AMD, Business, Companies, CPU, Hardware, Intel

Arctic Silver 5 goes whoopsie or “No silver paste for me”

Recently, my friend decided to upgrade his system from AMD Athlon 5000+ Black Edition and GigaByte 7-Series motherboard to Core 2 Duo E8500, hopefully to run at 3.8 GHz (FSB1600). 5000+ worked hard for almost a year at 3GHz, a nice speed bump from default clocks.
Back in July, he replaced previous cooler with OCZ Vendetta, and bought Arctic Silver 5 thermal paste (high density one) for better heat transfer. Fast forward to November, and the time for upgrade has come.
Ivan decided to keep his OCZ Vendetta cooler, and we removed the motherboard from the case. This was followed by CPU cooler removal, but what we saw next was nothing short of surprising. The paste suffered from separation between silver particles and the carrier material, with the paste spread all around the cooler and the CPU, not looking nicely.

Not looking good...

Not looking good...

..not good at all. Vendetta's unique design saw paste carrier spreading all around - cleaning was almost impossible.

..not good at all. Vendetta's unique design saw paste carrier spreading all around - cleaning was close to impossible. But using Arctic Cleaner helped a great deal 🙂

I’ve been using thermal paste since 1995 and my first overclocking: Intel Pentium 100 to 125 MHz (1.5×83) – but I have never seen such a separation between metal particles and the carrier. Bear in mind that I removed at least 500 coolers in the past 8 years (couple of 50+ motherboard tests will do that for ya 😉 ), but I never saw such separation, even with crappiest pastes around.
Cleaning the Vendetta proved to be close to “mission impossible”, since the liquid carrier penetrated all the tiny spaces between the heat-pipes and cooler’s body. We think that this “separation” was a byproduct of Vendetta’s open design, and potential exposure to air across the surface of the CPU.
Followed this disappointment in Arctic Silver, Ivan canned the paste (after just this application) and opted for Gelid GC-1 and didn’t look back.
Now, E8500 is happily ticking away, feeding the 9800GX2 in Folding@Home and doing a lot of video transcode using Badaboom software.

  • I don’t clearly understand what youmean by “separation” Theo. Judging by the images, and considering the “direct touch” approach of the Vendetta’s design as per the contact surface, the only thing that is clear from yout images is something that it is already known among those who have reviewed and own such heatsink, or similar: there’s always gonna be a “severe” gap in between the contact areas of the heatpipes and the rest of the base (in Vendetta’s case, the striped luminum base). Maybe, what you consider as being a cause of “the separation of the silver particles and the carrier” is due, as you yourself suppose, to the contact with air. If you leave a drop of Arctic Silver 5 (any version) on a clean surface, and let it stand in normal air (not covering it) for enough time, the carrier will evaporate in a short time, leaving on the surface only the rest of the paste, mostly made of silver microparticles and other “unknown” substances (mainly silicon aggregates and oily stuff). This not only happens to Arctic Silver, but to any “metal based” thermal paste in the market.

    You should only be caring if there was a thermal performance drop during use of the Arctic Silver 5, compared to the initial results.

    As a side note, I’d never use such type of heatsink, due to the lower contact surface area. But that’s my personal opinion.



  • Oh, I forgot: to clean throughly any surface from any thermal paste, try using a paint thinner: just pour some in a small dish, and with a small paint brush, soak the surface clean. A perfect paint thinner that I always use is Acetone (, an d I do recommend to use it in a ventilated ambient, since it’s vapours in high concentration are toxic, though. But an open window will suffice.


  • Hi George,

    well, it is obvious that I wasn’t clear enough. I’ll edit the article as soon as I get home (typing on blackberry is nice, but wordpress CMS is a nightmare – iPhone beats Bold in surfing hands down).

    I have several years of experience of working with different thermal pastes, but I haven’t seen this level of separation – liquid was liquid (i think the cooler shot shows best), and metal particles were grouped in not exactly nice way. Needless to say, I haven’t seen Arctic Silver doing this ever – the system was closed shut, and this level of “wetness” is just… well, weird.
    I saw pastes that were 5-6 years old (from my forgotten stash 😉 ), and those too had similar separation, but nothing like this.

    For a paste that was between the CPU and cooler for less than six months, this degree of separation was just plain dangerous. If the cooler stayed on, you can bet that the drop of liquid (it was watery-looking liquid, as seen on Vendetta) would drop down on a motherboard… would it reach a pin in a socket or not?

    Whenever I see liquid next to CPU, I get in freaky mode – I’ve used water-cooling in a lot of my systems through the years, and this liquid was really close looking to leaking coolant.

    All in all, this was a timebomb inside the computer.

  • That’s a little bit clearer, Theo. The “watery” feel of the paste is not a good sign at all, I agree. It was not clear in the post, though.

    I then must suggest, just to put my 2 cents, that maybe the paste was not in “very good shape” to begin with. Maybe it was taken from a tube that had been left under the sun (or any other source of heat) in the shop for a long time before being bought by your friend, causing thus a “melting down” of the aggregate used to create the mixture. I repeat, just my 2 cents.

    Maybe you could email Arctic Silver directly and try to get their opinion on this.


  • General Lee D. Mented

    Might just be a bad batch of paste. It happens.

    Cleaning is simple. Take it to the kitchen sink. Rub some dishwashing liquid on it, run it under the faucet. Rub it until thermal paste is gone, your thumb usually works fine though you may need to add more soap now and then.

    Most thermal pastes are stilll a grease as their primary composition, so a degreasing agent like most dishwashing liquid works fine. If you have something with annoying details like those heatpipes (who the hell thought up that retarded design?) gently use an old toothbrush on it.

    Just make sure the sink and chip are properly dry before repasting/reinstalling. If you can, remove the fan before getting things wet, but it’s not always necessary. If water beads in heatsink fins, use a hair drier to get it out before it can cause corrosion.

    I’ve done this dozens of times. Have even soaked entire MBs in the bathtub before and they work fine after once dried.

  • As long as there is no electricity running through it, you can dump the whle pc in water, soak it dry and it will still be working fine, once completely dry… 🙂