Do CPUs Come With Thermal Paste? (Quick Answer)

Do CPUs Come With Thermal Paste?

Building a PC from scratch may be an intimidating but rewarding experience. An important aspect you should consider when building a PC is CPU cooling.

Computer processors often come with built-in cooling solutions that help regulate temperatures. Modern models feature robust cooling fans that take up case space. One area that most people are unsure of is whether CPUs come with thermal paste.

CPUs do not come with thermal paste. If your stock CPU is bundled with a CPU cooler, it has a pre-applied thermal paste between the CPU and cooler base. But if you buy an aftermarket cooler for your custom PC, you must apply thermal paste yourself. Applying the quality thermal paste to your processor helps enhance cooling performance.

Do CPUs Come With Thermal Paste?

Whether a novice PC builder or a seasoned enthusiast, you have probably heard about thermal paste.

Also known as thermal interface material (TIM), grease, CPU paste, or heat paste, this compound helps transfer heat from your processors to the heat sinks. It evens out the difference in surface temperatures for efficient cooling.

CPU coolers usually work by absorbing and dispelling heat from the CPU. Heat travels from the processor to the heatsink, which features a high fin density. The many fins disperse the heat across a wide surface area to allow cooling using a liquid or air cooler.

For the CPU cooler to work effectively, there should be fast heat transfer between it and the processor. CPU lids comprise an Integrated Heat Spreader (IHS) that helps transfer heat to cooler baseplates. Since processor lids and cooler baseplates lack smooth surfaces, thermal paste helps seal the microscopic gaps between the two components for optimal conductivity.  

Is Thermal Paste Necessary?

Thermal paste is one of the most overlooked components in PC building.

CPUs are the brain of your system, which perform all major operations under instructions from software. This intensive workload causes the processor components to generate lots of heat. Therefore, you need a CPU cooler to ensure that your CPU runs at cool and safe temperatures.

The thermal paste is a medium between the CPU lid and the cooler plate. It eliminates any gaps between the surfaces, promoting thermal conductivity.

How to Correctly Apply Thermal Paste

Most CPUs need a thermal solution to perform optimally. However, installing a CPU cooler in PCs is quite intricate. All CPU coolers need thermal paste. So check the bottom of the water block or base plate of the cooler to confirm your cooler comes with TIM. If the cooler features thermal paste, you do not need to apply more.

Before starting the application process, ensure that the CPU is clean. Remove any old thermal paste using a paper towel or microfiber cloth and isopropyl alcohol, then let it dry.

Here are the steps for correct thermal paste application:

  1. Read and understand all the instructions before starting
  2. Apply the thermal paste to the middle of the CPU’s IHS
  3. Apply only a pea- or rice grain-sized amount
  4. Use a light pressure from top to down to place the water block or base plate of the cooler on the CPU
  5. Hold the pressure as you install the cooler on the mounting mechanism
  6. Attach the screws in a diagonal pattern without fully tightening them
  7. Turn each screw a few times before the next to prevent uneven pressure
  8. Ensure that all screws are tight
  9. Check if all components are firmly attached

Look out for thermal paste spills over the CPU edges. If spills are present, you applied too much paste. Clean all the paste off using alcohol and restart the process.

You are in the clear once all is clean and the cooler doesn’t wobble.  

Related: How many fans should a gaming PC have?

Factors to Consider When Buying Thermal Paste

The wrong kind of thermal paste may worsen PC performance. Consider the following aspects when buying thermal interface material:

  • Composition: Paste often comes with metal, silicon, ceramic, or carbon-based compounds.
  • Thermal conductivity: Choose a paste with optimal thermal conductivity ratings
  • Density: A thermal paste with the right density easily spreads throughout the CPU
  • Viscosity: Thicker pastes stick better to the processor
  • Electric conductivity: Carbon-based compounds with low conductivity reduce the risk of short circuits
  • Thermal Design Power (TDP): TDP tells you the amount of power that a processor will use. CPUs with high TDPs need a compound that can handle high heat.

Winding Up

Assembling expensive PC components can be stressful. However, with the right information, it is a rewarding experience. Now you know that thermal paste plays a pivotal role in keeping your PC cool and doesn’t usually come with CPUs. When installing a CPU cooler, follow the steps outlined in this article for a successful build. You can buy thermal paste online or in stores for roughly $10 to $20.


How often should I change thermal paste?

You should replace the thermal paste every time you detach the CPU cooler. If you never detach the cooler, apply a fresh coat of thermal paste every few years.

Does thermal paste expire?

Yes. Thermal paste lasts for about 3 to 5 years. Check the tube or can for the expiry date before each use.  


Tom is a network engineer and a tech consultant. He spends his time solving networking problems while keeping tabs with the latest in the technology field.

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