You have done it. You mistakenly put thermal paste directly onto the socket instead of the CPU heat spreader. Don’t worry, it can happen to anyone, especially if it is your first build. And don’t panic because if you used regular non-conductive thermal paste, you will be fine. So, how to remove thermal paste from CPU pins?
First and foremost, unplug everything and remove the CPU cooler and the CPU itself. Your cleaning method will depend on whether you have an Intel or AMD CPU. Intel CPUs use a land grid array (LGA) type of socket to mount their CPU. That means that the pins are on the motherboard, not the processor itself. It is a bit harder to clean Intel sockets because of that, but it is not a big deal.
For Intel, you want to first clean the CPU using isopropyl alcohol and a clean, dry cloth. Simply wipe everything off and that is it. But the socket, on the other hand, will be a bit harder to clean. You want to get isopropyl alcohol, q-tips, and toothpicks. Whatever you do, do it slowly. Breaking or bending CPU pins is very easy and it will be very hard to fix that.
AMD CPUs use a pin grid array (PGA), which means that the pins are on the CPU itself. AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPUs, however, use LGA, just like Intel. The cleaning of Threadripper CPUs will be similar to that of Intel CPUs, but other AMD Ryzen CPUs will be a bit easier to clean for a few reasons. First, you can put the processor wherever you want and make yourself comfortable. Second, thermal paste cannot get stuck inside the edges of a socket, making it much easier to get everything out.
If you want to learn how to remove thermal paste from CPU pins as well as the socket itself for both AMD and Intel in more detail, you can find the answers below.
How to Remove Thermal Paste From CPU Pins?
Removing thermal paste from CPU pins is not that difficult, but it will take time. It does not matter whether you are removing the thermal paste from the CPU itself or the socket as well, you want to take it slowly. Taking an hour longer now will save you from potentially ruining your CPU or motherboard altogether by breaking a pin.
While it is not impossible to resolder a pin back onto the CPU or motherboard, but it is very difficult nonetheless. If you do bend a pin even slightly, you have to be very careful when bending it back. Now that we got that out of the way, you want to use a lot of isopropyl alcohol. This is because isopropyl alcohol will dilute and soften the thermal paste, making it much easier to remove.
Only take out small pieces of paste at a time. Don’t try to pull or push out large chunks because the force will be enough to snap a pin in half. For LGA CPUs, cleaning the CPU itself is not hard at all. Since the bottom of the CPU is flat, a cloth and some isopropyl alcohol will do the job. But the socket will be much harder to clean. Use the thinnest toothpick that you can to pull out very small chunks at a time.
Try not to push the thermal paste away from the middle. You want to work it towards the middle to avoid even more trouble. And when it comes to AMD PGA sockets, you again want to use toothpicks. Only now, you will have to scoop the thermal paste out. Again, don’t worry if you can’t get everything out because the socket is already made out of plastic. A small bit of non-conductive paste will not wreck the socket then.
AMD CPUs itself are a bit easier to clean than Intel sockets, but it is still time-consuming nonetheless. Do not rush this because breaking the CPU is even worse than breaking the motherboard because it is much more expensive. Unlike Intel sockets, here you are free to push the thermal paste towards the edges and you might even find it easier to do than scooping paste out. Nonetheless, be very gentle and do not use any force whatsoever because CPU pins are very easy to bend.
If you have made the mistake of applying thermal paste between your socket and CPU pins, do not worry too much. If it is non-conductive, you will just have to clean as much as you can. So, how to remove thermal paste from CPU pins? Just take it slowly, use a lot of isopropyl alcohol, q-tips, and toothpicks. Scoop out small bits at a time and be as gentle as you can.