How To Clean Thermal Paste From CPU

Want to put some new thermal paste on your CPU? You need to remove the old thermal paste carefully. Here's a simple guide on how to do that.

It is no secret that a desktop PC must be upgraded from time to time, if you want to keep up with the latest games. You won’t want to upgrade too often, but replacing the CPU and GPU every four to five years is probably the bare minimum. Of course, this is only necessary if you want to play the most demanding games.

However, replacing a CPU requires some PC-building knowledge; it isn’t as easy as swapping out a GPU (which can also be difficult if you don’t have any previous experience).

If you want to replace a CPU, you will need to clean the thermal paste off both it and the heatsink/cooler.

To ensure the old thermal paste is completely removed, this article will explain the best techniques to do so.

Table of ContentsShow

What You Will Need

Intel CPU with thermal paste

Before starting the cleaning process, these are a few things you should have on hand:

  • Microfiber cloth – This is best used for cleaning, since it leaves no residue and reduces the risk of scratching.
  • Isopropyl alcohol – Thermal paste reacts well with alcohol, making it much easier to remove. Alcohol is a covalent compound, meaning it isn’t electrically conductive.
  • Toilet paper – Toilet paper is not be as soft as microfiber cloth, but it is still a solid alternative. It is great for the first few wipes, when there is still a lot of thermal paste.
  • Cotton swabs – These are not mandatory, but are very useful for the finishing touches.
  • Thermal paste – You will need thermal paste to apply when you’re done removing the old batch.

That’s about it! If you have these items, you are ready to start.

Removing the Cooler

Intel CPU with cooler

First things first!

If you are upgrading your CPU, you will need to remove the heatsink/cooler from your PC.

If it is an air cooler, the removal process should be pretty straightforward. Remove the screws located at each corner of the CPU, and you should be able to pull it out.

AIOs or liquid coolers can be a bit more complicated. They usually have the same four screws at the corners, along with a radiator attached to the PC case.

Cleaning the CPU

Intel CPU

With the heatsink removed, it’s time to get cleaning!

Grab a little bit of dry toilet paper and use it to wipe away some of the excess thermal paste. Make a few swipes with the toilet paper to ensure you won’t smudge it around later when you use the alcohol.

With that done, you can grab the microfiber cloth. If you don’t have one, you can continue using toilet paper.

Dip a small amount of the alcohol onto the cloth or toilet paper. Making slow, smooth movements, start wiping the CPU. It will usually take a couple of isopropyl alcohol dips for the CPU’s IHS to be completely clean.

Don’t worry about getting it to look pristine as the thermal paste can sometimes stain the CPU; there is no point in scrubbing it too much.

Finally, you can take a few cotton swabs and dip them into the isopropyl alcohol to clean all the difficult-to-reach spots.

Next, it’s time to turn your attention to the cooler.

Cleaning The Cooler

If you plan to reuse the same cooler you’ve been using, it is important to clean the thermal paste from the heatsink as well.

The process is practically the same: a few wipes with toilet paper, rubbing with the alcohol-dampened microfiber cloth, cotton swab swipes, and you’re almost ready to start using your computer.

But, wait! First, you need to add the thermal paste to ensure proper thermal conduction between the cooler and the CPU.

Applying Thermal Paste

How To Apply Thermal Paste To A CPU

Applying the thermal paste to a processor is easier than you might think. However, it is still best to do some research, rather than diving straight in. It is also important to have a high-quality thermal paste ready, to ensure the best performance.

To help you do this, we have an informative and extensive guide on how to properly apply thermal paste to a CPU.

Here’s the short version:

  1. Remove the cap from the thermal paste syringe.
  2. Slowly and steadily push the thermal paste onto the CPU.
  3. The simplest method requires you to apply a pea-sized dot onto the middle of the processor.
  4. Add the heatsink, and start tightening the screws diagonally to ensure the pressure is as even as possible.

And now you can finally plug in your computer and turn it on. Enjoy the power of your new CPU or the cooling provided by your new heatsink.

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Branko Gapo
Branko Gapo

Keeping up with the incredibly fast evolution of computer technology is almost impossible. That's why Branko will be using his knowledge on this matter to share news and information on all the latest essential technological innovations and advancements related to CPUs.