Thermal compound is a sticky paste placed directly onto the CPU or another IC for a more direct heat transfer between the chip and the heat sink. Thermal compound also prevents air gaps from forming between the CPU and heat sink. This compound is an inexpensive solution and can be found at any place selling computer parts. The picture shows an Arctic Silver thermal compound dispenser and an older CPU with thermal compound.
Thermal compound can also be referred to as heat dope, heat sink jelly, heat sink paste, heat sink compound, thermal gunk, thermo paste, and silicon compound.
Do I need thermal compound for my CPU?
Yes. As mentioned above, the thermal compound (along with your computer's fans) is what helps direct heat away from the CPU. Without this compound, your CPU may overheat, possibly causing multiple problems.
How do I clean thermal compound from the CPU and heat sink?
To remove thermal compound, apply a small amount of high percentage isopropyl alcohol to a paper towel and rub gently. Some OEM computer manufacturers use graphite or thermal pads instead of compound. If you're changing heat sinks or overclocking your PC and need to apply a new layer of thermal compound make, sure to remove this pad first.
How do I apply or reapply thermal compound to the CPU?
To apply the thermal compound, spread a very thin layer onto the CPU using a flat tool such as a postcard, a piece of paper or plastic, credit card, etc.
Remember less is more when applying thermal compound to the CPU.
Do NOT use your bare fingers to apply the compound, as they contain oils and other substances that can cause issues. If you do need to use your finger, cover it with plastic or use a glove.