If you want to have a great build, you need to have a build that holds itself together without frying your equipment or letting it get too cool. That’s when you turn to thermal grease. The best thermal paste is able to withstand intense temperatures and lasts for the life of your high-end or budget build. Thermal paste can protect your more sensitive computer parts from your hotter build parts, such as your CPU or your radiator, while simultaneously increasing their ability to conduct heat. Thermal paste will fill any microscopic imperfections in your build and make sure that your hardware is protected while functioning at top caliber, be it a 400, 700 or 2000 bucks gaming rig.
Favorite Thermal Pastes Comparison
How to Choose The Best Thermal Paste
Thermal pastes come in several different forms. Picking the best CPU paste is all about knowing what your needs are, and what you’d like to prioritize in your build.
What is Thermal Paste
Thermal paste is a heat conductor that goes between the hotter parts of your build and the rest of your build. These thermal conductors are substances that heat passes through easily, without becoming damaged or corroded. A good thermal paste for a CPU should last for years, and is a great choice to make to optimize your build.
How Thermal Paste Works?
A good thermal compound allows heat to pass through it to make sure other parts of your build are working correctly. Thermal paste fills in all of the microscopic bumps, nicks, and abrasions that are present in every surface, and not only provides a smooth coating between the two parts of your build, but allows them to work at their fullest potential.
Best Thermal Paste Reviews
This is a phenomenal paste. It was my favorite hands down, and that’s really saying something, especially over something as benign as thermal compound. The tube comes with a little spatula, which means that it is incredibly easy to apply. From there, once you’ve applied it, it dries easily and stays. And when I mean stays, I mean it basically stays forever. Unless you go out of your way to remove it, it dries down solid and stays put for eight years, according to some friends of mine who’ve used it.
ARCTIC MX-4 - Thermal Compound Paste For Coolers
For a thermal grease it can run a little pricey, but it is more than worthwhile because of how many good, quality uses you can get out of one tube. It slides around and honestly is a great thermal paste that I still use in most of my builds to this day after we tested them.
Another great thing about this paste is that it does not have any metals in it. That means that it doesn’t run the risk of being a conduit for electricity. That protects your motherboard and heated areas from any potential current that may ruin them, and protects you from getting shocks if you mishandle it or apply too much.
Noctua NT-H1 3.5g, Pro-Grade Thermal Compound Paste
Hybrid thermal paste
This is an incredibly affordable paste, while simultaneously being one of the most high-quality applications I have encountered while making builds. It also lasts for an incredibly long time, and I ended up using the product on about seven builds. That’s really something for me, because I do have the unfortunate habit of adding too much thermal paste.
The ease of application is also what makes this product a dead ringer. You don’t need to spread it before you apply the heatsink, you just need to press and go. It also is easy to clean, which is great because using too much alcohol to clean my devices before has led to me experiencing long-term heatsink problems as the alcohol ate away at other thermal pastes.
This paste is also durable. While not as durable as our number one contender, it lasts for about five years, which is a great stretch of time for something that has so much heat charged through it.
If you’re a beginner looking for a paste that is easy to apply and even easier to maintain, but still will produce quality results, this would be a great thermal paste for you. It’s also on a beginner’s budget, meaning you don’t have to worry about overspending if you need to try to seal this paste on multiple times.
There is one caveat, however -- the paste is incredibly thick, which makes it easy to remove, but can create some frustration if you don’t apply it correctly.
Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G Thermal Paste
Micronized Silver and Ceramic
This particular thermal compound has tons of conductive metals in it, while simultaneously not being electrically conductive. If you are looking to get the job done with many of the benefits of metal, especially in the world of overclocking, without damaging anything on your build, this would be a spectacular fit for you.
The Artic 5 was specifically designed to ease overclocking, because this ceramic and silver paste allows you to lean into the quality of ingredients, especially with three extra aluminum metals present. If you are looking for a paste that you can trust to perform consistently, this may be your proper fit.
While it is a great high-density filling, that isn’t its only good quality. This paste does not run, migrate, or bleed, which means it stays exactly where you put it. It is durable, and can work a lot of builds, up to fifteen or twenty different applications.
My only qualm is that the application tip isn’t of the highest quality. It’s not necessarily an advanced thermal compound by means of application, but a poor tip doesn’t really help. So if you’re looking for a great overclocking experience, this is a wonderful compound for you.
Editor's Rating: 4.6/5
Highly conductive, so you can get optimal performance out of your build
Recommended for top heat performance if you are an experienced user
Cleanser can remove this easily from the heatsink, meaning you have the ability to strip it down or replace it easily whenever you’d like
Overclocking had one of my builds at around the low sixties, rather than the eighties, which previous computers had clocked in at, meaning you can get true heat dissipation from this paste
Amazing product for people who need to be able to dissipate incredible amounts of heat
Constant heat output with no sudden fluctuations
Thermalright Liquid Metal Thermal Paste
I love metal thermal compounds. I know. That’s controversial. However, they are powerhouses and you cannot really match their conductivity. They spread heat like nobody’s business while simultaneously filling the contours of your machinery perfectly.
If you are looking for top heat performance and you have experience in applying these compounds, this Thermalright liquid metal is perfect for you. Personally, I saw that the difference in this build while I was overclocking was about twenty degrees, which is insane. If it wasn’t for the fact that this particular thermal compound could become a nightmare if used incorrectly, this would be higher on the list.
If improperly applied, not only could you get shocked from exposure, but you could damage your motherboard in particular, and other parts of your computer more generally. Metal conductors within your computer, especially pastes that you apply yourself, can become dangerous and require experienced placement. Practicing with different thermal pastes first, applying them with someone with experience, or through meticulous direction is the only way to safely do so if you do not have more experience.
You don’t want to fry your build, no matter how big the reward may be by means of decreases in degrees. Another note to make is that you may not need this much power. It’s a little bit ridiculous, which is another reason why it’s lower.
Editor's Rating: 4.5/5
Specifically created for the overclocking community, so you know exactly what you are buying when you receive it for overclocking
Uses a special carrier structure that does not begin drying even at eighty degrees Celsius, meaning you can have some intense heat without any backlash
Especially useful in extremely cold situations as well, optimizing your experience
Compensates for unevenness in medium heat, so you are covered from every angle
Was developed for industry especially, so you know you have a powerful compound
Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut Thermal Paste
This is another great overclocking thermal paste, which lends itself especially to that community, as well as the industrial sector. That’s right -- this is advertised both for computer enthusiasts and for people who are looking for an industrial-level heat conduit for their machinery.
There are many great factors about this thermal paste, however my favorite is the range of temperature it works in. Some thermal pastes don’t work well in any cooler temperatures, or they’re inconsistent when you’ve got a medium heat going on, however that isn’t the case for this paste. If you are using it consistently and well, you’ve got a great chance to really get the most out of your machine.
This paste doesn’t dry. I’m serious. It basically doesn’t dry. The special carrier in the paste maintains the structure of the paste even at eighty degrees celsius, so you can get the most out of your build.
Again, this is another one where it’s at the bottom of the list because it doesn’t necessarily outperform the others. Its consistency is special, but it does not add as much to overclocking as you would like.
How to Apply Thermal Paste for CPU and GPU
Applying thermal paste is not something you should be scared of doing yourself. Make sure that when you apply thermal paste you meticulously clean the surface. Use alcohol to make sure that there is no leftover dust on your machine. If your heatsink is rough, make sure to wet-sand it to make it smoother. You can use fine grit paper to do this.
After you have smoothed and cleaned your heat sink, put a small dot of paste in the middle of your cooler base. It should be less than pea-sized, closer to the size of a grain of rice, or else you will end up with coolant all over your motherboard.
If you have a circular cooler, you do not need to spread the base, because even pressure in application will be enough.
Use even pressure to attach the heat sink all the way around. There will be a thin, even layer of CPU thermal paste all the way around. As heat is applied, the paste will become thinner and thinner.
Make sure not to remove the sink, because if you do, you will need to start the entire process all over again. You will have broken the seal, making uneven edges.
How Much Thermal Paste to Use?
You have to be very specific about how much thermal paste you use. If you use too much, it will get all over your motherboard or other parts of the inside of your build, which can damage your hardware or your case. Because the thermal paste is a conductor, it will become very hot. You don’t want it spilling out or onto other parts of your computer.
If you do not use enough thermal paste, you will find yourself unable to get optimal performance out of your computer system. By focusing on making sure your paste is evenly spread, you will definitely optimize your system’s performance.
How to Apply Thermal Paste and How to Remove it
Applying thermal paste is as easy as spreading and pressing. Removing it, however, can be a little more challenging. Old thermal paste can prevent your computer from running as efficiently as it could, so it should be removed so you can optimize your heat dispersal.
First, wipe down where the thermal paste was. Try to get off as many big chunks as you can. Dip your washcloth in alcohol and use it to gently rub away the TIM. It should come off easily after a little bit of time.
Great Thermal Paste for Overclocking
Heat regulation is very important for overclocking. If you want your machine to overclock well, you need to make sure your thermal paste has an incredibly high thermal conductivity. If you want to max out your overclocking capability, definitely choose a thermal paste with high conductivity. You definitely want to get the best CPU thermal paste possible.
How We Tested Thermal Paste Quality and Performance
We tested our thermal pastes in the only way that you can -- you use them. Because I’ve made so many builds in the past few years, I examined my run time, especially when overclocking, and looked for wear or damage on my thermal paste’s edges when possible.
Read also our other tips on how to prevent your computer from overheating.