Does thermal paste expire? How long does thermal paste last? Does unopened thermal paste expire? How long does the thermal paste behind your CPU last?
This guide answers these questions and other related questions you might want to ask about thermal paste.
We begin by looking at what thermal is and what it is used for.
What is thermal paste used for?
Thermal paste also referred to as heat sink compound, CPU grease, thermal gel, or thermal grease serves as an interface between heat sinks and heat sources like semiconductor devices such as GPUs and CPUs.
They aid heat transfer and removal by getting rid of the air gaps from the interface between heat sinks and heat sources. In simple terms, they prevent overheating of the semiconductor devices like GPUs and CPUs.
Most thermal pastes are made of big quantities of filers that conduct heat, but do not conductor electrical current, as well as liquid matrix that can be polymerized.
Does thermal paste expire?
In a word: yes. Thermal paste does expire. Does unopened thermal paste in a tube expire? Yes, unopened thermal paste in a tube does expire.
What is the lifespan on a tube of thermal paste?
Thermal paste still in a tube, or unused thermal paste has a shelve life like most products. Generally, most thermal pastes in tubes last two years minimum. If stored correctly, following the guidelines on its label, some may last over five years.
However, it is better to check the expiry date on the thermal paste tube. Again, store it properly and you can still use it even after it has expired.
It is worth noting that a thermal compound’s content may contribute to its lifespan.
How long can thermal paste sit?
Most high-quality thermal pastes (we are looking at you, Arctic Silver) will sit for three to four years on a CPU. If you purchase a low-quality thermal paste, expect a lower lifespan. Of course, thermal paste on a hot-running CPU will dry out faster, too.
How to store thermal paste
We recommend keeping it in its tube, away from children. You could store in a drawer. If you’ve opened and used it previously, make sure you screw the cap very tight before storing.
Keeping it in a cool area devoid of heat and fire is the best thing to do. Make sure the place you intend storing it is not so cold or so hot. You’ll get the most out of a thermal paste if you store it correctly.
One other best practice is to follow other storage guidelines outlined on the tube by the manufacturer.
The next time you pick it up, you may notice that the tip of the paste is a little harder than the rest. This is normal.
Is it okay to use old thermal paste?
Yes. Just make sure it is stored correctly and it is not dried out.
What happens if you don’t use thermal paste?
Not applying a thermal paste between the CPU and the heat sink may lead to CPU throttling which could lead to damage.
Is it OK to let thermal paste set overnight?
Yes, it is OK to let a thermal paste set overnight. Make sure the thermal paste is applied correctly and be sure to secure your heat sink properly following the manufacturer’s installation guidelines.
Does thermal paste need to be replaced?
Yes, thermal paste that has lost its qualities needs to be replaced. When a thermal compound becomes completely solid, or completely liquid, it is time to get a new one. A degraded thermal paste may lose its effectiveness and ability to cool your CPU.
How often to replace thermal paste on CPU?
You may change a thermal paste on a CPU every three to four years. Some people re-apply thermal paste every time they do massive maintenance.
As we mentioned previously, thermal paste on a hot-running CPU will dry out faster.
Be sure to follow the CPU manufacturer’s specifications on methods of applying thermal pastes correctly.
How to know if thermal paste is good
A thermal compound that has become completely solid, or completely liquid, is no longer fit for purpose.
What is the best alternative to thermal paste?
Toothpaste, Vaseline (petroleum jelly), silicone grease and hair wax can serve as temporary substitutes to the thermal pastes available on the market.
Cooled air is a decent alternative, too.
That being said, a tube of thermal paste is cheap and remains the most effective, so we highly recommend getting one rather than these alternatives.
Can you add new thermal paste without removing the old paste?
It is always good to remove/clean the old thermal paste before applying a new one if you want the thermal paste to be effective. Clean the CPU and heat sink with alcohol before applying new thermal paste.
Now you know that thermal pastes expire. If you follow our tips, you’ll get the most out of any thermal paste you purchase. Be sure to store your thermal paste correctly.
We hope this guide has answered your question.