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I was installing a brand new i3-4330 with the stock CPU cooler. I couldn't get the CPU cooler push pins to click the first time. I removed the CPU cooler for just a few seconds and put it back on and the thermal paste was still wet. Do I need to apply more thermal paste or will the CPU be okay without it?

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I was installing a brand new i3-4330 with the stock CPU cooler. I couldn't get the CPU cooler push pins to click the first time. I removed the CPU cooler for just a few seconds and put it back on and the thermal paste was still wet.

That’s normal, it should be wet (though depending on the paste and heat exposure, it may dry out after a couple of years, at which time you will want to clean it off and re-apply).

Do I need to apply more thermal paste or will the CPU be okay without it?

Why? Did you rub it off? If not, then it should be fine. You actually want to avoid putting too much on because then it will stop acting like a thermal conductor and become more of a thermal insulator.

Some people suggest smoothing the paste out with a plastic card or something, but usually the pressure from just squeezing the heatsink down should cause it to evenly spread out in a thin and uniform layer after a while (especially once the heat softens the paste a little).

You’re likely fine, but you can watch your temperatures (especially while under and under load) to have peace of mind. If you find the temperatures are too high (which can be a challenge to determine thresholds in and of itself), then you can always just wipe it off and re-apply; with the paste that’s already on there and the heatsink and fan, you almost certainly won’t get it hot enough to damage the CPU immediately, especially if you check the unloaded temperatures first.

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This probably won't cause issues for you unless you plan to over-clock your CPU, but it's also not ideal either.

By removing the heat sink you allow more air to get between the CPU and the heat sink, decreasing the thermal conductivity of the heat sink and increasing overall CPU temperatures.

The only way to really know for sure your CPU will be okay is to monitor the temperatures under load. Typically you will want to aim for below 60 degrees with most CPUs, but this can vary from CPU to CPU.

If you're running windows: prime95 is great for stress testing CPUs. Coretemp is a nice tool for monitoring the temperature. There's plenty of other tools for stress testing and measuring CPU temperature, but these are just the first that came to mind that are simple and easy to use.

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You will be fine as long as there is no chance of contaminates getting into the thermal paste while they were separated. it is a good time to check its coverage, and see if it is needing tidying up. Try to keep it from oozing over too far beyond the heat sink of the CPU.

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