Does Arctic Silver Thermal Paste Expire / Go Bad?

Arctic Silver Thermal Paste Expiration Answer

This article explains whether it is safe to use several years old thermal paste / grease. A few months ago I needed to replace a motherboard, which meant removing the heatsink fan from the processor. Because of the way thermal paste works, this also meant cleaning off the old thermal pad / paste / grease and apply a new coat to ensure the best possible heat transfer between the processor and heat sink fan.

I had old tubes of Arctic Silver 5, Arctic Silver 7, and Arctic Silver Ceramique lying around – each only having been used once in personal computer builds. I did not want to spend another $10 or so buying another tube, then having 80% of the product go to waste.

I tried testing the Arctic Silver 7 by squeezing out a bid of the goop onto a test surface. At first, only a clear oil-like substance came out, but then the silver colored particles appeared like normal. The substance was not tried out or flaky, so all seemed well but first I wanted to do more research.

Well, Is it Okay To Use?

I couldn’t find any information online, so I went to Arctic Silver’s limited website. There was also a lack of information there, so I emailed their customer support.

Arctic Silver’s customer support responded very quickly and reluctantly confirmed that yes, it should be okay to use. I say reluctantly because I’m sure Arctic Silver does not want to be blamed for any problems caused. The “canned response” as they put it – was to recommend 12 months, refrigerated, for strict military specifications. However he went on to say that as long as the material was fully mixed, it would be fine.

Instructions for Using Old Arctic Silver and Most Other Thermal Paste / Grease

(and most other thermal paste and grease) – Squeeze out a few dabs of the substance onto a scrap surface like a piece of paper or plastic, then throw that away. You’l likely get a clear fluid that comes out first: squeeze until the “silver” colored material of the Artic Silver starts coming out, well mixed. Make sure what you are squeezing out is well mixed and not flaky or clumpy or dried out.

Set the tube nose down for a day or two. This will make sure the “silver” floats to the bottom of the tube, ready to be applied. Before applying to the processor, be sure to push put a bit more to make sure it looks smooth, liquid, and well-mixed. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper application, including not applying too much. Different processors recommend different methods for spreading out (or NOT spreading out) the thermal paste, so be sure to check the Arctic Silver documentation for your specifics. Note that the author of this article is not responsible for any problems or damages caused.

Storage to Ensure Longevity

Be sure to have stored it securely capped (I’d also recommend in a sealed plastic bag or container to help), hopefully in a location that does not get too hot or too cold. If at all possible, store the tube nose down. Note that I stored my tube of Arctic Silver on its side, in a box, without being sealed airtight, that was left outside for multiple days during the winter, so its not strictly important to do these things.

Using this information, I used 6 year old Arctic Silver on a Sandybridge i5 2500k processor and its working great. I saw temperatures drop a few degrees after switching to this old Arctic Silver compared to the thermal pad that came applied to the retail processor fan. Nothing else changed except the Arctic Silver instead of the retail thermal pad, so since temps have dropped and remained lower, I know everything is fine!

If you still need to purchase a new tube of Arctic Silver, you can find it at Amazon here: Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound

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12 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for this. I was wondering the same thing doing a new system build last night. I think my Arctic Silver 5 must be a good 5 years old. I got rid of the first of what was in the tube, the rest looked the same as ever. So far my Core i7-3770k seems to be running fine.

  2. mike says:

    Thank you for this as well. Building new pc on 3/2/2013 and this saved me 10 bucks

  3. Justin says:

    Thank you so much, I have some artic silver 5 but its 3 years old. I just ordered a brand new i5 and forgot to get some new compound. I was very nervous about using such old compound, but thanks for trying it out for us all!

  4. Jason says:

    I, too, thank you for this. Keep up the good work!

  5. Ferhat says:

    Same worries here, but my 4 year old paste looks well mixed I guess, so I’ll just head on and use it, thnx =)

  6. Roberto says:

    Muchas gracias!

    Justo andaba buscando exactamente la misma información para la misma CPU.

    Hoy se apagó mi notebook y al parecer urge una mantención :-P


  7. 8370E Overclocker says:

    Still Valid Article Years Later!
    Thanks Much, Just found an old tube, followed your advice, and good to go!

    Thanks for saving me $10, as I certainly wasn’t going to use the crud in the stock box.

  8. 8370 Black Edition user says:

    I’ve been having temp issues lately and this topic seemed relevant. Cleaned and reapplied compound, lowered voltage, dropped multiplier back to auto, scanned for malware and virii with no success. All 3 fans working full speed, yes the heat sink is seated correctly, I can’t get cpu below 79C at 0% usage. Windows 7. Any suggestions please.

  9. daydull says:

    In reply to @8370 Black Edition User:
    Could be many things and it may be too late to help, but one thing that comes to mind is make sure you applied thermal paste correctly for that CPU and that you cleaned the old stuff off correctly from both the CPU and bottom of the heatsink. Some CPUs/heatsinks recommend a single dot in the middle, some recommend a specific pattern. Make sure you applied the correct amount in the correct way.

  10. Rodney says:

    I bought some Arctic Silver 5 well over a decade ago and I’m still using it – and it works quite well. I built out my 8700k with it and cooling is as good as any thermal paste comparisons I could find, meaning it’s still working as it should.

  11. Ben says:

    I had some old Arctic 5 I had been using for some time. I recently noticed the tube I had at the end it came out VERY thick and dark in color. I bought some new paste and it was a very light grey/silver and I remembered the last time I applied it to my pc it had been a bit darker. My pc was running a bit hot on the OC compared to other similar users. I winded up switching it to the new past and the temp came down by 15-20C. So I would definitely say it has shelf life. If it doesn’t seem to be good temps after setting up a system it might be worth spending a couple bucks on a new tube. That said the tube I had been using last for multiple years and easily 20 different applications.

  12. ThaCrip says:

    I bought a Arctic Silver 5 tube in March 2006 and used it on a used i5-3550 CPU (with a i3-2120 heatsink/fan combo on a i5-3550 CPU) last year in 2020 to swap out my i3-2120 to a i5-3550 and it works fine. so that Arctic Silver 5 tube was stored 14+ years and still works well. I did not do anything special in terms of storing it either as it just sit on it’s side (with the cap on obviously) which was slightly tilted (which would be towards the tip) given the plastic syringe part on the tube elevates it slightly instead of it being totally horizontal and I applied the thermal paste and everything appears to work great like usual.

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