Does Thermal Paste Expire

Does Thermal Paste Expire (How To Tell If Thermal Paste Is Bad)

Thermal paste is an important component of computer systems, allowing you to install a cooling solution to a processor that allows efficient transfer of heat. However, it’s possible that your computer’s thermal paste can go bad or even expire altogether. Today, we’ll find out how to identify thermal paste that has expired and what to do in those cases.

Looking for thermal paste? Go for the highly rated Arctic Silver 5 AS5-3.5G Thermal Paste.

Can Thermal Paste Go Bad?

Mostly every type of thermal grease is a suspension of mixed compounds all kept joined with a liquid. So yes, it will expire inside of the tube if you leave the cap off or even on the CPU or the GPU. You can tell the paste grease needs to change when it becomes hard or powdery. It shouldn’t be confused with thermal pads in this state.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last On CPU? 

A standard thermal paste will last roughly five years on your CPU or any other chip for that matter.

The lifespan of the thermal paste is highly dependent on your country’s climate, the usage of your CPU, the computer’s cooling system and the compound’s quality. The number can increase to ten years or decrease to three.

One of the main reasons thermal paste goes bad is because of excessive use. 

Excessive use of the CPU happens when you overclock it. If you notice your computer’s temperature rising a lot, especially around the motherboard, but you think there’s nothing wrong with the fan or cooler, it might be overused.

It can also happen if you use your computer for gaming and play demanding games on your PC.

The hotter your CPU gets, the shorter the lifespan for its conductive grease.

Does Thermal Paste Expire In Tube?

Yes, even unopened thermal paste can expire in the tube. It’s crucial that you check the expiry date on the thermal paste package on the tube before you apply it. It can take four years for thermal grease to expire on tube, though some types of it can last longer. 

Unopened thermal paste can also expire faster if you expose it to sunlight and damp places.

If you keep the tube in a very cold or very hot environment, it can also cause it to go bad faster.

Should you expose an opened thermal paste to water or air, the oxygen present will make it go bad faster.

How To Tell If Thermal Paste Is Bad?

If you see thermal paste hard, water or flaky, there’s a high chance that the thermal paste has expired and gone bad. The best you can do in this case is to throw it away immediately. 

If the thermal paste has dried up in the CPU, you need to replace it as soon as you can. 

The best way to remove bad thermal paste is with an isopropyl alcohol pad, and put on a new layer of thermal paste. 

Wipe the top of your CPU with some microfiber cloth to remove most of the thermal paste that you can do without issue. 

You can then dip the end of a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and use it to wipe the top of your CPU softly, breaking up the flakes of the expired thermal paste.

Clean another part of the microfiber cloth or a paper towel to remove the remaining pieces of the thermal paste. The rubbing alcohol will evaporate as fast as possible on its own.

Repeat this process on the CPU cooler’s underside, to remove any old thermal paste stuck to it.

Thermal Paste Shelf Life FAQ

The purpose of the paste is to smoothen out gaps or voids which could be present when the heatsink is connected to the semiconductor device. At best, there will be a pure metal to metal contact over all the surface area, and no paste necessary, but minute ripples or holes in either surface makes that impossible. Once in place there is no place for the dried paste to go.

But were it to happen, the symptoms would be excessive temperature rise in the processor or graphics chip, and the computer turning off or throttling back in performance.

However, the more usual causes for the excessive rise in temperature is that the fans or heat sinks are clogged with dust. 

Now, if you’re in a pinch, you might be able to use old thermal paste, though you need to be quite careful. It’s better to use old thermal paste instead of keeping one that’s been broken or cracked. To use it, first take the bottle and shake or squeeze it to mix what’s inside. To get the most out of older thermal paste, you can squeeze a small amount of the mix onto a piece of paper and keep squeezing it until the liquid is no longer clear.

How tell Thermal Paste Bad

When does Arctic Silver expire?

Arctic Silver 5 is usable for approximately up to 7 years in the tube once applied, as long as it hasn’t gone through any heat or cool cycles.
Similar care to other types of thermal paste applies for Arctic Silver 5. Arctic Silver 5 is the reference premium thermal paste. As per their own website, Arctic Silver 5 is optimized for a wide range of bond lines between modern high-power CPUs and high performance heatsinks or water-cooling solutions.
Arctic Silver 5 also contains around 88% thermally conductive substance by weight, making it the best you can find on Amazon.

How Often To Apply Thermal Paste?

When you purchase a graphics card, for example, the thermal paste is already integrated inside. You don’t usually have to worry about installing a cooler onto a GPU unless you are interested in aftermarket solutions. An example of that is custom liquid cooling.
Since most users will only install a CPU cooler every couple of years, it’s possible that the thermal paste could expire by the time that it is required for a second application.
The first couple drops that pour out of the expired thermal paste would probably be a clear liquid. As you squeeze the tube container, throw out everything that comes of it until the colored material starts to come down. Make sure the thermal paste is a well mixed, smooth liquid before applying it to the CPU.
If the thermal paste is hard, flaky, or dried out, then it would be recommended to throw away the whole tube.
Thermal paste should only need to be re-applied if the heatsink is removed in most cases.
We prefer silver based pastes over the white grease that comes pre-applied on some heatsinks. Remember to clean the surface before applying some arctic silver to the CPU heat spreader — this stuff is still effective when dry where the white stuff can, in some cases, lose its thermal conducting properties over time.

What Does Bad Thermal Paste Look Like?

If it looks and feels like thermal paste, it will still do the trick. If it’s chunky, dried up or otherwise behaves in weird ways, purchase a new tube.
If you want to be extra certain, you can run a few stress tests and take note of the temperatures when it’s freshly applied. You can then retry the tests in three different instances. First, three days, then three months and three years from the original test and see if it has changed. 
Write down the room temperature where you’re keeping the thermal paste as if it changes, it could also affect the expected temperatures.

Final Words About Does Thermal Paste Expire

Using a good thermal paste such as Arctic Silver 5 for your computer’s CPU can increase your system’s lifespan and prevent it from overheating. Thermal paste can last for up to five years, give or take, but you have to be very careful when reapplying it. Follow these steps to do so and you’ll see how thermal paste will never bring you trouble again.