Picture of How To Disassemble a Computer
In this Instructable, I will give a full documentation of how to disassemble a desktop PC, for parts. The specific computer that I will demonstrate with is an HP Media Center PC m7640n with a dead motherboard. Every computer is different, but this is a general guide.

If you don't fully grasp what I mean when I am describing something, please refer to the pictures!

Picture Quality Notice (and HD pics!):

Due to the amount of pictures I uploaded, they are of lowmedium quality. Click the "[i]" in the top left corner of a picture, then click "original file: (3072x2304) 1 MB" to see the high quality HD pictures!
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Step 1: Unplugging

Picture of Unplugging

The first thing you do, is unplug every cable that's plugged in to your computer. That includes the following cables:

  • Power
  • USB
  • Firewire
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Internet
  • Ethernet
  • Modem
  • AM\FM Antenna
  • Cable TV
  • etc...
So pretty much just unplug every cable from your computer.

Step 2: Outer Shell/Casing

Picture of Outer Shell/Casing

Now that your computer is fully unplugged, move your PC to a clean work space, preferably a carpet. The carpet is better than tile, because screws and other small parts will roll around.

If you are working on a carpet, about every five minuets touch something that is grounded (Sink faucet\pipe, wire coming from the ground part of a wall outlet). This is so you don't shock your motherboard or other parts.

First off, unscrew the four screws on the back of the computer. On most computer cases, there will be large knobs that you can unscrew by hand or by screw driver on the back-right side of the computer. The left side has small screws because on that side you can't access much on the inside.

Once the screws are removed, you can remove the side panels. On most computers, they just slide off. Start with the left side panel (the side that once had the knobs), slide it towards the back of the computer. Now you can remove the left panel. Just like the other one, slide it towards the back of the computer.

Please refer to the pictures if you are confused!
jmunden19 days ago

Great job!! It helped me out considerably, I'm not terribly computer savvy but I do enjoy taking anything apart that I can to learn how it works. You said your mother board is fried, is that a Bios code or will the computer just not function? Also my computer is having a continuous beep, its done that before and I manage to push some cables back in and get it to work ,however not this time so I'm wondering if it's the motherboard or CPU..maybe someone can help? Thanks!!

FlemstoneY29 days ago

Fantastic illustrations,I suggest that you may use arrows point at some features in the diagram

bruceb641 month ago

Very good instructional manual. Detailed step by step instructions. I love the Pictures. The only thing I can suggest is that you include a list of tools needed.

ed.lones.92 months ago

great hp m7250n is loud and reboots without warning...would like to clean it well and rebuild it. It is 10 years old and I have already replaced the power supply a few years ago. (Could I; Would I; Should I) replace any components or add things to it before I rebuild it?

I noticed that the tv card will not pick up the new digital channels from my over the air antenna; it did when they were analog. Trying to cut the cable (Direct Tv) and use this computer for a DVR in the living room. Is this possible?

Thanks again for the instructions!!

ReCreate5 years ago
It would have been much wiser to buy a new mainboard and replace it...
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
Nah, I got a new super computer. 9GB of RAM! But, I used all of the parts from this computer, and hooked it up to another mainboard I have.

i dont believe you

so how did that work out for ya?

9GB of ram? Run cpuz and put the memory tab, take a screenshot and upload it here, I want to see proof...
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
It won't let me add a pic to the comment... I'll try again later...
upload it to and link to it.
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
You are aware that any more than 4 GB is invisible to windows...right? Well, I recommend that you dual boot XP and 7, And screw vista. With XP, you would get blazing speeds, in fact, you could turn off the pagefile to get even faster speeds, and with windows 7, i think that there are some features to deal with massive amounts of ram. What is your CPU speed? Take a screenshot of the First tab in CPUZ and upload it...
even better, TRI boot them like i did!!! P.S. I have a forum about this so check it out!!! PLZ
Tri boot them? I was planning on Tri booting Fedora, But my HDD is full now...
I was too, but fedora was stupid and wouldn't let me install it, but I could run it. A tip for clearing space, but try running ccleaner. It freed up 19 gigs if space on my drive. That's the only reason I'm tri booting not dual.
Yeah, Fedora and similar oses don't want to install to their own partition, they want to stay on the same partition XP is not XD I can't imagine how a program could clear 19GB of data, I Can count about 40GB of files that i need and are important, all of the files i have are taking up that space.
i don't know either, but it worked magic on my computer. just try it, and i bet you could clear up at least 2-3 gigs.
I'll try it, Where is it at?
I'd try, but if you can't find it, I'll post a link.
I just tried it, it cleaned about 120MB of data -_- I simply need a new HDD...stupid tiny 80GB-er
Yeah, I guess that my computer is pretty old... Some guy used it before me and filled it with a bunch of crap. I guess results may vary. ;)
Arbitror (author)  tanmanknex5 years ago
So, where can I check this forum out??
If you can't find it under my profile, then do a search for something like " tri boot xp". It won't come up with anything at first so change the filter to forums. If you still can't find it, tell me and I'll send you a link.
Nevermind, here it is.
That's only in 32 bit versions, isn't it? The ram limit?
Yes, In 64 Bit Versions, Which are Unstable, The limit(i think) is 128TB
Arbitror (author)  Arbitror5 years ago
It runs Vista Ultimate with all of it's effects, smoother and faster than Windows 98, and it's even faster than many Linux distros!
CPUZ, Here is the direct download link.
And open the memory tab, The tab that is labled memory, and click it...
Arbitror (author)  Arbitror5 years ago
"this computer" as in the disassembled one.
Arbitror (author)  Arbitror5 years ago
Not my new one!
JarrettC12 months ago

thank you for your help. I really needed it.

jlucas152 years ago
Thank you so much for such good info. My computer is shot so I want to remove any important info before I take it to recycling. It won't turn on so I can't use any "wipe-out" software. Thought I'd have to run it over with the lawn mower, but this method is much more civilized.
AceS1 jlucas153 months ago

i find that a sledgehammer is much more effective

Haha! More civilized to the lawn mower.
zahidh15 months ago

this is omar farooq the tuttie man

ompune1 year ago
many thanks 4 the info, as i wish to set up a training school in india for COMPUTER, TV ETC RECYCLING where we will teach unemployed science students this work so they can set up small workshops(1-5 EMPLOYEES) on the city outskirts to take the parts apart & sell the plastic, aluminium,copper & melt the costly metals to be given to big recyclers. also removing the pvc from all electric other than from the computer wires by mechanical means.please let me know the size of the shredder in inches for the mother board. any info u can give on any aspect will be welcome as i am still in the learning stage.
many thanx & awaiting your reply
balbir singh
TimRaquet1 year ago
Thanks for the tutorial. This just happens to be the same computer I needed to take apart.
nbwriter1 year ago
I realize this guide was posted May, 2009. But thanks to author for showing how to remove the heatsink fan ONLY. Most online guides focus on removing fan, heatsink and processor. (Removing a heatsink on a Celeron D can cause processor pin damage and new thermal paste is needed if the heatsink shifts even slightly). And thermal paste ain't cheap.

I nearly unlocked the two metal levers on the heatsink, thinking these are part of the fan locking mechanism. Due to Arbitor's guide, it's obvious fan screws just screw into the metal heatsink itself. In my case, I'm just cleaning heatsink fins for better heat dissipation.
MRedu3 years ago
Great guide to salvaging pc parts from a computer thanks!
kt21123 years ago
"No disassemble" - johnny 5 lol :)
whatsisface5 years ago
Preferably not a carpet, they can cause static build up which kills components. Best to be on some kind of desktop work surface or antistatic mat, using an antistatic wrist band.
This is true. I saw how he was disassembling it on a carpet and thought: lots more dead components.
Arbitror (author)  cyrozap5 years ago
I constantly grounded myself, by touching a ground wire. Also, my mobo is already fried, so I didn't bother with it. All the other components should be fine, as I have done this many times before on other computers on carpet. Those computers are still running.
I did not read ALL the comments, did I miss where it's mentioned where you get the copper to recycle? Someone mentioned they used to do that where they worked, and someone else mentioned it is too time consuming or toxic. ??
You have Been Lucky,Sadly,I Killed 2 main boards and 4 peices of ram with carpet. If you ground yourself,your not doing anything,you are just grounded,but not the carpet
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
I'm surprised! All the other computers I disassembled were all on the same carpet... It must be some non-static carpet, if there is a thing!
Well you'r Lucky,Very Lucky,Do NOT think that that is a myth,it is NOT,And it is a VERY common problem,Why do you think they sell those stuff in antistatic bags?
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
It turns out it is an anti static carpet... It has wires woven in the bottom which are grounded.
I fried my built in video card because i disassembled it on carpet... I haven't bothered to get a new one because i have another computer, luckily, and there wasn't much good things on there anyway.
Well that is proof.
 I am too. Ive gotten, literally, over twenty computers from a country club. I disassembled them ALL on my carpet. None of the components fried that were still working when I pulled them out. Extremely lucky bunch we are!

fmuhammed3 years ago
Oh My God. I can't describe my impression in words. Thank you very much. I was struggling to remove Hard disk from this machine for 2 hours and totally gave up fed up. But thanks for Istructables. I disassemble this PC within 5 minutes. It was easy as Pie. Thank you again. :)
That's not an ethernet card, It's a 56k modem. The ethernet is built into the mobo.
darkclaw425 years ago
 Darn, you beat me too it. I was browsing through instructables and had noticed there were few computer guides, now there's one more added!

I might just do the opposite, if you arent already planning. Assembly of a computer. Whew!
coldfiregh5 years ago
would you be very kind to add how to take out the processor and replace?
Arbitror (author)  coldfiregh5 years ago
Ill work on it!

And by the way, did you create an account just to ask that question? I see that that was your first comment!
there is a first time for everything; isn't it? the quest for sometime takes people places they never thought about a second ago; anywayz i already figured it out; it implies zero pressure application and release of a latch; thanks very much for the wonderful post
I don't know if you'll have this problem taking the processor out or not, but for the benefit of everyone else...

If the Processor is stuck to the heatsink, there are a couple ways to get it un-stuck.

First, twist it gently but firmly, avoiding bending the pins on it. If this doesn't work, soak the heatsink and processor in Isopropyl alchohol(70% or more). After a few minutes, take unflavored dental floss and run it inbetween the processor and heatsink. It should come off. But always be sure not to bend the pins and don't use rubbing alchohol below the 70% concentrate.
Take the cooling stuff off, find the little lever, pull it open fully, take chip out. thats it prob.
you dint cover how to remove the processor from the board but otherwise this is really good. : D
Yes he did, in step 15 he said, "The motherboard has seven screws holding it to the frame, which are indicated by large white circles around them. Remove those seven, then lift the motherboard out of the frame." You need to read, and not stare at the pretty pictures. :P
HA! pwn'd by the AUTHOR! XD anyway, the motherboard and the processorare two totally different components.
Arbitror (author)  Solderguy5 years ago
No I didn't, read some of the comments. Someone asked me before why I didn't show how to remove the CPU, and I replied:
I tried removing the CPU, and it turns out that it is attached to the heatsink itself, and in order to remove a CPU, you must lift a safety bar, that unlocks the pins. The heatsink is in the way of the safety bar, so I cannot unlock the pins. 
In step 15, I showed how to remove the motherboard from the frame. Not the CPU from the motherboard.

Everyone makes mistakes, but just read before you post!
Adrianb5 years ago
Is it wise to lay all the components on a carpet? I'd suggest using a clean (!) wooden desk or something. For one, the carpet is dusty and, although I'm completely not certain about the probability, the carpet may have static electricity..

EDIT: Oops, didn't read correctly.. You already warned for static electricity!
dombeef Adrianb5 years ago
How do you edit a comment?
he hacked the instructables comment database to add his edit, Duhh lol no
Arbitror (author)  dombeef5 years ago
Delete, Add Comment
Arbitror (author)  Arbitror5 years ago

1.Copy Comment
3.Add Comment
5.Fix Errors
Ok but, Nevermind
Blimey! How many pictures did you put in this?
Arbitror (author)  memyselfand15 years ago
As you have probably figured out, I love to use lodes of pictures in my 'ibles!
and that's what makes them good. good job!!!;D 5*
iProton5 years ago
Is it possible to disassemble and reassemble it as a Network attached Storage device? :P
Arbitror (author)  iProton5 years ago
While it's running?
That would be top of the pilot aceage :P
dingus2345 years ago
Good Job. A lot of work has gone into this. By the way the 'Ethernet expansion card' is actually a dial up modem. :-)
viviluk5 years ago
hey heres a random question, can i bring the whole desktop on the plane (as a hand carry)? even when there are things that are "sharp"? nice instructable btw.
Arbitror (author)  viviluk5 years ago
Just put it in your luggage!
I am now. but first I have to take out the important parts so they wont get squished in my luggage. which parts do you recommend to take out?
I dont think so. they might think that it is a weapon
ReCreate5 years ago
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
What the...?
I replied to your comment that said
It runs Vista Ultimate with all of it's effects, smoother and faster than Windows 98, and it's even faster than many Linux distros!
man this is a bug
reactos.org5 years ago
I'm amazed that you didn't take the time to show how to remove the CPU heatsink and the CPU itself. The motherboard might have died, but that doesn't mean that the CPU isn't worth keeping. This isn't really a complete guide until you show people how to remove the heatsink from the CPU, and the CPU from the socket. You should also inform the readers how to handle the CPU to prevent damaging it, both physically and from static. I've been building my own systems for almost sixteen years now, beginning with an AMD 386DX-40 CPU (yes, a 40 MEGAhertz CPU), which was faster than the Intel 386-33 MHz CPU, and I still have it in a box somewhere. I can't tell if you simply overlooked this step, or if you actually think that people should simply throw the CPU and heatsink away still attached to the motherboard... Back in the 386 days the ZIF (zero-insertion force) socket didn't exist; the LIF (low-insertion force) socket used by the 286 / 386 CPUs required the user to (GENTLY) pry the CPU out of the socket to replace it; I've personally never damaged a CPU, though I've seen a few that didn't survive the removal process.
Arbitror (author)  reactos.org5 years ago
I tried removing the CPU, and it turns out that it is attached to the heatsink itself, and in order to remove a CPU, you must lift a locking bar, that unlocks the pins. The heatsink is in the way of the locking bar, so I cannot unlock the pins.
the heatsink must have had thermal paste, it may act like a glue, and keep it stuck together. Also, these things are designed so that you can unlock it, it took me a while to understand the locking mechanism of my laptop's CPU/heatsink, but i looked up the diagrams and such and now i got it off.
Derin Arbitror5 years ago
My theory: If something can be put together,they can also be separated. Try wiggling the heatsink to break the bond from any thermal paste in there.
Cracknel5 years ago
I've never fried any of my computer components and I put them on the carpet every time :) Well, I discharge myself by touching the unpainted parts of the metal case. The problem is with synthetic materials that produce lots of static electricity. So when you wear polyester clothes don't touch any chips. Also when doing this on a carpet, try not to play "wacky racers" (as someone said above) with the components. You could just place them on a piece of cardboard.
Arbitror (author)  Cracknel5 years ago
I've never fried any of my computer components and I put them on the carpet every time :) Well, I discharge myself by touching the unpainted parts of the metal case.

Could you tell other people that too!? I'm pretty ticked right now b\c I have disassembled many computers on carpet and they still work to this day!
herb21 Arbitror5 years ago
From my experience and the that of a number of friends the problem of static is only a problem if the atmospheric conditions where you live are condusive to static. None of the people I know around here even bother grounding themselves to build computers cos static isnt an issue (well I guess about once a year in a thunder storm it might be but meh)
Yeah, I too have disassembled many computers on carpet, and never had any problems, but then again, I KNOW I'm kind of lucky when it comes to computers. When I first built my computer years ago, I forgot to install spacers between the mobo and the case. Bottom line, the WHOLE ENTIRE BACK OF THE MOBO WAS ALL SHORTING OUT!!! I didn't realize why everytime I turned it on, it would immediately turn off. lol. The second time I was lucky was that my liquid cooling system (upgraded to liquid after a year or two) began to LEAK and I didn't notice why computer kept turning on and off... It ended up leaking ALL OVER MY GRAPHICS card (well, one of them... I have dual, cheap HD Radeon 2600XTs) and also there was literally FOG/STEAM over by the CPU since that was where the leak was and there wasn't much water flowing through, thus it was burning itself out. So now only one of my graphics cards works, but other than that, everything else works fine lol. Not to mention I've been lucky about carpeting I guess since I've definitely placed all my parts on carpet at least a few times. Idk why I'm saying all this, just saying it because I guess I've never really thought about how lucky I am :)
Arbitror (author)  Arbitror5 years ago
I'm not often mad on Instructables...
Its ok,You are not going to get banned
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
I know that! I just wrote that "because".
Fashim5 years ago
Weres the motherboard?
reactos.org5 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
Arbitror (author)  reactos.org5 years ago
I tried removing the CPU, and it turns out that it is attached to the heatsink itself, and in order to remove a CPU, you must lift a safety bar, that unlocks the pins. The heatsink is in the way of the safety bar, so I cannot unlock the pins.

So that is my excuse.
I did remove the CPU, but bent some pins, which I had to manually fix!
Gee, I wasn't looking for an "excuse" for why you didn't cover removing the CPU and heatsink... any CPU in a ZIF socket CAN be removed from the socket, and I simply wanted to know why you hadn't covered that process, so thanks for filling in the missing details. I'm glad that you've now described your adventures with the CPU and heatsink, for those who've never looked inside their computer cases. Pin-straightening is an art in itself; probably some tutorials available on the 'net for those who don't know how to approach it. I'm also glad to learn that you didn't do more damage to your CPU getting those pins lined up again... I've dealt with a lot of CPUs with bent pins over the years (problems caused by customers who THOUGHT they knew what they were doing), and even though I've always been able to get the pins realigned properly, it isn't always easy. Guess I finally have a good reason to be thankful that I'm nearsighted... Lastly, the "safety bar" you've mentioned is actually the locking bar for the ZIF socket, just to clarify that point...
Arbitror (author)  reactos.org5 years ago
I was just joking with the excuse part! I find that straightening pins is not that hard. t takes a while, but it's easy!
ben_k5 years ago
In step ten, that's a modem card, not Ethernet, which is much wider, but thats not really important. Good, well written instructable. And you computer has the most front panel connectors of any I have ever seen.
In step ten, that is an ETHERNET card; dial-up modems have TWO RJ-11 connectors on the back, one to connect the phone wire to the wall, the other to connect to a phone. That way, the modem is directly wired to the wall, though some people make the mistake of putting the phone between the wall and the computer, which can cause lots of connectivity problems. That low-profile ETHERNET card has a SINGLE RJ-45 connector on it; don't know how you could confuse it with a dial-up modem...
Arbitror (author)  ben_k5 years ago
It's labeled Ethernet, but like you said, it doesn't matter. If so, I better keep it for my next computer!
Joe Martin5 years ago
Bloody hell, Very informative & lots of fantastic and relevant pictures.

5* No questions!
Arbitror (author)  Joe Martin5 years ago
Now that I think of it, this is the first comment that I have got where someone has been thrilled with my work!..
(You could drop the "Bloody hell" though!)
Well,Hell would be bloody,Its not a good place,and you don't want to end up there either.
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate5 years ago
True, true.

I just to tell all the negative people that in a lab you would dissemble a computer on a antistatic grounded mat with a grounding strap on you but in the home when the computer is dead anyway doing it on a carpet isn't going to harm it unless your going to play "wacky racers" with the components on the carpet ;)

Bloody Hell
Well, maybe this is just me (doubtful), the purpose of disassembling the computer extends beyond simply taking it apart. If I'm going to take apart a computer it is to salvage whatever working parts I can. Just because the mobo is done doesn't mean the ram, CPU or expansion cards are also done. I think this instructable could be very helpful in aiding someone strip an older computer for useful parts, but it shouldn't be done on a carpet!
Arbitror (author)  aaevann5 years ago
If you read some of the other comments on my 'ible:

For some reason, not one computer or electronic device that I have disassembled on my carpet has been ruined or shocked in any way. I have disassembled many computers on carpet, and they all still to this day work. I don't know if it is my carpet, or if I'm just lucky, but I have never run into any problems!

(I will take your advice though, no more carpets+electronics!)
Arbitror (author)  Joe Martin5 years ago
Hey thanks! I'm still not done half of the image notes though!
very good instructable step by step good for people who need the help 8 out of 10 advice computer chips such as ram and carpet are not good together i would have used a desk or maybe antistatic mat
Arbitror (author)  ALISTAIRELLIOTT5 years ago
Arbitror (author)  Arbitror5 years ago
I've been told about the carpet about 10 times now, just try and find those comments and I have an explanation...
mwhpro5 years ago
hey i am interested in that tv card and the connectivity center let me know if you want to work out a deal. thanks
steelnix5 years ago
Now that you disassembled it?? What do you do with it?? I mean are you trying to sell parts?? Building a new computer??
ReCreate5 years ago
Oh my gosh,Ram on the carpet! Carpet is like Ram serial killer.
Ah Mainboard on the carpet! Don't tell me you put the CPU on the carpet also? I cant see this(covers eyes)
blckpythn5 years ago
I give you a 4.5 for shear quantity of nice pictures
luvit5 years ago
i have parts left over. : /
TATcreator5 years ago
Interesting audio system!
liteoner5 years ago
Nice Instructable for technophobes, but as I see it, those pics aren't HD ones.
Arbitror (author)  liteoner5 years ago
As I said in the intro: Due to the amount of pictures I uploaded, they are of low\meduim quality. Click the "i" in the top left corner of a picture, then click "original file: (3072x2304) 1 MB" to see the high quality HD pictures!
I recently disassembled my G4 iLamp now that was hard! Great job with 'ible!
fwjs285 years ago
is it me or is someone playing taps in the background for this dead computer....*sigh*
Arbitror (author)  fwjs285 years ago
Yah ya ya...
fwjs28 Arbitror5 years ago
i see?