Thermal paste is the key to taming a CPU’s immense heat output and transferring it toward your cooler. But not all thermal pastes are created equal. Some are better suited for overclocking, while others are designed to keep your CPU cool for years. Choosing the best thermal paste will depend on your needs, budget, and skill level when it comes to application.

For regular users who don’t plan to push their rig past factory settings, any quality budget paste will do the trick. If you’re an enthusiast looking for something with a little extra oomph, our pick is Arctic’s MX-6. It offers great thermal performance and is easy to apply, unlike some liquid metal compounds. It’s also non-electrically conductive, so you don’t have to worry about a stray drop of liquid metal shorting out your motherboard.

This thermal compound is a solid choice for overclockers who want the best temperature control they can get. Its high thermal conductivity rating of 12.5 W/mK means it will help your CPU and GPU maintain low temperatures even when you’re pushing them hard. Its insulating properties also mean that it will last longer than other pastes.

This TIM from Gelid comes in excellent protective packaging and has a decent price-to-performance ratio. It’s not as good as the Noctua NT-H2 or the Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut, but it’s still well worth your money. It’s available in 3.5 gram and 10 gram quantities, which should be enough for 20 or more normal CPU installations.

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