Salvage Parts and Sources

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For ideas on different ways to use some parts see Salvage Ideas. You may also find Free From Salvage useful. Got an idea, please add it.

Parts -- Where to Find Them

What Comments Where
Beeper Cheap sound effects, some need ac drive others just dc.
  • Mother boards
  • Microwave ovens
  • Modems
Caps: Electrolytic You can get tons of these from most devices, usually marked with voltage and capacitance, they are pretty much ready to use. Leads usually just long enough to go through a board.
  • Many different devices.
Cases Enclosures

Can be very useful, may want to replace or overlay the front panel. Sometimes use a different side of the case as a new front.

Crystals Are the frequencies useful, can you figure out how to drive them?
  • Computer devices
  • Radio receivers
Diodes: Full Wave Bridges and Power Nice for your own power supply.
  • Many different devices.
  • Power Supplies

Diodes: Small Signal

Usually have leads that are so short that they are not worth bothering with.

  • Diodes are cheap, you might just buy a grab-bag instead and get long-legged basic types and zeners. Scavenge rectifier bridges.
Headers and Jumpers Useful as headers or to adapt parts to prototyping boards. You can also often find cables with plugs that plug into the headers very nicely. Also true of RC hobby servos.
  • Computer mother boards.
  • Computer expansion cards
  • Some stores may carry massive bags cheaply so this may not be an interesting target.
Fans: Small Do not blow your budget, get a free fan.
  • Computers
  • Power Supplies
Ferrites Rewind for use as small SMPS transformer cores due low hysteris losses.
  • CRT monitors
  • Power Supplies
  • Cable "bulbs"
Hall Effect Sensors Can be used to sense magnetic fields or to measure current.
  • Lots of CD Spindle motors seem to have them mounted at the edge of the rotor ( more or less ).
  • Old VCR's
Heat Sinks Keep your power components cool.
  • PSU's, including PC SMPS
  • power amplifiers
  • VCR's
Infra Red Receiver Useful for IR remote control projects. Usually tuned to about 40 kHz and have digital output.

For pin out see Infra Red Receiver Pinout

  • Any equipment with with a remote control
  • VCR, DVD players
  • Some cordless headphones
Jacks: RCA Phono Nice for audio and some video.
  • Audio equipment and many computer mother boards.
  • Old PA, mixing and recording equipment
Jacks: Miniature Phono Jacks Use for audio or low power.
  • Audio equipment. Sometimes on computer mother boards, sound cards and CD drives
Jacks: USB Handy because there are so many usb devices out there, make an IPod charger.
  • Computer mother boards
  • Broken USB mice and keyboards yield complete cables
Jacks: 9 Pin ( serial ) Often useful particularly if you harvest cables from old mice.
  • Computer Mother boards
  • Old computer cases, serial addon cards, modems
Jacks: Key Board Jacks May be useful particularly if you harvest cables from old keyboards.
  • Computer mother boards
  • Dead keyboards for complete cables
  • 5-pin DIN type is also used for MIDI
Laser Please be careful.
  • Printers, CD ROM, dvd players
  • Laser pointers
LED: visible Very, sometimes leads too short, but usually ok. Computers often have several with plug in leads which can be really handy. Mount 2 pins from a header ( also salvage ) to plug in.
  • Many devices, often on a control panel separate from the main circuit board
  • PC cases
  • Network equipment have tons of blinkenlights
LED: Infra Red Usefully for IR remote control projects. Note that they can be used as receivers as well.
  • Remote controls.
  • Some wireless headphone transmitters
LCD Displays Sometimes useless, too hard to find out the specs. Many are Hitachi compatible if you can find/trace the pinout.
  • Laser printers
  • Alarm control panels and the like
  • ISDN modems or other network equipment
  • Smart UPS
Low Voltage Power Supplies Wall warts that may come with devices. Some other devices have power supplies as separate components. May want to supplement with a three terminal regulator, which you can also get from salvage.
  • Computers.
  • Printers occasionally have nice, beefy, 20-40V, even AC psu's
  • Christmas lights for 24VAC
  • Obsolete cellphone chargers if you find a graveyard of them
Motors: DC Nice if you need a motor and every robot needs many, see also steppers.
  • Windshield Wiper Motors (Quite substantial, Continuous Duty, 2-3 amps@15VDC) with gearhead!
          I recommend the ones from 1990's Toyota Corolla's. Be sure to bring your 10mm socket wrenches!
          nicely relevant info
  • VCRs, Tape Recorders
  • Printers ( often stepper motors, but sometimes DC with encoders )
  • CD/DVD drives
  • Power (cordless) tools
Motors: Stepper Can be real useful for low power devices. Can be expensive to buy.
  • Printers, CD/DVD drives, some old floppy and hard drives.

Motors: Brushless

These are hard to drive and often built into the circuit boards. May be most useful for the magnets in them. Sometimes you can find and use the hall effect sensor. Somewhere I have seen a posting on how to use them as alternators, basically putting a diode on each winding to bring out DC.
  • CD and VCR drives and players
Magnets More pictures on your fridge, Hold down tools on cast iron in the shop. Often quit strong and/or of odd configuration.
  • Hard drives, brushless motors.
  • Microwave oven magnetron has 2 nice donut magnets.
Potentiometers: trim Can be useful, but new ones are not very expensive.
  • Audio equipment.
  • VCR's are full of them
Relays Useful to go from logic levels to 120 vac. Coil is often 12v or 24 volts, use with a transistor low side switch ( for example ) to interface with logic levels
  • Microwave ovens.
  • Modems
  • Audio amplifiers
Resistors: Power Useful Many different devices but usually not computers.
  • Power Supplies

Resistors; ¼, ½ Watt

Usually useless, leads too short.
  • Too much effort for plain types, better buy an assortment
Ribbon Cables and Sockets I ( russ_hensel ) have found a bunch or applications that may not be obvious, I will write it up soon, or contact me.
  • Computers
  • VCR's, especially some Betamax
Sockets: DIP russ_hensel ) I sometimes cut these up in various ways and epoxy to .1 inch perf. board to get special sockets for LED arrays....
  • Computers and many other components.
  • Flimsy and may not be worth the hassle
Stepper Driver Chips Very useful if you can find some of the standard chips, I have found .....
  • Printers and Devices with stepper motors.

Surface mount devices Useless for many, hard to remove, small to work with. Some of you may have figured SMT out, more power to you. Hint: hot air may be just the ticket.


  • Everywhere today
  • Computers, hard drives, expansion cards
Three terminal regulators Often standard parts, sometimes you can take the whole power supply as a unit
  • Many different devices
  • Computer PSU's often have a few (7905)
Transistors: Power Often useful, often can find specification from part number. This may help ( anyone have one who can do a review? ) M3 Semiconductor Analyzer Features Here is a review N5ESE builds the M-Cubed Electronix Semiconductor Analyzer and M3 Electonix Semiconductor Analyzer Built by AL7FS
  • Audio equipment, TV's
  • Power supplies
Transistors: Power MOSFET Extremely handy, often can find specification from part number.
  • Power supplies

Transistor: Small Signal

Some use, but may be hard to identify which are useful as many use house part numbers. For japanese transistors, add "2S" in from of the code. A few hours work gave me a couple of bucks worth of parts russ_hensel, probably not worth it.

  • Many different devices but usually not computers.
Transformers Inductors – Misc. Test with ohm meter and audio oscillator.
  • TVs Audio Receivers.
  • Power supplies
Transformer Flyback transformer Useful for high voltage – but can be dangerous.
  • TV's
  • Some SMPSU's
Transformer: Line to Low voltage Useful for making power supplies.
  • Audio equipment particularly receivers.
  • Computer peripherals but not computers.

Sources -- What Can You Get Out Of Them

Cellular phones

Full of incredibly tiny electronics, but for automated manufacture, many are in modules joined by contact springs instead of solder or connectors so many parts come right off. Small speakers, mic, power connector, SMD bulk caps occasionally, tiny eccentric weight vibration motor. A few models have display modules you can find specs for.

Don't forget about the gold on the boards...front and back.


Power supply is useful as a unit, or can be taken apart for transformer, caps, diodes, and similar. Many have a filtered input connector which is rather valuable. There are usually some LED and switches on the end of wires that plug into header blocks. They also may have CD DVD Floppy Drives see separate discussion. The connecting wires are often useful, sometimes taking the connectors off the mother board makes them more useful. Individual boards may be useful as they are. The mother board is not usually useful for its chips, most are too small and specialized for much use. Crystals may be found, not sure if frequencies are useful. AT-era PC's often had D-connectors of both sexes on ribbon cables and peripherals have matching cables. Some have RTC modules, others have CR2032 lithium batteries. The big BIOS flash/eprom may be recyclable. Certain vintages have nice SRAM chips as cache. SCSI and other smart controllers have serial eeprom's for settings. Old ethernet cards and cables yield 50-ohm coaxial wiring. Loads and loads of screws in the case.

Digital cameras

Card slot if you can get it out. Battery, contacts and charger. Switching regulators. Very nice displays but hard to use. Be on the lookout for EL backlights, though, if you can power them. Nice smooth squares of very white light. Optics of varying types, connectors if you can get them out. Marvels of miniaturization and cramped-space engineering worth looking at in any case.

Floppy Drives

Often have stepper motor and Brush less motors. The old 5 ¼ drives are most likely to have reasonable power steppers. most of the chips then to be too small and specialized for much use. The 3.5" power connector is reasonably easy to remove with most equipment.

Hard Drives

Pretty platters, spacers and stator coils, strong magnets, odd motor or two.

CD/DVD Drives

Laser diodes, motors (usually brushless for the cd spindle, stepper for the laser position, and DC for the tray), volume wheels, open/close limit switches.

Tape Drives

Rare. May contain springs under considerable tension! Some have beefy power components. SCSI terminators have resistor packs for picking.

Microwave Ovens

Make sure you discharge high voltage capacitor prior to salvage, if you do not know how to do this find out first. High voltage transformer ( dangerous ), high voltage capacitor and diode. Good magnets in the magnetron tube (WARNING: there may be beryllium oxide ceramic present in the magnetron tube, wear a respirator or N95 capable of filtering out fine dust. do not attempt to take apart a magnetron tube w/o a proper mask, the BeO dust can cause an incurable lung condition or cancer.) Lots of micro switches. Small motor, motorized fan.


Often have stepper motors. Plugs, jacks, power transistors, diodes. Gears, shafts and other mechanical components. Control panels may have led's and push button switches. Many laser printers have standard type LCD modules. Many inkjets have nice big external power supplies.

Stereos, boom boxes, radios

Plugs, jacks, power transistors, diodes. Audio power IC (TDA2030 is very common). Transformers and power supplies, sometimes symmetrical +-. VFD modules.


May not be a good salvage candidate: There are high voltage dangers and dangers from imploding picture tubes. Also when you are done there is often a disposal fee as the picture tube contains a few pounds of lead. Do not dispose of irresponsibly.


DC motors, plugs, jacks, power transistors, diodes. VFD modules, neon lamps on few models.

Salvage Techniques

Use a propane torch to salvage components from printed circuit boards ( from russ_hensel ).

First, this technique can be dangerous, in addition to possible burning yourself or burning your house down the components can emit dangerous fumes including fumes from the lead solder. Make sure you are operating carefully in a very well ventilated ( perhaps outdoor ) area. If you are not an adult have an adult approve of your procedure.

I use a propane touch with about a liter container of propane often used for plumbing work. I take the board and clamp it vertically in a vise. The torch is adjusted for about a 1 inch flame. Play the flame over the component leads while pulling on the component with a pair of pliers ( have several sizes available ). Work the component out and drop in a box. Move on to the next components. Some components can be pulled out with your fingers if you do not mind occasional burns, some can be pull out with your fingers but will burn you almost every time. If a component has heavy duty leads and light duty leads ( as some transistors that are connected to heat sinks do ) heat the heavy duty leads first. If the components has much plastic near the board ( for example ) headers, you may destroy the part. Practice will improve your technique. Keep your head out of the fumes. Try not to set the board on fire too often. When you do make sure you put it out. Do not leave the site of the work until the boards are cool. Even surface mount components can be removed, apply heat from the side away from the component, this will often ignite the board. This technique is at least an order of magnitude faster than using a soldering iron. Some people replace the torch with a paint removing heat gun, I have tried this but like the torch better.

Do the parts work after heating this way: for me almost always.

Using a Desoldering station and/or tool is a much better idea. These are available cheap on EBay.