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Can You Use CPU Thermal Paste on GPU? Explained with an Example

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When you ought to make your computer work hard for giving the best output, it is highly imperative to surpass its thermal properties. In short, the system would start dissipating extra heat that might seem to be too much initially. But, there are provisions within the system to tackle it.

Apart from the general cooling system, an additional approach that is generally followed is using thermal pastes. Also called by the names of thermal gel, heat paste, CPU grease, etc. the basic job of the paste is to create thermal conductive spaces around the interfaces of semiconductors. As a result, you would witness improved airflow and heat dissipation. 

There are dedicated pastes available for use on two of the most important members of our computer- CPU and GPU. And sometimes, it would come to your mind- Can you use CPU thermal paste on GPU? We’ve got it covered- read on to learn more. 

GPU Thermal Paste: The Basics

Just like your CPU, GPU is another core component within a computer that aids in high performance. There would be situations when you would overclock it to increase the base clock speed, and in the process, there would be extra heat dissipation. Now, if you want to be extra careful and ensure that your thermal sink is attached properly, then using thermal paste around it would not be a bad option. 

Why Does GPU Need Thermal Paste?

Yes, your GPU needs a thermal paste to enhance its life and prevent it from drying out easily due to excessive heat. It is because:

  • The paste is thermally conductive and can absorb a good amount of heat from the GPU.
  • Then the heat can easily be transferred to the fins present on the heat sink of the cooling system. 
  • The fins aid in providing a greater surface area for enhanced contact with air, and accordingly a better cooling mechanism. 

In a way, you are contributing towards the greater life of your unit. Think of it as a way to overclock your GPU without any second thought. 

How Much Thermal Paste to Use On GPU?

Now, you would be interested to know how the number of thermal paste matters. It is because your GPUs are connected in their respective slots with a predefined pressure. So, if you do not define the right amount, then the excess would spread on the outer corners due to the pressure, and make it look messy.

There would also be some chances of the paste entering within the circuit, and causing overheating. Therefore, go for the perfect amount that is needed, which is just a small blob out of the syringe. It will be targeted towards the center, and would eventually spread uniformly under the heatsink. And this would be the right method of application of GPU thermal paste

What’s The Lifespan and How often to Replace GPU Thermal Paste?

The answer to this question differs based on case-to-case. If you go by the manufacturer’s guide on the lifespan of GPU thermal paste, it is in between 5-10 years. But it is highly dependent on factors like your application for the computer (standard use or hardcore gaming), type of cooling system, frequency of overclocking, and many more.

In general, you would face the requirement of reapplication in either of the cases:

  • Heatsink getting replaced or re-positioned due to external requirements.
  • If you experience unusually high GPU temperature irrespective of the proper functioning of the cooling system. (Follow the link for a similar article- how to check PSU temp?)
  • The components getting loosened with time due to multiple usages. 
  • If you are following the preventive maintenance guideline of the PC. 

Therefore, a benchmark is based on the situation before deciding on anything. 

Can you use CPU thermal paste on GPU?

Yes, you can use CPU thermal paste on GPU to provide an additional cooling mechanism to it. There would not be any major differences in the application until it meets your requirements of thermal conductivity, longevity on the surface, and ability to function as the processor. 

To be honest, things are above the similarity of GPU thermal paste and CPU. Rather, the focus should be on applying the same perfectly so that the desired functionality is met. 

How to Spread out CPU Thermal Paste on GPU?

The following steps would help you in understanding the chronology needed for applying the CPU thermal paste on GPU:

  • First of all, find the right choice of paste for your requirement. In general, the expensive ones function better, but then again it depends on your usage pattern. So, all of those will come to play in deciding the option.
  • If you are attaching a new GPU to the motherboard, then install the same in its dedicated slot, as per the manufacturer’s guide. Be very sure to take the proper alignment of the fitment and no residual forces must stay in between, that would hamper the assembly.
  • Now comes the step of applying the paste before putting up the heat sink. It is because the paste would help in binding the same, and offering the required touch on the interface.
  • The first alternative to apply is the dot method, where the paste is applied at the center of GPU and then the heatsink is lowered until it spreads uniformly on the surface. Be assured, it would not cause excessive spillage on the system.
  • Another alternative is to draw a cross on the surface and then put the heatsink. It is a tricky one and may create insufficient paste if not given in the right amount. 

If you are going for reapplying the paste, then first of all ensure that you get rid of the old paste from the ends of the processor and heatsink. Use any small cloth and isopropyl alcohol to render the best finish. Rest, you can go by the steps mentioned above.   

How Much CPU Paste You’ll Use on GPU?

The requirement of a CPU paste on your GPU is limited to a dot that would range only for few millimeters. It would ensure that you go for the least possible material, and no smudging should happen from the corners after the heatsink is placed on the slot. An excess amount may enter into the intricate circuits, and damage the system.

How to Handle The GPU While Applying CPU Thermal paste?

The following steps are crucial when it comes to handling the GPU while applying the thermal paste:

  • Ensure that all of the screws of the GPU are removed from the motherboard before you begin the application procedure. Use its dedicated tool, otherwise excessive loads may break the system.
  • Keep an eye on the fan and its power plugs while applying, as they are highly sensitive, and excessive amounts may cause dame to the system. 
  • Remove the excessive amount from the corners by using a soft cloth and a little amount of alcohol. 

Is There Any Difference Than Conventional GPU Thermal Paste?

By conventional GPU thermal paste, mostly it is being talked about the thermal adhesive. And it is different from the current paste that is being applied. The latter has no bonding properties and is used only for filling between the space of the heatsink and its source for removing the heat. Even when you are replacing the thermal paste, the same logic would be applied.  

Recommended CPU Thermal Pastes to Use on GPU

The following lists the top three recommendations for CPU Thermal pastes on your GPUs:

  • Arctic MX-4: It is one of the quickest solutions that use carbon micro-particles for filling the gap between heat sinks, and enhancing the ability of heat dissipation. 
  • Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut: It is quite popular amongst those users who work with overclocked GPUs most of the time, and has proven results of handling extremely high temperatures. 
  • Noctua NT-H1: Another well-known brand, that has proven results under normal and overclocked speeds. 

3 Cases When CPU Thermal Paste Isn’t for GPU

In most cases, the CPU thermal paste comes compatible with your GPU. Only in the following points would you find some exceptions:

  • If the peak temperature of your GPU is not within the controllable limits of the given CPU thermal paste, then it would not be worth using it. It is because the thermal conductivities would mismatch and may cause further damage to the system than help. 
  • If the paste is highly thick and has the tendency to get smudged, then also it would not be a suitable choice for your GPU. It would get inside of the intricate corners and may damage the circuit.
  • If the thermal paste for the CPU has an adhesive action on the surface of the GPU, then it would not be suitable as it would stick to your heatsink and prevent it from moving out. 

5 Tips to Remember

The following are some of the handy tips when it comes to applying the thermal paste on your GPU:

  • Use the right gun for releasing the paste onto the surface, as it would help in putting out only the requisite amount and remove the possibilities of smudging.
  • If you are going for reapplication after your existing thermal paste dies, then be very sure of removing the existing paste completely. Use a soft cloth and a little amount of isopropyl alcohol to remove the smallest traces.
  • Do not use any external method for spreading the paste on the surface. Let it sink under the normal weight of the heatsink and go across all of the corners uniformly.
  • Be very careful of not letting any air bubbles come within the gap, as they can act as potential spots for insulation and hamper the heat exchange process. 
  • Take care of the sensitive components like fans while applying the paste. There are chances of the paste entering these zones and damaging the circuit.

Follow the instruction manual to have a safer and easier method of applying the paste. 

FAQs 

Should I replace GPU thermal paste?

Yes, it is very important to replace your GPU’s thermal paste after the life of the current coating exceeds. One of the important signs for it is extremely high temperature even at idle speed. Keep an eye on such indications to replace your GPU paste. 

How should you apply the GPU thermal paste?

Use the right gun for releasing the required amount of paste on the surface. It should be limited to a drop within a few millimeters of diameter for efficient application. 

Are CPU and GPU thermal paste the same?

In most cases, the pastes of CPU and GPU are interchangeable. However, in the exceptions mentioned above, you need to be careful. Study the manufacturer’s guide before moving for the application procedure. 

Where should you put thermal paste on the GPU?

The ideal location for putting the dot of the thermal paste is the center of the slot for a heatsink. The advantage of this method is that once the heatsink comes up, the paste gets spread uniformly and you need not have to remove the excess from the sides. 

What is the kind of thermal paste for GPU?

It varies from one model to another. But in general, the consumers prefer the ones having a silver base and contains carbon nanoparticles, as they have proven effects in battling thermal conductivity issues. 

Final Words 

Therefore, we would conclude the discussion by saying that cooling systems play a pivotal role in the performance of any computer. Apart from the stock systems available, you should use secondary boosters like thermal pastes to accelerate the performance. And when it comes to thermal pastes, selecting the right variant for your GPU is mandatory. It would help in preventing any mismatch during the real-case scenario. 

Also, keep in mind about using the right techniques for applying the paste, so that you do not hamper the circuits unintentionally. 

Keep reading our website for more of such content, like ‘Is it bad to run your GPU fan at 100 all the time?’ and many more. Till then, happy reading.