How To Take Apart Scrap Computers (Step-by-Step Guide)

One of the most sought-after electronic scrap items is desktop computer towers for the high value of their components and because they are straightforward and easy to come across when scraping. Computers can be scrapped as a whole unit, but you will make more money if the time is used to take them apart for their parts inside. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to take apart a computer tower for scrap.

What Tools You’ll Need To Scrap A Computer

You will only need a few tools before beginning. These tools are chosen for the simplistic destruction of a computer tower.

  • Screwdriver – Flathead, Phillips-head, and Torx
  • Power drill – In case you prefer it over screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Wire Cutters & Strippers
  • Gloves/Glasses
3M Safety Glasses
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Taking Apart A Computer For Scrap – Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Unplug it! This may be simple, but some people may surprise you. Be sure to take the plug of the computer tower off and disconnect from any power sources to prevent shocks. You can also unplug and scrap most of the cords from the back panel of the tower.
  2. Remove the outer case of the tower. Depending on the type of computer, the outer case may be plastic, steel, or occasionally aluminum. There should be a few screws on the outside of the tower along the side that can be unscrewed. If not, you may need to use a little muscle with your hammer to bust the side of it open.
  3. Once you are inside, get your wire cutters ready. Surprisingly, the inside of the computer tower has some excess space, but we’re going to make more by cutting out the wires from the different power sources and boards. A few groups of wires should run throughout with plastic endings that can usually be easily pulled out from the boards. After clearing those out, set the wire aside with the other wires you unplugged earlier
  4. Now you have more space to work; you want to work on the hard drive and other disc drives. They should be in a shelving-like unit towards the front of the tower. Sometimes they can easily be pulled out but may require you to grab your screwdriver to loosen them up at the screws holding the boards in there. The hard drive will be a heavy rectangular unit, usually black on the outside; be sure to set that aside. The other disc drives like CD-ROM drives and floppy disc drives (we know we’re out-dating ourselves) can be set aside as low-grade circuit boards.
  5. Getting the power supply unit out should be simple and similar to the hard drive and other disc drives. It will be a larger box-like unit that initially has wires coming out of it. You may have to unscrew some screws on the side of the desktop tower to release the power supply box. You can set this aside, scrap it as is, or take it apart.
  6. Now that you have the power supply, Low-Grade Boards, and disc drives out, you can move on to the money maker: the motherboard. The motherboard is usually screwed down to the desktop tower with 4-6 screws along the outside of it and the middle of the board. Once you maneuver around the different pieces on the board and get the board loose, you can pull that out to work on.
  7. You will see a plastic (usually black) fan in the middle of the motherboard; you want to remove that and get to the CPU chip underneath. You will sometimes see an aluminum or stainless steel heat sink sitting on the top of the CPU. After removing that, you will have one or two levers on either side of the CPU chip that you can release to pop the CPU chip out of the board. Once you have that out, you want to place that separate from the other materials.
  8. After you have removed the CPU chip from the motherboard, you want to go ahead and also remove the rest of the AL heat sinks from the motherboard. Sometimes, you can unscrew them or pop them off.
  9. After separating the AL heat sinks from the motherboard, move on to the Memory chips attached. You should be able to find the clip on either side of these as well so you can pop them out. You want to set those pieces aside from everything else as well. Then, you can toss the motherboard and video cards in a separate pile.

What Scrap Metals Are Found In A Computer?

Once you have successfully taken everything apart from the computer, you can separate them into various piles for the other computers you will be taking apart. Your piles should consist of the following:

  • Wires – All computer wires can be kept together
  • Steel – This will include your desktop tower case, screws, and anything else that sticks to a magnet.
  • Low-Grade Boards – Disc drives (not hard drives) and audio boards
  • Hard Drives – Where the storage is, you can ask a scrap yard to destroy it for you
  • Power Supply Unit – Can be taken apart or scrapped as a whole unit
  • AL Heat Sinks & Case – Kept separately, scrapped at a value for clean aluminum
  • Stainless Steel Heatsinks – You should keep these separate
  • CPU Chip – The most valuable part of the computer
  • Memory Chips – Small but valuable too
  • Motherboards – Green Motherboards should be kept separate from the non-green ones; they are worth more.