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Some time ago, I removed the thermal pad from my CPU and applied some thermal paste instead. I also removed dust from the fan. It's a Dell Studio 1735 Laptop. The laptop got MUCH quieter and cooler.

Three months later, it's loud and hot again.

There is no dust. I just removed the cooler, and all of the thermal paste still sits there. Maybe while travelling, the CPU cooler wiggled around a microscopic amount, thereby reducing the effectiveness?

How do I apply the thermal paste so that the cooling efficiency persists? Could it be that a thermal pad would work better in the case of a laptop, as it is rigid and won't move under mechanical stress?

Update: Re-applied thermal paste today, temperatures dropped from about 50°C to 40°C in Idle. Let's see how long that lasts.

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What brand and type of paste did you use? – Moab Aug 26 '12 at 14:40
Arctic Silver 5. And carefully cleaned it with ArctiClean and coffee filters beforehand. – LTR Aug 26 '12 at 20:06
AS5 is very good paste, I have never run into this problem on any notebook I have replaced thermal pads with AS5, a strange problem. – Moab Aug 26 '12 at 20:20

The link below has a detailed explanation along with specs.

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Thank you, excellent instructions. However, I followed similar guidelines when applying the thermal paste and this doesn't answer the question. – LTR Aug 24 '12 at 17:47

I'm not sure if this applies to laptops, and your situation in particular, but typically when we see thermal pads on motherboards, they're there to ensure proper contact, usually with a slight "interference" fit. When switching to grease, you may not have enough height to compensate for the loss of the pad.

Was the pad truly a pad, or just "pre-applied" grease? If the former, you may need to modify some part of the heat sink or find a pad of similar thickness to the original.

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Yes, it was a pad. There was a small height difference, but I could work around that by bending the heatpipe that leads to the CPU a tiny amount. Remember that it did cool the CPU perfectly for 3 months. So the height difference didn't matter that much, and the question remains why the cooling suddenly got worse. – LTR Aug 24 '12 at 17:45
It got worse because it dried out and cracked. You can't use normal thermal compound to fill a gap precisely because it will dry out and crack. – David Schwartz Mar 14 at 15:44

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