What thermal compound?

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What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:43 pm

I want to replace my stock AMD CPU cooler with an after-market one. I can find lots of advice about coolers, but nothing about thermal compounds. Are they all the same, or are there any recommendations?

Thanks.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 9:57 pm

There are differences, but not enough to matter unless you are looking for every possible advantage when trying to overclock to the hairy edge of stability. In most cases, the compound that ships with your HSF should be perfectly fine.

If you really feel like you need to upgrade your thermal compound get yourself some Arctic Silver 5. It's a little pricey for thermal compound, but a single small tube is good for something like 8 CPUs so it ought to last you a few years unless you're swapping out your CPU every few months.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:11 pm

Arctic Cooling MX-2/MX-4 is a better compound than Arctic Silver 5.

Here's the product page for MX-2 I'm using: http://www.arctic.ac/en/p/cooling/thermal-compound/82/arctic-mx-2-4g-8g-30g-und-65g.html?c=2291
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:33 pm

Skinnee Labs has a pretty good long running series of reviews ofthermal paste. The last article is a bit over a year old but there isn't exactly a Moore's Law of thermal paste so you should be okay following the results from there. If memory serves correctly, HardOCP also did a comparison or two a few years back. You will often find miscellaneous reviews of thermal paste on cooling oriented sites with a focus on water cooling.

My personal recommendation is Arctic Silver 5. Sure, newer pastes have come out and some reviews show that it isn't the best any more but it's a very well known factor and remains a good choice. I've found that pastes that come out on top in one site fall behind on others but AS5 pretty consistently produces good numbers. In other words, you can't go wrong with AS5 even if there might be better ones out there.

biffzinker wrote:Arctic Cooling MX-2/MX-4
MX-2 and MX-4 are also good compounds. Also one of those "can't go wrong" choices. Whether its better than AS5 or not is somewhat debatable but it will definitely do the job.

On the whole, almost any TIM will do. Only really worry about the specific paste if you're looking to squeeze every last degree out of your cooling solution. If that last 2-3 C will make your PC shut off or throttle, I think you're far better off finding a better HSF combo.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 10:48 pm

I use Arctic Ceramique because a couple of degrees doesn't matter to me but stability of the compound does. I'd rather not deal with a silver compound that will dry out in a couple years.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:00 pm

mortifiedPenguin wrote:Whether its better than AS5 or not is somewhat debatable but it will definitely do the job.


I've used Arctic Silver 2 and 5 and yes it is a reliable compound. The nice thing about the MX-2/4 is no break-in period giving optimal heat transfer, and seems to spread out more easily giving a thin coat from what I observed. I've had Arctic Silver dry out as well.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:03 pm

Fan of IC Diamond here.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 12:15 am

biffzinker wrote:'ve had Arctic Silver dry out as well.
Did you observe any temperature issues with that? I'll readily admit that my old tube lasted about 8 years before drying out to the point that it wouldn't spread properly. Any idea if that would be the equivalent of it curing?

I'll also admit I've been tempted to try out MX-2 but defaulted to what I knew worked.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:33 am

I was running low on Ceramique and bought a tube of MX4 on the latest "free after rebate" promotion. From what I have read it should be good stuff.

Somewhat OT question: what about the ArtiClear remover, is it any good? Really better than 99% alcohol?
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:40 am

Flying Fox wrote:what about the ArtiClear remover
I only used a little bit a few years ago at a job and I don't recall it being much better (if at all) better than 99% alcohol... at least visually. Not so sure how well it does at the sub-visual level.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:54 am

ChronoReverse wrote:I use Arctic Ceramique because a couple of degrees doesn't matter to me but stability of the compound does. I'd rather not deal with a silver compound that will dry out in a couple years.

I've actually had a different problem with Ceramique - it is so sticky that when you go to remove the HSF it rips the CPU out of the socket even with the retention lever down. This was mainly an issue with older Socket 754/939 where the retention bracket went all the way around the socket and was higher than the base of the HSF, making it impossible to twist the HSF to help loosen it. On current motherboards you should be able to gently twist or apply lateral pressure to "break the seal".

Flying Fox wrote:Somewhat OT question: what about the ArtiClear remover, is it any good? Really better than 99% alcohol?

I've never had any problems with plain alcohol, so I don't see much of a point to buying special solvents just for thermal compound removal.

Back on topic, for the past couple of years all I've been using are the little tubes of compound that come with the Cooler Master Hyper TX3. I use TX3s for all of my builds now, and the compound that comes with them seems to work well.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:10 am

It's somewhat dated now, but XBitLabs did a round-up of compounds. The differences among those in the top tier weren't really worth worrying about (or spending extra for).
We had a whole thread on cleaners about a year ago here.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:40 am

I went with prolimatech pk1 after reading skineelabs reviews. Very easy to work with and easy to clean plus good performance.

Stay away from ic diamond !!!!! I fell for the hype and the damn thermal paste scratch the heck out of my CPU heat spreader and the heatsink base. Not to mention it stains and lingers. I had to wipe the base of my heatsink and cpu 16 times with alcohol to get it clean.

Compared to article silver 5 and pk1 the ic diamond made my cpu run about 6 degrees higher. Horrible stuff.
Tested all three on the same day.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:01 am

just brew it! wrote:I've actually had a different problem with Ceramique - it is so sticky that when you go to remove the HSF it rips the CPU out of the socket even with the retention lever down. This was mainly an issue with older Socket 754/939 where the retention bracket went all the way around the socket and was higher than the base of the HSF, making it impossible to twist the HSF to help loosen it. On current motherboards you should be able to gently twist or apply lateral pressure to "break the seal".
Not that it matters so much any more since 754/939 is long gone, but it might help to turn the PC for a few minutes to soften the compound.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:01 pm

vandy wrote:I went with prolimatech pk1 after reading skineelabs reviews. Very easy to work with and easy to clean plus good performance.

Stay away from ic diamond !!!!! I fell for the hype and the damn thermal paste scratch the heck out of my CPU heat spreader and the heatsink base. Not to mention it stains and lingers. I had to wipe the base of my heatsink and cpu 16 times with alcohol to get it clean.

Compared to article silver 5 and pk1 the ic diamond made my cpu run about 6 degrees higher. Horrible stuff.
Tested all three on the same day.


Meanwhile I've never seen damage and saw a 10C drop in temperature (albeit versus dried up zinc oxide). It is messy to clean, but that's why I use things like carburetor cleaner. I don't really see it as any worse than cleaning arctic silver.

As for reviews this website appears is the most comprehensive I've found.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:15 pm


Heh. Butter, diaper ointment, and mustard perform better than Rosewill RCX-TC060PRO. Also looks like if you ever have a thermal compound emergency, mayonnaise is a pretty decent substitute. :lol:
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:18 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:
vandy wrote:I went with prolimatech pk1 after reading skineelabs reviews. Very easy to work with and easy to clean plus good performance.

Stay away from ic diamond !!!!! I fell for the hype and the damn thermal paste scratch the heck out of my CPU heat spreader and the heatsink base. Not to mention it stains and lingers. I had to wipe the base of my heatsink and cpu 16 times with alcohol to get it clean.

Compared to article silver 5 and pk1 the ic diamond made my cpu run about 6 degrees higher. Horrible stuff.
Tested all three on the same day.


Meanwhile I've never seen damage and saw a 10C drop in temperature (albeit versus dried up zinc oxide). It is messy to clean, but that's why I use things like carburetor cleaner. I don't really see it as any worse than cleaning arctic silver.

As for reviews this website appears is the most comprehensive I've found.


You'll definitely notice the etching if you have a heatsink with a shiny base. But there was etching on my heatspreader as well. After i noticed the damage, I went and did a google search and saw others have the same problem. I really hate IC Diamond.

http://www.evga.com/forums/tm.aspx?m=695748&mpage=1

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2073442
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:27 pm

Both those threads have discussions, from end users and the IC vendor, detailing that the scratching isn't caused by IC diamond.

In fact it is ultimately revealed that it isn't even a scratch, but simply a stain caused by the black carbon settling into the already imperfect metal.

This is normal and does not pose any issue. It can also be removed if it really matters to you.

IC7 wrote:Note from the manufacturer

We have had much long term feed back from people with two years installs with no change in temps or issues with "etching"

The material components of IC Diamond are about as inert as you can get, otherwise the compound is comprised mostly of carbon (diamond/carbon black) with a couple % polymeric binders - which is not a basis for any chemical etching or corrosion I am aware of. A minor stain or oxidation may occur if contaminants from cleaning are not removed properly which can be removed in about 10 sec. with a dry cloth and a little IC Diamond.

We test on a mirror lapped die and sink @90-100 psi with high wattage (200 W) and have witnessed no "etching" despite tests running months at a time the surface finish it is unaffected.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:54 am

Tell that to my Thermalright Archon that used to have has a nicely polished, reflective base. Keep in mind, this heatsink went through 3 cpus and had AS5 and MX3 thermal paste at on point or another. I clean it the same way every time where I do horizontal wipes with a paper towel followed by kimtech wipes + alcohol. After cleaning off IC Diamond, the heatsink base and heatspreader had scratches are horizontal in nature.
I'm not going to argue with you if its carbon or what not. All i know is that my CPU and heatsink is scratched and I am very sure it is caused by IC Diamond.

You should try it yourself, take some IC Diamond and rub on a mirror. Rub it in with a cloth. Clean off the IC Diamond and tell me what what you see. That stuff is like sandpaper.

Look at the pics in this thread:

http://www.overclock.net/t/1314125/question-about-ic-diamond-and-mobile-cpu-with-exposed-die
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:45 am

just brew it! wrote:Back on topic, for the past couple of years all I've been using are the little tubes of compound that come with the Cooler Master Hyper TX3. I use TX3s for all of my builds now, and the compound that comes with them seems to work well.

Same here, except I got mine with a Hyper 212 EVO. I assume it's the same compound, and it's worked well.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:31 am

vandy wrote:I'm not going to argue with you if its carbon or what not. All i know is that my CPU and heatsink is scratched and I am very sure it is caused by IC Diamond.


What you believe and what you know are not necessarily the same thing, but hey if it makes you feel better, go with it.

IC Diamond wrote:Lots of urban myth out there that lead to misunderstandings.

Diamond while being harder than most materials has an MOHS of 10 on the hardness scale it should be noted that aluminium oxide ( MOHS of 9) which is found in AS5, Ceramiq, Shin Etsu, MX4 etc. is only slightly or incrementally harder.

Aluminium oxide is what your typical sandpaper is comprised of and is found in most lapping compounds. Diamond will cut glass but so will aluminium oxide and is actually the preferred material when cutting or polishing glass.



In nearly all thermal compounds the manufacturers use variable sizes of grit in order to maximize physical/ thermal contact between particles but generally you will find most in the 400-600 grit range same as you would find in 400-600 grit sandpaper which is why when lapping IHS/Sink you see little or no thermal improvement advantage with a refined lap with say a 1200 grit.

Our grit sizes are comfortably in the same size range as other manufacturers use in their compounds.

Abrasives have to move in order to work or to be abrasive. When cleaning a part all compounds should be adequately re-liquified with a good solvent like acetone so they can be removed without any undue scrubbing action that would polish or scratch. Proper procedure is just good shop practice.

Just to note that we do buy our diamond from the largest USA manufacturer of diamond and is same quality/type they sell for optical lapping. The particle screening process has been pretty well established for over 100 years and if you understand the process you would understand that large particles or rocks as a component of our compound is highly unlikely. This is why you do not find lumps of corn seed in your flour or rocks in your toothpaste or pebbles in your table salt.

We contract mix our compound in a clean room environment in million dollar mixing machines with the mix heated and under a vacuum. the manufacturer samples all received material and tests for conformity to specifications. The compound is sent to us in containers that are attached directly to our dispensing machines for syringe filling so no chance of foreign particulate matter can enter the system.

There is no way to determine the source of your divot from your description, I might suggest secondary contamination at your site as a +1000X sized particle diamond off the norm while not impossible is highly unlikely and as noted we make every effort possible to provide a uniform stable product.


Synthetic diamond isn't cheap. If you're getting nice big chunks in your tube that are actually large enough to scratch or cause divots then send it to me. It's a $10 tube of thermal paste, exactly how much value you think is really in there?

There are far more dangerous and real things that can damage a heatsink like Coollaboratory Liquid Pro.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:53 pm

True, synthetic diamonds are expensive. But diamond powder is relatively cheap. That's 2 grams of pure diamond powder... which is larger than a small tube of IC Diamond. So it would appear that there's no justification for ruling out IC's claim that their compound is "92% pure synthetic diamond" based on the cost of raw materials.

Also seems to me that even small amounts of diamond would be enough to cause *some* abrasion if the heatsink is shifted around after being mated to the CPU, or if it is not wiped gently enough when being cleaned off. I'd be surprised if the scratches are deep enough to make a measurable difference in performance though.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:34 pm

just brew it! wrote:Also seems to me that even small amounts of diamond would be enough to cause *some* abrasion if the heatsink is shifted around after being mated to the CPU, or if it is not wiped gently enough when being cleaned off. I'd be surprised if the scratches are deep enough to make a measurable difference in performance though.


This would appear to be what the vendor is saying in the quote. While noting that other pastes that use aluminum oxide are likely to do the same thing.

Staining as you see here seems to be more prevalent. Many of the complaint pictures show staining instead of scratching.

Some accused the paste of creating some rather large divots/scratches via pictures, the damage is simply way, way too large for diamond powder that's supposed to be microns in size.. It was the pictures of divots that prompted my comments about the price of synthetic diamonds. Seriously I'd want the piece of diamond that could create some of the divots of the size shown.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:11 pm

Go ahead and rub some AS5, PK1 or generic zinc oxide thermal paste on a mirror and rub it and see if you get the same abrasions as IC Diamond causes.

No seriously go and try it. What are you afraid of?
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:43 pm

vandy wrote:What are you afraid of?


I use IC Diamond in my desktop, PS3, and both laptops, so apparently nothing?

I've re-applied it at one point or another in three of the four objects too. I haven't seen any damage other than harmless staining.

I've also used the others you list. Albeit I would note that zinc oxide doesn't contain aluminum oxide.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Jan 13, 2013 8:10 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:
vandy wrote:What are you afraid of?


I use IC Diamond in my desktop, PS3, and both laptops, so apparently nothing?

I've re-applied it at one point or another in three of the four objects too. I haven't seen any damage other than harmless staining.

I've also used the others you list. Albeit I would note that zinc oxide doesn't contain aluminum oxide.



I wasn't asking if you are afraid of using IC Diamond............... :o

Seriously, rub IC Diamond on a mirror or shinny surface and tell us if you see abrasions on the surface.
I'm saying it does, because I tried it. I rubbed IC Diamond on a mirror and it scratched the hell out of it.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Jan 13, 2013 9:50 pm

vandy wrote:
Ryu Connor wrote:
vandy wrote:What are you afraid of?


I use IC Diamond in my desktop, PS3, and both laptops, so apparently nothing?

I've re-applied it at one point or another in three of the four objects too. I haven't seen any damage other than harmless staining.

I've also used the others you list. Albeit I would note that zinc oxide doesn't contain aluminum oxide.



I wasn't asking if you are afraid of using IC Diamond............... :o

Seriously, rub IC Diamond on a mirror or shinny surface and tell us if you see abrasions on the surface.
I'm saying it does, because I tried it. I rubbed IC Diamond on a mirror and it scratched the hell out of it.


Considering the things people do with mirrors that don't leave a scratch (drugs, including pretty vigorous use of razor blades against powder and crystalline... substances), to scratch a mirror with a paste that's a suspension of diamond dust would be pretty impressive - either a Gorilla arm or a cheap-ass plastic mirror with a thin film atop it.

The more important thing to demonstrate, though, wouldn't be the cosmetics but the impact on performance. Take a HSF, use AS or mayo or whatever you'd like, record performance. Remove and reapply a few times to ensure the result isn't a mounting abberation. Then apply IC Diamond, repeat. Then, after the proposed damage is done, repeat the original test and record performance. If there's a performance difference, you might have something.

But if your HS base is so mobile it can rotate and grind against the suspension and the CPU heatspreader, you have some pretty major issues - It makes me wonder if any scratches are due to different mounting and application techniques.
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:24 pm

I use AC MX-2, I have also used AS5 and Noctua's stuff, all decent.

If you want to be different you could get some gold leaf and use several layers of that for a TIM :)
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 3:31 am

Rendus wrote:Considering the things people do with mirrors that don't leave a scratch (drugs, including pretty vigorous use of razor blades against powder and crystalline... substances), to scratch a mirror with a paste that's a suspension of diamond dust would be pretty impressive - either a Gorilla arm or a cheap-ass plastic mirror with a thin film atop it.


What? What are you talking about? Diamond is hard. I think you need more schooling.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohs_scale_of_mineral_hardness

Rendus wrote:But if your HS base is so mobile it can rotate and grind against the suspension and the CPU heatspreader, you have some pretty major issues - It makes me wonder if any scratches are due to different mounting and application techniques.


Yes the "pretty major issue" is the crap IC Diamond. Where did you get the idea that my HSF is "mobile" and rotating and grinding the heatspreader? Really, where did you read that part?
Wow, reading comprehension is at an all time low with this one. :o
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Re: What thermal compound?

Postposted on Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:34 am

wow, so many recommendations for arctic silver...there are better pastes now for the money. penguin, how can you recommend the stuff when the very website you cited (which is very good), basically tested the stuff to be rather low performance in comparison to other (and sometimes much cheaper) pastes?

also, i've had the same issue JBR had with arctic pastes (i believe AS5) being "sticky" and pulling the cpu out of the socket when the heatsink was removed. if possible, do some cpu-intensive tasks to heat the cpu up before removing the heatsink, and gently twist the heatsink rather than pull it straight up and off the cpu. that should help.
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