Testing a 20 year old thermal paste it hasnt deteriorated but
Hardware

Testing a 20-year-old thermal paste – it hasn’t deteriorated, but it can’t keep up with modern solutions

A computer store in Germany found a sealed syringe containing Arctic Cooling silicone thermal paste from 20 years ago in its warehouse. The find interested the employees of Igor’s Lab. It was decided to test this “thermal paste dinosaur” from the era of Intel Pentium 4 processors. Not without surprise, experts found that the ancient product was in no way inferior to freshly made paste of similar composition, although it could not compete with modern, advanced products.

    Image source: Igor's Lab

Image source: Igor’s Lab

An initial inspection revealed that the syringe containing Arctic Cooling’s thermal paste remained sealed, the paste had an acceptable consistency, and was easy to squeeze out. Judging by the information on the packaging, the paste contained 50% silicone, 20% carbon and 30% metal oxide. When the composition was checked using a laser spectroscope, it turned out that the paste consists of 50% silicone and 50% zinc oxide. Apparently the mention of carbon on the packaging was a marketing ploy.

Igor’s Lab specialists noted that modern industry “A benchmark paste with a focus on durability” TCTG-4.0 from MCT is very close in properties to the tested vintage Arctic Cooling, which proves the almost complete absence of deterioration during such long-term storage.

Further testing revealed that the thermal paste of the Pentium 4 era cannot compete with modern solutions. The test of the Intel Core i9-13900K processor with the old Arctic Cooling and the modern Alphacool Apex showed a difference of six degrees Celsius in favor of the new composition. This is an expected difference, although after over 20 years of progress in thermal paste development the result could have been more noticeable.

After testing, researchers at Igor’s Lab concluded that manufacturers’ recommendations on thermal paste packaging “use before” or “best before” can be safely ignored. Of course, this only applies if the paste is stored in its original sealed container in a cool, dark place.

Thermal pastes were tested several times in the 3DNews testing laboratory; the results of these tests can be viewed here, here and here. The results of a large-scale test of 90 modern thermal pastes were recently published published from Tom’s Hardware Specialists.

About the author

Dylan Harris

Dylan Harris is fascinated by tests and reviews of computer hardware.

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