Like most things, thermal pastes also come with an expiration date. The only problem is that it is not indicated on the thermal paste tube. There are many factors involved in knowing exactly – how long does thermal paste last in the tube.
This article will discuss the composition of a thermal paste and, the proper way of storing it to prolong its shelf life.
What is Thermal Paste Made Of?
Thermal paste is made out of a polymerizable liquid matrix and some electrically insulating conductive fillers. For this liquid matrix, there are a lot of materials that can be used to make the thermal paste.
While there are a lot of materials that can be used to make a thermal paste, the best thermal pastes for computers are almost made entirely out of liquid metal. However, these contain Gallium which is highly corrosive to aluminum.
Since the goal of the thermal paste is just to keep the CPU’s temperature cool, this kind of quality does not matter as much.
Where Do You Store Thermal Paste Tubes?
For the longevity of your thermal paste, it is best to keep it in a cool area. Some might suggest keeping it inside your fridge or freezer but it does not matter. In fact, it might be more dangerous when you apply it after getting it out of the freezer.
The best way to store it is just to put it inside an airtight sealed container like a Ziploc plastic bag. The only places you want to avoid are areas that can be exposed to sunlight or heat such as a drawer near a window.
If you live in a tropical country where the normal room temperature is higher than usual, it should factor in drying up your thermal paste tube as well.
With my experience, I keep it inside a drawer where the room is air-conditioned for the most part. Basically, thermal paste is cheap enough and bought by the gram on most occasions so you do not have to worry about storing them as you would just want the right amount in applying it on your CPU.
You also do not want to risk applying the thermal paste on your CPU that is almost dried up as it may have some risk of damaging your CPU.
How Long Does Thermal Paste Last?
For thermal paste that is still on the tube, it should last around 1-2 years. Again, I do not recommend keeping or stocking old thermal paste for future use. It is easy to buy another one and it is quite cheap.
While it lasts around 1-2 years, it could also last for a couple of more years as it depends on a lot of factors. As mentioned above, it is better to keep it in a cool area, but not inside a fridge or a freezer. In short, just avoid places that tend to get hot so it would not dry as quickly. You also have to make sure that the cap is tightly closed to keep the air out of the tube and avoid dryness.
The mixtures or compounds used by the company or brand also matters. Some last longer because each brand has a different formula for creating its own version of thermal paste. You will notice that thermal paste all have different “Watts per meter-Kelvin” measurements. This is often referred to as w/mK and it measures the rate of heat transfer to any homogenous material.
With all these variables, it is hard to say how long a thermal paste could last in a tube, but it generally floats around a year or two. This is why it is best to just buy it when you need some.
You might ask yourself “how often should you change thermal paste?“. This boils down to three main factors. They are the material or brand you are using, the temperatures of your CPU (how often is it heated), and did you apply enough or too much thermal paste.
This is quite hard to estimate with the number of variables involved in the topic. If everyone had the same and best quality of the thermal paste, it should last for more than 5 years before reapplying more thermal paste to your CPU.
Make sure you know how to remove thermal paste completely so there is no leftover residue from the previous thermal because it can potentially increase your temperature.
With that estimate, it should be clear that your CPU is never overheating and is always on a decent temperature level. In my experience, I never reapplied thermal paste as my whole PC lasted all the way from 2013 to 2021 without any modifications, upgrades, and repairs.
I was using the best thermal paste back then and it lasted that long. My desktop was always in an air-conditioned room although, it is not active all the time. CPU temps never overheated and everything was properly maintained.
If you search other tech sites and forums, they would all have different answers. The only thing similar you can take from this would be their long estimations. It can last for over a year up to even a decade. As long as you can take all the factors mentioned into account, you can gauge how long your thermal paste can last.
Generally, thermal paste tubes should last for over a year as long as it is kept away from the sun or a hot area. Most of the thermal paste tubes can only be used once anyway since you can gauge how much you would need. Keeping them is not recommended for later use since the thermal paste on your CPU should last longer than the expiration on the tube if your PC is maintained properly.