Last week I discussed briefly about the importance of keeping your laptop ventilation clean from dust. That is not important only for the sake of your health but mostly for the sake of your laptop's performance. Even an Apple MacBook needs to have dust removed once a year in order to perform in an optimal manner.
That got me thinking about another crucial element related to the performance and heat management of a laptop. Thermal paste. So what is thermal paste and what is it good for?
As you surely know the CPU or central processing unit is the "brain" of every computer, be it a desktop running windows, a laptop running windows or linux or an Apple MacBook. They all have a processor inside them that does all the heavy duty calculations. Just a quick note here, there are all sorts of processing units aside from the CPU in any computer, or phone for that matter, but for the sake of simplicity we will only focus on the CPU here.
So, the CPU does all the calculations that allow your operating system to boot, your word document to write wonderful words and your video player to show you HD images at 60FPS. It does that using a lot of 0's and 1's and it uses electricity to generate those sequences of 0,1,1,0,1,0,0,1,1 (and on and on to iternity). Electricity is source of heat. Processors today have become very efficient compared to just a couple of years ago but the laws of physics cannot be bend unfortunately, where there is electricity there will be some loss of energy as heat. In fact, if we stilck to definitions from the world of physics, all energy coming into the processor will turn into heat. It's just that some of the electrical energy coming in will be used to change the processor state before turning to heat. Some in-depth and very interesting explantation of this can be found here.
But let's leave physics aside for a minute. What matters in the context of this post is the answer to a simple question, what is done to dissipate this heat? The first solution which I discussed in last week's blog post is ventilation. The heat is being pushed out of the laptop chassis using a fan that pushes the heat towards the back or the side/s of the laptop. But that is fat from being an adequate solution, it's simply not enough to remove all the heat generated by the CPU. This is where the thermal paste comes in.
Thermal paste (or CPU grease or heat paste are also common names for it) is a special material that has 0 electrical conductivity but very high properties of heat conductivity. The thermal paste sits directly on the CPU and right under a piece of metal, called the heatsink. What this does is bring the heat directly to the heatsink, that hit sink goes towards the ventalation location and the fan pushes the hot air out.
That is a smart, simple and elegant solution to dissipate heat from the inside of a laptop chassis but it has one key weakness. The paste on the CPU tends to crack and dry up over time. It will still function but the reduces efficiency of the paste would mean that the CPU within laptop/MacBook is going to operate at higher temperatures. Higher telperatures mean significantly slower performance.
It is recommended to replace the thermal paste ideally once a year and definitely once every two years. This would guarantee that the laptop (or desktop for that matter) will perform at it's best and have a much longer lifespan.
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