How to Clean Thermal Paste off CPU? [Top Way To Remove Thermal Paste In 2023]

How to Clean Thermal Paste off CPU

Do you know how to clean old thermal paste off your CPU? It is advisable to remove dried off thermal paste and apply a new one after 6 months. This will help to maintain the heat sink cooling performance.

Old thermal paste reduces the heat sink cooling performance. If you are a gamer, it may affect your gaming experience.  Thermal paste is essential as it helps to fill the microscopic imperfections that trap air particles between the CPU and heat sink that prevents the CPU from cooling well. The heat sink allows the CPU to stay cool; they act as a cooler for the CPU.

Thermal paste tends to get hard, depending on when it was last applied. Always be observant of your computer device, and if you note an increase in temperature, the paste may be drying out.

How Do I Remove the Heat Sink?

Step 1: If you want to remove the heat sink, first remove the graphics card, memory, and everything that blocks it. Some motherboards require unscrewing to remove the heat sink, while for others, you open the handles on both sides to remove the heat sink.

remove the graphics card and memory

unscrewing to remove the heat sink

Step 2: If the thermal paste has dried out and the heat sink is not easy to take off. You can use a hairdryer to heat the heat sink and the contact surface of the CPU.

Step 3: Then gently twist and lift it. Try not to force it too hard and damage the CPU and CPU socket. While handling the device, don’t be too harsh on it, and instead, remove it while minding the surrounding area.

twist and lift heat sink

Step 4: Alternatively, if the heat sink has a latch, flip it and pull the heat sink directly upward. Do this carefully because dried thermal paste adheres to the CPU and may pull it out. In addition, disconnect the fan and lift the retaining latch that holds the CPU upwards.

heat sink removal


Clean the Thermal Paste

It is essential to clean old thermal paste for better CPU performance. This is mainly crucial if you want a better gaming experience.

Step 1: First, gather all the equipment needed to clean off the thermal paste. Get a dry cloth and a suitable organic solvent to make the cleaning process easier.

dry cloth

organic solvent

Step 2: Wipe the surface with a dry cloth to remove most of the loose thermal paste. If you use a paper towel, it may leave coarse fibers and residue on the CPU. Hence, it is recommended to use a suitable dry microfiber cloth to prevent impurities from making the cleaning process hard.

Wipe the surface with a dry cloth

Step 3: You can use a cotton swab dipped in organic solvents like alcohol to remove the remaining hard-to-remove thermal paste. I normally use the recommended isopropyl alcohol as it evaporates swiftly, leaving no residue. Its wiping effect is better than for alcohol because the main component of thermal paste is silicon oil.

cotton swab dipped in organic solvents

use a cotton swab

Step 4: Rub the CPU and heat sink with the dry cloth/cotton swab immersed in the organic solvent thoroughly.

Rub the CPU and heat sink with the dry cloth

Step 5: Once done, it should look as shiny as when you bought it.

Clean the Thermal Paste

Apply New Thermal Paste

After proper cleaning of the previous thermal paste, apply a new one. While applying, don’t apply when it’s too thick. If it is too thick, it will affect the heat dissipation performance. You only need a thin layer, about the thickness of a piece of paper.

Step 1: Choose a suitable application method. There are different application methods you can use like, dot/p method, rice grain method, line, the x/cross, Penta dot, buttered toast, and tiny dot. They all provide different temperatures depending on the thermal paste spread.

thermal paste spread application method

Step 2: Whatever method you use won’t have an extreme effect as long as you apply enough thermal paste.

Pour the thermal paste

Step 3: Pour the thermal paste in the middle using any of the methods and spread it all over using a plastic card. Once the thermal paste has covered most areas, return the components.

thermal paste has covered most areas

Step 4: To reinstall, lower the CPU directly downward into the socket, ensure not to slide the CPU into the socket as it can bend the pins, then lower the latch and lock it in place.

reinstall lower the CPU

Step 5: After application, lower the heat sink directly on the CPU; if there are any leaks around the edges, use a dry cloth with the organic solvent to wipe it off. Flip the latch to lock into place and re-attach the fan cable.

re-attach the fan cable

Step 6: Return all the equipment you had removed and place them as they were. Once everything is in place, boot your computer or laptop normally.


We suggest that you replace the thermal paste every six months or so, which is good for the heat dissipation of the CPU and prolong its service life. Use the right materials on your CPU to ensure you don’t destroy it that may cause an issue when using your computer. Also, use the right thermal paste that is compatible with your device.

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