If you’re building your own computer, chances are you will need to install a CPU cooler. And if you’re doing that, you’ll need to pick a good thermal paste to ensure heat is transferred properly.
The type of paste you choose will depend on the kind of machine you’re building and how much you want to shave off that CPU temperature. There are many options out there, ranging from metal-based compounds like Arctic Silver 5 to new ceramic and carbon-based formulas. The latter are not electrically conductive, meaning you won’t risk damaging your motherboard or processor by accidentally squirting some of the stuff on its other surfaces.
Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to apply it thinly and evenly. This is because air pockets act as insulators, not conductors of heat, and will hamper performance. The best way to do that is by using a plastic spreader or a cotton swab, as opposed to just your finger.
Once you’ve chosen your paste and have a jar or syringe ready, start by placing a small dab of it in the center of your processor. Maximum PC recommends a dot no larger than a pea, while PC Magazine suggests a dime-sized dab. Then, lower the heat sink’s connecting part flat over the processor and apply pressure evenly on all four corners. Repeat this step until the compound is completely squashed, then use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe away any excess from the edges.