How Long Does Thermal Paste Take to Dry?

Learn how much time thermal paste needs to get fully dry

Thermal paste is a great solution for your computer if it has problems with overheating. You surely noticed that effect when you are using your computer or laptop for a long period of time and it gets extremely hot! In this case, the thermal paste becomes very handy.

However, computer owners often ask about thermal paste dry time. So today this is exactly what we are going to talk about.

You will find out how long it takes thermal paste to get fully dry and how long this product lasts in general when not in use.

Also, we will tell you whether thermal paste can dry out and what can be done in order to revive dried thermal paste to make it usable again. Finally, you will learn how to tell if this product is already bad and can’t be used anymore.

How Long Does It Take For Thermal Paste to Dry?

If you have never used thermal paste before, you might be wondering how long it takes for thermal paste to dry. People usually become interested in this subject when their computers start to get way too hot when they use them for a long period of time.

This overheating happens when the generated heat will not be able to dissipate properly, causing some parts of your laptop or computer to get hotter than others.

And one of the most effective and simple ways to fix this problem is by applying the thermal paste to the CPU surface. The paste will help conduct more heat away from these elements of the appliance.

Do you need to re apply thermal paste?Do you need to re apply thermal paste?

So does thermal paste need to dry?

The answer is no. Typically there is no need to wait until it gets dry. Of course, you can wait for two or three hours for the paste to set before using your computer again if you wish, but this is not mandatory.

See, thermal paste has a paste-like consistency, which means it does not dry. Moreover, it needs to have a pasty form in order to be able to fill the gaps between the processor and the heatsink! This is why in most cases, it’s OK to use it right away.

There is only one problem with this. If you did not use enough paste, or if the paste was poorly applied, not covering all the elements evenly, it may still cause overheating problems. So make sure you apply it according to the instruction.

Also, keep in mind that too much paste is often as bad as not enough paste! This is why, when applying it, always make sure that you only use the amount of paste you need. The rule of thumb is simple: use an amount of paste like a pea or a bean. It will be enough to cope with the overheating issues with your computer.

Does Thermal Paste Dry Out?

This is a common and frequently asked question that bothers people and the answer is yes. Thermal paste can indeed dry out after a while. See, this product is like a sponge. It takes the heat from your computer and stays wet.

As time passes by, the paste starts to dry out of course because of the amount of heat accumulated in it.

This causes cracks and dents in the paste that trap air inside your computer. This can be fixed if you put more of the thermal paste back on so it can take the heat again.

This is also the reason why it is strongly recommended to reapply thermal paste regularly. In general, the ideal frequency of repeated applications would be once every few years.

Of course, you can’t tell exactly when it is time to replace the old paste and apply the new one! However, there is one clear sign that it should be done: when you notice that your CPU temperature rises and goes up unexpectedly, it’s time to get the thermal paste reapplied!

Does Thermal Paste Dry Out
megaflopp via VistaCreate

Is It Possible For Thermal Paste to Dry Out in Air?

As you already know, thermal paste takes several years (from two to three usually) to dry out inside your computer.

But what about drying out in the air?

Generally, thermal paste doesn’t dry out in the air. See, it is a paste-like substance that is typically not exposed to the air.

Of course, there is a chance that it gets in contact with air when you remove the airtight seal that was filled with thermal paste.

This usually happens when you need to reapply the paste or when you reinstall the heatsink without using a new thermal paste. In this case, there is a chance that air bubbles get trapped in between along with the thermal paste.

However, even in this situation, those air bubbles will not harm your computer or laptop as long as you are within safe temperatures! Nevertheless, note that you may see a little increase in temperature, which means some air got inside and was trapped there.

Is It Possible For Thermal Paste to Dry Out in Air
VadimVasenin via VistaCreate

How to Fix Too Dry Thermal Paste?

To begin with, you should know that thermal paste is usually pretty stable when left out. So even if it was left overnight on the counter or elsewhere, there is still very little chance that it went bad. In fact, it never really goes bad!

The only thing that you might become concerned about is if the paste was left uncovered overnight.

In this case, you may find particles of dust that have gotten stuck to it. As for the paste that’s already inside your PC, if it dries inside your computer, the only way to fix it would be to reapply it.

So now you know how long thermal paste needs to dry and whether this substance can dry out if left out. As you can see, thermal paste is quite a durable and easy-to-use thing that is very simple in terms of application.

Besides, it doesn’t usually dry out if you leave the tube overnight somewhere out of the usual storage place. However, we would not recommend you leave it exposed to air and uncovered! In this case, the product may lose some of its properties.

How to Fix Too Dry Thermal Paste
IgorVetushko via VistaCreate

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last? And How to Store It?

Thermal paste does have a shelf life and you need to keep that in mind! It doesn’t last forever even if you store it in ideal conditions. Usually, manufacturers set a time frame of 3 to 5 years.

This is the period when the product is the most potent and will give you the best effect when used.

Since the thermal paste is quite a long-lasting and easy-to-store product, people often wonder how to store it correctly and whether there are any strict rules or storage recommendations that must be followed. In fact, there are no such rules.

Thermal paste is easy to keep at home and you typically only need to follow a few easy suggestions to make sure the product is in a decent condition and is still usable.

BEGINNERS GUIDE: How To Apply CPU Thermal PasteBEGINNERS GUIDE: How To Apply CPU Thermal Paste
  • Keep the paste closed. Like this, you will reduce the chances of oxidization and moisture fluctuations
  • Store it in a tightly sealed plastic bag
  • Keep the thermal pastes at room temperature
  • Never store it in refrigerators, ovens, or basements!
  • If you want to store the thermal paste in bulk, use a desiccant to absorb the moisture. But make sure that the temperature of the desiccant will remain at room temperature!
  • If the paste has been opened, reseal it with a plastic bag and use it as soon as possible

These simple tips will help you keep your thermal paste in a good condition longer, preserving all of its quality and power! For any precise recommendations regarding storage, always check the label on the paste’s package.

You will usually find all the necessary information there. But if there is no information on the package or if you have already discarded it, then simply opt for the tips we shared with you here.

How Long Does Thermal Paste Last And How to Store It
AllaSerebrina via VistaCreate

How to Tell If Thermal Paste Is Bad?

Since thermal paste can go bad, many people are now wondering how they can figure out if the product should not be used anymore.

And yes, expired or bad thermal paste must never be used inside your PC, otherwise, it will cause more problems than you might have without the paste at all!

So, it’s always better to check whether thermal paste is still ok. This can be done quite easily. You just need to check your PC for a few symptoms that will obviously point you to the problem.

  • If your CPU becomes 2 to 3 years old, you may notice excessive temperature rise in the processor
  • The computer may start turning off or throttling back in performance
  • You will often notice that your CPU temperature goes higher while performing general tasks

If you are noticing such issues, this most likely happens because of expired or dried thermal paste.

The solution is simple: you should replace the paste immediately. Otherwise, it will damage your PC components, which will lead to a more serious and expensive repair!

How to Tell If Thermal Paste Is Bad
ifeelstock via VistaCreate

How to Remove Dry Thermal Paste From Your Computer?

If you notice that your computer or laptop is getting very hot while you are working with it, you are now aware that it is most likely due to the thermal paste expiration.

However, here is another question: how do you get it out of the unit to be replaced?

Luckily, to clean the dried thermal paste from your system before applying the new one, you will only need two things:

  • A cotton cloth
  • Isopropyl alcohol

After you get both, follow a few simple steps to get the paste removed:

  • Disassemble the CPU cooler from the CPU
  • Dip your cotton cloth in Isopropyl alcohol
  • Use the cotton cloth saturated with Isopropyl alcohol to gently wipe the dry thermal paste

As an option, you can put a little bit of thermal paste at the center of the CPU and remove it with the dry cotton cloth

And be very careful and cautious! While cleaning the old thermal paste out of your unit, you should avoid leaving any fibers on the processor!

So now you know a lot more about thermal paste and its specifics. We told you whether this product dries out and whether it expires, so now you know how long thermal paste can last and how to store it correctly.

You also know how much time it takes to dry now. In addition, you learned how to remove it from your PC correctly should you need to reapply the paste.

How to Remove Dry Thermal Paste From Your Computer
EdZbarzhyvetsky via VistaCreate

Frequently Asked Questions

⭐What does bad thermal paste look like?

If the thermal paste is watery, separated, dry or flaky, it has expired. You can check that by spreading a small amount of it on a metal surface.

⭐How to remove dried thermal paste?

Simply clean it out with a cloth dampened with Isopropyl alcoloh. Only make sure you don’t leave fibers behind!

⭐What’s thermal paste?

It’s a thermally conductive but usually electrically insulating chemical compound used as an interface between heat sinks and heat sources.

Written by Melinda Sherween
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Melinda worked as an art consultant and Home Designer for eight years in total. As an art consultant, she was first employed in a local art gallery in San Francisco where she was responsible for picking the most suitable artwork for her clients depending on their goals and budget. At this job, Melinda showed herself as a confident specialist and a true art lover with exceptional taste and artistic sense. Melinda is a passionate author of Housekeeping Bay and we are really happy that she is our Expert.
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How long does thermal paste take to dry?How long does thermal paste take to dry?
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