The question has been weighing on your mind for a while now, and you don’t want to wait any longer. Whether you were worried it went bad a few months ago or a year ago, you want to know for sure. Can thermal paste go bad? It’s time to investigate.

What is Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste is a mixture of a thermally conductive material and a viscous fluid that is typically applied to a heat sink or a hot surface. It may contain metal oxides, graphite, silicon carbide, copper, aluminum oxide, aluminum nitride, boron nitride, diamond, or a myriad of other compounds.

Thermal paste / Thermal grease or thermal compound is a chemical substance used to increase the contact between a heat sink and a component like computer processor that is to be cooled. It has a melting point of 50-150°C, which allows it to remain solid at room temperature and melt only when in contact with a hot surface. It also lowers the temperature of its environment by approximately 20-30°C. The solidified oil covers the fire and restricts oxygen to it, as well as smothering any flames. It also contains a soap-like substance that prevents the fuel from re-igniting. If you have enough, cover the entire area where the fire is, since it can penetrate the surface tension of the oil film.

Thermal grease or thermal compound is used to reduce friction in the area where heat sink and CPU are located. It offers much better heat conductivity than thermal paste, but the downsides are that it can be hard to apply and does not protect against overheating when installed at improper locations.

Does thermal paste go bad over time

What is thermal paste made of?

Thermal paste is a mixture of paraffin wax, synthetic oil and perfluorinated compounds, which can include either PTFE or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Alternatively, the thermosetting materials used in their manufacture have been produced from a variety of resins, such as polyurethane, epoxy, silicone and polyurethane.

Types of thermal paste

There are several types of thermal compound used in PC cooling systems, each with specific benefits. Such as Metal-based Pastes, Ceramic-based Paste, Carbon-based and Diamond Carbon Paste, Silicone Thermal Compounds, Liquid Metal-based Thermal Paste etc.

Metal-based Pastes:

Metal-based pastes is best for case of game console. Its can handle extreme temperature well. It also protects from mechanical stress too. This is best for heat transfer application, because it is metal based paste.

Ceramic-based Paste:

Ceramic-based thermal paste, also known as high temperature paste is best for the cases of CPU cooler. It can handle hot temperatures of up to 700-800 degree Fahrenheit. Ceramic-based paste is not considered as a long-term solution. Its temperature is very high.

Carbon-based and Diamond Carbon Paste:

Carbon-based and Diamond Carbon Paste are two different types of thermal pastes. Diamond carbon paste is more effective in removing the heat generated by the components inside the computer and keeps the computer smooth and faster. Both types of thermal paste can go bad if not stored properly. For instance, if you store it in a warm and humid environment, the paste can go bad and not work properly. Proper storage of thermal paste involves keeping it in a cool and dry place. Ideally, you should store the paste in a refrigerator to ensure that it stays fresh. The paste comes with a lifetime warranty.

Liquid Metal-based Thermal Paste:

Liquid Metal-based thermal paste works the same way as ceramic and carbon-based thermal pastes. However, they can handle higher temperatures of up to 900 degree Fahrenheit. Liquid metal thermal paste works by filling the gaps between the two surfaces and absorbing the heat from the source. It then transfers it to other parts of the device, keeping them cool as well. Other than that, the main difference is the consistency of the paste.

Silicone Thermal Compounds:

Silicone thermal compounds work the same way as traditional thermal paste, but they are different. When the silicone compound gets warm, it becomes sticky and can be spread easily.

Why is Thermal Paste Important?

The importance of using thermal paste for CPU and GPU cooling is quite self-explanatory. Thermal paste, as the name suggests, is a compound that helps transfer heat to another medium such as another part of the device, the case or the cooler. It is made up of materials that are applied to the chip for an improved heat dissipation.

Thermal paste acts as an intermediary between the heat sink and the chip itself. The better its consistency, the more effective it will be in cooling down the device. To be more specific, it is used to fill up the gap between the heat sink and the CPU. The heat generated by the latter will make the paste heat up as well. Eventually, it will cool down to an optimal temperature, which won’t cause any problems for the computer.

Does thermal paste need to be replaced?

Most of the thermal paste producers produce the product with a shelf life around three to five years. It usually stands longer but need to check the container label to see the exact date. The shelf life is different for each manufacturer so you have to check it out first.

There are some devices as CPU, GPU or Laptop are works fine for a long period of time as seven to 10 years where there is no essentiality of replacement thermal paste.

Mostly you need to change or replace thermal paste when you face overheating problems. If your laptop gets hot while you work on it, it can cause serious damage to your hard drive, your motherboard and the components connected to it. Apart from this, there are several other indications that show that you need to change thermal paste. Here are some of them:

  1. After changing of heat sink/ cooler / processor/ chip
  2. Due to expired thermal paste, if you face high temperature issue in your system that “the overheating” causes the system shutdown.
  3. Anytime you open the cooler with heat sink, and get the thermal paste dried or not consistent as fresh thermal paste, you can replace the thermal paste for safety.

Does too much thermal paste cause CPU overheating?

Nothing excessive is good. If uses too much thermal paste for a CPU, it can cause many issues. Some CPUs come with an adhesive instead of paste, but this is because the adhesive causes less heat, therefore it keeps the CPU cool. It’s not wise to use thermal paste still where there are some thermal adhesive.

The thermal paste is very important on the core of our CPU. A lot of thermal paste affect overclocking performance too. So, it’s better to save money with the older style paste instead of buying new thermal paste.

Usage of excessive thermal paste can reduce the effectiveness of the thermal paste. Sometimes the paste can enter into the CPU, even in motherboard, which can cause a dangerous situation for any part of the system. As it can be seen, thermal paste is used not only for making the system work more efficiently, but also to ensure its safety.

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Choose the Best Thermal Paste

To choose the best thermal paste, must consider below facts:

  • Thermal conductivity:

The best thermal paste must be approved for its thermal conductivity level. The thermal conductivity of a material is the rate at which it conducts heat. The higher the thermal conductivity, the faster the heat will be transferred from the CPU to the heat sink. If a thermal paste does not have a good thermal conductivity level, you can expect a lot of problems with it in a long run.

  • Density and viscosity of thermal compounds:

To accelerate the process of applications as well as the system, its’ very essential to use the thermal compound which contains the right density and viscosity. The use of thermal compound is very beneficial because it transfers the heat from your graphics card onto your CPU and thus gets transfer to the radiator. So, to accelerate the process of applications as well as the system, its’ very essential to use the thermal compound which contains the right density and viscosity.

The density and viscosity of the thermal paste you use greatly impact your overclocking results. The higher the density and viscosity of the thermal paste, the better the heat transfer is.

  • Conductive or non-conductive:

Before choosing a thermal paste, must get confirmed that the paste is non-conductive. If the paste is conductive, it can occur short circuits of the motherboard. For example, the paste on the processor should not be applied to the chipset. When choosing thermal paste, pay attention to the manufacturer’s instruction for use and the composition of the product. In that case the carbon-based compounds can be a decent quality and perfect match with non-conductivity.

  • Thermal design power (TDP):

Thermal design power (TDP) is a factor that indicates that a processor uses the amount of power. This value often depends on the design of the processor and how it is cooled. This can be used to differentiate between physically identical processors with different TDP values, where the cooler determines the actual power used. So, to choose a thermal paste, you must consider the thermal design power (TDP) factor.

The recommended TDP for a processor can be calculated by adding the voltage of the chip together with the thermal design power (TDP). For example, if it is 1.2 V at 100 W, then the maximum TDP value should be 0.13 V. The voltage 1.2 V is fixed, and the TDP value can be changed by overclocking. There are different technologies of cooling the motherboard chipset.

  • Cooling solution:

The effectiveness of a thermal compound so much depended on the cooling solution. On the same day when Intel announced their new 9900K processor, they also published the result of testing the cooling solution under extreme conditions. Although these tests were not really part of the assessment of the new 9900K itself, it did highlight the performance of the thermal compound that was used.

Can You Use Old Thermal Paste?

Never use date expired thermal paste, because it’s not safe. It’s better to wait and do not use old paste. So if you want to replace thermal paste then follow the easy steps below:

How to replace Thermal Paste?

1) First turn off computer and take out the battery. And remove the memory chips.

2) Open the case and remove the old thermal paste.

3) Now clean it with a cotton swab and alcohol and dry it.

4) Now use new thermal paste and spread evenly over CPU and cooler surfaces.

5) Replace the parts and turn on your computer. Let it run for some time and check that everything is ok.

Caution: The surface of heat sink should be clean. Do not let the substances on the heat sink which are not compatible with the thermal interface material. Do not use more than required amount of thermal interface material.

Do thermal paste go bad

Can thermal paste go bad?

If the question is, Can thermal paste go bad? Obviously, an opened or unopened thermal paste can go bad when it’s expired. However, if you’ve opened it and haven’t used it, the expiration date won’t matter. It will still work. If your question is, “Can I Use My Thermal Paste More Than once?” Answer is “Yes”. The good news is that most thermal pastes can be used more than once before they expire.

Please, never store thermal pastes in refrigerators, ovens or basements. Please store the paste out of the sunlight and somewhere away from high temperature. If the paste is starting to dry out and it’s so thick that you can hardly rub it, we suggest you to wash it off with a little alcohol and rub it again.

What should you do if there are some tiny powdery-like particles in the thermal paste? If you see tiny grains of powder in the thermal paste that you just bought, then its no problem. It’s not because the quality of the thermal paste is poor, instead it means that it has been applied right after manufacturing and hasn’t had a chance to settle down. But if you see that the entire surface of the thermal paste is covered with tiny grains then it means that the applicator that the manufacturer used to apply the thermal paste was defective and has made a mess.

Alternatives to thermal paste

What can you use if you don’t have thermal paste? If you are really looking for alternatives to thermal paste, here we will tell you about few alternatives i.e. Hazelnut Spread, Aluminum Powder & Vaseline, Diaper Rash Cream, Ketchup and/or Mustard, Butter, Cheese Spreads or Cheese, Hair Creams or Gels, Hair Wax, Moisturizing Cream, Dental Adhesives, Toothpaste, Yellow cheese, even banana.

Caution: All these alternatives are not tested by us.

How to Accurately Store Thermal Paste?

Here are some proper tips to store thermal paste:

1. Keep it closed. It will reduce the chances of oxidization and moisture content variations. Keep it in a plastic bag which is sealed tightly.

2. Keep the thermal pastes in room temperature. Never put it in refrigerators, ovens or basements.

3. If you want to store thermal paste in bulk, you can use a desiccant to help absorb the moisture. But be sure that the temperature of the desiccant will remain as room temperature. There will be too much temperature variation and your thermal paste might get corrupted.

4. Always check the date on the package of thermal paste to confirm if it has been opened recently. If it has been opened, reseal it with a plastic bag and use as soon as possible.

Final words

Hope now you know answer of the question “Can thermal paste go bad?” and know the tips on how to store thermal paste properly. The first thing you need to do is accurately measure the amount of thermal paste you will need. It’s also important to store it at room temperature, away from moisture and sunlight. You can use a plastic bag with a desiccant packet to keep the air free of moisture to protect your thermal paste. Make sure you put your thermal paste in the bag before the desiccant packet.

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