The 10 Best Thermal Pastes
This wiki has been updated 16 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.
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.