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Uniformity is the key to applying thermal paste. How one achieves that in the consumer electronics world is varied: one dot, five dots, X, spreader. The way that I achieve that is to use a notched spreader such as the West 809 notched spreader. Additionally, I usually apply the thermal paste to the loose item, in this case it is the heat sink. However, this approach requires that one be familiar with the alignment and the contact area dimensions.
On a side note, I never trust the work of an electronics technician who does not promote and use the following standard: ANSI/ESD S20.20-2014 Protection of Electrical and Electronic Parts.
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