PC components such as the CPU and the GPU tend to heat up whenever they are performing resource-intensive tasks, such as gaming or content creation.  To keep them cool, various cooling solutions have been designed over the years such as Air coolers and Water coolers.

These coolers whether they are Air coolers or Liquid Coolers contain heatsinks that stay in contact with the hardware, absorb the excessive heat, and dissipate it promptly by transferring it to the cooler.

Thermal pastes are used between the heatsink and the chip to further speed up the process. Thermal paste helps in bringing the temperature down. Still many people ask how long does thermal paste last and does thermal paste work? Read on to find out.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last

Depending on the product that you have used most thermal pastes have a life of 2-3 years before they need to be replaced. However, there are pastes out there that can be used for up to 7 years which is quite a long time.

Still, on average if you were to ask me how long does thermal paste last the average span is 2-3 years.

How Much Thermal Paste Should You Apply?

It is as the saying goes: “An excess of anything is bad.” Having too much water can damage our bodies despite our bodies being made of 70% of water. The same principle applies to the thermal paste using too much can make it work as an insulator instead of a conductor.

In best cases, applying too much thermal paste can make it ineffective and at worst it can damage the components, due to overheating.

Hell, there have been cases where using excessive thermal paste melted the socket as it squirted out the side. So, make sure that you always apply a thin layer for the best results.

Climate and Surroundings

If you live in a hot climate then you might need to look into replacing your thermal paste more frequently as hotter ambient temperatures tend to make the thermal paste lose its effectiveness more quickly.

To counter this make sure you install thermal fans that can operate at a higher RPM range for maximum airflow even at normal room temperature.

Component Replacement

If your components are running at hotter temperatures such as your GPU then it might be time to change the thermal paste as well as the thermal pads.

But, make sure that there is no accumulation of dust as that tends to form an insulating layer between the chip and cooler which traps compressed air and consequently results in higher temps and can make the gpu die as well.

If you run graphically demanding games then you might need to apply new paste frequently as well.

Thermal Paste Quality

Choosing a good quality paste should be an utmost priority. The low-quality paste needs to be changed more frequently as it loses its effectiveness at a faster rate.

So, make sure you choose a paste that lasts a long time instead of a low-quality item that needs to be changed frequently. Still the best thermal paste lasts longer. Ususally long thermal paste lasts up to 7 years.

Why is Thermal Paste Important?

Thermal paste might be something that many don’t consider important, but on the contrary, it is quite important as, without it, components such as CPUs and GPUs might end up having quite a short life.

When the heatsink and the chip come in contact air pockets are formed. Now we know that air is a terrible conductor of heat, heat doesn’t dissipate from the chip which results in higher temperatures of the chip, thus shortening its life span.

A thermal paste is a solution to this problem as it fills those air pockets and thus becomes a heat conductor by dissipating the generated heat and transferring it to the heatsink so the chip runs as cool as possible.

Does Thermal Paste that Has Been Unopenend Go Bad?

Unopened thermal paste doesn’t go bad as long as the thermal compound isn’t exposed to air or water. One should proceed with caution when one has to apply thermal paste as too much paste can cause difficulties too.

How Long Does Open Thermal Paste Last?

There isn’t any set time duration of how long should a thermal paste that has been opened should last. However, if you have thermal paste that has been stored correctly then you should check the liquid on a piece of paper.

The first few drops that will come out of the tube will be a clear liquid that shouldn’t be used. The rest of the liquid can be used as long as it isn’t dry or flaky.

How often should you redo thermal paste?

When you’re facing high GPU temperature or CPU temperatures and you know your cooling system is working as well, is the time when you should reapply thermal paste. However there is also a chance that dust settled between the heat sink and causes the air bubbles to act as a thermal insulator causing temperature rise in the compressed air thus making the components extremely hot.

How Much Thermal Compound Should I Use?

A thin layer is fine as too much of it can bleed out of the socket and can cause harm to the CPU chip in worse cases.

You should apply thermal paste just enough that heat transfer can occur in a quick manner as the primary function of thermal pastes is to improve thermal conductivity between the heat sink and CPU or GPU. CPU or GPU die if they keep running at high temperatures

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last in A Tube?

The thermal paste has a long shelf life. If you have stored it out of the sunlight and the cap hasn’t been opened, it has a life of 2 years but if you get yourself a premium thermal paste then that can be used after 7 years after the date of their manufacturing.

Can You Apply New Thermal Paste Over Old?

While it is possible but is not recommended. Old thermal paste tends to dry out and get flaky over time. Its recommended that you clean thermal paste and apply fresh thermal paste. But thermal paste expire too so make sure you read the expiry date.

When applying a new thermal paste, it is better to clean and scratch the previous thermal paste and then apply the newer paste for the best results.

Tell Me the Different Types of Thermal Pastes.

There are many different types of thermal pastes that can be utilized to keep your PC components running as cool as possible. Some of them are mentioned below:

Liquid-Metal Thermal Paste

Liquid-Metal Thermal Paste

The first type is the Liquid metal Thermal paste that does a phenomenal job of conducting and dissipating heat from the chip.

This kind of thermal paste usually contains gallium which is a metal that has a very low melting point and is usually found as a liquid at room temperature. its also is a sticky substance too.

The advantage of using this type of thermal paste is its faster conductivity. It can conduct heat out of the chip eight times faster than the regular thermal pastes.

The downside of using the liquid metal thermal compounds is that at times heatsinks are made up of aluminum and the gallium in the paste may end up reacting with that.

It is also quite difficult to apply due to its liquid nature and it should only be used in situations where experts are applying it and the system heats up rapidly.

Further caution should be taken as it may end up leaking to the surrounding system and may cause a system shortage due to its electrical conduction properties.

So, my advice is to only go for this when you are confident you will be able to apply the paste without causing any leaks and also use fresh thermal paste and use a thermal paste spreader.

Metal-Based Thermal Paste

Metal-based thermal-based is usually the most commonly found thermal paste out there. These pastes usually contain silver and aluminum and both these metals are excellent heat conductors which is why they are used to make the thermal paste.

They are best for systems that quickly heat up and need to be cooled rapidly.

Mixing up ceramic thermal pastes with metal-based thermal paste has yielded better results too.

The good thing about using metal-based thermal paste is that they are readily available and due to their excellent heat conduction properties, they serve their purpose quite well.

The downside of using the metal-based thermal paste is that they should be applied with caution as they can cause short circuits if they leak.

Moreover, it can be quite challenging to apply due to their electrically conductive capacities.

Electrical tape should be applied to the surrounding components as they can cause short-circuiting due to leakage.

If you are looking for a readily available thermal paste that gets the job done then I advise you to go for a metal-based thermal paste.

Still, if you are a novice and haven’t applied thermal grease before then I suggest you take help from an expert as it may end up leaking and causing a short circuit which might cause long-term damage to the components.

Carbon-Based Thermal Paste

The carbon-based thermal paste contains tiny carbon fibers as is apparent from the name and they are pretty similar to metal-based thermal paste when gauged for conductivity. The good thing about carbon-based thermal paste is that they are easy to apply making it a great prospect for beginners.

They have an extended lifespan, have good density, they aren’t electrically conductive either. The only downside is that compared to other products on the list the heat conduction isn’t very good which makes it so that you might have to change the paste frequently.

My advice is to go for this option if you are a beginner and get proficient in the art that is known as applying thermal paste without damaging the surrounding components.

Then later on you can branch out to better thermal grease that requires finesse and delicacy when applying them on the chip surface.

Silicon-Based Thermal Paste

Silicon-based thermal paste usually comes with thermal pads and as the name suggests it contains silicone. The good thing about using a silicon-based thermal paste is that they are dense so you can even apply them on the surface.

They have one of the best heat conductivities amongst the types of thermal paste which make them an ideal match for using as a thermal paste for your system.

They have a wide range of operational temperatures and thus can be utilized on various CPU chips and GPU chips as well.

To top things off they are quite electrically insulative. Thermally conductive and electrically insulant making it an ideal combination for use in a thermal paste.

The only downside to using Silicon-based thermal paste is that since they offer good value, they cost more than the other types as well but they have a long shelf life.

My advice is that it’s the best of both worlds, it can be easily applied by both beginners and experts, offers great thermal conductivity, and prevents any short-circuiting due to its insulation properties.

If you have the cash to splash then I suggest you go for this thermal gel especially on a cpu cooler.

There are non-metallic compounds based on thermal paste as well but let’s leave those for another day.

Tell Me the Best Way to Store Thermal Paste

The best way to store a thermal paste is away from sunlight and in a cool dry place in an airtight bottle.

How to Extend the Life of Thermal Paste?

The best way to extend the life of thermal paste is to store it in an airtight sealed container such as a Ziploc bag.

It should be stored in a place away from direct sunlight so avoid putting it in a drawer located near a window. However one should excercise caution when using opened thermal paste as thermal paste expire too.

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Mussab Ali
Mussab Ali

Mussab is a PC builder by day and a content writer by night. He loves to test various combinations of graphics cards and CPUs to churn out the maximum possible performance for modern AAA titles from any build. To help other novice PC builders get the best bang for the buck, he has taken it upon himself to regularly write on this website.

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