PC Components

Can Thermal Paste Dry Out? (9 Things You Should Know!)

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Many people wonder whether the thermal paste dries out or not; if you are looking for this query, you are in the right place.

I am a PC builder, and in the last couple of years, I have built numerous PCs; here in this article, I will provide you the answer to your question about whether the thermal paste dries out or not?

So, Can Thermal Paste Dry Out?

Yes! Thermal paste can dry out, but it does not happen suddenly; it will take at least 2 to 3 years. In some instances, it will take more time to dry out if the paste is made from standard materials. 

Usually, thermal paste is a thermally conductive chemical compound, and it is a paste-like material. Its lifespan is pretty long. If you protect the paste properly, then it will take too much time before drying out.

I know that you still have many questions regarding this topic; all of your questions are discussed below. So, keep reading this article till the end.

How Long Does it take for Thermal Paste to Dry Out?

If the thermal paste is appropriately applied inside the CPU and heatsink, it will take a long time to dry out.

Usually, when will thermal paste dry? That depends on what materials the paste is made of.

If the paste is made from excellent material, it will last years without drying. But if the thermal paste isn’t made of good quality, it will dry up within 2 to 3 years. 

The default thermal paste that comes with PCs and laptops is not so good; therefore, many experts recommend replacing the paste between 2 to 3 years.

Overall, it has to be said that, on average, a thermal paste takes 2 to 3 years to dry up completely. So, it’s a good idea to replace the paste within that time range.

Does Thermal Paste Dry Out in Air?

Generally, Thermal paste doesn’t dry out in the air; it is a paste-like material that is not exposed to the air, but most PC builders do not recommend using this thermal paste. 

Thermal paste is the seal between your processor and heat sink. When you pull it apart, the airtight seal that was only filled with thermal paste before now had air introduced. When you reinstall the heatsink without using a new thermal paste, there is a chance that you have air bubbles trapped in between along with the thermal paste.

However, this will not harm you as long as you are within safe temperatures, but you may see a little increase in temperature.

Also Read: Is Thermal Paste Bad for Motherboards?

Is Dry Thermal Paste Bad?

Yes! the dried thermal paste is a bad thing; it is worse than no paste at all. 

Experts don’t recommend using a dried thermal paste at all because it can increase your CPU’s temperature and generate too much heat, which can further damage your CPU, motherboards, and other PC components.

If you have realized that your thermal paste dried out and you do not have an extra thermal paste, in this matter, you need to clean the old thermal paste & you can use toothpaste.

Although toothpaste also dries out quickly, it will be ok to use the toothpaste instead of the dried thermal paste for a day or two.

What Causes Thermal Paste to Dry?

There are no such major issues that can suddenly dry out your thermal paste, but there are reasons that can slowly dry out your thermal paste.

The first thing that dries the thermal paste is the age of the thermal paste. Over time the efficacy of thermal paste degrades. You need to replace your old thermal paste every 2 to 3 years.

Secondly, if you open your motherboard often and keep the motherboard open, then there is a chance that your paste will dry quickly because it keeps in touch with air bubbles.

Dried Thermal Paste Symptoms

Many people are wondering about the symptoms of the dried thermal paste; here, I have explained the symptoms.

Usually, there are only two options in front of you to check whether the thermal paste has dried out or not. The first way to check this is by disassembling the CPU cooler and heatsink. This method is very complicated, and many beginner PC builders become unable to check in this manner.

So, it’s always a better option to go for the second method. If your CPU becomes 2 to 3 years old, you will notice the symptoms of excessive temperature rise in the processor and the computer turning off or throttling back in performance.

Moreover, you will often notice that your CPU temperature goes higher than 70-degree celsius while performing general tasks.

If you are facing such issues, it is due to expired or dried thermal paste, and you should have to replace the paste immediately; otherwise, it will damage your PC components.

Also Read: Does GPU Need Thermal Paste?

Can You Use Dried-up Thermal Paste?

No! Using dried thermal paste isn’t recommended at all; in fact, dried thermal paste is worse than no paste at all. 

Thermal paste is a paste-like material present inside the heatsinks and the CPU cooler. It dissipates the heat from the CPU and keeps the system components cool.

If the thermal paste dries up, it will lose its efficacy, and it will become unable to transfer the heat from the components. As a result, tremendous heat will be generated inside your systems, eventually damaging your system’s components.

Therefore, experts recommend replacing the thermal paste time by time instead of using the dried thermal paste.

How to Clean Dry Thermal Paste?

To clean the dried thermal paste from your system, you mainly require two things- The first thing you need is a cotton cloth, and the second thing you need is IsopropyL alcohol (You can buy this alcohol from amazon).

After arranging both the things, disassemble the CPU cooler from the CPU to remove the paste.

Now, use the cotton cloth dipped inside the IsopropyL alcohol, and then gently wipe the dry thermal paste. Otherwise, you can also put a little bit of thermal paste at the centre of the CPU and remove the paste with the dry cotton cloth; the choice is yours.

While cleaning the old thermal paste, you should avoid leaving any fibres on the processor.

Does Pre Applied Thermal Paste Dry

Yes! Pre-applied thermal paste can dry up, but it doesn’t happen suddenly; it will take a few years before it dries up. 

The quality of the pre-applied thermal paste is not so superior; therefore, its lifespan is shorter than a good brand’s thermal paste.

Because of the quality of the pre-applied thermal paste, it dries up quickly compared to aftermarket Thermal paste brands.

Also Read: Does Thermal Paste Need to be Replaced?

Non-Drying Thermal Paste

There is nothing like Non-drying thermal paste. Thermal paste will eventually dry up after a period, but good brands’ thermal paste lasts longer.

The pre-applied thermal paste’s life duration is around 2 to 3 years, while an aftermarket good quality brands thermal paste’s lifespan is about 4 to 5 years. That’s why it is recommended to use an aftermarket thermal paste; at least it will not dry up quickly.

If you are looking for such a long-lasting thermal paste, you can go for ARCTIC MX-4 Premium Performance Thermal Paste.

The durability of this thermal paste is so long, and it is one of the most sold thermal pastes on Amazon (More than 45000 people provide good ratings about this thermal paste).

Final Thoughts

Based on all the facts, it has to be said that thermal paste doesn’t dry up suddenly; it will take 2 to 3 years to dry up the thermal paste. But it’s a good habit to replace the thermal paste time by time.

I hope this article is helpful for you & if you want to know more about thermal paste, PC Components, and other technology-related things, then keep following this blog regularly.

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Hey there! 👋 I'm Francis MD, a multi-talented medical doctor with an insatiable thirst for knowledge: data analysis, software developent, and other techs. When I'm not saving lives or crunching numbers, you'll find me fueling my passion for sports as a Capoeirista or Animal Flowist. In addition, I have a hidden identity as a self-proclaimed connoisseur of super-hero movies and comics. 🦸‍♂️Whether it's Marvel or DC, you can bet that I've got all the geeky trivia up my sleeve.