Can You Use CPU Thermal Paste on GPU?

Computers have moving components that run on electricity. We know that electricity produces heat. As a result,  internal components in a computer tend to get hot. 

Thankfully, we have mechanisms to control CPU temperatures, such as fans, cooling systems, and thermal paste.

You might already be familiar with liquid coolers and fans, but thermal paste might sound novel, right?

A thermal paste has the consistency of toothpaste, but it can mold into small shapes you can spread on CPUs. Thermal Pastes do the job of drawing heat away from your CPU. 

While thermal pastes are used in CPUs, many people wonder if we can use them on a GPU. Let us not waste any time and find out!

GPU Thermal Paste: The Basics

Why Does GPU Need Thermal Paste?

You might have some idea about thermal paste if you use computers for heavy tasks, but there is a misconception that thermal pastes are only for CPUs.

The reality is that even GPUs tend to get hot, so they also need some way to stay cool. Both CPUs and GPUs have comparable similarities. Just like CPUs, GPUs need to do large-scale computations to render complex graphics. 

Rendering images take a lot of energy, and that can result in heat. GPUs produce a lot of heat, so they can definitely benefit from the thermal paste. 

A new GPU comes with thermal paste already applied so when you are applying thermal paste manually to a GPU, you need to know exactly how old the GPU is. 

If your graphics card is less than 3 to 5 years old, you probably won’t need to open it up to add more thermal paste. 

We recommend that you check the internal temperature of your new graphics card to find the normal temperature range. This can help you accurately tell whether your card is running hot or not. 

How Much Thermal Paste to Use On GPU?

If your GPU temperature gets abnormally higher, it might be the perfect time to apply some thermal paste. But how much paste you should use is a question that many people struggle with. 

We recommend you apply the thermal paste in a pea-sized amount over the appropriate area. 

If you use more than a pea-sized amount, it might make it a bit difficult to screw on your GPU’s back, and it can even damage your GPU if you just cram it into its place. 

If you are using a conductive thermal paste, it could cause even more problems. Cheap thermal pastes have conductive components that can increase the electricity passed to the GPU and its temperature.

What’s The Lifespan and How Often to Replace GPU Thermal Paste?

If you have a new GPU, the thermal paste inside it will probably last you for about 3 to 5 years. But if you use a good quality paste, it can last longer than 5 years. 

While manufacturers recommend applying thermal paste regularly, it’s not really necessary. Just apply a good one when you do. 

If you notice a huge problem in your GPU, it is best to replace the thermal paste. For instance, if your computer is overheating in an idle condition (while performing light tasks), you should definitely change the thermal paste. 

However, you should remember that other factors like environment, fans, and dust can impact GPU temperature.

Can you use CPU thermal paste on GPU?

Let us first understand the difference in the manufacturing of CPU and GPU. 

GPUs are manufactured as end products that consumers don’t have to tweak. They can simply buy and install a GPU without much issue. 

CPUs, on the other hand, are completely customizable. You can add your own cooling system, your own thermal paste, fans, and more. 

Having said that, GPU thermal pastes can stop working with time, and in such conditions, you need to apply a thermal paste. But if you go to the market, you won’t necessarily get a GPU-specific paste. As a result, you have to apply CPU thermal paste.

But will that work? Well, Yes.

Provided you use a good-quality CPU thermal paste on your GPU, it should definitely work. 

How To Spread Out CPU Thermal Paste on GPU?

You don’t really need to spread out the thermal paste. You could either apply a dot of it or apply it in a criss-cross fashion. When applying the thermal paste, you need to put the heatsink back in, which will automatically spread the paste for you. 

Here’s how you can do it: 

Step 1  –  The first step is to get everything ready. You will need three things:

  • A Microfiber Cloth or a Cotton Q-Tip 
  • Cleaning Alcohol (Isopropyl)
  • Replacement Paste

Step 2  – Since the chip already has some thermal paste on it, you need to remove it. Just soak the microfiber cloth in cleaning alcohol and eliminate any excessive remains of the earlier thermal paste. Use the exact method on the heat sink as well, it also has some thermal paste. 

Step 3 –  Apply just a dot of thermal paste on the GPU chip and place the heatsink back. This method will automatically spread the dot of thermal paste.

Step 4 – Finally, screw back the heatsink, and you are good to go.

Best CPU Thermal Pastes for GPUs

While there are tons of good CPU thermal pastes you can use with a GPU, here are our recommendations:

Artic MX 4

The Artic MX 4 has a tried and tested formula that offers proven quality. The paste comes in the most optimized packaging. In terms of performance, the paste is made with carbon which has high thermal conductivity i.e., it can dissipate more heat from the GPU. 

As the Artic MX4 is free of any metal and non-electrical conductive material, it doesn’t risk short-circuiting. You can rest assured that this paste will protect your GPUs. 

Moving on to durability, the silicon thermal compound promises 8 years of protection from heat, which is quite a great deal if you ask us.

And finally, this paste is super easy to apply even if you have never applied a thermal paste before.

Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut

Most gamers want to overclock their GPUs and squeeze every bit of performance they can out of their device. The Thermal Grizzly Hydronaut is an excellent choice if you are also a hardcore gamer!

This thermal paste is designed for large heatsinks that come with premium Graphics cards. The Grizzly Hydronaut comes with a syringe design that is convenient to use. The design also makes it easy to apply.

When it comes to heat conduction, the thermal grizzly is great. In addition to CPUs and GPUs, you can also use this thermal paste on consoles like PS 3/4/5, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. 

Artic Silver 5 

The biggest strength of the Artic Silver 5 is its pure micronized silver compound, which is non-electrically conductive. As a result, the thermal paste will keep your GPU cool even if there is no electricity passed to it. 

In addition to the micronized silver, this paste also contains sub-micron zinc oxide, aluminum oxide, and boron nitride particles, which make the thermal conductivity impressive. You can use this thermal paste with both a heatsink and a liquid cooling system.

When to NOT use thermal paste on GPU?

There are some conditions and cases where applying a thermal paste might not be a good idea. Here are three cases you should take into consideration: 

It’s not necessary to apply thermal paste if your GPU is new. Manufacturers already put thermal paste while assembling the GPU.

So, unless you have some glaring problem with your GPU, it’s best to leave it untouched (at least until the warranty period expires). 

If there are no issues with the GPU, you don’t really need to apply thermal paste. We recommend you gauge the temperature of your GPU when you first get it. This way, you can easily figure out if the GPU has some problem down the line. 

There are some situations where your GPU hardware isn’t the one causing the increased temperature. It might be because of some bug in the game you are playing, an unreliable driver update, or some other software issue. In such a situation, don’t apply thermal paste

5 Tips to Remember While Applying Thermal Paste

Applying thermal paste can seem daunting for a beginner. And there are many mistakes that you can make. So, here are 5 tips you need to remember: 

Choose a Good Thermal Paste

It is very important to choose a good thermal paste. Since you have to apply it once every 5-8 years, don’t go cheap. Get the one that has a nice price-to-quality ratio. 

Get Everything Ready Beforehand

You need to prepare your screws, cleaning compound, microfiber cloth, and thermal paste beforehand.  

Don’t Forget to Clean the Heatsink

Many people clean the chip but miss out on the heatsink. Don’t make that mistake. Clean the heatsink first!

Use Either the‘ Pea’ or ‘Cross’ Method

While squeezing out the thermal coat, we recommend you either squeeze it like toothpaste (but only squeeze out pea-sized) or use the Cross method and apply the paste in a Cross fashion. 

Screw Everything Back

Once you have applied the thermal paste, screw back in everything properly. Also, keep the screws safe. Many beginners lose screws while applying GPU thermal paste for the first time.

FAQs 

Can I apply thermal paste on GPU?

Yes, you can definitely apply thermal paste on a GPU. Just don’t make the mistake of applying it when your GPU doesn’t need it. But if your GPU is running very hot, it makes sense to clean it up and apply a fresh coat of thermal paste. 

What are some best thermal pastes for GPU?

Answer: Thermal pastes from Artic and Thermal Grizzly work best with GPU. Other popular thermal paste brands include Corsair and Cooler Master. 

Is CPU thermal paste different from GPU?

No, CPU thermal pastes are not different from GPU. You can use any CPU thermal paste on your GPU. But make sure you apply the paste properly. 

Does thermal paste affect GPU performance?

Of course it does. The thermal paste acts as a layer of protection from external and internal heat to the GPU. It conducts the heat away from the chip. 

Is 93-degree celsius hot for a GPU?

It depends on the GPU. Some newer ones, like the RTX 3080, can operate at a temperature of 93-degree celsius, but we cannot say the same for the earlier generation of GPUs. 

Final Words 

Using a thermal paste on an old GPU can give it a new life. Most GPUs slow down when they can’t keep themselves cool, impacting your gaming performance. 

While you don’t have to constantly apply thermal paste on a GPU, applying it every few years will definitely be fruitful.

If you are considering applying a thermal paste on your GPU, why not check out the ones mentioned in this blog?