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Thermal Pads.

How do you remove them without damaging the cpu?

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Comments
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It's not too difficult

Alcohol and cotton swabs help some but mineral spirits and the swabs do better. GooGone is mineral spirits.

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removing

Scratching the cpu or heat sink surface isn't the problem. It's putting high spots on. The 2 surfaces should be absolutely coplanar, separated by microns which dirt, ridges, paste clumps etc preclude. Scratches per se have little effect. The purpose of the paste is to displace the air which is a good insulator, but a thick layer of paste is the same as air, and has a greater tendency to migrate

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