As a follow-up to this – why might the spread method not be desirable?
If your CPU has a concave ihs (or your cooler for that matter) it is possible to spread the Tim too thin.
On stock wraith prism coolers it is pretty thick and the bottom of the cooler isn’t super even.
On the h115i pro I discovered the preinstalled thermal paste was too thin to contact the CPU (or even spread out much) on the 3700x:
The ring in this photo is from the preinstalled paste on the Corsair h115i pro. It didn’t even make good contact in the middle. The marks are from me using a dial micrometer and a set of machinists parallels to find out how concave the ihs is.
The ihs was somewhat concave and the h115i was somewhat concave.
If you spread the Tim out as thin as the Corsair preinstalled paste, your paste might not fully contact… and just get a ring as I did.
Curiously the cooling capacity of this ring was not completely awful. But boosts were limited to around 3.9-4.0ghz after more than a few seconds.
It’s possible to even see the non flatness with a bright light behind the machinsts parallels which are 1/8th inch thick.
Both the h115i coldplate and the ihs are a bit concave so the problems a bit worse than it would otherwise be.
If you do spread instead of dot, make sure the layer is about as thick as the layer on stock AMD coolers.