Constructing your first PC is immensely rewarding but also challenging. You’ll undoubtedly have many questions since it’s not always clear what things you need and what parts come together. For example, you might not be sure whether or not CPUs come with thermal paste.
Generally, thermal paste comes pre-applied to the stock cooler bundled with your CPU. However, processors sold on their own virtually never come with the compound already on them. If your stock cooler has pre-applied thermal paste, you don’t need to put more on your CPU.
Below, this article dives into everything you should know about thermal paste and your CPU. That way, you can ensure your hardware performs at its best.
Which CPUs Come With Thermal Paste?
If a CPU comes with a stock cooler, that cooling solution has thermal paste pre-applied.
You can find the compound on the heat sink of your cooler, where it meets your central processor. It resembles toothpaste in its consistency and has a silvery or gray color.
However, CPUs sold on their own do not come with thermal paste, regardless of whether they’re Intel or AMD. Similarly, you’ll likely need to apply it to CPUs bought used or on the aftermarket. Although, they may occasionally come with a small tube of the compound.
While CPU stock coolers come with a thermal compound, you may want to use your own instead. Some computer enthusiasts find pre-applied pastes inferior to premium aftermarket ones in tests. Plus, their flat application across the whole surface can make a mess during installation.
Also, you should know that thermal pastes generally dry out after three to five years. So it’s a good idea to keep some on hand for when your compound expires either way.
What Does Thermal Paste Do?
Thermal paste is crucial for regulating your CPU temperature and optimizing its performance. Without it, your computer is prone to issues ranging from overheating to hampered speed.
Here’s how it works:
Your CPU’s cooler sits directly on top of your central processing unit. But despite lightly touching, there are microscopic grooves and gaps between them.
Without any heat-transferring compound, these gaps get filled by air. And unfortunately, the air is a terrible conductor of heat and does little to cool your CPU.
Meanwhile, thermal paste is specifically designed for keeping your CPU as cool as possible. It has a dense consistency, helping it fill in any microscopic gaps. And its metallic chemical compounds are excellent at pulling heat away compared to air.
By keeping your CPU cooler, thermal paste prevents your computer from throttling. Throttling is when your processor automatically decreases its performance due to issues like overheating.
Can CPUs Run Without Thermal Paste?
Technically, your CPU can run without using thermal paste temporarily. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use a CPU without it.
Failure to apply a thermal compound can cause all sorts of issues for your computer, such as:
- Overheating – Without a thermal compound, your computer is very susceptible to overheating. In some situations, this may prevent your computer from booting up.
- Decreased performance – Due to poor heat transfer without paste, your CPU may start throttling its performance. This can lead to slower load times and trouble running demanding programs.
- Reduced longevity – Thermal paste extends the lifetime of your CPU by preventing damage from overheating. Without it, your CPU may lose years of longevity.
As you can see, thermal paste is crucial to use. It keeps your CPU running its best and, by extension, makes sure you get the most bang for your buck.
There are numerous supposed substitutes for thermal paste, such as toothpaste or hair wax. However, you’re better off not using them. Such home remedies are not as efficient and might eventually damage your computer.
Do CPUs Need Paste If The Cooler Already Has Some?
If your cooler already has thermal paste, you should not apply more to your CPU.
The amount of paste pre-applied to the stock cooler is often not just adequate but excessive. As a result, adding more is unnecessary and likely to cause a mess. Plus, it’s generally not a good idea to mix thermal compounds for several reasons.
For one, different brands might use chemicals that counteract one another. This may cause them to function less efficiently when mixed.
The other problem is that thermal pastes have expiration dates. And there’s not a convenient way to know when your stock cooler’s compound expires. You might mix pastes that dry out at different points, making it difficult to tell when you should reapply.
Many people prefer to use aftermarket thermal paste for their CPUs. But if you do, make sure to carefully remove any compounds already on the cooler’s heat sink.
CPUs seldom come with thermal paste pre-applied. However, the stock coolers that come with them almost always do. If you buy a CPU on its own, you’ll need to apply thermal paste yourself for optimal performance.