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Thermal paste (and PC heatsinks).


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Thermal paste. It's the stuff we usually don't give a shit about. But it's a vital component where its services are needed.


Back in the old days I just had this tube of white stuff I'd squirt out and be done with it. Today we have 50 brands and types on the market. Some are lame others are remarkably efficient - like the liquid metal. But there are trade-offs.


The Silicon and Carbon ones offer good performance. The Silver metal type is better. And the Liquid Metal (Gallium) seems to offer the best conductivity - at a price. An extraordinarily high price. Like your waterblock or CPU itself. Yeh. The stuff is destructive! The standard run-of-the-mill pastes don't corrode or react with anything. But the Liquid Metal stuff erodes Copper, forms a powdered alloy from Aluminum, or pits your CPU's Zinc/Copper heatspreader. The stuff is just plain nasty for the few extra degrees lower temperature.


So putting that shit aside, what brands/types of thermal compound have you all used? And what ones do you think are good for longevity? Personally I liked Dynex from BB years ago. Today it would be Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut or Arctic MX-4.


While MX-4 isn't the highest performing paste, it does last a long time. Kryonaut is good for a few years at most, but it's nearly 2x the performance. Both appear safe on die-to-metal or metal-to-metal contact.


TRIVIA: I recall some vintage consoles having the white thermal grease on a clip-on 40-pin DIP heatsink.

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Side note. It was all the rage (and somewhat still is), this liquid metal crap. Sure it drops the temps, but a year later the stuff turns to powder from reacting with your EXPENSIVE parts. And not only that, the powder is an ingredient in explosives. Not saying your PC is gonna 'splode on you or anything. But this powder is rough grained and now acts like an insulator and your parts run (and then fail) like as if they had NO heatsink on them whatsoever!


Why the hell do they promote this fucking shit? How did it become a fad? Goddamned youtubers cost me a customer! Them fuckers.


See. I was building out an emulation/gaming computer. And the customer got wind of this metal paste stuff. And I wouldn't use it, not even for an extra fee or any amount of convincing. Guy went elsewhere for his build. Asshole.. I'm waiting him to come to myself or my buddy for repairs or a re-build!


This liquid metal is like the PC equivalent of stop-leak!



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If you do not need the tack propertied is the past to hold the heatsink on (clipped on) then you might want to consider using a thermal pad instead. I tend to use them wherever I can instead of the paste as it is less messy and does not dry out and deteriorate over time like the paste does.

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I'm interested in longevity and not having to service the paste again. And being an FE in a SFF case every bit of conductance will help. Was thinking about MX-4 as that's supposedly got an 8-year lifespan. Or maybe a Carbonaut graphite pad.


Liquid metal is not an option due to how it stains the die and turns to powder after a year or so. Not interested in broscience or ohverclockzherzing or forthnight kiddieshit.





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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/7/2020 at 10:23 AM, Keatah said:

What do you believe is the best thermal pad?


I remember seeing this with a day or tow of it being posted and forgot to reply.


I have only use them from two manufactures, Warth who I believe originally developed them and Burgquist. I don't think Warth exist anymore but both worked well, after that which you get depends on several things....

1) Conductivity, if in doubt get electrically isolating rather than conducting

2)  Shape, you can get them in pre-cut shapes for many common package outlines or a sheet if you want create your own

3) Thermal resistance/conductivity, generally the higher the power dissipation the lower the resistance/greater conductance you need, you could do the math but I generally just go for the best available as it is better to be overrated for maximum effect than underrated.

4) Adhesion, some have a sticky side that allow you to stick them to the component (or heatsink) to help keep them in place during assemble.  

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I sometimes wonder if a thermal pad has the necessary resolution or granularity to ensure that heat from every possible spot on the die is absorbed and transferred to the cooling device. A pad that isn't fine-grained enough may not grab heat from an arbitrary core or spot - and allow that section to overheat and throttle.


Thermal pastes are high-resolution, down to nanometers and smaller.


And what about squishout? They say it's a problem with paste. But. If it's squishing out, that means two surfaces are in 100% contact in that area. Places where it doesn't squish out are separated and need something there. And pastes aren't going to squish from microscopic crevices either.

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I'm sure the included paste from AMD is fine. I heard it was long-lived and I don't doubt that millions of installations using it are working fine. Same with the little dab that Intel prints on heatsinks included with boxed processors.


I usually do it in three steps. And its worked well for me over the decades.

1- Apply just enough to barely cover the laser-engraved text on the IHS.

2- Apply an impossibly thin amount to the heatsink. Just enough to still see the copper underneath.

3- Place a small-popcorn-seed size blob in the middle and then assemble.


I like to massage it around and do my best to ensure it gets in the valleys and imperfections in the metals. Step three is important because as you assemble there is the possibility of trapping bubbles in there. The blob in the center squishes out. Much like Haboob moving across town. Fills in every possible space.

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