Introduction: How to Recover Components From Old or Broken Electronics Without a Soldering Iron!

Picture of How to Recover Components From Old or Broken Electronics Without a Soldering Iron!

I recommend that you read through these instructions at least once before actually beginning work due to a number of saftey concerns and possible pitfalls you may encounter which are addressed throughout.


In this guide I will be showing a simple method for recovering various kinds of useful electronic components from old or broken consumer electronic devices. The goal of these instructions is to demonstrate a less involved method of recovering components from circuit boards commonly found in many types of electronic devices.

Benefits over other methods:

Traditional methods of recovery commonly use a hand held soldering iron combined with copper wick or an extraction tool used to remove solder from around the desired components "pads" or "footings", this can frequently be cumbersome and time consuming due to the need for stable hands and small tools, as well as ample light and magnification, making it difficult to recover large numbers of parts in a short period of time. The method I demonstrate requires no small tools or fine motor coordination making it accessable to people of all skills.

Intended audience:

These instructions are intended for a wide audience within a specific field of interest. It is expected that if you are reading this you have some interest in electronics hacking and development, but I attempt to make no assumtions about prior experience when working with tools, compents, or knowledge of terminology outside of the basics expected of someone interested in this topic. It is my hope that you find this guide useful whether you've just begun to learn about how electronics and circuits work, if you're a weekend hacker looking to save money by reusing parts from old electronics, or an experienced veteran looking to cut down on the time it takes to de-solder components from PCB's (Printed Circuit Boards).


Step 1 - Safety considerations

Step 2 - Required and recommended tools

Step 3 - Workplace requirements and preparation

Steps 4 to 8 - Body of instructions

Step 9 - Recommended next steps

Step 1: Safety Considerations

NOTE FOR READERS UNDER 18, I recommend asking for the assistance of a parent or other adult when working through these instructions as there are a number of safety concerns to be aware of when working with solder and heat guns.

NOTE ON EYE PROTECTION, Solder can often spit when heated and therefore it is recommened some form of eye protection is worn throughout the process.

As a general guide, this document (you can also find the pdf attached) outlines a number of "best practices" when it comes to working with solder in any situation or project. Below I will outline specifc points that are of higher concern when using the tools detailed in the following guide.

Fumes and Ventilation

It is always important to consider your ventilation and air flow situation whenever working with solder. It is impossible to know what sort of metal solder were used in the original assembly of the parts you may be working with, therefore it is very important to implement measures aimed at avoiding the inhalation of fumes generated when the solder is heated. MAKE SURE YOU WORK IN A WELL VENTILATED AREA SUCH AS A GARAGE, WORKSHOP, OR ELECTRONICS LAB WITH A VENTILATION HOOD. USAGE OF AIR FLOW IMPROVING DEVICES SUCH AS FANS OR DUCTING IS HEAVILY ENCOURAGED TO AID IN QUICKLY REMOVING POSSIBLY HARMFUL FUMES FROM THE WORK AREA. If you would like ideas on creating effective fume removal tools, I encourage looking online for guides and plans created by experienced electrical designers. For the purposes of this guide two fans, one used to remove fumes from the workspace, and another used to circulate outside air should be adequate for preventing inhilation or build-up of fumes. If at any time you begin to experience a headache, dizziness, naseua, or blurred vision, stop working immediately and move to a different room or outside and breath slowly, these symptoms can indicate you do not have adequate ventilation in your workspace.

Fire, Heat, and Burns

As part of this guide you will be working with tools capable of reachine over 750 degress Farenheight, therefore it is important to follow proper safety methods when handling these tools. Extensive safety instructions are provided with all heat guns and should be fully read and well understood before first use of the tool. Since every model of heat gun is different I cannot give specific advice on safety measures to take with these tools, but as a general rule, do not leave them on when not in your hand, do not set them on flameable surfaces or objects, and never place any part of your body in front of the end of the heat gun as this could result in severe burns.

Disposal of Waste

Please be concious of the environment and properly dispose of all electronics waste when you are done. Electronics recycling centers are common throughout the US, please use them to dispose of unrecovered parts or left over boards when done.

Step 2: Required and Recommended Tools, Require Parts

Picture of Required and Recommended Tools, Require Parts

Required tools:

  • Heat gun, must be capable of reading at least 250 degrees Farenheight
  • Needle nose pliers (tweezers/forceps can be used as well, but the insulated grips of pliers is useful in preventing excess heat transfer to your hand)
  • A box/tub/container to hold recovered parts
  • A vise (Two large books or pieces of wood may also work, they just need to be able to hold the PCB you're working with in an upright and steady position on your work surface)
  • Ventilation equipment (please see Safety considerations)
  • Safety glasses (please see Safety considerations)
  • a fire extinguisher (please see Safety considerations)

Option/Recommended tools:

  • Magnifying device
  • Adjustable lamp or other directional light source

Required Parts:

One or more printed circuit boards, with all wires and external connections removed or cut. Please refer to the following image as an example of a prepared board. It was removed from a non-functional portable radio. It was necessary to trim/cut the connections from the board to things such as its power supply and various switches and knobs on the body of the radio. Small sections of wire are still visible and attached which is acceptable, just attempt to reduce the amount of plastic you leave on the board as these will melt when the heat gun is directed at the board for extended periods of time.

Step 3: Workplace Requirements and Initial Set-up

Picture of Workplace Requirements and Initial Set-up

Workspace requirements:

You will need access to a number of electrical outlets in your workspace. Use them to power ventilation fans as well as the heat gun and any lighting you may be using to illuminate your work. Place your parts container, pliers, fire extinguisher, vice, and parts board near where your heat gun and ventilation are set-up

Intial set-up:

You will begin by setting up your parts board inside of your vice. If you do not have a vice and are using two books or blocks of wood see the included image for an example using textbooks as fixtures. The only requirements for the set-up are that you can see and easily access both sides of the board at the same time. One of your fans should also be set up directly behind where you will be working to make sure fumes are properly removed, refer to the image again to see my example configuration.

Step 4: Identify Which Part You Wish to Remove

Picture of Identify Which Part You Wish to Remove

Look over the board you are working with, find a part on the surface which you have a desire to recover, such as a resistor or capacitor. I will be removing the capacitor indicated in the picture from my board. It may be useful to mark its location on the back side of the board with a marker so that you can be sure to heat the right spot. I've circled in marker the "feet" of the capacitor I am removing to help me identify it in the next steps.

Step 5: Grab the Part With the Pliers

Picture of Grab the Part With the Pliers

Once you have identified the part you're removing you should take the pliers in one hand and place them on the part, gripping gently so you dont damage it.

Step 6: Start the Heating Process

In your other hand pick up and turn on the heat gun, turning it to any setting which will reach at least 500 degrees.

Point the nozel of the gun at the spot you marked on the side of the board opposite your pliers. Since the gun "blows" heated air, you will need to hold the gun in position for a few minutes to completely melt the solder, it will begin to look more fluid and possibly begin to emit fumes when it has become completely liquid.

Move to the next step as you continue heating the solder on the back of the board.

Step 7: Pull the Part Off of the Board During Heating

As you continue to heat one side of the board you should be gently pulling the part away from the board from the other side.

Eventually the solder will be fluid enough that you will be able to full remove the part with little effort.

Place it in your storage bin for safe keeping.

Step 8: Repeat Steps 4 Through 7 for Each Additional Part

At this point you can begin repeating the previous 4 steps for each additional part you wish to remove.

NOTE: Some parts may have large "footprints" meaning they may have many pins spread over a large area. For these parts you must make sure all the pins have their solder melted at the same time, otherwise only a few will come free when you attempt to remove the part. It may be required that you move the heating gun in a back-and-forth or figure-eight motion so that you evenly heat a larger area.

Step 9: Recommended Next Steps

Once you have successfully removed all the parts you wished to recover you can put away your tools and clean up your workspace.

You will have ended up with a box or container full of assorted components, but having them all together may make finding exactly what you need difficult when it comes time to use them for a project. Additionally some of the components may have gone bad, especially if you are recovering parts from a device that was no longer working. I recommend the use of a multimeter for testing of the simplest of components, integrated circuit chips will be more difficult to test.

Once you have determined which parts work and which dont, you can sort them into groups by their values which are frequently labeled on their exterior, but in the event they are not, again use a multimeter to test them. For integrated circuits you will want to lookup online the part number which is printed on the face of the chip. Google is a good resource since there is no "centra" repository of chip part numbers and manufactures.

I hope you've found this guide useful in simplifying the process of removing usable components from old or broken electronics! If you do frequent projects with electronics this method can save a significant amount of money and time on parts and their recovery. Keep hacking and have fun (safetly)!



: D

SHOE0007 (author)2016-03-27

I often want to use special capacitors like from a computer 1600 uf which are hard to come by and use them to modify the circuit of a fm radio jammer. This method is cool and I am glad that I found this instructable. In other words to add a parallel capacitor 1600 uf with a diode to modifiy the current that flows to the 555 timer.

imcp1024 (author)SHOE00072016-04-13

1600 microfarad electrolytics can be found with ease or can be made with combination of different capacities. it may be harder to find a spot in the US where it's legal to use a jammer.

NathanL50 (author)SHOE00072016-03-27

That sounds like an interesting instructable :)

BrianR119 (author)2016-03-28

So, I have two questions (I am a relative newbie to all of this, so bear with me) -

1. Is there a resource that can show me what parts are the ones I really want, like a fly capacitor (I think it's called) in a TV, etc.

2. This sounds convenient, but what is the cooking point of these components. 500 degrees seems high for some parts...where I would want to use the de-soldering iron.


DragonDon (author)BrianR1192016-03-29


While I'm no expert, I think I can shed some light on things for you.

1/ Parts you really want: that will completely depend on what need does it not? I think the first step is identifying the various parts and their associated ratings. The more projects you do, the more you'll see what you use more of. Given that these parts are small, keeping nearly everything shouldn't be a big issue, in a reasonably-sized storage drawer unit.

2/ A gun may put out 500 degree but since there is technically a 'heat shield' that is blocking the bulk of the heat thrown out, components on the other site will not likely get anywhere near that temp, unless you are taking 5-10miins to desolder them maybe.

Hope that helps some!

wimton (author)2016-03-29

You may have to straighten the wires of through-hole components to make them fall out. I use a small chisel to lift the wire from the solder blob.

Most components survive 260 Celsius for 10 seconds (see "Solder Profile").

j-vega (author)2016-03-28

The procedure is possible, but many components will be unusable by the high temperatures.

paulsfo (author)2016-03-28


In the Parts section you say "Heat gun, must be capable of reading at least 250 degrees Farenheight" but in the instructions you say "500 degress", so I think the one in the "Parts" section is probably a typo.

andy.engel (author)2016-03-28

Another easy way to remove parts is to heat the solder side of the board with a torch until the solder is obviously melted. Then smartly smack the board down onto a piece of stucco mesh. This will knock off the melted solder making it east to free the component wires from underneath the board and then remove them. Needed is a large propane torch and a piece of one foot square stucco mesh which should be placed on a concrete slab or floor prior to usage. Safety gear required as per usual. The problem with the heat gun method is that is takes significantly longer to heat the solder which allows more time for damaging heat to conduct to the components via their wires.

bbrandt9 (author)2016-03-27

If you're going to hit 500 degrees then don't use books. Paper ignites at 451 degrees F.

fred_dot_u (author)bbrandt92016-03-27

Did you remember that from Ray Bradbury? (grin) Sure makes a dry statistic easier to remember, doesn't it?

bbrandt9 (author)fred_dot_u2016-03-28

Of course. I was a huge Bradbury fan.

imcp1024 (author)bbrandt92016-03-27

good one, don't want to be burning books.

ukdiveboy (author)bbrandt92016-03-27

Use wet books, that should buy you some time ;-)

Personally, i just used a classmate to hold the pcb. Depending on how much i liked the classmate i would avoid applying heat to the corners of the PCB

pamkane79 (author)2016-03-27

I have a sewing machine that all lights won't come on. I think it's in the on switch. I've wondered if it had some sodder on it that it might come on. But i haven't opened it up to see. Do anybody have any sagestions? I have taken it to repair shops they couldn't fix it. They did say while it was apart it would run. But when put back together it wouldn't. Thanks for hearing me out.

Passing You (author)pamkane792016-03-27

Probably a short. A metal wire touching a piece of metal it is not suppose to

imcp1024 (author)Passing You2016-03-27

More likely an open. A short at mains current would be very noticeable.

Passing You (author)imcp10242016-03-27

Maybe, but they say that while it was apart it would run. It wouldn't run with an open. A short can be grounded and you would not notice.

Passing You (author)imcp10242016-03-27

Maybe, but they say that while it was apart it would run. It wouldn't run with an open. A short can be grounded and you would not notice.

I_build_cool_stuff (author)2016-03-22

I've had problems getting solder to flow on some boards using a heat gun and soldering iron. Do you have any tips on how to remove those components whose solder won't flow?

for mass removal from a pcb I use a propane torch, while solder is molten tap the side of board on floor of garage or something that won't be damaged. then there you have easily removed components

drj-research (author)imcp10242016-03-27

Collecting the solder at same time to use - for example - as fishing weights .

Propane torch - in open when the neighbours are away

Lead is poisonous ! It pollutes rivers and poisons fish !
Never use lead as fishing weights !

I re-use solder for tinning wires etc.

imcp1024 (author)ElectroFrank2016-03-27

maybe if they eat a less sinker and get away too. I think The main reason they banned them was for the birds. that's like comparing the Boston tea party to the Indian Ocean. it didn't taint the seas.

u are having bad temperature flow from the iron to the solder, try applying new solder and cleaniong the iron tip

it could be silver solder in your board, some higher end boards use it (apple computers, etc). silver solder has a much higher melting point than standard solder and dissipates the heat much more efficiently, thus making it a nightmare to work with.

Scrub the solder a bit on top with a sharp knife. Then apply leaded solder which has a lower melting temperature (using a soldering iron and applying reasonable pressure/rubbing). That helps melting unleaded solder.

Gelfling6 (author)2016-03-22

Though BRUTAL, yet another effective method, IF the PC board is not to be reused, is a small Butane blow-torch (like they use for caramelizing sugar in cooking). (Example: ) Mind you, this also opens a few MORE caveats. #1, exceeding the temperature of the item to remove. #2, Excessive heat! #3, fumes from burning PC board if not vaporized flux, and melting solder. #4, Melting Solder! (This coming from someone who had gotten more than a few 3rd degree burns from molten solder.).. I heavily suggest (A) mounting the board in a vice (METAL! NO PLASTIC!), (B) using a pair of pliers to grip the device to be removed (again, METAL, NO PLASTIC!), and (C) Only apply just enough heat to melt the solder. If the board begins to burn, You're holding the torch too close. (should only have just the end of the flame touching.. If you hit it with the blue point within the flame, Yes, it will melt the solder quicker, but it will also apply maximum heat to the board.. And, the absolute MUST! (D) Have a bucket of water handy! (to drop the smouldering board, or dipping your burned hand into!) To answer "I_build_cool_stuff" below, I've had to go this method too many times, with the newer, Lead-free solder as well as Large area solders (I.E. removing cables, transistors, from ATX power supplies.) it's destructively brutal, but it works.. I've scavenged a whole 2-Gallon tote of spare parts from lots of items, but also burned far too many boards in the process. And usually, a Desoldering iron is not effective enough.

ChuckieBob58 (author)Gelfling62016-03-27

Welders gloves work great, but you lose some dexterity, LOOK MA, NO BURNS!

dogbertsdad made it! (author)2016-03-27

I did this process and it works great! I got more parts than I ever would have by desoldering them.

swander (author)2016-03-27

This works on SMT boards too, use a vice and mount the edge of the board so it faces down (use vice grips in combination) then start heating top of board for a few minutes under low heat, then move to the bottom. Use low heat to preheat board then turn it to high and watch the parts literally fall off. You can tap the board to help dislodge the hanging ones. Wear gloves and have a container under the board to catch the parts. Careful of through hole "barrel" capacitors, they can overheat and pop like a firecracker! You can ID them by the round disk on top with a + or 3 lines embossed on top. If they are bulged, they are no good anyway.

rogerwilliams2010 (author)2016-03-27

don't even think about solder until you can actually use it..... soldering and welding all need the same education and how it works :)

pixelriffic (author)2016-03-27

Electrolytic capacitors age and degrade over time. Resistors, non polar capacitors, ICs, diodes, and coils can usually be reused. If you're building a project circuit you expect to be reliable and last, using new electrolytics, or at least young pulls is advisable.

highlandham (author)pixelriffic2016-03-27

Electrolytic capacitors (provided they are physically sound e.g. no visible signs of deterioration) can be reformed =reconditioned by applying their max operating (DC) voltage via a high Ohm value resistor ,such that they are charged gradually while measuring the current. When current is nearing zero , remove the supply voltage and monitor the voltage for a while with a digital (hence high impedence ) volt meter .If the voltage holds well for a few minutes ,discharge the capacitor via the same resistor.

Repeat the above charge /discharge process a few times and the capacitor will have a second ( long) life .

This way I re-use most electrolytic capacitors salvaged from old/scrapped electronic equipment .

sbkenn (author)pixelriffic2016-03-27

Nods. Electrolytics have a very predictable degradation rate. Time, voltage, current and operating temperature define that. If I am looking at a board that has failed, the first thing I look for is a bulge on them. That is a dead giveaway for dielectric breakdown. Quite often, that is the only fault.

antonioaran (author)2016-03-27

Un semplice saldatore, calzetta di rame, aspiratore di stagno= pochi soldi, nessun pericolo, risultato assicurato

RickO8 (author)2016-03-27

I find medical (surgical) forceps at yard sales. I find these useful to use either soldering or desoldering components. I like them because they lock easy and have a small footprint.
Thanks for the salvage idea??

ukdiveboy (author)2016-03-27

At highschool we used a similar technique. All the ICs in our technology class came from old PCBs donated by a video game company.

We used a blow torch and pliars :)

Dont think a highschool today would allow that :-P

nonobadog (author)2016-03-27

Wow!! That is one heck of a lot of words to say "use a heat gun".

pmshah (author)2016-03-27

I have a sort of a hollow tip desoldering iron with suction pump built it. Why not use something like this on the electrolytic caps and remove them first before goinf whole hog. It works on absolutely any kind of component, of course not on BGA devices. but the component lead is completely freed of any residual solder and simply lifts of as easy as inserting it on a new board.

der_fisherman (author)2016-03-27

I like it!!

I have done it the "hard" way many times, it has worked, but your method is FAR better.

Thanks for sharing.

One slight critique, you should mention exactly what temperature you mean, 500 what?, Just guessing maybe 500°F.....

Many countries around the world use °C, so I always put both, one in brackets!!! Like this:-

500 °F (260°C) for example.



ValeryS3 (author)2016-03-23

I've done this few times, around 70% of parts are still working, other has died. Especialy, electrolityc capacitors,

deswiger (author)2016-03-23

I presume you are scavenging parts as I do for use in my Arduino projects and not doing replacement/repairs. In that case, this is a great idea / time saver and I will be trying this soon. Thanks for the share, good thinking.

wold630 (author)2016-03-22

Very helpful! Thanks!

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