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Thermal paste is a special kind of putty-like substance that you can mold into a small shape to put inside your computer. Its primary purpose is to help draw heat away from your PC’s central processing unit and to the heatsink.
Because your computer works hard, the sensitive parts inside can get hot. Thermal paste provides a way to keep things cool. Some users wonder if they can or should add a bit of this paste to their GPUs, and we will cover this in detail in the sections below.
You might already know a little about thermal paste if you’ve read up on how central processing units stay cool. However, you might not realize that graphics processing units need some love as well.
GPUs share many similarities with CPUs. Over the years, new developments in GPUs have made them capable of increasingly general tasks that help out the CPU. Their primary focus is heavy rendering for complex graphics, and that takes a lot of energy. In turn, a GPU can also produce a lot of heat and benefit from thermal paste.
If you have a new GPU, it probably already came with some thermal paste directly from the manufacturer. When asking yourself if you should put thermal paste on the GPU, the answer is that it depends. There are use cases where it can be beneficial to add more or different thermal paste to your GPU. We will cover some of these cases in detail.
1. If your rig and graphics card are fewer than three to five years old, it is unlikely that you need to open it up to add more thermal paste to the GPU. Quality paste should last for at least this length of time.
2. Even if the card and other components are new, it is a good idea to check the internal temperatures of your computer as soon as you can. Doing this can give you an idea of what the normal temperature range is, and you will know for the future if anything is off. There are also apps that can test this for you.
3. If temperatures are too high for the GPU, consider cleaning the card and carefully removing dust or other debris that has built up inside. This could be enough to restore temps to a normal range. If not, it is time to consider adding some new thermal paste to alleviate the heat issue.
Sometimes, we have a tendency to think that more is better. Newcomers to thermal paste who want to keep their delicate system parts cool may think that more thermal paste can provide the maximum in cooling without any negative effects. However, there is such a thing as thing as too much thermal paste.
1. It is best for newcomers and experienced users alike to follow guides on using a pea-sized amount of thermal paste spread over a thin layer across the appropriate area.
2. Using more than the recommended amount of thermal paste can cause it to glob up or otherwise clog the area that it is meant for. In most cases, this will simply get thermal paste on other components and make a mess.
3. In some cases, too much thermal paste might make it hard for the screws on the back of your GPU to have enough even pressure to mount properly. You don’t want to screw the GPU back in and close everything up only to realize that the unit is not seated as it should be and could be damaged.
4. Too much thermal paste could be a more serious problem if it is conductive. However, your paste should not be conductive as long as it is of reasonably good quality. Some of the very cheap thermal pastes on the market might have components that are conductive or ineffectual. It is best to go with at least a mid-range thermal paste here.
Thermal paste only has one main job, and that is to keep components in your PC cool when they’re working hard. Things like the CPU and GPU will always generate heat, so thermal paste is a good thing to have on hand.
In nearly all cases, thermal paste is not going to harm your GPU. There are exceptional situations that we need to cover just so that you’re aware of rare cases where there might be a problem, however.
As we mentioned before, there are various kinds of thermal paste out there for you to choose. Some of these products are cheaper than others, and they are all made with similar but slightly different compounds or mixtures.
If you get a cheap thermal paste that is conductive, there is a possibility that it might cause shorts on the components that surround the graphics card. This is a particular case where you will want to be careful about what type of thermal paste you are applying to the GPU and how much you’ve decided to use.
It is more than likely that whatever computer you purchased had thermal paste already applied to both the CPU and GPU by the manufacturer. As we’ve touched on, you probably don’t need to do anything regarding taking apart or pasting anything unless you are noticing suspiciously high temperatures when your PC is either idle or running.
You could install a graphics card without thermal paste if you build your own computer. If you did this, it would be wise to check the idle and running temps regularly to see if there are any significant issues. If things are operating within the normal range, your GPU could be fine.
However, if you are already putting things together, there isn’t much reason not to add a bit of thermal paste during your installation of the cards. It is worth noting here that some graphics cards do tend to “run hot,” with upper temperature ranges being normal for them. In such cases, some paste to help heat transfer could be even more crucial.
Most thermal paste for newer GPUs should last a minimum of three to five years. However, good paste can last much longer than that. Although some manufacturers might recommend redoing your paste regularly for best results, you might not need to touch it.
A good rule of thumb is to consider replacing your thermal paste if you notice a concrete problem. If your computer seems to be overheating even when idle or performing light tasks, it is possible that the thermal paste has dried out and become ineffectual. However, it is good to remember that fans or other things could be the source of the issue as well.
Graphics processing units are excellent components that allow for complex, resource-heavy 3D renderings in a variety of professional or entertainment applications. With such a big job to do, they need ways to stay cool. Thermal paste is one of the major ways that computers can draw heat to the heatsink and keep things chilled for those hardworking components.
Most rigs will come with a bit of thermal paste installed, and it should last for several years at the very least. If you’re constructing your own computer, there are best practices for installing the correct type or amount of thermal paste for your GPUs needs.
In most cases, thermal paste is only helpful to the GPU and poses no risks, but it is always important to remember exceptional cases and make sure that there is no mess if you do need to perform a reapplication.