Thermal Pads – Ant Food?

Every computer that houses a processor, will have some form of thermal compound to wick heat away from the processor’s core to a heatsink or heat pipesthat conduct the heat generated by the processor’s core out of the unit. Whether its a portable or a desktop. Macs are no exceptions.

Now, the interesting thing that we would like to share, is the realisation that this same material used in most Macs also act as a magnet for ants. Yes, ants. Which are small enough to crawl between the small openings and cracks on your Mac to make their way to your thermal compound. As discovered, this may, in the long-run, have ill side effects for your Mac.



There are generally 2 types of commonly used thermal compounds found in any computer and also in Macs:

  • thermal pads (example pictured above) and/or;
  • thermal paste (example pictured below)

Usually, one of the substances is used uniformly in any given Mac but a mix of both can be found on some models – you’d really have to be a hardcore techie geek to know which.



The thing is, from observation, these little eight legged thieves, prefer thermal pads over thermal paste and so, Macs that have been equipped with thermal pads as opposed to thermal paste are more prone to seeing the odd ant appearing to be hanging out at your Mac.

If this happens on a regular basis, its most likely that your Mac has turned into a regular ant diner without your knowledge or consent. Which, in reality doesn’t pose any real danger to your person other than the occasional annoyance of having an ant walk across your screen but on a more serious note, if there is an infestation or regular chomping of your thermal pads from your Macs (as silly as this may sound), you may want to consider taking your Mac down to your nearest Apple Service Provider (ASP).

The rationale for this is that, ants prancing about on your Logicboard (which incidently, is also where your processor is housed) may unwittingly trigger a short circuit on the Logicboard and may leave permanent damage (and also a fried ant) to your Mac. Although, this occurence has rarely been documented, the more pressing concern is the subtle removal (by consumption) of critically required thermal padding from your Mac. Over time, if the ants consume a large proportion of your thermal padding, this may leave your Mac’s processor open to long-term heat damage.

So, the next time you see ants looking like their headed for the innards of your Mac, they’re not there by coincidence or out of simple curiousity. Its more likely, they’re rushing to meet their ant mate for a quiet dinner and hot dance under your processor.

Related Articles:

  • Thermal transfer compound comparison – an interesting read from Dan from DownUnder. In his quest for the ultimate thermal compound, he even resorts to testing toothpaste and Vegemite!


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