The 10 Best Thermal Pastes

video play icon

This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in May of 2018. The bond between a heat sink and a processor is the first line of defense against the number-one enemy of high-powered computers -- heat. Thermal paste, also known as thermal interface material, is a specially formulated compound designed to fill in the microscopic imperfections and air gaps between microchips and coolers, keeping CPUs and GPUs at safe operating temperatures. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Arctic MX-4

2. Mastergel Maker

3. Arctic Silver 5

Editor's Notes

January 15, 2021:

Make no mistake, the thermal conductivity of the compound you choose is every bit as important as how well you apply it. With that in mind, it's important to select the right kind for your uses, as some require more know-how than others. Arctic MX-4, Arctic Silver 5, and Noctua NT-H1 are good for first-time builders, while Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut, Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut, and especially Thermalright Silver King are highly popular among fervent overclockers. For reducing temperatures on other chipsets, such as SSDs and voltage regulator modules, we suggest Innovation Cooling Graphite or Arctic Pad as possible solutions, because squeezing paste onto a 1-square-centimeter piece of silicon is not particularly easy.

Whatever you do, make absolutely certain you know exactly what you're doing if you choose a metal-based conductive paste, as using these improperly can easily destroy components.

October 18, 2019:

The key to selecting and using thermal paste is that the quality of application is generally just as as important is, if not more important than the actual product you select. For the simple matter of upgrading to a new CPU in your desktop computer, pretty much any decent-quality option will suffice, as long as it's easy to use. Both Arctic MX versions, Arctic Silver 5, and the Noctua are good examples of simple and inexpensive choices. One thing you will want to pay attention to is what your CPU recommends you use, and what kind of shape the lid is actually in. For example, conductive pastes should only be used on nickel-plated chips; any amount of copper exposed will likely oxidize over time and cause overheating or at worst, a fried CPU. Luckily, the most common and easiest to apply tend to be safe for the average DIY PC builder.

When things start to get a little more complex is when you're working on non-standard chips like de-lidded and/or overclocked CPUs or mobile devices. De-lidded CPUs will benefit from certain compounds more than others. In that vein, Thermal Grizzly's Conductonaut is one of the top choices for de-lidded processors. Mobile devices like laptops or, if you're the adventurous type, tablets, will need a relatively specialized product that won't get runny when the heat is on and won't dry out over time, because laptop and tablet circuitry is designed to withstand more heat. IC Diamond is a good heat-resistant paste, but some laptop users prefer to use a graphite pad like the one from Innovation Cooling. Also, Arctic's thermal pad can help remove heat from internals to the frame of a laptop or 2-in-1 and ultimately to the atmosphere, so if your laptop has a history of overheating, it might be a good idea to slide one or two of those in.

4. Thermal Grizzly Conductonaut

5. Thermalright Silver King

6. Innovation Cooling Graphite

7. Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut

8. Noctua NT-H1

9. Arctic MX-2

10. Arctic Pad

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

Thanks for reading the fine print. About the Wiki: We don't accept sponsorships, free goods, samples, promotional products, or other benefits from any of the product brands featured on this page, except in cases where those brands are manufactured by the retailer to which we are linking. For more information on our rankings, please read about us, linked below. The Wiki is a participant in associate programs from Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, Target, and others, and may earn advertising fees when you use our links to these websites. These fees will not increase your purchase price, which will be the same as any direct visitor to the merchant’s website. If you believe that your product should be included in this review, you may contact us, but we cannot guarantee a response, even if you send us flowers.