How Long Does Thermal Paste Take to Dry?

Being an enthusiast laptop savvy, Evan Charles shares his wisdom on LaptopEcho to help others pick the right machine. He loves guiding people to get...

When building a personal computer, most people get excited over the powerful processor, RAM, motherboard, graphics, etc.; but overlook essential things like the thermal paste. Thermal paste is fundamental for your PC’s health; without it, your PC is likely to overheat. Therefore, you should apply the right amount and let it “set” before using your PC.

So, how long does thermal paste take to dry? Basically, thermal paste does not dry. However, it takes about two to three hours for a layer of thermal paste to set for effective cooling. Factors such as the adhesive substance used, room temperature, and humidity may affect the amount of time taken to set.

While thermal paste is an adhesive, it also serves as a CPU cooling substance. It connects your processor to the heatsink, ensuring proper cooling takes place. Since it’s not a regular adhesive, it takes longer to set. This article answers all your questions about thermal pastes and how long it takes to dry. Let’s dig in.

Key Takeaways:

  • Thermal paste is an adhesive that binds the processor chip and the heatsink, thus providing proper cooling. However, unlike other adhesives, it does not dry instantly.
  • Apply a small amount of thermal solution to the CPU before fitting the heatsink.
  • Thermal paste lasts about two to three years; after that, it becomes less effective, and you should replace it.
  • Failure to change your thermal paste may result in CPU overheating and damage.
  • Toothpaste cannot be used as a substitute for thermal paste since it does not contain any thermal compounds.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Take to Dry?

Thermal paste is a heat conductive adhesive substance often applied between a PC’s processor chip and the heatsink. Unlike other adhesives used to stick materials together, Thermal paste does not dry instantly. In most cases, it remains malleable and mushy to ensure proper cooling between the processor and the heatsink.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Take to Dry

Another prevalent question among PC users is how long does it take for thermal paste to harden? It takes about two to three years for thermal paste to harden if it is correctly applied. Once it’s hardened, it loses its efficiency and requires replacing.

How Often Should You Replace Thermal Paste?

This has been one of the few confusing questions to many; How long does thermal paste last? Different thermal compounds have different efficiency levels; this dictates how long they last and how often you should replace them.

Generally, replacing your thermal paste every one to two years is a great idea to keep your processor running at its peak performance. Some tech experts suggest that you should replace your thermal paste after five years.

How Much Thermal Paste Should You Apply?

While most processor chips require thermal paste to effectively cool and work at peak performance, most people are never sure how much is enough paste for a single chip. Usually, the problem isn’t when over-applied but when it’s too little.

How Much Thermal Paste Should You Apply

Some heatsinks or CPU coolers come with a pre-applied thermal solution, making the installation process pretty straightforward. To check if yours has a pre-applied thermal solution, turn it upside down and check the base plate attached to the processor. If there’s a silver-like paste, you don’t need to apply more when installing.

However, if there’s no paste on the heatsink, you need to apply a small amount of paste on the processor chip, about the size of a single grain of rice. Apply it at the center of the chip so that it will evenly spread out on the CPU surface when installing the heatsink.

What Happens If You Don’t Change The Thermal Paste?

Honestly, this is something you shouldn’t be thinking about. As aforementioned, thermal paste is vital for your CPU’s performance. If you indeed want your processor to operate at maximum performance without any issues, you need to take care of its cooling system.

What Happens If You Don't Change The Thermal Paste

Failing to apply thermal solution between the heatsink and your CPU will cause it to overheat and eventually shut down. The same applies when you don’t change the thermal paste. After about a year or two of use, the thermal paste hardens and becomes less efficient.

But how does thermal paste harden? The heat produced by the processor destroys thermal paste compounds causing them to dry and harden over time; thus, the need to change it within 1-2 years. Most importantly, don’t reuse thermal paste. When changing, remove the old thermal solution, wipe your processor and the bottom base of the heatsink, and apply a small amount of new thermal solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does thermal paste need to be cured?

The answer is yes. When it comes to thermal substances, there’s a curing process involved. After you have freshly applied your thermal paste, let it sit for roughly two hours before using your computer. This allows it to cure and reach its maximum efficiency.

Can I use toothpaste instead of thermal paste?

Absolutely not. Even though toothpaste looks pretty much like thermal paste, please do not attempt to use it as a substitute for thermal paste. Why? Toothpaste has no thermal compounds. Its structure gets destroyed after a few hours, especially if exposed to extreme temperatures. This leaves your CPU unprotected and at high risk of damage.

Does thermal paste dry out in the air?

No, Thermal paste does not dry out when exposed to air. It can stay uncovered the whole night without going bad. One thing to worry about is dust particles that may get stuck to it. Dust particles can make your thermal paste less effective/efficient the next time you use it.

Can too much thermal paste be bad?

Not at all. Putting too much thermal paste on your CPU generally doesn’t affect its thermal performance. Once you press down the heatsink in position, it will squeeze excess paste from the sides. Nonetheless, be careful with excess paste as it might short components with conductive paste. Use a piece of cloth or tissue to wipe it off. Putting too little thermal paste is bad.

Can old thermal paste cause overheating?

Yes. If you had it for over a year or two, chances are, your thermal paste dried up. Old or “bad” thermal paste has degraded performance; since it’s dry, its effectiveness towards siphoning heat is reduced, thus causing overheating problems. Changing your thermal paste after one to two years is recommended for better performance.


Thermal paste is an essential product that most PC builders tend to forget when setting up a new computer. Not to mention that it should be replaced at least after about two years. If you want peak performance from your powerful CPU, you should consider applying a thermal solution.

If you’ve been wondering how long does thermal paste take to dry? We hope this article has cleared all the doubts. Keep in mind that you need to replace your thermal solution after a year to maintain your CPU’s optimal performance.

Evan Charles

Evan Charles

Being an enthusiast laptop savvy, Evan Charles shares his wisdom on LaptopEcho to help others pick the right machine. He loves guiding people to get the best out of their laptops as he does.

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