Overheating computers are one of the most annoying things in the world—especially when they work perfectly well for years and then suddenly start acting up without any warning. The culprit? Thermal paste.
When heat moves through an object it causes expansion (also known as “conduction”), which means that certain materials like metal expand more than others depending on how hot something gets. For example, copper expands much less than iron does with increased temperature, while aluminum only expands slightly. In this way, metals transfer heat better by conducting it faster or slower, depending on their physical characteristics.
The same principle applies to thermally conductive compounds used in laptops and desktop PCs to help dissipate heat generated during operation. These substances are called thermal pastes because historically they were made from silver-filled silica gel (as opposed to other ingredients).
Since computer processors generate so much heat, these compounds have evolved over time to become increasingly effective at transferring heat out of devices.
Heat sinks and fans remove excess air and moisture to prevent short circuits due to static electricity. But if there’s no good path for the heat to move through, even the best cooling system won’t do the job properly. It turns out that proper application between the processor and its heatsink actually helps make sure heat flows away efficiently. This makes thermal paste one of the cornerstones of PC design.
With all that said, not everyone has easy access to high-quality thermal paste. Fortunately, companies like Intel provide free samples so people don’t need money to try them out first.
We’ve got some tips on where to find those samples below.
Where to get Thermal Paste
If you already shop regularly at Amazon, it’s probably worth checking whether the company offers free shipping on items like thermal paste. Most products ship via standard delivery within two days. However, it’s still helpful to check specifically for deals offered by third parties who sell goods directly on Amazon Marketplace.
It takes a little bit of searching, but once you know exactly what you want, Amazon tends to offer lower prices compared to sites outside the U.S.
One advantage of shopping here: Amazon typically accepts returns on defective products shipped by vendors rather than requiring customers to send faulty parts back themselves.
In general, however, ordering anything from Amazon usually costs quite a bit more than doing so elsewhere, simply because the site receives such a large share of proceeds from retailers’ sales.
Local Hardware Shops
You might think finding cheap thermal paste would mean heading down to Fry’s Electronics or Micro Center, but local hardware stores aren’t always great places to buy stuff online either. While both of these big-box retailers carry lots of cool gadgets, neither carries specialty electronics. Instead, you’d be better off visiting an independent retailer. Check the Yellow Pages under Local Shopping for listings. Also, search Google Maps for nearby shops.
For example, Newegg sells a wide range of electronic gear including CPUs, RAM sticks, graphics cards, and gaming peripherals. All of these items are marked clearly with pricing information, photos, and detailed descriptions. You can filter results according to brand, price, and reviews to narrow down your choices. Plus, if you live near a store selling a specific item, you can use the website’s built-in map feature to locate it easily. Unfortunately, Newegg doesn’t accept international orders, though you can bypass that limitation by purchasing items from eBay.
Another popular choice among consumers is NCIX — formerly known as No Credit Needed Internet Exchange – which specializes in providing affordable tech accessories, particularly video games consoles, TVs, DVD players, and home theater equipment. Unlike many eCommerce websites, NCIX ships worldwide. To save money, place multiple purchases together, either at checkout or in advance. Some services charge extra for expedited shipments. Although NCIX generally charges higher shipping fees than other sites, they guarantee fast delivery and excellent customer service.
Best Buy also allows users to compare prices on similar items side-by-side. After selecting products, Best Buy displays each purchase’s estimated total cost along with shipping rates and taxes. Customers can see exact prices for individual models at various locations throughout North America. Like Newegg, Best Buy ships internationally, though you must select the country destination prior to making a purchase.
First off, let’s talk about why adding thermal paste matters. Heat naturally rises toward colder objects (like the ground), but if it isn’t conducted away quickly enough, it will eventually build up until it reaches the highest point possible — i.e., the surface of whatever device it happens to be inside.
That’s when it becomes trapped and begins to radiate energy back into the surrounding area, heating everything around it. A poorly designed case can exacerbate this problem since it may block airflow near the motherboard.
That’s why manufacturers apply thermal grease (or compound) to ensure efficient conduction of heat across gaps. And unlike many brands available today, high thermal performance doesn’t come cheap. You’ll pay anywhere from $5 to several hundred dollars per tube based on material type and purity.
However, applying thermal paste correctly is essential to achieving maximum heat dissipation. If you’re using low-quality product, heat could just accumulate instead of moving along.
Poorly applied thermal paste also creates voids that allow humidity to seep in, accelerating corrosion and degrading overall reliability.
Also, consider that improperly installed thermal paste often requires replacement after installation. With the wrong formulation, the paste might harden too soon, causing early failure. Even worse, poor thermal contact can cause components to run hotter than normal, leading to premature shutdowns or crashes.
John has been a gamer since the early age of 7, playing a huge variety of single-player games, and MMOs, and even participating in LAN Tournaments for FPS games such as Counter-Strike Global Offensive. Ever since he found his passion in gaming & in technology in general, he has continuously increased his knowledge in software, programming & hardware and is now working at TechReviewTeam helping readers, answering questions, writing articles & reviews for the team.