While applying thermal paste to a CPU, accidents can happen, and sometimes the paste might find its way onto the CPU pins. This can be a cause for concern, as the pins are delicate and crucial for the CPU’s functionality. Cleaning them requires precision and care. The major trick? A soft bristled toothbrush dipped in isopropyl alcohol (or a thermal grease remover). You might not think it, but using a soft toothbrush is one of the safest ways to clean in between the pins without bending, breaking, or damaging them. As long as you don’t press too hard, you should be able to clean thermal paste from the bottom side of your CPU after a few rounds.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to safely clean thermal paste off CPU pins.
Understanding the Importance of CPU Pins
CPU pins, or the gold connectors at the bottom of some CPUs, play a vital role in connecting the CPU to the motherboard, ensuring data transfer and power delivery. Any obstruction, like thermal paste, can hinder this connection, potentially causing system malfunctions.
Materials You’ll Need
- Isopropyl Alcohol (90% or higher): Effective in dissolving thermal paste without causing damage.
- Soft Toothbrush: Useful for gentle scrubbing.
- Cotton Swabs: For detailed cleaning.
- Gloves: To prevent oils from your hands from transferring.
- Dry microfiber cloth: For wiping away any residue
PRO TIP: The Arcticlean cleaning kit by Arctic Silver is recommended. It consists of an emulsifying agent and a purification component.
Steps to Clean Thermal Paste off CPU Pins
- Safety Precautions: Ensure your computer is turned off and unplugged. Work in a static-free environment, preferably using an anti-static wrist strap.
- Gently Hold the CPU: With gloves on, hold the CPU by its edges, ensuring you don’t exert pressure on the pins.
- Dip the Toothbrush: Lightly dip the toothbrush into the isopropyl alcohol. Shake off any excess to ensure it’s damp, not wet.
- Gentle Brushing: Very gently, brush the pins in a direction perpendicular to their alignment. This helps ensure you don’t bend them. The goal is to loosen the thermal paste.
- Detailing with Cotton Swabs: For areas with more stubborn thermal paste, use a cotton swab lightly dampened with isopropyl alcohol. Gently dab, don’t rub, the affected areas.
- Air Dry: Allow the CPU to air dry for several minutes. Isopropyl alcohol evaporates quickly, so this shouldn’t take long.
- Inspect: Once dry, inspect the pins to ensure all traces of thermal paste are removed and no pins are bent.
What Not to Do:
- Don’t rush the process.
- Avoid bending the CPU pins.
- Don’t remove large chunks of paste at once.
- Avoid using excessive force.
Do Thermal Paste Removal Kits (Like Arcticlean) Work?
Yes! ArctiClean is a two-step cleaning process that removes existing thermal grease or pads and prepares the thermal surface for a fresh application of thermal interface material. If you’re dealing with a serious thermal grease issue (or if you clean off thermal paste enough times to justify buying it) we highly recommend picking up a kit.
The two step process works like this:
ArctiClean 1 Thermal Material Remover quickly emulsifies and dissolves the existing thermal grease or pad from the CPU and/or heatsink so that it can easily be removed with a clean cloth or paper towel.
ArctiClean 2 Thermal Surface Purifier and some gentle wiping then removes the remaining residue and inhibits flash corrosion on copper or aluminum.
In the case of thermal paste in between your CPU pins you would still want to use a soft toothbrush but the process is otherwise the same.
Reapplying Thermal Paste:
- Apply a new layer of thermal paste to the CPU’s heatsink in a thin, even layer.
- Carefully place the CPU’s heatsink back, ensuring the paste spreads uniformly.
- Secure the CPU cooler in place.
Is the Thermal Paste Conductive?
- Determine if your thermal paste is electrically conductive. Ceramic-based pastes are non-conductive, while metal-based pastes are conductive and can short-circuit components.
- Carbon-based thermal pastes have very low electrical conductivity and typically don’t pose a risk of short-circuiting.
- If the paste is conductive and gets between the CPU socket and pins, it can prevent proper contact, leading to boot issues or system instability.
CPU Socket Types:
- Pin Grid Array (PGA): This socket type has holes that mate with the CPU pins. Thermal paste can block these holes, preventing proper contact.
- Land Grid Array (LGA): This socket type has pins that mate with holes on the CPU. Thermal paste can get into these holes, causing similar issues.
Cleaning thermal paste off CPU pins can be a nerve-wracking task due to the delicacy of the pins. However, with patience, the right tools, and a gentle touch, you can effectively remove the paste without causing damage. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. When applying thermal paste, ensure it’s done away from the pins to avoid such mishaps.
However, with patience and the right instructions, anyone can effectively clean off excess thermal paste from their CPU and motherboard.
- What if I bend a CPU pin during cleaning?
- If a pin gets bent, very gently use a plastic tool or credit card to realign it. However, extreme caution is needed as pins can break easily.
- Can I use any other cleaning solution besides isopropyl alcohol?
- Isopropyl alcohol is recommended due to its effectiveness and quick evaporation. Avoid water or other solutions that might leave residues.
- How long should I wait before reinstalling the CPU after cleaning?
- Once the CPU is completely dry, which usually takes a few minutes with isopropyl alcohol, it can be safely reinstalled.
- Is it safe to turn on the computer if there’s a slight residue left?
- It’s crucial to ensure all residues are removed before turning on the computer to prevent short circuits or malfunctions.
- How can I prevent thermal paste from getting on the pins in the future?
- When applying thermal paste, use a minimal amount and ensure it’s centered on the CPU’s top surface, away from the edges and pins.
- Is it bad if thermal paste gets on CPU pins?
- It can hamper the pins and socket connection, but it’s not harmful to the CPU itself.
- What should I do if I get thermal paste on my CPU pins?
- Use Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol to clean it, and scrape off tiny chunks with a toothpick.
- How do you remove thermal paste from CPU pins on Intel CPUs?
- Intel CPUs typically have pins on the motherboard. Use Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol to clean the paste.
When I’m not writing about tech I’m playing with my dog or hanging out with my girlfriend.
Shoot me a message at email@example.com if you want to see a topic discussed or have a correction on something I’ve written.