How to clean thermal paste off CPU?

Thermal paste isn’t a part of a computer but necessary addition to some computer components like processors and heatsinks to perform certain operations. It is a special type of chemical compound that acts as an insulator between heat sinks and heat sources to effectively transfer heat and enhance heat dissipations. In short, without thermal paste, your CPU is at risk which may cause overheating and affect the CPU’s performance. Therefore, you must know what thermal paste is and how we can use it to purchase a good one and get the most out of the PC. 

If you’re interested in upgrading the thermal paste, you have to remove the older one before its application. In addition, knowing how to clean thermal paste off CPU is one of the important steps to proceed with our ultimate goal and do everything right. Therefore, we have written this post to help you out through the process. You need to have certain items to help you remove the older thermal paste and those steps are given in the below section. Grab these items plus read all the important steps before preceding the process—those steps are also given below. 

Things you need before starting the cleaning

Before starting the cleaning procedure, there are certain items that you must need on your table to start the process. Those include:

  • Microfiber cloth: Microfiber cloth comes from a polyester and nylon blend. It is much better to use for small cleaning matters like dirt, oils, and grease. The risk of scratching is quite less with it.
  • Isopropyl alcohol: It is best used for disinfecting surfaces. With the help of Isopropyl alcohol, thermal paste is easy to clean since it is the most effective one.
  • Toilet paper: Toilet paper is not as soft as a microfiber cloth but is a solid alternative to remove the tough thermal paste. 
  • Cotton Swabs: Cotton swabs are very easy to use when fingers can’t reach a certain area and are also very useful for finishing touches.
  • Thermal Paste:  Thermal paste acts as an insulator between heat sinks and heat sources. You must have a new thermal paste when the older one is removed so you can replace it with a new one. 

Follow these steps before preceding:

If you have gathered the above items, it’s time to proceed next—follow these steps before removing the thermal paste. 

Step 1: Shut down the computer with the start button.

Step 2: Unplug all the power cables from the computer.

Step 3: Unplug the CPU fan cooler wire from the motherboard.

Remove the Cooler

If you are looking to upgrade your CPU’s thermal paste, you have to remove the CPU cooler first from your PC. By removing the air cooler first, you will be able to remove all the screws that are located at each corner of the CPU cooler. When all screws are removed, just pull the cooler from the motherboard. On the other hand, the removal of the liquid coolers may be a bit different. They usually have four screws at the corners along with the radiator attached to the computer case.

How to clean thermal paste off CPU?

Step 1 —  Grab a little bit of toilet paper: When the cooler is removed, it’s time to clean the CPU’s thermal paste. Grab a little bit of toilet paper and use it to wipe the paste on the CPU’s top as much as possible.

Remember: Some thermal paste is dry, and it may be difficult to clean with toilet paper.

Step 2 — Add some isopropyl alcohol: To clean in such a scenario, add a small amount of isopropyl alcohol to a microfiber cloth, and wipe the CPU from top to bottom until there is no visible thermal paste. Make sure that all the corners are cleaned. 

Note: If a small amount of thermal is left on the CPU it could potentially damage the CPU. Don’t forget to clean off any thermal paste that is stuck in the heatsink. You can use cotton swabs for that purpose.

Step 3 — Let the CPU dry: The amount of time the paste takes to dry depends upon the solution’s nature and varies from solution to solution. Generally, the CPU dries in one hour. But I suggest you read the instructions on the given menu and find out the proper time period. 

How To Reapply Thermal Paste?

In this section, we’ll teach you to reapply new thermal paste which is one of the important steps to proceed with our ultimate goal. There are several methods to apply new thermal paste that’s why it may be a touchy subject among fantastic users. Everyone has their own way of laying thermal paste to get better results, but from my experience, there are a few simple steps to applying the new thermal paste. These steps are given below the section.

Using the Dot Method: in this method, we simply put some dot of paste on the CPU and this method guarantees us great performance, and even the spread of thermal paste is quite proportional in all areas of the CPU.

  1. Take your thermal paste.
  2. Drop a small amount or dot of the paste on the center of your CPU. 
  3. Don’t exceed the limit, otherwise, you will be sacrificing your CPU performance.
  4. Now it’s time to install the cooler correctly and make sure your cooler is on as straight as possible the first time. This will allow the paste to spread equally.
  5. Fix the CPU cooler, hold it firmly, and don’t move it.

Conclusion

Thermal paste can be a difficult substance to remove if you don’t have the right type of tools with you. It can be a difficult task to perform if you don’t have the right type of tools plus guidance to remove the paste in the right way. Maintaining your thermal paste properly is necessary to keep your CPU cool and healthy and keep performing its duties without any issues. The most important part of the process is to know how to clean thermal paste off CPU and reapply it again while following all the essential steps. 

To make things easy, we have written a step-by-step guide to know about all the necessary steps to remove and apply the thermal paste. Firstly, make sure to collect all the required items that you need to remove the paste. Then, read all the steps given in the earlier section, remove the paste carefully, and reapply the new paste. After that, wait for the required amount of time to let the paste dry so it won’t make any issues in the future. Now, assemble everything together, and you’re good to go and use the computer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does unused thermal paste last?

Thermal paste generally takes around three to five years to turn into its bad state. It also depends on the brand and production date. But, if you have applied thermal paste on a gaming PC there is a possibility that thermal paste dries up soon.

Can I use a paper towel instead of a microfiber cloth?

The answer is yes—you can use a paper towel or toilet paper to remove the thermal paste. But we advise you to use a microfiber cloth since it reduces the risk of scratching—if you don’t have a microfiber cloth, you can use coffee filter paper as an alternative.

How to remove the thermal paste from CPU without isopropyl alcohol?

About 90+ percent of enthusiasts are dedicated to using isopropyl alcohol to clean thermal paste because it is the most effective one. Acetone or dimethyl ketone is an alternative if you can’t find either of the above.

Arslan Ashraf
Arslan Ashraf is Computer Expert. He developed his passion for reviewing the latest tech products. He likes to review every single piece of Hardware. If you have any questions related to Tech Products. He'll be happy to answer you.