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How To Disassemble a Computer

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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

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

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.


NOTICE:
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!
ompune4 months ago
HI-to all of you who have mastered the art of dismantling COMPUTERS, TV SETS, REFRIGATERS, WASHING MACINES, AIR CONDITIONERS, MOBILE BATTERIES.
you could save the universe from this E- WAST TIME BOMB which is is developing with so many of these products being dumped into the garbage specially more in the developing countries. in 15 years the lithium chloride & other toxic compounds will leak & enter the groundwater & from there into the crops causing untold diseases of the kidneys ,INCURABLE CANCERS ETC. sometime back i had written a article that i wish to open a COMPUTER DISMANTLING SCHOOL IN PUNE CITY IN INDIA. but i am now 73 with all the ZEST in my life as a chemical engineer am willing to travel to any place for 2 months with a free stay where some expert can teach me the dismantling of the abovementioned items safely, which i will teach to my batch of 10 students at a time who after learning all this can set up their own business in a 30 ft x 50 ft tin shed wiith just 1 impact plastic impact crushing machine.
at a later stage we can call one enterprising tecnocrat from each of the 50 odd countries of africa plus 25 in south america & which ever OTHER country there is a need.
our work will; be only upto the sage of dismantling, with the extraction of the precious metals given to the big companies doing this work.
THANKING YOU
balbir singh-mail- om.pune@yahoo.in
ompune8 months 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
TimRaquet11 months 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.
jlucas151 year 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.
Haha! More civilized to the lawn mower.
MRedu2 years ago
Great guide to salvaging pc parts from a computer thanks!
kt21122 years ago
"No disassemble" - johnny 5 lol :)
whatsisface4 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)  cyrozap4 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)  ReCreate4 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)  ReCreate3 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.
Unfortunately...
yeah
 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!


fmuhammed2 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.
darkclaw424 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!
coldfiregh4 years ago
would you be very kind to add how to take out the processor and replace?
Arbitror (author)  coldfiregh4 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)  Solderguy4 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!
ReCreate4 years ago
It would have been much wiser to buy a new mainboard and replace it...
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate4 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.
9GB of ram? Run cpuz and put the memory tab, take a screenshot and upload it here, I want to see proof...
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate4 years ago
It won't let me add a pic to the comment... I'll try again later...
upload it to www.willhostforfood.com and link to it.
Arbitror (author)  ReCreate4 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...
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