Reusing Old PCB's




I'm an Electronics Engineer who likes to make Doze Lamps, Lumen Powered Thingamajigs, Almighty Br...

What are PCB's?

PCB is an abbreviation for Printed Circuit Boards. A PCB mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.


E-Waste or Electronic Waste is the left over PCB's,components, PVC or Plastic cases/body,etc of your old Electronic Appliances such as a TV, refrigederator, dish washer that you have thrown out. It is one of the fastest growing type of waste produced on the planet. Hence we must prevent it from becoming THE largest type of waste produced on our planet Earth. According to a report on E-Waste, By 2017, all of that year’s end-of-life refrigerators, TVs, mobile phones, computers, monitors, e-toys and other products with a battery or electrical cord worldwide could fill a line of 40-ton trucks end-to-end on a highway straddling three quarters of the Equator, the weight equivalent of 200 Empire State Buildings or 11 Great Pyramids of Giza. The US has the world’s highest figure of 9.4 million tons and China generated the second highest e-waste total of 7.3 million tons. The report also states that the total amount of E-Waste generated by 2017 will be a whooping 65.4 million metric tons.

What can we do to stop this?

Well, the simple answer is stop over-consumption. But that could take a long time to actually come into action. The next big thing is too start recycling every bit of those electronic appliances and gadgets that our leaving our house. How?- We can open up the case/ body of each of these appliances take out the PCB's and reuse the components, Hack the circuit board so that we can build a new circuit on top of it.

But what about the Plastic Cover/Body/Case? How do we recycle that?

Well, a 3D Printer called the EKOCYCLE Cube® has been developed, it can 3D Print like any other 3D Printer, the only difference is that the filament is made up of recycled Cola bottles. Scientists also have been working on 3D printers that use a filament made up of recycled plastic which has come from old electronic appliances.

This instructable is going to teach you, one of the most basic methods, one can use to reuse & recycle old PCB's and also the components. It may not make a difference now, but it certainly will make a change in the future. It's a start towards the REDUCTION IN PRODUCTION of E-Waste.

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Step 1: Things You Will Need


  1. Header Pins
  2. Bench Vise.
  3. Soldering Iron & Solder Wire.
  4. Copper Wick.
  5. Pliers.
  6. Blade.
  7. Hand Drill.


  1. Old PCB
  2. Header Pins


  1. Bench Vise or Helping Hands.
  2. Soldering Iron and Holder.
  3. Solder Wire.
  4. Copper Wick.
  5. Desoldering Iron (Optional).
  6. Pliers
  7. HackSaw
  8. Blade.
  9. Hand Drill & Suitable Drill Bit.
  10. Permanent Marker Pen


30 minutes

Skill(s) Required


Step 2: Holding the PCB


  1. PCB in the Vise.
  2. PCB in the Vise.

Place the PCB in the Bench Vise or Helping Hands with the Component side facing you. If you are using the Vise, start turning the lever so that the Parallel jaws of the Vise hold the PCB in one place.

Step 3: Desoldering


  1. Soldering iron on PCB.
  2. Soldering iron and Copper Wick on PCB.
  3. Soldering iron and Copper Wick on PCB.
  4. Solder removed from Solder Pads on the PCB.
  5. Solder removed from Solder Pads on the PCB.

Choose the Components you would like to Reuse. And place the PCB vertically between the jaws of the vise with the solder pad side facing you. Outline the solder pads you wish to desolder with a permanent marker pen.This ensures you don't have to constantly refer to the other side of the PCB. Start applying the tip of the soldering iron to the solder pad for a few seconds and apply some solder wire to it. Now place the copper wick on to the solder pad and place the tip of the soldering iron on top of it. The solder should start to get removed from the solder pad and moves onto the copper wick. Once this is completed, there won't be any solder left on the solder pad & you will be able to see the leads of the component clearly. Do this for all the leads of that component.

Tip: Start Removing the Large Components first. This will make it easier to remove the smaller components such as resistors or even SMD/SMT components.

Hint: Solder Wick- Solder Wick is type of thread like material which is used to desolder. Being made out of copper it absorbs the solder from the solder pad.

Solder Pad- A Solder Pad is the part of the PCB where the solder is applied too.

SMD/SMT- Surface Mount Devices/ Surface Mount Technologies are the type of components which are generally soldered by machines. They are very small in size and hence can be fitted into small PCB's used in Mobile Phones, TV Remotes, etc

Step 4: Removing the Components


  1. Solder Pads without Component Leads.
  2. PCB with Relay Removed.
  3. PCB with Relay Removed.
  4. PCB with Relay Removed.
  5. Various Removed Large Sized Components.
  6. Smaller Sized Components.

Once all the solder is removed from the solder pad, turn the PCB so that the component side is facing you. Gently pull out the Component with a plier so that the component leads do not get twisted or bent. Do this for all the large components on the PCB. Once you have finished removing the large components of the PCB, you can start removing the smaller components like resistors, zener diodes etc.

Once Completed, you will have an Assortment of Large and small components, that you can use in your future projects and hacks.

Step 5: Breakout Boards- Downsizing and Cutting


  1. Circuit Board with All Components Removed.
  2. Cutting of the Circuit Board.

Once all the components have been removed, you can begin the process of making customised breakout boards or even customised circuit boards. Start by marking the board with a permannent marker pen. Cut the board to your requirement using a Hacksaw. E.G: I am making a relay breakout board. Hence I cut the board so that my relay fits on the downsized board. I also left some space to add header pins as it is a breakout board.

Tip: While cutting the board, make sure you leave some copper paths so that you can add header pins/ output pins to it.

Hint: Breakout Board- Its a circuit board which allows you to access or join pins of components or microchips

Step 6: Breakout Boards- Scrapping & Drlling


  1. Scrapping Breakout Board.
  2. Drilling Holes in Breakout Board.
  3. Breakout Board fixed in the Bench Vise.
  4. Breakout Board fixed in the Bench Vise.
  5. Breakout Board in Hand.

Once the breakout board has been cut to size, start scrapping the green layer which is printed on the copper paths with a blade. Once scrapped you will be able to see the copper path clearly. This will now become the solder pad to which the header pins or outpout pins will be soldered inorder to connect the breakout board. Start drilling holes into these new solder pads.

Step 7: Breakout Boards- Soldering Component & Header Pins


  1. Component Soldered to Breakout Board.

Once you have drilled the holes on your breakout board you can solder the component into its respective slot and also solder the header pins into their respective slots, thus completing your custom breakout board.

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    37 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Have you reused your own Old PCB's? I want to see it!

    Share a picture of your version of this project in the comments below and be awarded a 3-month Pro Membership on & a digital patch.

    3-month Pro Memberships remaining: 10/10

    1 reply

    Reply 10 months ago

    I was using an old retro console and I went off with a pop. So I opened it and started poking around. Found a couple of blown capacitors. And some cheap glued wiring. But I don't have spare capacitors. Soooo. I took an old cable modem apart, salvaged the modulator and demodulator, removed the capacitors from the board, along with some resistors, then removed the bad capacitors from the retro console and soldered in the replacements. But still nothing.. so I pulled out a multimeter, and found the power supply wasn't working for some reason. At that point I flipped everything over, took an old USB cord and cut the top off, soldered the red and black wires to the terminals, then plugged in my phone charger, which is the required 5v. It took quite some time, but the old console is removed from the dead.. in the process I found out I can also remove the Nintendo chip(tiny one with power and av on it) from the system and it works as a tiny system.


    Question 3 months ago

    Is it possible to increase the output for a solar cell. {for a power bank and seperate solar system for RV}


    Question 1 year ago on Step 4

    Hi. Great stuff, dude. I have two questions regarding the reuse of e-components.
    1. I imagine that resistors will be pretty stable, but will components like capacitors, diodes and even chips change their spec values with time? In the case of capacitors it is very common to see them bloated or even ruptured.
    2. I have tried in the past to remove components and maybe it could be because I have very poor soldering skills (which I actually do), but I got the impression that desoldering takes longer than soldering. Won't the heat, if applied for a long period, damage the components?


    1 answer

    Answer 1 year ago

    Desoldering does take longer & excess heat may damage the components. But with practice, the speed at which we can desolder useful components & connectors increases.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    One thing that has always irked me about E-Waste Recycling, Especially Mandatory collection of E-Waste, where the town or company collecting is only interested in collecting the materials strictly for the precious metals, is that once they extract those metals, there is still the non-recyclable materials, and now even worse toxic (Poisonous, corrosive,) liquids left from the process, that now need to be safely disposed of. I've done lots of component recovery from old equipment, and properly disposed of the left-overs (PC boards, Solder collected and given to metal recyclers in sealed containers, plastic separated, Aluminium recycled, Steel recycled.) Or, sometimes, I would take the side panels off old desktop computers, and make frames or boxes for other projects. The Biggest irk about Mandatory recycling, is once you give it to them, NO-ONE can scavenge it.. (Kinda like Cash For Clunkers, where they took old cars, gave a huge rebate for them, But once the government took possession, they rendered ALL parts unusable by filling them with sealant before sending them to the shredder. (I wonder how recyclable the sealant was?) Glad to see I wasn't the only one that did usable E-Waste recovery!

    4 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    My understanding of cash for clunkers is that the engines were drained of oil, then a liquid glass type mixture was poured in. The engine was then run until it seized. Most cars it was under 60 seconds and they would not turn over again. Some lasted longer. Near the end of this fiasco, many dealers were running out of the liquid glass mixture and their mechanics had to get creative to make sure the engine was "seized".

    Many of these cars still ended up in "pick your parts" type junkyards. They were identifiable (in my area) by blue spray paint on them. The only "unsable" parts were the long block aka, the engine and heads. I almost bought one to disassemble, just because I wanted to see the damage myself.


    Reply 3 years ago

    My favorite part about cash for clunkers is how the whole program ignored the energy it takes to manufacture a vehicle. It is just typical of the kind of narrow thinking I expect of worthless politicians. All of whom have never done an honest days worth of work in their lives.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    It is awfully tedious, and time consuming to try to salvage electronic components with a soldering iron. I can strip parts much faster using a solder pot. I did a whole ATX PSU yesterday in just a few minutes. I wanted the heatsinks for something, but once I got going I took everything off the board.

    9 replies

    Reply 4 years ago

    If by 'solder pot' you mean solder wick, then after applying the soldering iron to the solder, you can touch the solder wick to the melted solder. The wick will absorb the solder. You can also apply the wick while heating the solder with the soldering iron. I hope this answers your question. Thanks.


    Reply 4 years ago

    a solder pot is pretty much what it sounds like a pot or try with hot "liquid" solder that you place you pcb on top of. when the leads sticking though the pcb contact the liquid solder in the pot all the components will come right out. i havent used on they are not cheap. i have used a heat gun for certian stuff.


    Reply 3 years ago

    You could make your own solder pot. I saw a video on Youtube of this Chinese guy that had a dish of sheet metal with his pool in it, with a gas burner under the sheet to keep the solder molten. He was going to town stripping transformers out of boards. He literally had piles of transformers on the floor about 4 feet high all around him. Having used my pot I'd have to say the dished sheet would be even better. Because any splashed solder would go right back into the pool. But I saw the video years after I acquired my solder pot. If I had it to do all over again though I'd probably go for the sheet method myself. His dished sheet setup was permanent, but my solder pot is easier to store away. So there are benefits and drawbacks for both approaches. For the pot method to work the solder has to be actually over the top of the pot. The molten solder stays up by surface tension. But it dribbles out when the board contacts it. So I'm constantly throwing solder back into the pot to keep it filled up. It is a bit of a hassle. It beats using solder suckers though. Beats it into the dirt! Because before I got my pot I tried using solder suckers. Which is why I got my pot. Sitting there trying to desolder parts for salvage is a waste of time, at best.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks for the constructive advice. I will try to get a solder pot and add it to this Instructable


    Reply 3 years ago

    I put the board over my solder pot, with the bottom of the board in contact with the molten solder, then extract whatever part I want out of the board. It took you longer to read the last sentence I typed than it takes me to pull a part out of a board. It don't matter how many leads, or pins a part has either. They all come out the same.