This is more of a "trying to get some information" than "oh my god, what to do" post.

Yesterday, I finally had it with my computer overheating all the time and I realized I haven't changed the thermal paste for over than 2 years. It was full of dust as well, so I thought I'd give it a good clean.

So I did; I vacuumed the largest dust particles, wiped off the smallest ones, cleaned the old thermal paste from my CPU and GPU with 91% alcohol and a cloth intended for cleaning glasses (doesn't fluff, doesn't carry static electricity), re-applied thermal paste and put it back together.

The computer works fine, but the problem is that it seems that the GPU fan is louder than before. This might be my imagination, but I don't see much improvement in the temperatures as well.

The CPU cores are running well, as its temperatures stay between 33 ºC and 40 ºC when browsing the web or running code editors (3 - 4 ºC improvement).

The GPU temperatures haven't changed that much (45 - 58 ºC, currently running at 57'C). I guess I should have compared the temperatures when running a game or anything that stresses the GPU, but currently I'm just a little concerned about whether I've been changing the thermal paste correctly all this time and haven't I damaged my hardware.

As shown in the picture, I applied about a pea sized amount of paste in the middle of the processor, then reinstalled the cooler without smearing the paste as this is what I was taught.

GPU with new thermal paste

My questions are:

  • Should I be worried about the temperatures?

    My video card is a GeForce 9400GT with 1 GB of memory used for nearly 4 years.

  • How often should thermal paste be replaced?

  • Just to be sure: Is the maximum of 58 ºC under load? – Dennis Feb 20 '13 at 10:59
  • No, it with normal usage, some background apps, firefox, np++, nothing large or demanding for the GPU. I think this is a bit too high but the temperatures were the same before I changed the paste, as I mentioned. – Pankucins Feb 20 '13 at 11:15

Should I be worried about the temperatures?

You can infer absolutely nothing from idle temperatures. With normal settings, the GPU's fan speed depends on the current temperature. The idle temperature is nothing more than a measure of how fast the fan is running.

You should download a GPU stress test (e.g., FurMark) and see how much the temperature rises under load. Leave it running for at 15 minutes (unless the temperature rises too much).

According to your GPU's specifications, its maximum temperature is 105 ºC. As a rule of thumb, 70 ºC and below is good and 80 ºC is acceptable.1

How often should thermal paste be replaced?

Whenever the corresponding processor runs too hot.

1 Just a rule of thumb; this depends on the specific GPU, fan control, room temperature, etc.

  • I feel silly realising that I was looking at the same page you linked me to and didn't notice the max cpu temperature. Thank you for the stress test link, I ran it, and it slowly climed to 76'C where it stayed throughout the test. And another thanks for the other useful info! – Pankucins Feb 20 '13 at 12:25
  • Should I be worried about the temperatures?

    My video card is a GeForce 9400GT with 1 GB of memory used for nearly 4 years.

  • How often should thermal paste be replaced?

58 degrees at idle is pretty warm? do you run two monitors by chance? i used to stay around 35 degrees until i got a second display. no it runs around 48 degrees idle. Max temps are the same so no real problem except most fan profiles are too loud around 50 degrees. i just raised the lowest temp from 35 to 45-50 degress (lowest idle/ first point in profile) oh yea. i wouldn't run a vacuum near your computer. spooky people will tell you about the large amounts of static electricity small particles of dust and debris will generate. Re-assembling a graphics card does seem to make it louder. im guessing maybe a srew or something is loose/ out-of-place. (even though I'm sure we were all very thorough) Perfect cleaning btw. ever try a coffee filter? micro fiber is good though. i will use one after most of the paste is gone for the cloths sake... I recently re-applied TIM to my GPU and it seemed about 5 degrees hotter. I was really expecting an improvment too, obviously. I used Artic Silver-3 so hopefully it is just the case where it needs to break in still. TIM doesn't need to be re-applied once or twice in a GPU's lifetime i would imagine. CPU maybe every year ? ? plus every time you you see the chip itself. ie. changing block/ heatsink which seems to be every few months for me.

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