So should you change thermal paste on a GPU? Does your GPU (Graphics Card) sound like a jet engine when you play games? Have you been using the same GPU for several years now? Does your frame rate get progressively worse the longer you play?
If you answered yes to those questions, I might have a solution for you. Recently my GPU has been acting weird and getting much hotter than usual, so I started to look for solutions.
You have probably heard that you should replace the thermal paste on your CPU every year or so. But what about the thermal paste on your GPU? It wasn’t until recently that I actually realized my GPU has a heatsink and uses thermal paste.
Should You Change Thermal Paste on a GPU?
You should only change the thermal paste on a GPU if it’s hitting temperatures of higher than 90c and your warranty has expired. Changing the thermal paste on an old GPU can lower temperatures by 5 – 15 degrees, depending on the GPU and the number of fans.
Be careful. Most people don’t want to touch their graphics card, and for a good reason, that piece of hardware usually makes up 40% or more of a PC budget. Stab the wrong thing with a screwdriver or drop the GPU and you can say goodbye to that card.
You should change your GPU thermal paste if….
- It’s reaching temps higher than 90 under load
- You bought it second-hand (possibly used in a mining rig)
- The fans are always on 100% speed (loud)
- Your GPU warranty is expired
If you don’t meet those conditions, you can still replace the thermal paste, but it won’t make a significant difference in temperatures.
What is Throttling?
Throttling happens when your GPU lowers its clock speed to try and reduce temperature because it’s getting too hot. As you can imagine, when that happens your in-game performance will drop and you’ll see a dramatic decrease in frame rates. Speaking of frames, have you considered moving from 60 Hz to 144 Hz?
This happened to me a couple of times. I was playing a game as usual and suddenly the frame rate dropped to 30 or lower. For some reason, the fans on my GPU decided to stop working (a software issue) and my card’s temperature shot up to 90 degrees which throttled the card. Once the fans started spinning again, and I closed the game, the temperature came back to normal, and I could get back to my games.
So if after long game sessions you notice that your GPU temperatures increase while your frame rate decreases, you might need to change the thermal paste on your GPU.
Warning: I’m not responsible for any damage that you cause to your graphics card or other components after following tips or ideas from this article. Proceed at your own risk.
How to Change Thermal Paste on a GPU:
Quick note: I recommend searching for your graphics card’s specific model and instructions on YouTube because it’ll be much easier to follow. If you use a GTX 1060 6 GB, here’s the video tutorial that I followed:
Having said that, if you’re experiencing the issues mentioned earlier, replacing the thermal paste on your GPU can be a good idea.
As it turns out, it’s actually not that difficult. Essentially all you need is a screwdriver, some thermal paste, and some alcohol to remove the old thermal paste.
1 – Remove The Graphics Card From Your Computer
Unplug the power cable, unscrew the backplate, and gently pull the graphics card out of your computer, it should slide out with no problems.
2 – Remove the Rear Screws
Flip over the card and remove the screws that hold the top panel in place. Some of these will be marked with a stick that will void your warranty which is best to only do this when you warranty has expired.
3 – Gently Take Off the Top Panel
It should slide off. Be careful to remove the power cable for fans.
4 – Clean the Heatsink from Dust
Use a brush or compressed air to remove the dust that built up in the heat sink.
5 – Remove Back-Panel Screws
These are the screws holding the heat sink in place. When you remove these screws, the panel that holds the heat sink in place will come off with the heat sink, so make sure you don’t let either end fall on the ground.
6 – Use Alcohol to Clear the Old Thermal Paste
Now you’ll see the thermal paste. Use a Q-tip or tissue with alcohol (you should have lots of that lying around) to remove the old thermal paste on both the GPU and the cooler.
7 – Add a Drop of New Thermal Paste to the GPU
Unlike with CPUs, you can spread the thermal paste around the GPU a bit. In fact, it’s recommended to make it completely cover the GPU chip You don’t need to apply the paste to the cooler.
8 – Put the Cooler Back, Turn the GPU Over, and Re-attach the Backplate
When re-attaching the backplate, make sure to only turn the screws a little bit at a time, because the backplate needs to be balanced. You also need to hold the cooler in place, try not to move it around too much or you’ll smear thermal paste around the GPU.
9 – Plug in the Fan Cable, Re-Attach Top Panel
Add the screws back to the secure the top panel to the card. Don’t forget to plug in the GPU fan cable (very important).
10 – Put the Card Back in Your Computer
Slide the card back into the PCI slot, attach the power cable, and tighten any necessary back plate screws. The card should be secure. You might need to use a little bit of force to push it back into the slot. You should hear a click when it’s in.
As you can see, it’s not that complicated. If everything works as intended, your card should be showing lower temperatures when you play games and it won’t throttle.
When You Shouldn’t Change Thermal Paste on a GPU:
You shouldn’t change the thermal paste on a GPU if it’s not reaching unusually high temperatures. Most graphics cards can operate fine at 70 – 80 Celsius. It’s only when the card starts running hotter than that, or the fans are too loud, that you need to worry.
Most Geforce cards have a good quality thermal paste that lasts for years. Even if replacing the thermal paste on your card does not lower the temperature, taking it out and cleaning the dust is still a good idea.
The Bottom Line:
To summarize, if your experiencing throttling issues and high temperatures, you can consider changing the thermal paste on your GPU. It could be the solution you need.
I recommend following a video tutorial on how to do it because the steps will vary depending on your GPU. Some cards won’t even let you disassemble them, so make sure to research first. Hopefully, you can lower those temperatures and keep your card for longer!