Introduction: 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.


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.

Step 5: You Also Need to Clean Over the Old Thermal Paste Applied to Your CPU.

Picture of You Also Need to Clean Over the Old Thermal Paste Applied to Your CPU.

Lightly rub the damp cotton swab above the area needed to be cleaned.

Step 6: Once Done With the Cleaning. Apply the Thermal Paste Above the CPU and GPU.

Picture of Once Done With the Cleaning. Apply the Thermal Paste Above the CPU and GPU.

Place a very small drop of the thermal paste, no larger than a grain of rice, onto the surface of the central processing unit and graphics processing unit.

Step 7: Spread It Using Any Plastic Card or Your May Use Your Fingers Just Make Sure You Wear Latex Glove While Doing It.

Picture of Spread It Using Any Plastic Card or Your May Use Your Fingers Just Make Sure You Wear Latex Glove While Doing It.

Step 8: Make Sure That You Have Evenly Applied the Thermal Paste and Make Sure That No Gaps Were Missed During the Thermal Paste Spread.

Picture of Make Sure That You Have Evenly Applied the Thermal Paste and Make Sure That No Gaps Were Missed During the Thermal Paste Spread.

Step 9: Mount the Heatsink and Fan.

Picture of Mount the Heatsink and Fan.

Reconnect everything.

Step 10: Test Your Laptop.

Picture of Test Your Laptop.

Restart your laptop and open up a program that monitors voltages, fan speeds and temperatures in computers with hardware monitor chips like SpeedFan.

This process reduced my average laptop temperature by 10-15 C down to a much comfortable level 45-50 C.


Hylurk (author)2012-11-11

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)Hylurk2012-11-17

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.

kgbmeT (author)Analogue-Chick2017-09-17

^^ Sure, but in case of my i7, IvyBridge, once I had to re-do it - fresh paste just wasn't working too well... Like, a 10-degree difference when doing it more carefully. :)

alterator (author)2012-11-11

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)alterator2012-11-17

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.

kgbmeT (author)knobby-knob2017-09-17

Since nobody had replied to this years old comment, yes - of course - using compressed air (fairly) regularly to clean dust can save a fan, sure... However, just buying a new one may be a better option - especially for an old computer; they're upgraded, can be brush-less, could be better than the current one (it can also be worse, sometimes, lol).

kgbmeT (author)alterator2017-09-17

(any amount of -residual- dust, however small, will allow for a quick build-up. :))

kzooblue (author)2014-03-02

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

Thanks a lot for that.

kgbmeT (author)kzooblue2017-09-17

Hey, if you check other download sites (such as, there's no mention of a software bundle in this case?! Are you sure that it wasn't something else causing the issue...

pietersteengoed (author)2016-05-06

How NOT to apply thermal compound

kgbmeT (author)pietersteengoed2017-09-17


BlakeG15 (author)2016-08-14

CPU's don't wear out. I have found that if I have a system that is slow AF and all the usual software and hard drive fixes don't work, I clean the chip and the heatsink, check the fan, and reapply thermal paste. I think the thermal paste not functioning correctly is way more common and the source of a slow system than a lot of articles will lead one to believe.

kgbmeT (author)BlakeG152017-09-17

Yessir!.. Not trying to spam the comment section here (lol), but there's no like button. Have to agree with what you'd written! =)

AlFXlogic (author)2017-05-17

friendly remark: are you aware that you could leave some air bubbles behind by spreading the thermal compound like that?

please check this out

kgbmeT (author)AlFXlogic2017-09-17

Yes!.. It's a (near) perfect guide AND a good reason to notice the overheating, replace the paste; however, the application - as illustrated - is *really* bad. Too much of it and NOT applied properly.

Really, depending on the computer /the actual CPU die, sometimes it won't -even- matter; BUT, sometimes, this *can* be crucial... Good comment, nice! :)

Arya42 (author)2014-06-13

My heatsink seems to overheat now and my computer shuts down after about a minutes after booting up. Here's what it looks like:

смитрић (author)Arya422014-06-14

replace CPU

AlFXlogic (author)смитрић2017-05-17

nice avatar

BlakeG15 (author)Arya422016-08-14

looks like you have no ventilation. clean out the heatsink and cpu, then apply a very thin EVEN coat of thermal paste on the cpu. replace the heatsink, careful to put it straight down on the cpu. I usually keep the heatsink as level as possible when i put it back on and tighten the screws little by little in a star pattern, like lugnuts on a car

BlakeG15 (author)2016-08-14

LOLOLOL I thought y'all were being harsh on the dude about his thermal paste, but I laughed out loud when I saw it :D I personally push a little out of the tube and use the tip of the paste to dab and spread it out as thinly and evenly as possible. You did teach me to not use a credit card lol

pietersteengoed (author)2016-05-06

You need to just put a bit of the size of a grane of rice(maybe even smaller). And don't spread it out yourself. It will happen automaticly when you put the heatsink on.

PaulM356 (author)2016-04-28

Hi, I'm sorry to say but you missed two very important points.

1) You do not show the results of the cleaning job. After cleaning the CPU and GPU, they should be shiny LIKE A MIRROR, as in, like an actual mirror, literally.

2) You applied about 100 times the amount of thermal paste that you need. You want to cover the CPU and GPU with AS LITTLE THERMAL PASTE AS POSSIBLE. Again, literally, just enough to cover the surface of the chips with a very thin film and nothing more. In other words, there should be no more shiny mirror surface visible anywhere; if you can achieve that with a thinner layer of paste than you put on, you put on too much.

PandaLion98 (author)2015-12-05

SM Bonus. Teehee

smandal13 (author)2015-08-15

this instructable is very helpful. thank you

NemoH (author)2015-05-10

Never spread cooling paste with cards or anything, just apply the heatsink and let the heat spread the paste. Using a plastic card or equivalent leaves air bubbles and gives bad cooling in the long run.

silentkillerlurking (author)2014-07-25

Hi, are you using MSI CX420 laptop?

About This Instructable




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