Today’s question is in the field of retrieving value from disposable electronic scrap.

Question: Do you think it’s worth buying electronic scrap from computers ? Like motherboards,hard drives,power supplies,dvd and cd roms or burners? and if you buy how much you give for each item?
Thank you! Denis

Answer/Reply:  Thank you for your question Denis, the computer industry relies on the use of precious metals for operation of the most advanced products.  This can be costly for today’s disposable society.  Many times when a product’s desirability is exceeded by a fancier new product, the older unit is simply discarded, without taking into consideration the salvage value that may be hidden inside.  In the past ten years, the continual new releases have lead to an average replacement of a device at two years or less before the latest gadget is purchased to make life easier.  For the most part, only a miniscule amount or recoverable precious metals are found in each piece of electronic scrap.

While there are many examples, the point being made is that receiving a truck loaded with old computers may have very little value.  In most cases, businesses will pay the individual removing the computers and dispose of them properly to reduce the liability of reckless disposal.  Once the electronics are accepted, the individual must also accept responsibility for legal and safe disposal, often an expensive matter.

Pile Of Old Computers

However, this does not mean that field should be avoided.  However, those new to the field should be prepared to use precaution in operations to avoid extensive financial loss due to their new business.  Operators must learn to find, access potential value of and effective remove the metal from items accepted that have adequate electronic scrap value.


What Parts In Computers Are Valuable?

Numerous components can be found in any computer that contains valuable and precious metals.  The greatest chance of locating these components are in PC boards, motherboards and backplanes, integrated circuits, relays and signal cables and of course CPUs.  Printed circuit boards often are the best source of electronic scrap value and rank far above the other potential sources of value.


CPU’s Containing Gold

Pictured below is the Intel Pentium Pro, this particular CPU is said to have contained the most gold of any CPU ever produced, it is said there was over 1 gram of gold in each of these particular CPU’s, hard to find these days I’m sure. These model are said to be Intel 8808 and were used in 386 and 486 computers.

Intel Premium Pro 8808


Circuit Boards

Nearly every circuit board will contain at least some precious metal, normally gold.  The value of the metal may range from five cents to over a dollar per unit.  Many of the PC boards use gold plated fingers, with the gold content varying considerably due to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Computer Circuit Board



Backplanes often feature hidden gold dots.  The dots vary in weight as well in purity of the gold.  While the gold in each dot might not seem like much, large industrial computers might contain several thousand dots bringing the total value to several hundred dollars in gold.

Computer Backplane

Finding Electronic Scrap

Local junkyards offer one of the best areas to locate electronic scrap from computer components.  The junkyards offer one the ability to purchase the outdated computers at a lower price than most other locations.  ICs, transistors, connectors and test points that have all been damaged to the point they are no longer usable can often be found offered for recycling.

Any business that services of manufacturers computers or other electronics may be a source of the things that contain the hidden treasures that are potential income for you.

The refining of electronic scrap to remove metal content offers a different number of specialized challenges as well.  Once you develop confidence in your new business and establish a working relationship with a refiner or buyer of the scrap you collect, you are set up to start gathering commercial accounts for your business.

It is important to realize that refiners are busy and may not have time to answer questions as to the type of electronic scarp you find.  Their business is in refining and they offer terms and charges to handle the types of scrap, but offer little beyond that to help establish your business.

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