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Based on the answers on this question, I'll probably go buy some new thermal paste. Unfortunately, the marketplace is flooded with spiffy-sounding products at wildly varying prices. I might just go to the local store and buy whatever mid-range product they happen so sell, but before I just do something stupid I'd like to learn more:

  • What material should the paste be made of? Does it matter?
  • How important is the heat conductivity? Are there big differences?
  • For anything less than bleeding-edge systems, does the choice of paste actually matter? Why?

What specifics should sway me to spend more (or less!) money on thermal paste?

This question is for reassembling a mid-range system. I'm sure that high-end overclocking gurus would very likely choose products that aren't necessary for mainstream customers.

Update: the price range for a small container is only €3-€6 so buying the best is easily affordable. I'd just like to understand if there's any sense in that; learning never hurts.

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+1 This is how all "shopping questions" should be written. Well done. –  Nifle Aug 8 '11 at 15:12
    
takes a bow Tack så mycket! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 8 '11 at 15:14
    
At first I thought you'd asked about toothpaste. –  Mehrdad Aug 9 '11 at 6:33
    
@Mehrdad is there a better word? edit: oh I see there's a [thermal-paste] tag! I'll update my question. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 9 '11 at 7:34
    
@torbengb: Oh sorry, I didn't mean to say anything was wrong with the title -- it was just a comment on my mistake. Don't feel like you should change anything. :) –  Mehrdad Aug 9 '11 at 7:40
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you're looking for a mid-range system you're not planning on overclocking or doing anything weird with, you could get away with the store-brand paste, or whatever is cheapest and looks easiest to apply.

Any paste that isn't made of jello and sand should be capable of handling the thermal needs of a middling system.

The most reputable brand is probably Arctic Silver. And you should be able to find a single-use cartridge of this for pretty cheap.

However, any product made by a brand that also makes cases and coolers should be OK as well. They have reputations to uphold and so are highly unlikely to release a truly horrible product.

Regarding specifics: Diamond grit? Expensive and pointless. Gold-dipped Salmon Roe? In cooling paste? You just want the cheapest tube from a reputable brand applied properly under a capable fan.

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Paste isn't that expensive. Just go ahead and shell out for the Arctic Silver, another $5 isn't going to kill anybody who can afford the parts to use it on. –  Shinrai Aug 8 '11 at 15:33
    
I got a syringe of Arctic Silver V a few years ago for $9 and it is awful. It has been doing much worse than the small container (sort of like a mini version of a cold-cream container) of Startech paste that I got for ~$5-6 which worked terrifically until I eventually ran out. –  Synetech Aug 9 '11 at 5:46
    
@Shinrai: Monster Cable apologist! –  paradroid Aug 9 '11 at 8:10
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