How to Apply Thermal Paste? The Simplest Way!

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn more

Thermal paste conducts heat between the processor and the heatsink, which pushes hot air away from the processor.

So, in this guide, we will be sharing the simplest way to apply the thermal paste on your CPU!

How to apply thermal paste


  1. Liquid Thermal Paste
  2. Applying Graphite Pads
  3. How to Apply Thermal Paste on the GPU
  4. Conclusion

If you are a first-time builder, applying thermal paste might look easy at first glance.

But if you don’t take the right precautions or follow the wrong method, you might regret it down the line.

So, just make sure to follow the steps carefully.

Before we proceed make sure that you have bought the best thermal paste.

Liquid Thermal Paste

The most common thermal paste is the liquid-based type.

You might have seen this before in a build guide or something similar.

It’s the typical type of thermal paste that arrives in a container that resembles a syringe, it even has a plunger at the end just like a regular syringe would.

It doesn’t matter all too much what type of paste you use since the process is the same.

However, newcomers should be more comfortable with carbon-based or ceramic thermal pastes, as they are non-conductive.

Thermal Paste
Carbon / Ceramic based Thermal Paste

Thermal compounds which include liquid metal components conduct heat much better, but the application process for this one is a bit hard.

Liquid Metal based thermal paste
Liquid Metal-based thermal paste

We have written this guide about different types of thermal compounds.

The process is also independent of the type of processor you have.

Applying the thermal paste to an intel CPU or an AMD one is all the same.

The Best Way To Apply Thermal Paste

  • First off, you want to make sure that the processor is completely clean and shiny. (We don’t want any dust or other impurities getting in the way and ruining the cooling process.)
  • Once the chip is clean, pick up your thermal paste and press down lightly on the plunger to apply just a dot of thermal paste.

NOTE: If you’re wondering how much thermal paste is too much, it is recommended to use a pea-sized amount.

  • After that, just carefully put the CPU cooler back on the processor, tighten the screws for the heatsink, and you’re good to go.

Don’t use too little either, as that can lead to higher temperatures.

Don’t think of spreading the thermal paste. (Although it doesn’t add a whole world of a difference, the thermal paste doesn’t spread out evenly, which can cause problems later on.)

The thermal paste application for gaming laptops is pretty much the same.

The only difficulty in that scenario is getting inside your laptop and accessing the processor. (That can vary from model to model, so you’ll have to do your research on it.)

Applying Graphite Pads

Liquid thermal pastes are pretty popular among most PC builders, but it’s understandable if you’re new to this stuff and are uncomfortable with doing the process yourself.

If that is the case, you can use graphite thermal pads instead.

If you are wondering about Graphite Thermal Pads?

Graphite thermal pad

As the name implies, instead of liquid-based pastes, these are carbon-based graphite pads.

They do a decent job of conducting heat, and the application is much easier.

They even have a pretty long lifespan.

We wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking to do some serious overclocking.

Just like the previous method, you want to make sure that the processor is completely clean.

NOTE: Graphite pads can be electrically conductive, so if you drop it on your motherboard while it’s on, you could potentially fry it.

Once you’re done cleaning, just place the pad on top of the processor and make sure it is aligned.

Applying Graphite Pad on CPU

Put your heatsink back on, tighten the screws, and we’re done.

More: Read this guide if you don’t know how to install Heatsink.

This process is comparatively quite easier.

How to Apply Thermal Paste on the GPU

You’re most likely aware that the graphics card tends to heat up quite a bit, just like the processor.

However, if your GPU is reaching dangerously high temperatures, it wouldn’t hurt to see if the thermal paste has dried up.

So, we’ll teach you how to apply thermal paste to the GPU…

  • First off you’ll want to grab an iFixit screwdriver to open the shroud or the chassis of the video card. (Remember, different cards might have screws on the top, bottom, and even on the sides.)
iFixit Electronics repair kit
  • So before you try to yank the cover open, make sure you’ve removed every single screw from it.
  • If your GPU happens to use thermal pads, and you want to replace those, make sure to use pads with the right dimensions. (If you want to replace the thermal paste, then carry on.)
  • Once you’ve pulled the cover apart, make sure not to touch the fragile parts of the PCB (the circuit board).
  • Grab a microfiber cloth and 99% isopropyl alcohol to remove the previous dried-up thermal paste.
  • Gently dab the cloth with isopropyl alcohol over the GPU fan and the base itself.
  • Apply a dot-sized amount of thermal paste, just as you would for the processor, and don’t spread it.
  • Grab the cover, and get on putting it back together. (Make sure you don’t miss a single screw and tighten up everything.)

Install the graphics card, and hopefully, you’ll have better thermals.


That’s all there is to it.

Hopefully, this brief guide helped you in applying thermal paste and achieving better cooling performance.

If you still have any questions, leave a comment below!

how to apply thermal paste conclusion


Photo of author

Luqman Khan

Luqman is the founder of and an obsessed gamer! Overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He is also the founder of a Computer Gaming Lounge. He has been into gaming and PC Building since 2009. He is also obsessed with DOTA 2 and Rainbow Six Siege.