe allows an extremely easy application of material for all sorts of users
  • Ideally made for larger-scale cooling systems that require a greater level of heat transfer
  • Thermal conductivity provided by this unit is better than that provided by other thermal pastes

CONS

  • A little more expensive than other similar products
  • May not allow multiple uses due to the limited amount
  • The provided applicator may not be of the best quality

What Recent Buyers Report

Those who have tried this product for themselves have not been disappointed at all. They have all loved the ideal thermal conductivity that this product allows, along with its ability to transfer large amounts of heat that other products fail at doing. For this very reason, users have found this thermal paste to be the perfect one for them.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This unit has a lot to offer for its users, but what stands out to us the most is its applicator. Not many other manufacturers have the thought of adding an applicator, but Thermal Grizzly does. The presence of an applicator makes the application process a lot easier than it already is, especially for new users who find application a little tricky.

Who Will Use This Most

This unit is designed for heavier and larger-scale use. It is made to be used by all those who find extensive use for their computers that lasts for hours at ends. Such a product is ideal for all those who find their units getting heated up excessively and are tired of thermal pastes that can’t deal with such large amounts of heat.

Bottom Line

If the top product doesn’t cut it for you, then this one might. With its outstanding thermal conductivity and enhanced composition, it will allow you to get rid of all the excess heat produced by your processor in no time, leaving your CPU performing better than ever.

Best for the Money:
Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G

Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G Thermal Paste

PROS

  • Allows easy removal even after being used for a considerable amount of time
  • Electrically insulating material that ensures no electricity is passed on to the cooler
  • The syringe is designed to allow easy dispensing of the material onto the desired area
  • Features a controlled triple phase viscosity that allows easy handling as well as ideal functioning
  • Compact size of the unit is ideal for a single time personal use with the right amount of material

CONS

  • Cannot be used on a larger scale of use
  • Material may not be highly durable and require a reapplication soon
  • Users who require a greater amount will have to invest in a number of packages

What Recent Buyers Report

Most of the users that have invested in this product have been absolutely satisfied with this investment. They found it to be on par with all other products in its functionality, despite its low price range. Users have loved every aspect of this product and highly recommend it to other users as well.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Users may find price as the ideal incentive to invest in this unit, but what stands out the most to us is its compact packaging with the ideal amount of material. Such packaging includes just a sufficient amount of product needed for a single application. This ensures that no product is wasted, and users do not have to pay for more than what they need.

Who Will Use This Most

Users often find themselves investing in a greater amount of product even when they do not need it since that is the only option available. With this product, that will no longer be an issue. This thermal paste is ideal for all those who want to save money and invest in only the required amount of material.

Bottom Line

Why invest in more than what you need, when you can get the ideal amount at the ideal price? This product is designed and packaged in order to ensure that you get a good run for your money. It will provide all the features that you look for, without having to pay as much as you would for other products.

Noctua NT-H1 3.5g, Pro-Grade Thermal Compound Paste (3.5g)

PROS

  • 3.5 grams of the material is sufficient for up to 20 applications
  • Made with renowned premium-grade materials for optimal heat transfer
  • Does not conduct electricity to keep the cooler safe from an electric flow
  • The three-year shelf life and 5 years of running life makes this unit ideal for long-term usage
  • Designed out of non-corroding materials to ensure the safety of your CPUs heat spreader as well as the cooler

CONS

  • The smell of the substance may be a little unpleasant
  • May be a little runny and hard to handle for some users
  • An applicator would be needed for its spreading, which isn’t included

What Recent Buyers Report

Investing in this product has been one of the greatest investments the users have made. And that is not what we say, but the users themselves. They find its functionality and features to be absolutely flawless, making it their favorite and go-to thermal paste.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Noctua offers a lot to its users in this simple thermal paste. But what stands out to us the most is its long shelf life. Most thermal pastes, once opened, tend to dry out in a matter of a year. But this thermal paste is designed to maintain its properties for about three years, allowing a greater use.

Who Will Use This Most

Users that invest in products by Noctua tend to prefer their subsequent products to be from the same brand. This is due to the high-quality products it produces. If you wish to invest in a thermal paste by Noctua, then this is the product that you need. It will allow you the ideal handling and function that you have been looking for.

Bottom Line

Noctua is known to provide its users with products that satisfy them in all aspects. From its ideal price range to its flawless functioning, you will find nothing to complain about with this product. Instead, you will get functionality that will last for longer and provide you with satisfaction throughout.

Cooler Master High Performance Thermal Paste - (HTK-002-U1)

PROS

  • Designed to be used with CPUs as well as chipsets and VGA cards
  • Easy application with the syringe packaging and the ideal viscosity
  • Can be used for heat dissipation over a wider range of temperatures
  • The given applicator allows users to spread the substance in an even layer
  • Comes with templates for different sockets that allow the right sort of application

CONS

  • A little more expensive than other thermal pastes
  • May not perform ideally at extreme temperatures
  • Users may notice a slight separation of the material over time

What Recent Buyers Report

Looking at user reviews to decide which product to invest in? The reviews on this thermal paste will easily convince you to take this as your final pick. That is how impressed users have been with this product. They have greatly complimented it on the ease of application that it provides, which is better than any other product they’ve used.

Why it Stands Out to Us

There is so much about this product that deserves appreciation, but what tops that list is the Zif socket template. Users that have found themselves having trouble with the application of these products will find the process to be a lot easier with the provided templates for application for not one but all sorts of sockets.

Who Will Use This Most

This thermal paste by Cooler Master is one of the best products that the brand has put forth. If you have invested in this brand before, you would know that they provide users with nothing less than the best. If the high performance that Cooler Master provides is what you’re looking for, then this unit is perfect for you 

Bottom Line

We end this list with one of the best products that you can invest in for your high heat-generating CPU. With this thermal paste, you can overclock your unit all you want, and rest assured that the sufficient heat dissipation that it allows will keep your CPU safe from any sort of damage.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Thermal pastes themselves are very simple products, but there are still other factors that may influence its functionality. In order to obtain the best results from these products, it is important that you know about these specific factors. Here are a few aspects that one needs to keep in mind before buying these thermal pastes.

Ambient Temperature

While thermal pastes do play a huge role in providing sufficient amounts of heat transfer in your CPU, another factor that plays a great role is the room temperature. The thermal paste itself can only provide the best of its functioning in ambient room temperatures. If the temperature is too hot, or too cold, the paste may not be able to perform as well.

Thermal Design Power

Some CPUs can be cooled down easily, while others not so much. This ease of cooling, or the lack thereof, depends upon the thermal design power of the unit. A CPU with a higher TDP will generate a greater amount of heat and will require a thermal paste with greater conductivity

Familiarity

While thermal pastes are generally easy to handle and apply, users may find this ease to be of varying degrees, depending upon their familiarity with the substance. Those who have been dealing with thermal pastes for a long time will find that it takes absolutely no time to unpack and apply, while others may take a little more time with the process.

How to Clean Thermal Paste Off a CPU

Need to clean the thermal paste that you applied before to apply a new layer? We’ve got you covered. Here’s an easy and convenient method for neatly removing the thermal paste, using just a piece of cloth and rubbing alcohol.

Choice of Materials

The cloth that you use needs to be one that leaves behind the least possible material. While a paper towel will work just fine, the best option is to use a microfiber cloth. When it comes to rubbing alcohol, it is recommended to use one of a higher concentration.

Wipe Surface

Before you start using the rubbing alcohol, wipe the surface with the dry cloth. With this method, try removing the bigger chunks of the paste as much as you can. Make sure not to apply too much pressure.

Wipe With Rubbing Alcohol

Once you’ve got the bigger pieces of the dried out thermal paste out of the way, you can work on cleaning the smaller bits left. Dip the cloth in a small amount of rubbing alcohol and wipe the surface in a circular motion. Reapply alcohol if needed and continue to wipe till all the residue is gone. 

You’re Good to go

Once the residue is cleaned, the surface will be shiny and good as new. You may now proceed to apply a new layer of thermal paste.

How to Apply Thermal Paste to CPU

If you have never used a thermal paste for your CPU before, you might find yourself lost in the process of doing so. Do not worry. Here is a quick guide for how you can apply thermal paste to CPU with no hassles at all.

Prep the Surface

Use an alcohol-based cleaner for this step. Dip a piece of cloth in the solution and use it to clean the surface where you will be applying your thermal paste.

Applying the Paste

Once the surface is cleaned, you can now apply the paste onto it. For this purpose, you may choose one of the application methods mentioned below.

Five Points

This method involves dispensing the thermal paste at five points, one at each corner and one in the center. 

Cross

In this method, you simply make a cross on the surface with the thermal paste

Spreading

Using this method, you will dispense the required amount of the paste in the center, and then spread it all over the surface using a thin flat material

One Point

Simply dispense the required amount in the center, without spreading it around

Mount the Heat Sink

Once you have applied the paste, mount the CPU cooler on top, ensuring to push down the unit to allow sufficient spreading of the material.

If you still have any confusion regarding the process, refer to the video linked below for a better illustration of applying thermal paste.

Conclusion

You could probably do without a thermal paste, but the efficacy of these products will make you reconsider using your CPU without them. With the great heat conduction that they allow, you will notice a great reduction in the temperature of your unit and an enhanced performance that you’ve been wanting to experience, but never could. Just a keen consideration of all the important factors, and you’ll be on your way to experiencing your CPU running as good as new.

People Also Ask

Thermal pastes are very simple products. Users do not necessarily need to understand their working in order to use them right. But there are still some aspects that may be confusing at times. In order to clear all your queries, here are a few questions that users frequently ask, answered just for you. 

Is Thermal Paste Necessary For a CPU?

A thermal paste is simply designed to fill any voids or air gaps between a sink and a chipset. This filling allows better conduction of heat. The CPU can work sufficiently without the thermal paste as well since air is capable of conducting heat. It may be a little less efficient, but a CPU does not necessarily need a thermal paste for its proper functioning.

Is There a Substitute For Thermal Paste?

There are a number of substitutes that can be used alternatively in place of a thermal paste. Users can use a number of items like mineral oil or glycerin, or even some home-brewed substances that can work well. These items may provide the same function as the thermal paste, but not as efficiently.

Is it Ok to Run a CPU Without Thermal Paste?

As much as a thermal paste can help in the smooth operation of your CPU, it is not necessary for it. You can use your CPU without the thermal paste for as long as the HSF works sufficiently. It will allow your unit to work well, and you will have to make sure it doesn’t heat up considerably.

Does Thermal Paste Expire?

The main ingredient of the thermal paste is one that does not go bad or expire over the years. But the filler substance and other ingredients involved are not as ideal. These substances tend to dry over time, rendering the thermal paste useless.

Should I Remove Old Thermal Paste?

If the thermal paste that you applied hasn't been there for very long, you do not necessarily need to remove it. You may reuse the same paste for reseating a heat sink. But if it has been used for a long while, you should remove the old thermal paste and replace it with a fresh layer.

Can Too Much Thermal Paste Be Bad?

If you accidentally put too much thermal paste on the unit, you do not need to worry. Excessive thermal paste will not have any impact on the thermal performance of the unit. In fact, when you press down on the heat sink to seat it properly, the excess will be squeezed out, leaving behind only the required amount.

Can You Reuse Thermal Paste?

If the thermal paste that you used to seat the heat sink the first time has been used for long, then reusing it may not provide satisfactory results. But if it hasn’t been used for as long, you can use the same thermal paste for reseating the sink. Even though it is not highly advisable to do so, it still works. 

What Does Thermal Paste Contain?

Thermal paste is made with not one but a few ingredients that provide it with its known properties. Most of the substance contains electrically insulating but thermally conductive filler. This allows the flow of heat without the flow of electricity. Along with the filler, the main ingredient added is the polymerizable liquid matrix, which may be epoxies, silicones, urethanes, and acrylates. 

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