I am about to install a new i7 Ivy Bridge CPU and I am wondering whether it would make any sense at all to replace the thermal paste that is pre-applied on the stock cooler. There are three stripes of slightly malleable gray material, which I expect will spread over the CPU when the heatsink assembly is pressed on.

That said, I have a tube of Xilence X5 laying around and I am considering replacing the stock paste with it. According to a couple of reviews, the X5 seems decent enough - it is not the best thermal conductor around, but there are several other products that are far worse. What I do not know, of course, is how the stock cooler paste rates against the X5 and the other after-market products.

Now, I am not planning on seriously overclocking the CPU on the stock cooler - most probably nothing past the common trick of pushing all cores to their individual TurboBoost maximum frequency. On the other hand, where I live we often have room temperatures of 35C in the summer - the PC case will be very well ventilated, but that is still a quite high starting temperature.

So my question is two-fold:

  • Would it make sense to replace the stock thermal paste with the Xilence X5? If the X5 is even slightly better, I am willing to go into the trouble...

  • If so, would 100% pure alcohol (the same kind that is used in drinks) work for removing the stock paste from the cooler? Or do I need a more powerful solvent?


3 Answers 3

  1. I don't think it makes any sense to replace the stock thermal paste. At most, it would make a two degree difference. And the stock thermal paste comes perfectly applied.

  2. 100% pure alcohol works well to purify the surface after removing the thermal paste. You can also use it to remove the thermal paste itself. If you use anything else to remove the bulk of the paste (like Windex or citrus cleaner), use alcohol to remove any cleaning residue. Don't scuff the surface by rubbing and make sure there's as little "tinting" (discoloration due to residue) of the surface as possible when you're done.

  • 2
    Agreed - for typical use it's not worth bothering. (And for non-typical use you shouldn't use those stock heatsinks anyway.)
    – Shinrai
    Dec 13, 2012 at 20:44
  • Mostly agree, but for the first point: Usually the stock thermal paste dries out (and loses its cooling effect) after couple of years, especially if your computer is not only for simple tasks.
    – Max
    May 12, 2013 at 5:11
  • 1
    @TranSonHai Thermal paste doesn't lose its cooling effect when it dries out. So long as the heat sink isn't moved (which would crack the thermal compound and create air gaps) it should remain effective for more than a decade. May 12, 2013 at 16:20

I have a Toshiba A505 laptop Core i7, Nvidia 310 and 4 GB RAM. I have had it for almost 3 years. I have used it very heavily (3D software, Maya, Nuke, Photoshop, games, etc.)

Recently, I was experiencing overheating. The applications or games which I could run a year ago without no problem were causing extreme overheating. Most of the times the laptop would suddenly turn off by itself due to extreme CPU temperature.

I tried cleaning and dust removal from heat sinks but it didn't help. I finally opened the laptop box and applied new thermal paste on the CPU and VGA chipset and memories. It made a huge difference! Now I can play all the games I could play a year ago and the overall performance on heavy duty applications has been improved and is pretty much like a new laptop. The amount of heat the heat sink puts out is back to normal levels and I doesn't go crazy hot as it used to be.

  1. Aftermarket thermal paste can perform much more better than stock, there are many reviews around the web that shows aftermarket solutions can help to increase the thermal conduction from the processor to the heatsink. There is a review that explains the use of aftermarket solution, surely there are many other sites that tests other brands also.

  2. Pure alcohol is good, but the better is to use isopropyl alcohol because is safe for use within electronic components, pure alcohol is also good, but you have to be sure that is 100% pure alcohol, because many pure alcohols can come with a small percentage of water and it can be conductant. You can use pure acetone to clean the thermal compound also. Use of any other cleaner is not recommended.

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