How to Clean Thermal Paste off the CPU

While installing the heatsink to your Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) or CPU, applying the thermal paste will play an important role in the performance of the heatsink. Without the use or regular replacement of thermal paste, the heatsink will not work efficiently or sometimes it may fail to work. 

If you have owned any computers, you will surely hear about thermal paste. This thermal paste is also called as heat paste, thermal grease, CPU paste, thermal gel, thermal compound and thermal interface material (TIM).

The use of the thermal paste is to ensure your CPU is working. Therefore, everyone should know how to remove the old thermal paste and reapply the new paste.

What does Thermal Paste mean?

Thermal paste is a heat conductive paste applied between heatsink and GPU or CPU that helps in heat conduction. Usually, heatsink, CPU, and GPU have lots of microscopic imperfections that trap air which is the reason for the decrease in heatsink performance.

Since air is the worst thermal conductor, you have to use Thermal Interface Materials to improve the thermal performance of the heat sink.

If you have a flat heat sink base and CPU without any imperfection, you wouldn’t need thermal paste. But it is impossible and so we need to use thermal paste. Thermal paste is not a good heat conductor as copper and therefore over usage of thermal paste blocks the ability of the heatsink to cool properly.

The thermal paste conducts heat energy from the processor to the heatsink and it needs to be clean because the paste will get dry, so it should be replaced at regular times. In this process, you have to take safety measures to prevent damage to the CPU.

You have to apply Thermal Interface material while installing a cooling solution to your graphics card or CPU. Most of the graphics card or CPU has an integrated thermal solution and therefore you need not want to worry about installing a cooler to a GPU or CPU.

If needed, you have a choice to select the cooler for your CPU like custom liquid cooling.

How To Clean Off Old Thermal Paste 

The process of cleaning the thermal paste in the CPU will not take a long time. To clean off the old greasy thermal paste, follow these step-by-step procedures. Firstly you have to ensure safety and set up the environment.

Set up and safety

1.Switch Off your PC

The first step of cleaning thermal paste is switching off all the power to your computer. Turn it off properly by clicking the shut down option in the start menu. Don’t push the power button because it only allows your computer to sleep mode which will not switch off all powers. If you are a Laptop user, then remove the battery by releasing the battery holder.

2. Dust-Free Environment

Make sure that your working surroundings are clean without any dust and airborne particles and then open your computer to remove the thermal paste. Tiny dust particles may stick or enter into the components of the computer that cause damage and decrease the overall performance.

3. Detach all the connections

After switching off the PC, unplug the power cord connection. After that remove all the cords and devices which get plugged with the CPU. In the laptop, remove the charger and other devices connected with USB and other ports.  

4. Eliminate remaining Electricity

After powering off and removing the battery, there is a small amount of electricity found in your Computer or Laptop. So holding the power button for a few seconds will discharge lingering electricity which would harm and reduce the performance of your computer while cleaning and reapplying thermal paste. 

5. Wear gloves

To protect your computer and skin surface, wear latex gloves before using. Also make sure that the fingers will not have direct contact with CPU components.

Wearing safety gear will help to block dust or oils from your skin that gets entered into the computer components. And, it also protects your skin from the greasy thermal paste when removing and reapplying it.

Steps to clean Old greasy thermal paste

1. Use the manual

After doing all the safety precautions, you can start the process of cleaning the thermal paste from the heatsink or CPU. Have a detailed look at the user manual to gain knowledge about identifying, accessing, removing, reapplying, and reinstalling essential parts of the CPU and then access to your computer’s CPU. If you don’t have any manual, then search it on the internet.

2. Remove dust from the heatsink

Carefully remove the heatsink from the CPU, and clean the heatsink vents before cleaning the core. Use low-pressure air or brush to eliminate any dust in the vents. Make sure that this process should be done away from the computer and so loose particles will not get entered into other parts of the system.

3. Scrape old paste

After removing the dust, just scrape off all the old paste in the copper core of the heat sink. Scrape off the paste as much as possible with the help of a tool called a spudger.

Spudger is a tool used to clean computer parts without any scratch and damage. You can also use a dry cloth or a paper towel to remove the old paste. Be careful while doing this step, you can skip this step if you feel bad.

4. Clean the residue

Scraping the heatsink with the spudger will not completely remove all the old thermal paste. Here, you can use any one of the things such as a cotton swab, a coffee filter, or the link-free cloths designed to rub the heatsink.

Wet your chosen things with alcohol or cleaner and rub them with the heat sink to moisten and loosen the old paste. Do it regularly but it will take some time to loosen the old paste. Use specially designed TIM cleaners for this specific rubbing purpose.

Here, the best option is Isopropyl alcohol. Wet the wiper or cloth with the isopropyl alcohol, and then gently remove the thermal paste from the heatsink.

Once all the thermal paste over the heat sink has been removed, repeat the same step again to make sure that the old paste is removed completely. This will make your heatsink surface ready to reapply the thermal paste.

5. Do the same for the Processor

Repeat the same process with the processor. If you found any thermal paste apart from the heatsink, do the same steps mentioned above to clean it. It is advisable not to use a spudger to scrape paste in the CPU because it is more sensitive and gets scratched easily.

Be careful while scraping the old thermal paste and do not allow the old paste to go inside the components which may cause problems in its performance.

Clearly check whether the thermal paste is spilled in any other parts, if so then do the same method for cleaning. Use a compressed-can of CFC based automotive electronic contact cleaner for dried thin thermal paste.

Rarely, Dried thermal paste may enter into the CPU socket and damage the CPU pins. To remove the thermal paste from your sensitive CPU socket or pins, you can use thin Q-tips and don’t touch the unaffected region of the socket. 

Applying New Thermal Paste after removing old paste

Don’t allow your computer to run without thermal paste which may be the reason for the performance issue. After removing the old paste, it is essential to reapply a new thermal paste. Don’t immediately reapply the paste after cleaning the heatsink or CPU with the cleaner or alcohol. Allow it to dry for a few minutes and then apply the paste.

1. Dabbing the paste

Apply the new paste by dabbing it over the Heatsink copper core or processor which you cleaned up. Just apply the high-quality thermal paste as a tiny dot on the surface of the component and the size of the dot should be of pencil point size.

Don’t get panic about applying the new thermal paste to the core of the heat sink. Refer to the manual and do as it is. The same is said in the manual too.

2. Spreading the paste

It is recommended to use hand gloves to apply the paste equally over the core surface. If you use fingertips without gloves, the thermal paste will not get off easily from your fingers.

3. Assemble the system

Once the thermal paste has been reapplied, put every component in the correct place for the system to get ready.


Thermal paste is a small substance that is used to improve the performance of the CPU. It helps the gamers who need better performance computers. The thermal paste may get dried over many years which may cause the processor to overheat.

Check, clean, and replace the thermal paste to avoid damages to your PC. Removing and applying the thermal paste is an easy process, but should be done very carefully.

Thermal pads are also another option for your CPU. Need to find out the difference between thermal paste and thermal pads, then go through our guide on Thermal Paste Vs Thermal Pads.

Hope so, the above article has given you a clear idea to remove the old thermal paste from the CPU, and therefore you won’t struggle in cleaning old thermal paste.

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