If you’re building or upgrading a computer, you’re likely to have heard of thermal paste. This essential element helps to transfer heat from the CPU to the cooler and protect the processor from damage. However, you may be wondering whether CPUs come with thermal paste or whether you need to purchase it separately.
The answer to this question is not straightforward and depends on several factors. In this article, we will explore the issue in detail and provide you with all the information you need.
What is Thermal Paste?
Before we dive into the main question, it’s important to define what thermal paste is and why it’s important. In short, thermal paste (also known as thermal compound or thermal grease) is a material used to enhance the transfer of heat from the CPU to the cooler.
It’s applied between the two surfaces to fill any small gaps or air pockets and to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed. Without thermal paste, the heat can build up and cause damage to the CPU or reduce its lifespan.
Factors That Determine Whether CPUs Come With Thermal Paste
Whether CPUs come with thermal paste or not depends on several factors, including:
Brand and Model of CPU:
The brand and model of the CPU have an impact on whether thermal paste is included. Some manufacturers include thermal paste with their products, while others do not. The same applies to different product series and models. It’s essential to check the product specifications before making a purchase.
Retail versus OEM:
CPUs can be sold in two forms: retail and OEM. Retail CPUs are packaged for end-users and come with a fan and thermal paste. In contrast, OEM CPUs are sold to system builders and do not include a fan or thermal paste. Instead, the system builders are expected to supply their own cooling solutions.
When buying a CPU from a third-party seller, it’s crucial to check the product listings carefully. Some third-party sellers may include thermal paste in their CPU packages or sell it separately as an add-on. Others may not offer it at all, meaning that you’ll need to purchase it separately.
Why Some CPUs Don’t Come with Thermal Paste
Now that we’ve addressed the factors that determine whether CPUs come with thermal paste, let’s explore why some CPUs don’t include it.
Manufacturers may choose not to include thermal paste with their CPUs to reduce production costs. This is particularly common with OEM CPUs, where system builders are expected to provide their own cooling solutions. By omitting the thermal paste, manufacturers can lower the price of the CPU and make it more appealing to system builders.
Different CPUs require different types of thermal paste. The thermal paste that comes with one CPU may not be suitable for another CPU. By omitting the thermal paste, manufacturers can avoid compatibility issues and allow users to choose the right type of thermal paste for their specific CPU.
What to Do if Your CPU Doesn’t Come with Thermal Paste
If your CPU doesn’t come with thermal paste, don’t panic. You can still purchase it separately and apply it yourself. Here are the steps:
- Choose the Right Type of Thermal Paste: Different CPUs require different types of thermal paste. Check the product specifications to find out which type is suitable for your CPU.
- Clean the Surface: Before applying the thermal paste, you need to clean the surface of the CPU and the cooler. Use isopropyl alcohol to remove any old thermal paste, dust, or debris.
- Apply the Thermal Paste: Apply a small amount of thermal paste (around the size of a pea) to the center of the CPU. Then, use a credit card or some other flat tool to spread it evenly over the surface of the CPU. Be careful not to apply too much thermal paste, as this can impede heat transfer.
- Mount the Cooler: Once the thermal paste is applied, mount the cooler on top of the CPU. Make sure that it’s aligned properly and securely fastened.
How to Choose the Right Type of Thermal Paste
As mentioned earlier, different CPUs require different types of thermal paste. Here are the main types of thermal paste and their characteristics:
Silicone-based thermal paste is the most common type and is suitable for most CPUs. It’s affordable, easy to find, and has a long lifespan. However, it’s not the best choice for CPUs that generate a lot of heat or use liquid cooling.
Carbon-based thermal paste is ideal for high-performance CPUs that generate a lot of heat. It provides excellent thermal conductivity and can transfer heat quickly. However, it’s more expensive than silicone-based thermal paste and requires more frequent reapplication.
Metal-based thermal paste is the most expensive type but also the most effective. It’s ideal for CPUs that use liquid cooling or generate extreme heat. Metal-based thermal paste provides excellent thermal conductivity and can maintain low temperatures even under heavy loads.
In summary, whether CPUs come with thermal paste depends on several factors, including the brand and model of the CPU, retail versus OEM, and third-party sellers. If your CPU doesn’t come with thermal paste, you can purchase it separately and apply it yourself. Be sure to choose the right type of thermal paste for your CPU and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your CPU operates at optimal temperatures and has a long lifespan.