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I've got two small unlabeled plastic syringes with white thermal paste - these are probably 8 years old. Should I throw them out and buy new?

I'll need some paste to build reassemble a mid-range system, so I don't want (need?) the best and most expensive thermal paste. If unused thermal paste doesn't deteriorate over time, then I could even use what I've got.

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my 2 cents, I once bought a toothpaste sized tube of the stuff not really realising how little i needed, it's lasted years and years and years and still works perfectly. Not even slightly dried out. –  Sirex Aug 8 '11 at 14:46
    
@ Sirex, that must be Silicone based, not the best compound but lasts forever on the shelf. I still use it on older systems, works well. –  Moab Aug 8 '11 at 17:04
    
@Sirex - We did the same thing, they were big even for the shop! :) We had a couple of those tubes left from ~12 years ago, hadn't used any of it in about 5. Opened up a 'new' tube about a month ago and the compound had finally separated in the tube; re-mixing it didn't produce usable results. :) They lasted 7 years no problem though, at least. –  Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007 Aug 8 '11 at 23:41
    
yes it's silicone based. I recently used it on a quad core, worked a treat and runs stone cold. –  Sirex Aug 9 '11 at 7:44

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I've got two small unlabeled plastic syringes with white cooling paste - these are probably 8 years old. Should I throw them out and buy new?

I would, since a new tube of medium-quality thermal paste costs $5... And not for anything, but I wouldn't put 8 year old thermal paste anywhere near a new computer.

I'll need some paste to build a mid-range system, so I don't want (need?) the best and most expensive cooling paste. If unused cooling paste doesn't deteriorate over time, then I could even use what I've got.

Yes, you could use what you have. It probably still works fine, and as long as it's not dried out and was stored properly (i.e. at room temperature in the dark). It should perform just as well.

That being said, you should highly consider buying new thermal paste, or at least a reasonably priced, decent quality one. I never recommend anyone cheaps out on thermal paste, regardless of how much your system costs. For $5-10, you get a lot better returns on cooling performance, which translates into longevity of your system's components.

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A standard size tube of Arctic Silver (the good stuff) is about $7. While I'm not sure how bad it is to use older thermal paste, a $7 investment shouldn't be too bad. In any other case, use the older paste and observe your CPU temperature. If it's being weird or doesn't seem to be working: remove, clean, buy, apply. –  maxmackie Aug 8 '11 at 17:54

The paste itself is likely to still be good for use with the class of processors available at the time you acquired it - however it may not be suitable for more current processors.

Most (though not all) HSF assemblies now come with a 'pad' of thermal interface material pre-applied, so if you're purchasing new components you should be OK even without purchasing additional paste. Check with your supplier and on the manufacturers website(s) to be sure though.

If your chosen HSF doesn't ship with a suitable paste, you would probably be best to buy new - the formulation of the compound has improved over the past few years, it's worth the extra few $/£/€ to get a good interface between your HSF and CPU.

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Thermal paste is thermal paste, it has nothing to do with current vs. old processors. That being said, some pastes are better then others, and I'd be willing to bet that a new tube of thermal paste will be significantly better then an 8 year old one. –  Breakthrough Aug 8 '11 at 14:12
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Not quite - thermal paste is typically designed with specific TDP, heatspreader material and heatsink material in mind. In the past 8 years, TDP's have increased, and the alloys used in heatspreaders and heatsinks have become more efficient. The manufacturing of HSFs has also become more precise giving a better surface contact between heatspreader and heatsink. The paste used should be one suitable for the required Processor TDP and HSF unit to reduce the chances of phenomena such as thermal pump-out which lead to efficiency losses over time. –  Mike Insch Aug 8 '11 at 14:18
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I have never seen a thermal paste designed for a specific TDP or heatsink material, and would love to see a link (especially since this would greatly hinder the effectiveness of one particular compound in multiple scenarios). Thermal paste is thermal paste - it transfers heat between two pieces of metal. Besides maybe some absolute temperature rating, there isn't really a difference in how these compounds have been formulated in the past ten years. –  Breakthrough Aug 8 '11 at 14:21

Depends on what type of paste it is. Generally it is safer to replace it when in doubt.

Diamond 7 carat paste is extremely good and not expensive at all, a little difficult to apply (thick, must be warmed up using hot water) but I picked up some the other day at Micro Center and it was cheaper than AS5

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