Thermal Paste vs Thermal Pad – Know the Basic Difference

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Thermal Paste vs Thermal Pad

The surface of the heatsink and CPU is not entirely flat and because of that, there are always few air gaps left in between when the CPU is mounted over the heatsink. As a part of the fact, the air is a bad conductor of heat. Therefore, it resulted in the poor heat transfer between the CPU to the heatsink.

So here comes the role of thermal paste vs thermal pad, they both are used to fill this air gap and provides the better heat dissipation from the CPU to the heatsink.

But before making the final choice, it is important to know, which one you should choose? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

What is Thermal Paste?

Thermal Paste

Thermal paste is a high conductive sticky paste that is applied between the heatsink and the CPU/GPU to get the proper heat dissipation. Basically, it fills all the remaining microscopic gaps on the surface of the heatsink and the CPU/GPU. It is always advisable to use the best quality thermal paste for the best possible performance of the system.

Unfortunately, applying thermal paste sometimes can be a very complicated task. Also, the effectiveness of the thermal paste is not very good at filling the large air gaps between the surface of the heatsink and CPU/GPU. Here, comes the role of thermal pads which I am about to discuss further in the article.

What is thermal Pad?

Thermal Pad

Thermal pads are a lot like thermal paste but instead, they come in a square or rectangular solid shape and are not as effective as thermal paste. Though they are a lot easier to install in between the heatsink and the CPU/GPU.

You will find many stock CPU coolers in the market that comes with the thermal pads. But already applied thermal pads are not the permanent solution for the heat dissipation. You have to change the thermal pad once you remove the heatsink from its mounted position. Because the heat from the CPU stuck the thermal pad on to the heatsink. So never forget to change the thermal pad if you dismount the heatsink.

Thermal Pad vs Thermal Paste – What is the difference?

Look at the comparison table. I will provide you with more detail information that will help you to learn the basic differences between the thermal paste and thermal pad.

Thermal PasteThermal Pad
InstallationComplicated ProcessEasy Process
FormSticky PasteSolid Tape (Layered pad)
EffectivenessMore effectiveLess effective
MaterialLiquidSolid (Rubber)
Life SpanMore compared to PadsLess compared to Paste
Other NamesThermal compound, CPU grease, Heat paste, Thermal gel, etc.Thermally conductive pad, Thermal interface pad, etc.

Up above in the table, I have compared both thermal pad and thermal paste based on the most common things. But there are still many other differences that come into play, and these are all situation based parameters, such as:

  1. Thermal paste is basically used for the CPU and the GPU, and also at the places where the smallest of the gaps need to be filled. Whereas the thermal pads are used in thicker gaps such as VRM components or DRAM chips.
  2. Thermal Paste can keep hot components like GPU and CPU cool on full load, whereas pads can’t.
  3. Which is better? If you are pairing your CPU/GPU with heatsink then the thermal paste is the better option. If you are pairing your motherboard VRMs or graphics card VRMs with heatsink then thermal pads are a better option.

Does thermal paste come with CPU?

So, as we have already discussed above, the thermal paste or thermal pad is used to fill the gap between the heat spreader CPU and the heat collector heatsink. So yes, some of the CPUs available in the market does come with the thermal paste already applied on.

Advantages of Thermal Pads Vs. Thermal Paste

  • Zero Mess – Entire process of taking out the thermal paste and putting it can be a messy task in comparison to installing a thermal pad, which is just a simple take out and stick process.
  • Fills Larger Gaps – Thermal pads available in the market are up to .250 in., as comparison to a thin layer of thermal paste.
  • Easy Installation – Thermal pads can be cut into perfect fit as per the size of the component every time you use it.

Thermal Pad vs Paste – Conclusion

Whether we talk about thermal paste or a thermal pad, they both have their own applications based on the condition they are being used in. But in general, the process of applying thermal paste between the heatsink and the CPU/GPU can be a lot messy and complicated, that is why thermal pads can be a blessing.

But, CPU thermal pad has its own disadvantages. It doesn’t have a longer life and can not even provide the proper heat dissipation when the temperature rises to the maximum because of the full load. So, most of the professional gamers prefer to use thermal paste over the thermal pad.

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