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Question How many years does thermal paste last?

amd6502

Senior member
Apr 21, 2017
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I got a second hand R7 360 video card which has TDP slightly upwards of 100W. When gaming, its fans spin up to max. There is very little space around the cooling area of the GPU, as the mobo has the GPU mounted almost to the bottom of the case (around 1" from GPU fans to bottom of case), with only on slot (unused pcie x1) below the double height GPU. The matx case is fairly compact too.

I'm wondering how much improvement one might expect from disassembling the GPU to redo the thermal interface between the cooler and the GPU.

Given that my card is Rx-300 generation, it may be around 8 years in age. Does anyone here have any idea whether, or how much, thermal performance degrades in such amounts of time?
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
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I'd put new paste on too, if you already have some. If you'd have to buy some, I suspect you're going to have to improve case airflow anyway so would try that first, unless the following is too large a burden and you can't suffer the system downtime, BUT it is the more permanent solution.

With it so close to the bottom of the case, if a side panel fan won't effectively blow most of the air below the GPU, it would still help but could be beneficial to instead put a fan in the floor of the case then if the case needs taller legs on it for good intake on the bottom, something I've used in the past is PVC plumbing end caps, painted to match if that matters to you, or if this rigid footing makes it noisier then use rubber stoppers or feet, or pieces of wood, whatever. Obviously this means cutting a hole for the fan so the method you use determines whether whole case needs cleared out and metal shavings removed before a rebuild... an hour of work.

However at this age, I wonder if you are noticing the fan noise more because they are wearing out the bearings. If this is the case, lube the fans or consider replacing them, though if you had a floor mounted case fan in the right spot, you might not even need the heatsink fan and could just remove it. One or two, 92mm x 25mm thick fan(s) there would probably move more air than the video card fan(s) do, and with an 8 year old card, who knows how much life the original fans have remaining if they're spinning up to high RPM a lot.

Yet another option is strap a regular case fan onto the card instead of the original fan(s), though it will then likely take up more than two slots. When I have the space to do it, I go this route most often, even doing it with brand new cards after they pass a stress test, at least those not very valuable so I'm not as concerned about voiding the warranty.
 

Fallen Kell

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
5,663
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It depends on the paste as to how long you can wait without reapplying. I have been using mostly Noctua NT-H1 over the last 12 or so years and the longest that I have not upgraded a system (and thus reapplied) was 8 years. When I pulled the heatsink off, there didn't seem to be any issue with the thermal paste (i.e. there was no air cracks/leakage into it) and it was still tacky (and not chalk). I have also used Arctic Silver Ceramique and had that dry out within 2 years, at which my temps started going up until I reapplied.

So like I said, it all comes down to what was used on it in the first place as to if you need to reapply.
 

aigomorla

Cases and Cooling Mod PC Gaming Mod Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 28, 2005
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depends on conditions it was stored...
was it still sealed nicely?
was it stored in a cool location.

They can last a very long time, to a few months depending on the environment and the condition of storage.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
6,365
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^ A few MONTHS?

While I keep collecting little packets/vials/syringes of heatsink paste that came with various heatsinks, last record I can find that I bought any was Arctic Silver Ceramique in 2011.

I just had that out the other day, to put on a bridge rectifer for a non-computer project and it was still in like new condition a decade later.

I think I first used that syringe on a Phenom II x4 BE CPU, overclocked at the time and still running nearly 24/7 for the past decade with no reapplication of thermal paste. Just checked it to be sure my post wasn't in error, still seems to work fine as that system peaks at only 55C full load and would be lower still if not for a low RPM 'sink fan.

The only thermal paste I've ever had much of a problem with was the old school zinc oxide in silicone oil type and then mostly on CPUs or GPUs that were open die instead of having a heat spreader on it, so a much smaller interface to the heatsink.

The heat cycling of these high thermal density parts tends to cause the silicone oil to pump out and leave islands of dryish zinc oxide behind. Even that is much less of a problem if the heatsink contact area is lapped first, and grease minimally applied so there's not that much depth of solids there in the first place.
 

VirtualLarry

No Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
51,987
6,912
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The heat cycling of these high thermal density parts tends to cause the silicone oil to pump out and leave islands of dryish zinc oxide behind. Even that is much less of a problem if the heatsink contact area is lapped first, and grease minimally applied so there's not that much depth of solids there in the first place.
Nothing like literally chiseling off a Pentium CPGA 75Mhz heatsink, to re-apply new paste after a number of years.
 

aigomorla

Cases and Cooling Mod PC Gaming Mod Elite Member
Super Moderator
Sep 28, 2005
19,227
1,614
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^ A few MONTHS?
yes for example if your on a chiller or phase cooling.... sub ambient cooling....
this is why people recommend you using the original ceramic... the white stuff, and not the silver stuff when you go sub zero as it holds up better from the drastic temp changes.
 

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