There a million different pages around the Internet with conflicting information on how much thermal paste to apply and how to spread it. Some say a half-bean-sized drop in the middle, others say a circle or rectangle on the CPU. Some tell you to let the heatsink's base spread it, while others say to spread it with a knife or your finger with a plastic bag on it. Some coolers even come it with applied fully on the base, like Corsair H50 and all Arctic Cooling products.
What is the best way to apply and spread thermal paste, and how much of it?