Thermal paste application is one of the more delicate tasks in assembling a computer. If applied incorrectly, it can create gaps and reduce performance. In the worst case, it can short circuit exposed components and destroy your expensive processor.
To counteract this, all thermal compounds have to be designed to flow into the microscopic surface imperfections between the IHS and cooler, and increase their overall thermal conductivity once pressed together. Different manufacturers use various materials in their thermal pastes, each with its own specific attributes and advantages. Some are thick and pliable, while others are very thin and stable once applied. Others still have a very high electrical conductivity (measured in watts per meter kelvin or “W/mK”) and can even be as high as liquid metal. Obviously, these should only be used on heatspreaders with no exposed electrical components nearby. The best thermal pastes are generally those that have a relatively high thermal conductivity and have a low specific gravity, meaning that they are thick and pliable once applied, but also very stable and easy to spread. For example, Gigabyte’s MasterGel Pro V2 has an excellent tunable viscosity and stability once applied, and it cleans up easily too.
To apply a good amount of thermal paste, start by wiping down the surface of the IHS and cooler with a non-linting cloth and some isopropyl alcohol. You want to remove any old thermal paste and make sure that the surfaces are completely clean before you start squeezing. Once you have a nice dot of thermal paste (no larger than a BB) in the center of the CPU, begin spreading it outwards using the applicator. You may need to use a slight rubbing motion, or you can press down on the cooler and apply pressure evenly to all sides of the joint to ensure it is spread out perfectly before clamping it down.