Introduction: Recycle Old PCB Components

Picture of Recycle Old PCB Components

This instructables will show you how to recycle, by desoldering, all your old PCB's (Printed Circuit Board) components. You can find PCB in almost every electronic devices (DVD, computer, camera , toys...).All you have to do is to disassemble them, and desolder the components you want. So here is how to do step by step!

*This Instructable has been feature on Hack-a-Day and in The Best of Instructables book !

Step 1: Find Things to Disasemble

Picture of Find Things to Disasemble

First you have to find electronics devices like DVD,VHS,Camera,Computer,Clock... that you don't use anymore or that you found in the garbage or that doesn't work anymore.Then remove all the screws and get out the PCB's.(Green plate with components solder to it)

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials
Here what you need to disolder the components from the PCBs

  • PCB s (Of course!)
  • Set of pliers (For different size of components)
  • Soldering iron
  • Vice grip or third hand
  • Case for the desoldered components
  • Desoldering pump (Optional)

Step 3: Hold PCB With the Vice Grip

Picture of Hold PCB With the Vice Grip

Hold a PCB horizontally with your vice grip or your third hand. Solder side facing you. If you have a regular vice grip, put the solder side , on the side of the hand you use to hold you soldering iron.

If you don't have this kind of vice grip, you can use another type of vice , to hold your pcb up (Pic 2)

You can also use third hand or helping hand to hold your PCB

Step 4: Start Removing the Components

Picture of Start Removing the Components

Get your soldering iron hot and start to remove the components you want with your soldering iron.Put your soldering iron tip on the solder of the component you want, and with the other hand hold the component itself or one of it lead with a plier and get them out when the solder is melted hot. try not to take your time when the iron touch the lead because the component can become very hot very fast and there are risks to blow them up. If the leads are long enough, you can try putting an alligator clip between the component and the joint, the clip will take much of the heat generated by the iron. Check the video for more info.(Video coming soon)

Sometime , you will get to bigger components with bigger lead, to help, you can help you by using a desoldering tool like the one on the picture, its very not expensive, and can help you a lot getting bigger components out. To use it, heat up the lead, then  when the solder is melting, put the pump close and hit the button to suck up the solder. Then when you will cock the mechanism back, the sucked solder will come out. Be careful because solder pump have a plastic tip so try to avoid contact with your soldering iron 

Step 5: Continue to Remove the Components

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Continue to remove the components with the same technique,and you will get a lot of them!

Step 6: Recycled Components

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Here are the components that I recycled within half an hour of desoldering...

  • Capacitors
  • Switches
  • Audio sockets
  • TV plugs
  • Resistors
  • LEDs
  • Transistors
  • Motor
  • Screws
  • ...

Step 7: Recycling!

Picture of Recycling!

Don't forget to recycle the parts that you can! Like the metal cases and the plastic panel.But you can also keep them for further project like to make some case.. Recycling is important! Don't forget it !

Step 8: What to Do With Your Recycled Components? How to Identify

Picture of What to Do With Your Recycled Components? How to Identify
Now that you'v desolder some components you have to do something with them, like build some robots or like nnygamer did, build some computer's bugs with few resistors and capacitors.You can also look at the robotgames contest, there are many things to build with your new recycled components. Like the Jerome's instructables, he builts a bug robot with only few parts, and its very simple to do .Here is the link of his instructables if you want to take a look:

Here are some other link of project or your parts:
Here a link to a website that contain a lot of informations on electronics components , and
it can help you identify your salvaged components: *

A good way to regognize your components, is to look at the symbols under the components, then you can refer to shematic symbols on the internet to know what you'v just took out. Look at pics 3 and 4.
We got a yellow copper'd wired thingy that we dont know, just look at its symbol, and you've just realized it was an inductor!

Hope this instructables help you and now go make something awsome!


chaotech creations (author)2015-11-19

You should make an instructable on what you can do with each component. Like different projects each one can be used in.

christine.julien.980 (author)2015-03-05

Hi, i need our help to search small switch SPDT. I check in printer, radio and computer. I saw big one in microwave but not with plate.

Thank you


derek.sipila (author)2015-02-14

I have over 500 pounds of low grade circuit board that I can not seem to sell. But they contain valuable parts and scrap. I figure I have to break these down to make money. I know about tantalum capacitors and silver switches but what else do people buy that comes off the boards? Parts or scrap? Thanks

bears0 (author)2009-10-26

 how do i get components off if they have 3 to 4 pins

naic98 (author)bears02015-02-11

Propane torch, heat quickly and pull part off board

Patented (author)bears02009-11-01

I usualy remove component's lead one by one

vadipp (author)Patented2012-02-03

And this is when the solder pump gets *really* useful :)

MichaelJ9 (author)2014-10-18

Has anyone ever soldered legs onto recycled componnents for use with breadboards? If so, what can I use as leg xtensions?

gojason (author)2014-03-12

To desolder PCBs, I would highly recommend using some hot air rework tools,
instead of a soldering iron. A hot air gun or station makes no contact
with the PCBs or components, It can protect the PCB components as no
pressure would applied to them.

Shane1163 (author)2014-01-01

ummm.. u sure u can put that tin in with recycling pick up?? usually that's just for your regular recyclables.. bottles, cans, newspaper, etc isn't it?

HippyNerd (author)2012-09-16

Thanks for posting this, I really wish more people, and business' would think this way.

Im going to have to try the torch idea, thats pretty awesome. I have done lots of soldering and repair work, and I hate solder wick, and suckers, but thats from a production perspective, from a recycling perspective they are ok.

Ive found that just adding solder, and shaking the component out works best for me. It does add a lot of heat, but its quick, which means lots of thermal shock, but (hopefully), not too much thermal overload. A solder pot is often what I like best, but dont personally own.

2 soldering irons, and a bit of solder will remove most components, throughhole, or SMT.

Sometimes SMT components are epoxied to the backside of boards, and you have to break the epoxy while heating all the leads on the component, I use dental tweezers, lots of solder, and a hot iron.

I've used hot air pretty extensively in repair, and its probably the most dangerous/easiest to mess up badly. When you use it right, hot air can make very nice looking solder, and make very difficult soldering easy.

Why havnt I seen anyone post using a hotplate to desolder?

doitle (author)2009-07-13

I would highly recommend getting some desoldering braid as well. They sell it at Radioshack and it is some amazing stuff. Parts will literally fall out of the PCB with just a touch or two. It is a braided piece of copper that you put between the iron and the soldered pins of a component and the solder wicks away from the part onto the braid. I used to desolder like this with just some pliers and a iron and then I added the braid into the mix recently and you can strip an entire board, every component in such a small amount of time and so easily too. It is also good in cases where you have heat sensitive components because you do not need to keep reheating it over and over again as you free each pin.

chestersgarage (author)doitle2009-11-13

I do a lot of desoldering with a "solder sucker", which is a tool that has a plunger on a spring and a heat resistant nozzle tip.  You set it, place it over the lead as you heat it with the soldering iron and then SNAP! it sucks up the solder from the pin, leaving a bare pad and wire.   :)

Here is one example of the tool.

i have heard that solder suckers can cause static (or static can be found on the tip) and this can damage mosfets. if you still want to use it then connect all the pins together before starting....

I've heard that as well. The unit I linked above (OK industries DP-200) is ESD Safe though, so that's not a concern.

soldering iron (author)2010-12-23

Your soldering iron with red handle (on picture above) looks excellent iron for removing most of through-hole components , but If you wish to remove some components from LCD TV or new gadgets such as iPod Touch, Kindle ebook reader or iPad you really need good soldering iron with small conical tip. For some temperature-sensitive components such as some ICs, diodes, MOSFETs, etc. I suggest using a temperature controlled soldering iron because too much heat can damage components.

HarrisCreekCentral (author)2010-02-07

Hi This is an interesting article.  I have salvaged may  parts off of old boards.  I use a regular heat gun and it works great..

The only problem I have is I end up with a batch of parts with little 1/4 inch wires..   The next part I need requires a wire long enough to reach across a two or three hole span in a PC Board.

Has anybody found a neat way to extend those leads..


This is a great Instructable!

I've pulled thousands of components from scrapped electronics. Everyone should keep in mind that components weren't meant to be pulled out of a PC board.

When you heat a lead enough to melt solder, you will likely destroy the part if you are pulling on the part itself and not the lead. If you can't do this because of a short lead, you have to push the lead through the board, but risk damaging the part with heat if you can't apply a heat sink. Electrolytic caps are easily damaged by pulling.

Remember that many components (especially semiconductors) are intended to withstand molten solder for only a second or two. SMD parts should be removed without heat if possible. I chisel them out with a small sharpened screwdriver.

Many parts are very specific to the circuit and others, like toroid cores, are not all alike. Toroids have different ferrite mixes and work over different bandwiths. Some will choke out all RF altogether. Ideally, having the schematic of the circuit explains the component's purpose and value.

Remember to check the pulled part with a tester to ensure it is what you think it is and it's still good. Axial resistors look identical to axial capacitors!

Most of all, wear safety glasses (a tiny blob of flying molten solder can permanently ruin your eye) and don't breathe that smoke!

I actually does.. I simply solder a metal lead taken from a paperclip ! unfold it, snip it and solder it to each of the component's lead. The only thing is that i'm not sure if it would work on a PCB, guess it would be to big in diameter

ARJOON (author)Patented2010-09-21

i use wires from network cables for rj 45 types it sticks very well to the components when extending the leads

beehard44 (author)ARJOON2010-12-03

yeah, cat5 cable is a very neat source for wires

ARJOON (author)beehard442010-12-07

and also very cheap and found everywhere. i got mine from a neighbor dumping it. it was about 2metres long. so i got 16m of wire for use for a lifetime hahahhah

Thanks,  Only fear if your soldering close to this join your first join will most likely come unsoldered..  Need a mini spot welder.

I didn't though of that.. maybe you could solve this by clipping sort of a heat sink to the lead so the conducted heat won't melt the first join.. i don't know

beehard44 (author)2010-12-03

i don't get why the majority of what i desolder is all capacitors.

Computothought (author)2010-06-07

Thank you for this instructable. I am sure I am singing to the choir. I am just learning electronics, but now I see how stuff can be re-purposed it is like a gold mine. Stepper motor at sparkfun is 15 bucks. Old AT computer with 5.25 inch drive free! Same thing for old printers. I started to chunk a vcr, but no way it has a ton of goodies in it. One thing I have already pulled is the rf modulator. they sell for about 20 dollars retail. Bought two radios at a local thrift shop for 2 dollars. twenty dollars in parts I do not have to buy.

zack247 (author)2010-02-14

in step 6, i believe those three legged things are voltage regulators, transistors usually are like a half circle

Adri3l (author)zack2472010-05-18

There are different packages for transistor, like TO-3, TO-18, TO-39 etc. Some power transistors are cased in TO-220,just like some voltage regulators for better heat disipation. Not all transistors are packed in the TO-92 package.

Patented (author)zack2472010-02-14

Maybe, I didnt really pay attention to the components I took for the pic, but transistors can also be like the one on my pic in step 6 ( google image: Transitor)

hjartland (author)Patented2010-04-08

I may be way off, but are voltage regulators a variation of transistor? Which themselves are a variation of diodes, which are variations of ... of ... of ... ( BOOM ) There went my brain. :P

ferris_beuller (author)2009-02-13

I've actually thought of using a blow-torch to the back of a board while tapping the board to get all the parts off. however, my only concern would be the fact that some pins are bent after being inserted and they may not fall out. has anyone tried something like that? even still, a blow-torch would more quickly heat up the board but you might need a few friends to help pull out the components quickly!

How funny. I actually tried to do the blowtorch method this afternoon. It works well but as you mentioned, some pins are bent and makes it difficult to remove the parts. I highly recommend NOT doing this indoors. The PCB caught on fire a few times and really lets off a noxious smoke. I'm sure it's not good for you! But the blowtorch method does work. btw I used a little blowtorch like you would use in the kitchen for pastries.

You are correct about the smell! My house still smells funky days later. I totally recommend using this method OUTDOORS!

DFIII (author)ferris_beuller2009-03-16

I have used the torch method of extraction but you need to take into account that some componants are destroyed by too much heat. IC chips and transisters are amongst those componants and should be taken of seperatly w/ heatsink attached I soldered a piece of copper to an alligator clip for my heat sink. works pretty good.

bears0 (author)DFIII2009-10-26

 i had a radio kit and i was using my dads soldering iron the tip was very big and hard to work with so i think i may have ruined it because it didnt work and i worked on it for hours : -(

could you remind me what transisters are, are they those glass looking things that have the line to tell you which way they go
i only remember resisters, and capacitors.

DFIII (author)bears02010-05-09

i'm sry it took so long to respond.  I didn't have internet for a while.  Transistors are either plastic or metal and have three legs.  google it and you can get a better explanation than i can give you from here

I do this with a butane pencil torch. Just heat the joint on the back of the board and pull on the component. I haven't had a problem with the board catching on fire or too much burning smell. I actually use a torch for a lot of soldering, works great for splicing wire or tinning ends.

i stand by my butane pencil torch. i use it so much for soldering i have to keep at least 3 cans of butane around. the only problem i found though is with connectors and delicate components. many connectors have metal pins soldered onto the PCB but the pins are set into plastic to form the connector. If the pins get too hot the plastic melts and you ruin your component. Also many delicate parts cannot be torched." Word of wisdom though: Do NOT go and waste money on a desoldering iron. Go somewhere like Radio Shack and pick up a desoldering tool or a desoldering bulb. I have one of each, the bulb cost $4 and the fancy little metal tool cost $10. Both cheaper than buying a desoldering iron for $20 or more.

goeon (author)ferris_beuller2009-03-07

the blowtorch works i used it with a pair of plies to pull them off

agis68 (author)2010-04-10

 Don't tell me you detsroyed that beautiful camera?....Oh no I Can't afford it. !!!:D
Now with the recycling program in Greece I visit always my local drug store and always i found amazing stuff in the recycle bins. Recently I found a genuine Japanese KONAMI horse game powered by 4 AAA batteries. And is like new and full operated. I Put it back in my museum stuff and believe i resisted hardly to rip it and take it out all of it's resistors...;)

Patented (author)agis682010-04-10

That is cool ! Never thought of going in these such of place to get free things ! Its a great idea tho ! And FYI, no I didn't tear up that camera, it was only an example of what you could recycle !

agis68 (author)Patented2010-04-10

 I feel more relief now!!!...You see I am 40 and i learned to respect these electronics. The kids now are boring all these stuff.

Derin (author)2010-04-03

On step 8 4th pic you identified a part wrong. The resistor marked should be a diode. Resistors have no polarity and thus no line.

Patented (author)Derin2010-04-04

You are right, I looked to fast, Im going to change it right now.

Thank you !

sharlston (author)2009-09-29

could i do this with lighter becuase i did but the pcb melted

zack247 (author)sharlston2010-02-14

thats because pcb's are generally made of a fiberglass of some sort, and a lighter doesn't focus the heat as well as a soldering iron does

eyerobot (author)2010-01-27

I just have to say, That is a very pretty vise you have there.
Also this is a great instructible, Now I dont feel like such a hobo scrapping out everything I find in my apt community.
It's nice to know i'm not alone.

kjkrum (author)2008-07-03

Most parts have a part number on them you can Google to identify them. Sometimes you can even find detailed datasheets -- especially useful with oddball ICs like the bipolar stepper motor controllers I salvaged from a flatbed scanner. =)

Patented (author)kjkrum2008-07-03

yeah I try with a component but it didnt work

milsorgen (author)Patented2010-01-06

 its a crap shoot at best but sometimes you can find gold that way

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