GuidesWikiHow Long Does Thermal Paste Last?

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last? [Answered]

We take a deep dive into the discussion of how long thermal paste lasts, and the factors that affect its lifespan.

When applied correctly, thermal paste enhances CPU cooling by enabling proper heat transfer. However, once it runs dry, you should replace it immediately to prevent overheating in your GPU or CPU. So, how long does a thermal paste last? Well, it depends on several factors, such as the quality of the paste and whether you applied it correctly or not.

Key Takeaways

  • It is best to replace thermal paste every 2 to 3 years for optimal CPU/GPU performance.
  • Replace it when the CPU/GPU is overheating or before overclocking.
  • Store the extra paste at room temperature and keep the cap intact to prolong its shelf life.

Thermal pastes have a limited lifespan, and their expiry date is mostly mentioned on the tube or the box. This lifespan varies with brands and quality. Premium ones can last up to 7 years on a chip without needing replacement.

Alseye T9⁺ Platinum Thermal Paste
Alseye T9⁺ Platinum Thermal Paste (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Generally, most thermal compounds can last up to 5 years on your CPU, but manufacturers such as Cooler Master recommend replacing them every two to three years. That’s because different outside factors can cause it to dry out quicker than what the manufacturers rate it for.

Factors Affecting Its Lifespan

While researching, I learned about a few crucial aspects that may negatively affect the lifespan of thermal paste. 

Ambient Temperatures

Room temperature is a crucial factor in determining the frequency of thermal paste replacement. The ambient temperature, unless controlled by air conditioning, influences the operating temperature of your PC.

Based on experience, I recommend running computers at room temperature (around 21°C). Higher room temperatures may force you to replace the thermal paste sooner than normal and cause the CPU to overheat.

Daily Workloads

Long hours of CPU-intensive workloads, particularly CPU-heavy games or productivity tasks, can be another reason. This isn’t a major issue, especially if your CPU temperatures are within safe limits; however, it might cause the thermal paste to dry out faster in the long run. 

Inadequate Cooling Solution

Insufficient cooling from a less powerful CPU cooler can result in higher temperatures during heavy workloads. Prolonged exposure to higher CPU temperatures may cause it to dry out quicker. Therefore, install a good-quality CPU cooler to maintain optimal temperatures and extend the lifespan of thermal paste.

Be Quiet Dark Rock Pro 4 air cooler
Be Quiet Dark Rock Pro 4 Air Cooler (Image By Tech4Gamers)

Dust Buildup Inside Your PC

Dust settling inside your case, especially on the CPU cooler, can impact the thermal paste’s normal operation. Dust on and around the components can interrupt the airflow, while dust on your CPU cooler can impact its ability to dissipate heat efficiently. 

Make sure the inside of your case is free from dust by using compressed air or an air blower. Also, clean the PC fans regularly to avoid dust buildup.

Dust build-up inside computer case.
Dust Build-Up Inside Computer Case (Image By Tech4Gamers)
WARNING: Excessive dust on your device internals may cause device failure.”

When To Replace It? 

There are several instances where you may need to apply a new layer of thermal paste and clean the older layer off the CPU or your GPU, such as when;

  • The CPU shows signs of overheating very frequently.
  • Reinstalling your CPU Cooler.
  • Overclocking your CPU or GPU.
  • The older application has dried out.
Tip: Use an alcohol swab to ensure that no residue is left.

How Long Does It Last in The Tube? 

Regarding shelf life, thermal paste should not be stored for more than two years. It differs according to local temperatures, but I have a few guidelines you can follow to prolong it, like keeping the cap closed to prevent air exposure and oxidation and storing it at room temperature, away from direct sunlight.

 

Replacing the thermal paste every two to three years is a practice I follow to ensure maximum CPU cooler performance. Personally, I buy one gram tube of thermal paste whenever required since it is enough for three applications. Doing so avoids wastage.

FAQs

How Often Should I Replace My Thermal Paste?

It’s a good practice to replace it once every two or three years or when you start facing high CPU temperatures out of the blue.

How Do I Recognize Dried Thermal Paste?

The paste should have the same consistency and thickness as when you first applied it. Do not apply if it looks dried out, solid, or flaky, and get a new one.

How Do I Know If My Thermal Paste Has Dried Out?

If you’re facing high CPU or GPU temperatures and haven’t replaced the thermal paste in a year or so, it has likely dried out.


More Guides About Lifespan:

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