Do Gaming Laptops Need Thermal Paste?

One of the main advantages of gaming laptops over regular ones is their processing power. Gaming laptops have more powerful processing units, allowing them to be much faster and risk overheating more often. There are many ways to avoid overheating in a laptop, including using thermal paste.

Why It Is Necessary

Gaming laptops should have thermal paste because they can easily overheat. It helps remove the heat from the CPU and disperse it uniformly.

Overheating is a significant issue for all computers and laptops. The Central Processing Unit generates a lot of heat even when working normally.

However, when using a particularly complex program or running multiple tasks simultaneously, the CPU risks overheating, slows your computer down, and permanently damages it at worst.

Applying new thermal paste to a gaming laptop.

Gaming laptops, in particular, are at risk of overheating because they are made to run CPU and GPU-heavy games and programs.

Of course, the CPU has its built-in heat sink that disperses the heat, but sometimes the heat doesn’t get transferred properly.

As a result, the thermal paste becomes necessary to facilitate this transfer.

Thermal paste is a substance made of thermal interface materials, which can easily remove and disperse heat from the CPU.

The best thing about this material is that it has the consistency of a paste, so it just fills cavities around the CPU without taking up more space, making it ideal for laptops.

This material is typically applied in the space between the CPU and the cooling system to make heat transfer possible. Let me explain everything you need to know about this process below.

How To Apply Thermal Paste on Your Gaming Laptop

Applying the thermal paste to the components of your laptop is relatively straightforward, but there are a few issues you need to consider before, during, and after the process.

Before Applying Thermal Paste

You must ensure that your device has no thermal paste or that the existing one is removed before applying the new layer.

There are a few ways to determine if your device needs thermal paste. The first one is to open the back panel of your laptop, remove the heat sink, and check if any is left.

However, you may also realize this issue by observing your computer; if it is slow or shuts down randomly, and the rest of the cooling system seems fine, you must apply thermal paste.

Before applying this substance, you should ensure no old thermal paste is left on the CPU.

Additionally, you should read the instructions on how to use the paste to get any necessary tools ready.

Tip: Replace any thermal transfer pads if any are deposited with dirt/dust or damaged in the thermal paste replacement process.

Thermal Paste Application

Removing the old thermal paste from the heatsink of a laptop's cooling assembly.

Before applying fresh thermal paste, you should scrape off the leftover old stuff on the heat sink or the processor, if there is any.

To do so, use a spudger for the solid part, some thermal paste remover, and a clean cloth for the residue. Repeat until both surfaces are properly cleaned.

Then, use some surface purifier on a clean cloth area to ensure a well-prepared surface.

Be careful to wipe the surface dry and not damage the processor.

Apply the thermal paste on the processor using one of these recommended methods:

  1. The dot method: Use only a small drop on the center of the processor.
  2. The cross method: Create an X shape with two lines of paste running through the center of the processor.
  3. The line method: Apply one or two lines down the center of the processor.
  4. The spread method: Place a drop of paste on the center of the processor and spread it around using a spatula or your finger covered in plastic gloves or saran wrap.
  5. You can repeat the process on the heat sink’s cores to ensure the CPU stays cool for longer. It’s recommended but not necessary.
  6. Throughout this process, you should be careful not to touch the processor with your bare hands. Even the grease in your fingerprints can be an issue that could cause thermal paste not to work properly.

After the Application

Important: Make sure no dust particles or other debris makes it’s way onto either surfaces before or after thermal paste application.

After you apply it using the recommended method, you should carefully reattach the heat sink to the processor, wiping any excess thermal paste off.

The heat sink should be firmly attached and should not move after the reattachment. 

Once you have applied the thermal paste and ensured that the CPU and the heat sink are reattached correctly, you can assemble everything to reassemble your laptop.

You are ready to use your device, and you may be able to see the difference in performance.

When To Apply Thermal Paste to Your Gaming Laptop

As mentioned above, most devices, especially gaming laptops, come with pre-applied thermal paste because they are more at risk of overheating than others.

Keeping this in mind, you should consider applying thermal paste a few years later if your laptop hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.

If you notice that your cooling system is fine, but your laptop still seems to struggle, you should open the back of your device and apply thermal paste, even though it might be sooner than predicted.

If you wait any longer, your gaming laptop may overheat even more and be damaged further.

After you apply the paste, you should check again after a couple of years or the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer.

This amount of time varies from product to product, so make sure to check the packaging.

You should also apply thermal paste again when replacing a laptop component.

The thermal paste layer may lose effectiveness whenever you need to move the heat sink or the CPU, either to replace one of them or another laptop part. 

As a result, you should apply a fresh layer of thermal paste to make sure your computer will not overheat once you reassemble it. For best results, apply it to both the processor and the heat sink.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Typically Last?

As mentioned above, different manufacturers may have various estimations about how long their product lasts, but these estimations are made using specific conditions. It may last up to four or five years if left under perfect conditions.

However, certain types of thermal paste may last less because of the materials they are made of.

Additionally, it may not last long if you constantly overwork or overclock your CPU or use highly complex programs for extended periods.

The thermal paste you use may also last longer if the rest of your cooling system is kept in good shape.

If there is a problem with the fans or the environment outside is too hot, you must replace it more often.

Extra Tips for Applying Thermal Paste to Your Gaming Laptop

Here are some extra tips that can help you find the best thermal paste for your laptop and make the process of applying it easier:

  • The paste should not spill easily on the other components while applying it to your processor. Good quality examples are viscose enough to maintain a certain structure and stay between your CPU and heat sink without spilling over. A looser one may not last long.
  • The paste should not be too thick, either. If it is not liquid enough, it may take up more space than it should, which can also contribute to overheating. However, thicker is better than more liquid.
  • To be extra safe, you may use a special thermal paste remover instead of rubbing alcohol. This is unnecessary, but it may reduce any damage the alcohol may cause.
  • Do not use a metal spudger to scrape the solidified thermal paste off your CPU or heat sink. The metal may seriously damage the laptop parts, so you should use a plastic spudger.
  • If you don’t have a spudger, you can use something similar, like a credit card or chopsticks. However, you must be careful when using these alternatives to ensure you don’t damage anything.

Additional Built-In Precautions That Help Keep Your Gaming Laptop Cool

Thermal paste is only a small part of the built-in cooling systems, which help you keep your gaming laptop as cool as possible.

As I explained at the beginning, gaming laptops are highly functioning devices that need more cooling than other laptop types because they run more CPU-heavy products.

In a gaming laptop, every component generates heat and risks overheating and permanently damaging.

As a result, other parts besides the CPU have their own heat sinks. For instance, the motherboard and the GPU also have heat sinks to help disperse the heat. 

You can also use thermal paste on these parts to help cool them down better, just like you would with your CPU.

However, you must be very careful, especially with your motherboard; too much thermal paste could cause irreversible damage that could render your laptop useless.

Airflow is also very important to avoid overheating, which is why many parts inside the laptop have built-in fans.

These fans help cool the components down and redirect the hot air through specially positioned vents. The CPU and the GPU have their own fans since they can overheat easily.

Some people often complain that gaming laptops are too bulky and wavy, but once you realize how many cooling systems are required in such devices, you can understand why it’s necessary for them to have extra space. 

Other Ways To Keep Your Gaming Laptop Cool

All the cooling methods I mentioned above help keep your gaming laptop cool, but they may often fail if you’re not careful and don’t maintain your laptop well.

To make sure every cooling system works well for a long time, keep in mind these tips:

  • Place your laptop on a hard surface. Soft surfaces like blankets or pillows can act as insulators, restricting the airflow and increasing the temperature around your device.
  • Keep your laptop in a cool place. The external temperature affects the internal one, so a hot environment makes the cooling system work much harder, to the point of causing it to fail.
  • Check the fans regularly. Too much noise or no noise at all indicates that there is a problem with overheating. In the first case, your fans are working too much and may be unable to keep your computer from overheating for too long. In the second case, the fans are not working at all, so you should replace them immediately.
  • Don’t overwork your laptop. Gaming laptops are indeed made to run faster, even with more complex programs, but when they overheat, they become slow or shut down completely. If you notice such signs, stop using your laptop in such an intense way until you find a solution.
  • Monitor the temperature of your laptop components using special programs. You can install programs that can tell you if your CPU or other components are overheating. Find out what the normal temperature for these components is and monitor them regularly to ensure they don’t overheat.
  • Keep your device away from dust. Dust is inevitable, but if it gathers on your laptop vents and you don’t clean it regularly, it may block your vents and keep the hot air from leaving your device.