Have you noticed the small pouch they hand you when you’re out to buy a CPU? That, my dear friend… is a packet full of thermal paste. Don’t be fooled. Despite how small the quantity is, this thing is pretty important. You see, our PCs can’t cool themselves. They need something to kickstart the process.
Thermal Paste happens to be the catalyst that does it.
Positive side of a thermal paste? It can cool off insanely hot temperature levels. Bad side of thermal paste? It goes bad. I mean, eventually. However, we can extend the lifespan by taking precautions.
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about apocalypse-level precautions here. You just have to store this thing in the “Right” environment to be effective for a long time.
In this article, we’ll be talking about whether thermal paste expires or not. Also, the lifespan of this thing in a tube or in general. Let’s get to it then, shall we?
What is Thermal Paste Exactly?
Simply put, it’s a kind of paste you put on CPUs. Want a complex answer? It’s a conductive compound. We put it between the chip and heatsink. This paste is very good at eliminating air gaps. Good thermal paste will help with quick heat dissipation. Sometimes, it transfers heat as well.
Thermal paste can be of several qualities if you put it to the test. Most often, we use it when overclocking our CPUs and GPUs. If you don’t maintain these things well, they won’t be able to bring the temperature down and you’ll lose your precious investment. Simple!
Does Thermal Paste Expire?
Like every other product, thermal paste has a shelf life as well. In hostile conditions, you can expect this to hold out for one or two years. If you keep the surroundings optimized and well-maintained… good thermal pastes can last up to 3 – 5 years. After that, it WILL go bad and you’ll need replacements.
By well-maintained, I mean keeping the thing in a cool environment. Don’t go putting the tube into a freezer. Just away from the sun will do. Also, keep the lid of the tube tightly closed.
You’ll see different brands of thermal pastes out there as well. Each brand has its own manufacturing formula. How long the paste is good for, depends on the formula as well.
Depending on the materials used in the making of these things, you’ll have different heat transmission rates. The amount of heat transfer is measured with Watt-per-Meter-Kelvin or W/mK.
How Long Does Thermal Paste Last in the Tube?
So, what happens if I properly store thermal paste? Well, it’ll last longer. Probably five years. But within a well-maintained tube, the shelf life for these things increases exponentially.
For example, Grizzley Kryonaut Extreme might be good for five years. But… Arctic MX-4 can stay usable for up to eight or more years.
When to know these things are dying out? They’ll lose moisture and be a bit flakey for a start. Eventually, these pastes will be rock hard.
Tips to Delay the Inevitable!
Now, we certainly won’t keep these things usable forever. Diamonds are forever, thermal pastes… are not. But we can follow some tips and keep them around for a long time. Let’s see what can be done to extend their shelf lives, shall we?
- I’d buy these things in small quantities. These are not things you store in your house and don’t use. Buy as much as you need. Not a dime more.
- Make sure to close the lid or cap at the end of the tube well. Tighten it after each use. This way, there won’t be any leak.
- Make sure to clean the end of the syringe or the tube. Otherwise, extra bit of thermal paste will clog it and harden at the end. Also, make sure you don’t let any air inside as well. This will harm heat conductive particles inside. We don’t want that, do we?
- Don’t expose your thermal paste to direct sunlight or any other hot area. I’d not take it to my basement either. Too much heat is bad. I mean BAD.
- Keep the surrounding storage cool like I said. But not too cool. This will harden the compound. It could turn smelly (and not in a good way) as well.
When Should I Replace My Thermal Paste?
Hey, sometimes you’ve got to throw things away. Even when they’re usable. Thermal paste is not an exception either. Yes… replacing them is probably a good idea in some cases. Let us count the numbers!
- Replace thermal paste when you’re changing the heatsink of your CPU or GPU. Make sure to clean the heatsink and the chip thoroughly. If you don’t replace the paste, air pockets will form and heat transmission will go out the window. Worst case scenario, a servicing will be in order.
- If you’re not a fan of removing your coolers regularly, be sure to change thermal paste whenever you do. That is, in every two or three years. High-End pastes will last for seven years. But still. This is because, not all pastes are equally cable of holding off heat when needed.
My Last Two Cents
Thermal pastes might not cost you much but these things are vital to your PCs performance. GPUs and CPUs will shoot in the dark without them. Consider this for a second: Dried out thermal pastes will cause either of the two to overheat and lose the edge when gaming and rendering videos.
Do you want that? No? We thought so as well! This is why you need to switch out the old ones in favor of some new blood in two to three years. Before they get all cranky on you. It’s best to search for the best options while you still can.
Surprise! We’ve got you covered there as well. Check out our article on the best thermal pastes money can help you buy.