Thermal compound (also referred to as gel, paste, grease) is a substance that fills small and sometimes microscopic gaps between two surfaces and increases their "thermal conductivity" while at the same time smoothing out rough surfaces to improve their connection. In terms of electrical components, thermal compound is used in computers between the processor core (CPU) and the heatsink to increase heat dissipating.
If your building your own computer, upgrading your processor / heatsink and fan or just have a old system and you want to replenish the thermal compound, perhaps to try for an overclock then you may need some of the slick silver substance.
One of your options is to purchase these StarTech Heatsink Thermal Pads (which comes in a pack of 5), and offers a "mess free solution to installation and heat conduction for maximum cooling." In theory a thermal pad would have a number of advantages of thermal paste. They would be quicker to apply, much easier to apply and much less messy. In reality however these items have problems that you will also have to consider when buying.
In terms of packing it's the bare basics here. Five small pads in a small plastic bag with no instructions on how or where to use them. That in itself doesn't present a massive problem as if your technological advanced enough to build your own computer and install processors then you should be advanced enough to stick on a sticky pad. If not then you have the wealth of the internet with all the information know to man in front of you (yes you can use the internet for things other than getting in arguments with strangers or for looking at photos of cats.) On a plus the small bag was very easy to open.
The design of these thermal pads mean that the compound as solid at room temperature which only changes and softens as the temperature of the heatsink increases. However the two main selling points of these items are it's mess free installation and even application design - but sadly I can't really comment on those points as I never actually reached that stage.
Despite being advertised as "peel and stick" they were not sticky in the slightest. It was physically impossible once peeling off the backing to stick the pads or to either your heatsink or processor directly. You could take a chance and use a bit of glue or try and take a best guess by sitting it on your CPU then fitting your heatsink on top hoping that doing so won't make the pad move. That's there first selling point lost as there not easy to use or fit.
In terms of size the pads are pretty much spot on, covering the processor core and its surrounds. As for being less messy, I suppose they are when compared to thermal gel such as Silver Nitrate (where you have to squirt on gel like liquid) something running as if it had a mind of it's own.
The next point to consider is cost and at nearly five pounds for a pack of five (price correct at time of buying and reviewing) they don't offer value for money. Compare this to a tube of Arctic Silver 5 3.5g Thermal Paste which can easily cover ten processors if not more for £6.10.
Sadly the "less messy" option alone isn't good enough for me to recommend this product to you. If your looking for a thermal compound you'll be better sticking with the fore mentioned Artic Silver which is better value, easier to use and to be honest more fun.