How do you dispose of your old computer hardware? Some people take old PCs to the local landfill; others wipe the devices and donate them to schools or relatives.
Either way, you should aim to make as much use as possible from the components. Some can easily be reused, such as optical drives, USB devices, and RAM. Power supplies (PSU) can also be repurposed, while fans and heatsinks can be reused on other computers.
Motherboards, however, are another matter entirely. Here are nine ways you can recycle an old PC motherboard; plus, required equipment and the safety precautions you must take.
An old motherboard can be cut into strips that you can use as bookmarks. Drill a hole at the top of the bookmark to thread some string through---or perhaps attach a short length of USB cable.
Don't cut your bookmark too wide, however. The motherboard is probably too thick to make a bookmark of any notable size, so keep it no more than an inch wide.
2. Jewelry from Old Motherboards
Red, green, black, blue---whatever color your old motherboard is, it can be recycled as striking jewelry. Earrings, pendants, even rings can be fashioned by combining parts of your old motherboard with traditional jewelry making processes. You might line a segment of motherboard with trim, or coat with resin for a professional finish.
3. Place Mats
Take a piece of cork or foam backing, some glue, and create a handsome collection of placemats. For really good results, once again use resin or lacquer for a durable creation that looks amazing.
Guaranteed to break the ice at parties!
4. Drinks Coaster
Similar to the previous idea, a cork-backed motherboard drinks coaster can be a single piece of tableware or made to match the placemats. Again, you can develop the idea further, mounting your piece of motherboard in a wooden frame, for example.
5. Christmas Decorations
Looking for some unique Christmas decorations? Green and red motherboards make particularly striking decorations. Consider cutting round decorations, along with those shaped like trees or stars.
Drill a hole, add a hook, and you have an eye-catching tree decoration that will last years.
6. Motherboard Keyrings
Chunks of motherboard can be cut to size and used as keyrings. Again, ensure the piece of board has a hole drilled through so the keys can be threaded onto it.
If you have any spare RAM left over, these also make great keyrings, and usually have a hole already drilled.
7. Floor and Wall Tiles
For the ultimate in decorative re-use of an old motherboard, consider mounting as wall tiles. As with place mats and coasters, some backing will be required. You may also opt to coat in resin for a smoother and more durable finish. Once ready, however, your motherboard tiles can be mounted on a wall, or even laid on a floor.
8. Wall-hanging Motherboard Art
Just as decorative but requiring less effort, particularly stunning examples of motherboard can be mounted in picture frames. Particularly eye-catching motherboard designs may even look good mounted directly to a wall.
Literally computer art!
9. Notebook Cover
For a final, more practical example of how to recycle an old motherboard, fashion it as a notebook cover. Some measurement and drilling will be required to ensure a close fit and to thread the binding coil through. Once complete, however, you will have a notebook that looks quite unique.
Want to Know How to Cut a Motherboard? Here's What You'll Need
To recycle an old motherboard, first collect together the tools you will need. You'll need to cut the motherboard, pull components, drill holes, remove wires, screw hooks, and more. Recommended tools include:
A multi-purpose handheld rotary tool (e.g. Dremel)
Heat gun or soldering iron
Jewelry making tools for pendants, rings, etc.
Various other bits and pieces will be required depending on the product you hope to make. For example, rolls of adhesive cork backing are ideal for place mats and drinks coasters.
Avoid using a jigsaw to cut through your old motherboard. The motion will cause the layers of the board to splinter, leaving you with a mess that you can't repurpose. With a handheld rotary tool you can get the speed required to cut through the motherboard materials. You should use this to smooth the corners of anything you make, too.
Safety Precautions for Recycling a Motherboard
There are so many possibilities for using motherboards as crafting materials. The main problem is stripping the board down so that there are no (or very few) components and solder remaining.
To do this safely, note the following:
Wear a safety mask. This protects you from inhaling dust as the motherboard is cut, and from solder fumes.
Work in a well-ventilated space. If you are using a soldering iron, heat gun or oven, ensure that windows are open.
Use goggles. Whether removing items from a mainboard with pliers or cutting the board, protect your eyes.
Once suited up and in an appropriate workspace, it's time to begin recycling your motherboard.
Three Ways to Prepare Your Motherboard for Recycling
In most cases, a motherboard with all the PC components unplugged and removed isn’t going to be suitable.
Once you have removed the board from its case, you will need to remove the components soldered onto the motherboard. This will leave you with a flat surface with which to work.
There are several ways in which you can remove components from your motherboard. Probably the best three are as follows:
1. Put Your Motherboard in the Oven
The idea here is simple: prolonged heat will melt the solder on the motherboard. Here's what to do:
Preheat an oven to around 390 degrees F (around 200 degrees C)
Line a baking tray with tin foil
Arrange four egg cups on the tray
Position the motherboard on the tray
Put the tray and motherboard in the oven
Bake for 60 minutes
Once done, the solder should have dried out, making chips and components easy to remove.
2. Detach Motherboard Chips and Ports With a Soldering Iron
Not as slow as the oven, a soldering iron can be used remove components one by one. It's painstaking work but can give you a neater finish.
Related: The Best Soldering Irons for Beginners
3. Remove Motherboard Components With a Heat Gun
The fastest method is to use a heat gun.
Fix the motherboard into place (perhaps with a vice) and pull at the components with pliers or prize them apart with a screwdriver while applying heat.
This will quickly desolder connections, enabling you to swiftly remove components with pliers.
Removing Parts from a Motherboard
With the connectors, chips, and other motherboard components removed (from both sides), check that the board is smooth. After all, you’ll need a flat surface for the majority of crafting tasks.
Note that if you can remove chips successfully in one piece, these alone can make interesting keyrings or jewelry items. Take a careful look at processors, BIOS chips, and RAM modules before discarding.
Related: Things to Do With Old RAM Modules
Old Motherboards Can Be Recycled at Home
Other options exist for recycling old motherboards, of course. You don't have to go down a creative route. If working, the motherboard can be part of a new computer, and donated to a school, church, or other community project. The options for reuse are considerable, not to mention better for the environment than recycling.
If you choose professional recycling, however, be sure to rely on a trusted, professional recycler.