Motherboard Recycling

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Motherboard Recycling is an Advanced Deconstruction process where we take motherboards from the main recycling operation and turn them into Clean Circuitboards.


The Safety Introduction from the basic deconstruction page applies here. In particular, wear safety glasses: no heatsinks are permitted in your eye.

What to remove?

Your objective is to remove as much as possible from the motherboard: batteries, processors, memory modules, daughtercards, heatsinks, fans, large transformers, faceplates, and anything else you can get off within a few minutes.

Get to work!


Any screws, plastic clips, faceplates or other hardware must be removed from the motherboard.

Plastic hardware: remove it.
Steel faceplate: remove it.


Not all batteries look like batteries. Here are a few examples of batteries or devices which contain batteries. Remove anything that looks remotely like one of these.


This is the most common battery you'll find on a motherboard. Wedge a screwdriver in there and pop it out for later sorting.

Typical motherboard battery.

Real Time Clock (RTC)

This one can be hard to spot, and many motherboards don't have one of these. This device, if present, maintains the system time. It has a built in battery, so pry it off and put it with the other batteries for later sorting.

RTC. Many are labeled "Dallas."

Here's a clearer picture of an RTC.


Some older motherboards have Ni-Cd batteries soldered on. Given the age of devices which included these batteries, they've probably leaked some toxic gunk. Wear gloves.

Ni-Cd mobo battery.

Here's a pic of a leaky one.


Pull the processor. This can be tricky, depending on whether you're dealing with a slot-mounted CPU or a socket cpu. Both kinds have a lever or a catch (or two) you have to find and release before they'll come off. Just remember, this is recycling. If you gouge the motherboard, damage a CPU or break a bracket, no one cares. Just don't hurt yourself. All mounting CPU hardware must be removed.

Socket CPU, after fan/heatsink removal. Lift the lever and pull the CPU.
CPU slot after CPU and fan removed. Remove the plastic brackets too.


Most motherboards will arrive at your station without memory modules. If you see any, pull and set aside.


You'll see all kinds of stuff, but most motherboards won't have cards or other devices attached by the time they reach you. If you happen accross a weird, unidentifiable hunk of something attached to a motherboard, pull it off and ask about it. Then update this page with what you learn.


It's not just the processor that has a heatsink. Almost every PC motherboard's Northbridge chip has a heatsink glued to it. Pry that sucker off.

Northbridge heatsink.

What do I do with all this stuff?

After a few hours, you'll have a pile of clean(er) motherboards in the gaylord in front of you, and a bunch of stuff. Here's what to do with all the stuff.

A few hours' worth of stripped motherboards.

(This section is incomplete)

  • CPU's: in buckets. slot CPUs and socket CPUs must be sorted separately, and slot CPUs must be extracted from their plastic housings.
  • Memory: in a separate bucket.
  • Heatsink/fan assemblies: to PSE for further disassembly.
  • Metal, including passive heatsinks: (more on this later)
  • (more to be added later)