How to Clean Laptop Fan and Apply Thermal Paste on CPU and GPU

Picture of How to Clean Laptop Fan and Apply Thermal Paste on CPU and GPU
A few weeks ago I experienced a problem with Flash Player causing my laptop to shut down due to overheating as CPU usage spike at the utmost. I noticed the trend about Flash when I turned back on the system and opened a facebook game, especially for Firefox users. I then googled for similar cases and read a couple articles related to the problem, so I tried other browsers like Chrome and ended up with the same problem.

Although this does not answer the question why Flash Player causes overheating, this somehow reduced my average laptop temperature by 10-15 C down to a much comfortable level 45-50 C. What I did was I opened up my laptop, and cleaned out the air intake, fan, and heat sink then applied thermal paste on CPU and GPU.

So for this instructable, I'm going to show you how to apply thermal paste and clean your laptop fan. Although applying thermal paste is a very easy process, it should be done correctly, otherwise you will not receive the optimal cooling effect that is desired.
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Picture of WHAT YOU NEED
1) Acquiring the correct thermal paste. There are many available thermal paste in Computer stores under $10 but it is important that you acquire the most efficient thermal paste available. The basic thermal paste compound contain zinc oxide and silicone. This costs under $10. More expensive compounds contain a better heat conductors such as silver or ceramic. Although the basic thermal paste would be enough to do the job.

2) Cleaning materials such as cotton swabs/balls damped with Isopropyl Alcohol. 70% solution is enough but the higher the percentage the better.

3) Other important materials like phillips/flat head screwdriver for opening up your laptop. Anti-static cleaning wipes is also particularly useful.

4) Plastic card for spreading the thermal paste.

Step 2: Unscrew the back cover of your laptop.

Picture of Unscrew the back cover of your laptop.
It is important that you have a dismantling experience before proceeding.

Step 3: Remove the CPU fan and heat sink.

Picture of Remove the CPU fan and heat sink.

Step 4: Dip your cotton swab in Isopropyl alcohol.

Picture of Dip your cotton swab in Isopropyl alcohol.
After this you may proceed with cleaning the CPU fan. Just insert the damp cotton swab in between the fan to remove dust. Continue until everything is dust-free.

Hi, are you using MSI CX420 laptop?

Arya429 months ago
My heatsink seems to overheat now and my computer shuts down after about a minutes after booting up. Here's what it looks like:
14, 7:59 PM.jpg
replace CPU
kzooblue1 year ago

Well, that speedFan download tries to fill your machine with a load of malware.

Thanks a lot for that.

Fixmypc11 year ago

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alterator2 years ago
Nice write up.

few tips:

1. check this video out. when cleaning laptops, I usually go for the blob method.
2. also good idea is to lube up the fan itself. usually they just come out, without any clips. then clean it out, clean the blades (with water, dish soap, and tooth brush. dry it after), and grease the motor. I usually use a drop of mineral oil.

Keep it up.
Analogue-Chick (author)  alterator2 years ago
Thanks for the additional tips.
Hi - I was gifted a 6 year old HP Pavilion that ran like a hairdryer all the time and was patently working like an old over hot dog. I was contemplating some severely geeky ideas about cooling the poor thing. The whole thing was dusty where muck and fine, fine dust had crept in - especially sticking to the fan. With a hoover and a small paint brush I was able to clean seemingly all the dust off. However, when reassembled it made little to no difference. Which made me wonder if the fan was at fault. So I dived in a little deeper and got a little braver and took off the heat sink off the GPU and CPU - and with that the fan was able to be freed too. I could then see that the reverse side was still dusty which then got dusted too. Shear nosiness then coaxed me to take the actual fan apart from the fine metal grill on the outlet side. Behold!!! Trapped perfectly between the fan blades and the grill was a huge wodge of wool fibers that covered the whole grill area. They were all felted together like a mega lump of belly button fluff. No wonder the poor thing ran like it did. With it all reassembled (two screws left over...) the lap top had never been so quiet. Barely a whisper.

The sad thing is that to clean the lap top you are forced to got these lengths to free the trapped dust and (especially) fibers that come from clothes; carpets, bedclothes; blankets and pets. I wonder if a strategic blast periodically from an airline could solve things so that you don't have to take the heat sink off. When the laptop has cooled down of course.

I was told that the paste need only be the size of a grain of rice.
Hylurk2 years ago
As someone who loves building computers and keeping up to date with technology, there are a few things that need to be cleared up from this instructable.

When you remove the heatsink from the CPU or GPU for the first time, make a mental note of where it touches the respective chips and the clean both the CPU/GPU and heatsink spot.

The cleaning job you did is not great since you want to remove all the old thermal paste so that the surface of the chip is reflective like a mirror and lint-free. Methods differ on how to apply thermal paste properly but it's agreed upon that a small amount is much better than a large amount.

When you actually re-apply the heatsink onto the chips then you're going to have excess spill along the parameter and be a waste. The credit card/card method works best if you apply a thin, uniform layer onto the chip otherwise you will get bubbles in the middle of the new thermal paste after reapplication of the heatsink.

Personally I use the line method and it's shown to work really well.
Analogue-Chick (author)  Hylurk2 years ago
Thanks! Will keep that in mind. But so far my laptop's not experiencing the shutdown anymore, so I guess I would have to save your message up in case dust clogged up the fan and vent again.