You might already be aware of the fact that a CPU and GPU of a computer system generates a lot of heat…
…and the cooling fans that are in the system that help to keep the temperatures low.
Similar to this, there is another significant method used to cool down the processing units of a computer.
It is by applying “thermal paste” on the processing units, so it helps in keeping the temperatures low.
If you use your computer a lot, you might’ve noticed some fan noise especially when you are doing any processor-intensive work. That is because the computer is trying to cool down the graphics cards and processors, so it doesn’t lag and performs at the optimum level.
This guide will list the best 11 high-quality thermal compounds that you can get to improve and increase the lifetime of your computer.
Generally, CPUs and GPUs come with thermal compound pre-applied, but it usually is a bit old. Therefore, it is recommended that you should know how to apply thermal paste by yourself once you set up your gaming/computing station.
You must reapply thermal paste once a year as once it dries out, it starts to become less effective. Not applying thermal paste can cause your CPU to heat up and affect the overall performance too.
Top 10 Best Thermal Pastes/Compounds in 2020
Thermal pastes come in two different forms:
- Conductive Pastes
- Non-Conductive Pastes
The inferior one among these is the non-conductive thermal compounds which include zinc and silicone thermal greases.
Alternately, the superior ones are the conductive thermal compounds which include copper, silver and aluminum-based pastes.
However, these can induce electrical shorts if they applied to any of the electrical pathways on the circuit board or the microprocessor’s pin.
Therefore getting the best thermal compound is essential to keep your gaming laptop or gaming pc performing well and at lower temperatures.
So, without any more wait, let us look at the best thermal pastes for your CPU/GPU that you can get in 2020.
The Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut is one of the best thermal paste/compounds in the market right now that you can get for your CPU.
This product is specially designed for professionals and extreme gamers who make full use of their computing systems and want to get the most out of them.
It does not have any conductive power, making it ideal as a thermal compound.
This ultimate compound gives an excellent cooling performance and restricts the CPU/GPU from overheating or even overclocking. It is the most thermal conductive compound at 12.5W/mK, so you don’t have to worry about it conducting electricity.
Not only it is easy to apply, but it also does not require any settling time. It also provides a 3 to 4 degrees lower temperature as compared to its competitive rivals in the market.
Overall, when it comes to performance, this thermal compound does not compromise at all. It is ideal for users who want the best of the best and ultra-high performance. It also has one of the best and high thermal conductivity of any non-conductive thermal paste.
Arctic Silver Inc. is a US-based company that makes thermally conductive compounds for various electronic components. Since 1999, it has proven to be one of the leading companies in this particular sector.
The Arctic Silver 5 AS5 is no exception to their well-engineered products.
The compound consists of 99.9% of pure micronized silver, which helps to efficiently control the high temperatures of the CPU even when performing a very power-intensive task. Another advantage is that it also contains sub-micron zinc oxide.
Although it mostly consists of silver, it is still a ceramic-based compound. Therefore, the manufacturers recommend that you do not spill it onto other components.
Another important thing that you need to keep in mind about this compound is that it takes some hours to burn-in. Therefore, you might not see the results right away. You should let it settle in for a while before it starts its cooling process and decreases the overall temperatures by around 5 to 12 degrees.
Except for the settling time that is required for it to start the cooling process, it is an excellent choice as a thermal paste. It might be a bit tricky to apply, but once done, it works like a charm.
In a nutshell, it is perfect because of its silver properties and high-end performance. Also, it’s one of the best liquid metal thermal paste you can get.
Arctic MX 4 is a very successful thermal compound because it is inexpensive and easy to use.
It does not have any sort of electrical components. Hence, you don’t have to worry about it conducting any electricity and short-circuiting or damaging the CPU while applying it. However, it is better if you clean it after the application anyway.
The silver particles that make up this compound are the reason why it is so durable, and the advertised lifespan is of an astonishing eight years.
Another highlight of this long-lasting thermal paste is the fact that it does not require any settling time. The moment you apply the adhesive, you are good to go. You will see an immediate drop in the temperature and an improved overall performance as well.
On the negative side, this thermal compound is not so suitable for overclockers. If you are the person that likes to test the limits of a computer, you have to choose some other thermal paste.
Ultimately, with the thermal conductivity of 8.5 W/mK and not costing much for 4 grams, it is worth considering. The best thing about it is the 8-year lifespan, specs like this attract most of the gamers.
Noctua is known for making quality air cooling solutions for almost any sort of system and the Noctua NT-H1 Pro-Grade is one of the best thermal compounds for overclocking.
It is perfect for computing enthusiasts who like to cross the limits of their CPUs or GPUs as it keeps the system cooler by up to 2 degrees.
This thermal paste is ideal for beginners who do not have much experience in doing such sensitive tasks. It is comparatively thicker and drier when compared with other similar thermal compounds.
Moreover, one application of this paste on the CPU or the GPU lasts for about five years if not more, and its shelf life is about three years at room temperature. Therefore, not only is it cheap and easy to apply, but it is also considerably durable and effective.
Also, once it is time for you to reapply, cleaning it again is an easy task too. All you need to do is wipe the paste off the CPU and the heatsink with any paper towel or dry tissue.
Then wipe both of these components clean with the help of a towel or a damp tissue. There is no need for alcohol or any other solvent to clean it!
As far as the settling time is concerned, there is absolutely none! You will start noticing the difference in the temperature as soon as you apply it.
However, as it is a cheaper paste, the quantity that it comes with is also a bit less at just 3.5g. Moreover, there have been reports of quality control issues for some users too!
Nevertheless, it is still an exceptionally good-performing thermal paste, especially for overclocking. It is very easy to apply and remove!
The uniquely designed MasterGel Maker Nano provides excellent cooling even when computing at maximum potential.
The nanodiamond particles that make up this compound maintain through a range of temperatures, from anywhere between -50 to 150 °C. Not only are these durable, but they can also get into tiny places for better conductivity.
Despite being a bit older model, it still works like a charm. You must also consider that it has a burning time. Therefore, you need to wait for it to settle once you apply it. Once it is ready, you can notice the immediate drop in the overall temperature of the CPU/GPU.
For further convenience, it also comes with a CPU cleaner in the box. It is a cloth that helps in cleaning the internals so that you can apply the thermal compound.
It is a very versatile compound that is ideal for various components, and it is easy to use too. So, if you are a beginner, this is a commendable choice without a doubt.
However, it is a bit expensive as compared to other thermal compounds, which is a setback to this otherwise excellent paste. Moreover, it has a shelf-life of just 2-years.
Other than these couple of setbacks, it performs exceptionally well and is well worth the money. It comes within a $20 budget, but the nanodiamond particles and thermal conductivity of 11 W/mK make up for it.
Cooler Master Thermal Paste features silicone-based material which levels up the cooling system at an incredible price.
Thanks to the versatility this paste provides, it is suitable for various components such as the CPUs, GPUs, VGA cards, motherboards, chipsets, and much more.
It is very easy to apply even for users with no or minimal experience. Its unique applicator spreads smoothly and evenly all over and gives the cooling effect required for the optimum level of performance.
For further assistance, it comes with a card-shaped spreader and some sticker templates as well to assist you in applying the thermal compound without any mistakes.
It helps to maintain the temperatures around 60-65 °C, making it perfect for intense gaming or processor-intensive working such as video editing and rendering.
Contrastingly, similar to the MasterGel Maker Nano, it also has a shelf life of up to 2 years.
However, users often report that it needs changing and reapplication after about just one year. It also has only 2 grams of paste, which might be adequate for a new user, but not for some who work or plays professionally.
Other than these few setbacks, it still has an excellent value for money, costing less than $10. It is cheap, and its application is easy.
Hence, it adds up to our list of the best thermal paste in 2020.
The Gelid GC-Extreme is perfect for extreme uses.
This thermal paste delivers ideal heat conductivity from the CPU or the GPU. It comes with thermal conductivity of 8.5W/mK, and the operating temperatures range from -45 to 180 °C.
This thermal compound is not electrically conductive at all. Hence you don’t need to worry about frying your computer if some of it drops on the motherboard.
It is non-toxic and non-corrosive and doesn’t cure. Therefore, it is relatively easy to clean when the time for reapplication comes again.
Although it is not electrically conductive, it still conducts heat very well. Hence, all you need to do is apply it and see the wonders happen.
However, there are a few drawbacks; for instance, it sets you back by around $20 fo just 3.5g. It is not as good for overclocking as it is otherwise. It might also corrode aluminum at times, despite it being non-corrosive.
Other than these setbacks, it is still an excellent performer, and it also comes with a handy spreader!
If you are a beginner and willing to spend somewhere between $15-$20, this thermal paste will not disappoint you.
The Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra is one of the best thermal paste/compounds in the liquid metal category.
It’s 100% metal, and the liquid is so dense that it gives a thermal conductivity of an astonishing 38.4W/mK. It can effortlessly transfer heat to the heat sink from the CPU even through rough sessions.
This thermal compound is very gooey, which makes it very simple to apply.
It also comes with a brush right in the box to further assist you in using this compound without damaging anything else. As it is gooey, you have more control over it and can prevent any excess spillages on other components.
It is capable of lowering the overall temperature by a whopping 22 degrees Celsius, which is excellent considering its price.
If you look at the cons, there are a couple of them. Firstly, as it is 100% metal, it is highly corrosive. Therefore, it is suitable for nickel-plated copper only. You must not use it on aluminum.
Also, as it is vicious, you might have more control over it, but it is still challenging to apply to the components.
According to Performance-PCs, AMD CPUs use a Zinc-coated Copper Heat Spreader and therefore are perfectly safe to use.
Overall, it works like a charm, especially for a thermal paste that costs just over $10. It does not have any curing time, and it is shipped with a cleaning kit as well.
Just as the name suggests, the Innovation Cooling Diamond 7 Carat comes with crushed synthetic diamonds in it.
They claim that this diamond sprinkled thermal paste has five times better thermal conductivity when compared to ordinary silver pastes. It features a heat conductivity of 4.5W/mK, and it consists of 92% micronized synthetic diamonds.
Despite it being such an effective thermal paste, it does not conduct any electricity at all. Therefore, you do not have to worry about any short circuits in your motherboard. There are very few differences that you might find if you use the computer normally.
However, it keeps the temperature low by 7-8 degrees Celsius at extreme usage, which is terrific when compared to others.
However, you must take into account the fact that it has a curing time of about 2 hours. It is still not as much as some other compounds which work at their full potential weeks after application.
Also, the difference is not significant at normal usage, and it costs over $10 for just 1.5g.
Conclusively, the micronized diamonds in this compound does work well when the temperatures start to rise due to processor-intensive tasking.
The Innovation Cooling Graphite Thermal Pad is not a paste that you apply to the CPU or the GPU.
It is a much easier and user-friendly way to manage the heating problems of your computer or gaming console. It is not as good as the Innovation Cooling Diamond 7 but is perfectly fine for everyday usage with its thermal conductivity of 35 W/mk.
These are highly recommended for beginners as it does not require any skills to apply. It works similar to a thermal paste, but instead, all you need to do is place this graphite thermal sheet on the processor and let it do the work itself.
They are non-conductive and do not make any mess during the application as it is in solid form rather than the traditional liquid thermal compounds.
The best part about this is that it is reusable. Therefore, it is the best option if you like testing things out. Moreover, there is no need to replace it once you have applied it.
However, despite being so user-friendly and inexpensive, it is not as conductive as other high-end thermal pastes. Also, you need to precisely cut it down to fit the size of your processor, and it needs to be accurate.
Other than these drawbacks, it is the best option for an average user. It keeps the temperatures low and is a one-time investment that is too less than $10.
If you are a beginner and want to solve the heating problems once and for all, this is the best option for you.
Similar to the Innovation Cooling Diamond 7, the Thermaltake TG-7 uses diamond powder as well and comes with a thermal conductivity of 4.7 W/mK.
These diamond particles allow a better conductivity to improve the overall temperatures of the processor and help increase efficiency too.
This thermal paste is known for its longevity. It comes with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty and lasts for over five years after applying if it remains untouched. Other than its long life, it also comes with a syringe and a spreader for easy application.
If you are an amateur and do not have much experience in applying thermal compounds, this is not going to be a problem with the Thermaltake TG-7.
Moreover, it is as easy to remove as it is to apply. You can quickly remove the thermal paste with a damp towel or a cloth and reapply whenever necessary. Also, it does not cure much, and neither does it crack, thanks to its conductive properties.
The bad side? It’s not that bad at all. Except for the fact that it does not perform as well in extremely high performing computer systems, it is perfectly fine.
In a nutshell, it’s the ease of application and the supporting items that come along make this a worthy rival for other thermal compounds. The best thing is, it costs just over $5 and comes with a 1-year warranty!
Many people do not understand the importance of keeping the temperatures of your computer system low.
It helps increase the efficiency and the overall life span of the processor.
Generally, people that have some knowledge about these thermal compounds do get them. But still, they do not get the “best” one according to their needs.
There are some key factors that you need to keep in mind when choosing the best thermal compound. These may vary from person to person.
However, there are around four essential aspects that you need to keep in mind. These are density, volume, storage time, and types of thermal pastes/compounds.
For your assistance, I have divided this buying guide into four subsections which cover the essential aspects. Then, there is a fifth bonus point for some extra things that you might have to consider too.
As you might already know that, in simpler terms, density is the thickness of a substance.
You might be wondering how density is important when choosing the best thermal compound. Well, it is pretty simple. The denser the thermal paste is, the better they will work. They are thick and gooey and conduct heat much better.
If you are a beginner, you should go for a less dense thermal compound. They are easier to apply as compared to the more dense ones. If you are a professional and like to take things to the max, you should go for a thicker thermal compound. It will conduct more heat and help keep the temperatures low.
Volume is another vital factor to consider when buying a thermal paste. It is directly related to how much is your usage.
If you want to apply the thermal paste on your Intel & AMD CPU’s, you should go for a thermal compound with lesser volume. On the other hand, if you work on multiple projects, you have to choose one with more volume.
Some of you might think that why shouldn’t you buy one and reuse it at a later date if it is leftover. The answer is straightforward. You can not use the same thermal compound once it has opened and used.
Normally, these thermal pastes expire in a couple of months after they are opened. However, a single application on a component lasts for several years.
In a nutshell, the paste is useless in a few months once the container opens. Therefore, you need to buy only as much as you require. Typically, half a gram is adequate for personal use on a single project.
If you have multiple projects to do, a total volume 3.5g-4g is what you are looking for in the paste.
If you are confused with how much Thermal Paste should I apply to my CPU then you should definitely read this guide by Gamers Nexus.
Many people keep extra stuff lying around, so they do not have to rush to get them at the last minute. Similarly, if you the same type of person, you need to see the storage time before you consider keeping one at home.
It is highly recommended that you keep a paste that has a storage life of at least two years.
Also, bear in mind that if the compound dries out, it loses all of its cooling properties. Make sure you do not add a dried up paste on the processor, as it can severely damage it.
As I mentioned earlier in this article that there are two main types of thermal compounds:
- Conductive Pastes (Silver, Aluminum, Copper, etc.)
- Non-Conductive Pastes (Ceramic, Silicon, Zinc, etc.)
You need to choose the type of thermal paste you need very carefully. Commonly, conductive compounds are a better option, but it is still entirely your choice.
To help to choose the best type, here are a couple of Pros and Cons of conductive compounds:
- More durable than non-conductive pastes.
- Slightly better performance than non-conductive pastes.
- These are more corrosive.
- Comparatively more expensive.
On the other hand, non-conductive compounds are cheaper and non-corrosive too. They do not perform as good but gets the job done for an average-joe.
- Ease-of-Use: If you are a beginner, you must see how easy is it to apply the thermal paste and whether it includes and helping materials too or not.
- Clean-Up: Although reapplication of thermal paste takes place after years, it is still essential that you consider how easy is it to clean it so that you can apply the paste once again.
- Reviews: READ THE REVIEWS! Users giving reviews about how well the product works helps a lot when choosing the best one.
- Lifespan: For obvious reasons, you need a thermal paste that will last longer and keep things cool without having to change it every once in a while. Hence, do notice the lifespan of the thermal compound before you choose it.
- Price: Though not much significant as they all cost less than $20, it is still worth considering along with other factors. You have to spend on something worth the price. You need to get value on the money that you give.
Frequently Asked Questions
Thermal paste does more to keep your computer system up and running than you can imagine. You must apply the thermal compound on the CPU or the GPU to prevent them from overheating and causing any problems. It also helps to increase the overall lifespan of your processors.
Thermal pastes perform much better than thermal pads. They are ideal if you have a gaming setup or if you do processor-intensive tasks more often. Thermal pads, on the other hand, are good enough for everyday usage. They are user-friendly and are very easy to apply and do not need to be changed every few years. In a nutshell, if you are an average user, go for a thermal pad. If you are more of a professional, choose a thermal paste.
Reapplication of thermal paste depends on your usage. Typically, it is recommended that you remove the older paste and reapply the newer one every couple of years to keep the PC running in optimum conditions.
Typically, unused thermal pastes last for approximately three years. However, if you properly store it, it can last for around five years if not more.
Thermal pads can reapply if the need arises. There is no harm in it. However, keep in mind that thermal pastes can not reapply. It will do more damage to the CPU than it will do good. Therefore, thermal pads exceed in ease-of-use and durability when compared to thermal pastes.
As you know now how vital a thermal compound is, make sure you get one of the best thermal pastes listed in the article.
Apply them carefully to your CPU Air Coolers, AIO Liquid CPU Coolers, Laptop Heatsink Coolers, and GPU Coolers and see the magic happen as the temperatures decrease and performance increases.
Also, keep in mind the essential factors before you spend your money on one. You don’t want to waste any of it!