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The Support Volunteer should refer to the Teaching Dismantling page.

This page details the process for dismantling a computer which (fill in). The dismantler should be provided with a pile of computers or hardware devices to dismantle

Before dismantling

  • It is advisable to wear work gloves (which are provided by Free Geek) while dismantling, particularly if the dismantler has not recently received a tetanus vaccination. The previous use of the computers being brought in is almost always unknown, and many of the shells or cases for various types of hardware contain sharp corners and edges.
  • If we have safety goggles, volunteers should also wear safety goggles
  • Volunteer should understand the following:
    • We recycle the motherboards and most heatsinks, so those can be treated moderately
    • We reuse the socket-based CPUs, RAMs, hard drive, Optical drives, and cases if it's really nice, so they have to be treated gently. (see below for the process)

Extricating computer guts from the case

Typically the panel of a case hiding access to the computer's guts is, if looking at the front of the case head-on with the computer top-side-up, on your left. If look from the back, it will be on your right, opposite side of the mainboard. Sometimes a case will have a 3-sided shell that extends over both sides and the top of the computer.

1)Unscrew any case screws binding the panel or shell to the rest of the case. Usually these screws are found on the back. Occasionally they will be covered by the front panel, which would then need removing first.

  • The front panels is such case are typically held down by plastic tabs, usually at the bottom of the case

2)Remove the Power Supply; keep the power supply bracket in there, however, in case we want to keep the case.

  • Place in appropriate bin based on whether the wattage is below or above 350w

3)Open the case and detatch everything from the motherboard leading to any other component or part of the case.
4)Unscrew and remove the motherboard from inside the case. If it have at least one PCIe x16 slot, take out the motherboard and send it to motherboard testing station.
5)Remove any cables that are not specific to the case, such as IDE or SATA cables, connector adaptors, et cetera. Sort ribbon and round cables in seperate piles, group all other isolated miscellany together.
6) If you encounter any optical drives or harddrives (or special drives, such as Card readers), do take them out too.

Case triage

From time to time we receive "nice cases" that require special attention— basically, we want to keep it as functional as possible, even if all the guts are bad.

Generally, they will have one or more the following feature:
  • In a color other than beige
  • have a very streamlined design
  • Lots and lots of glow in the dark feature, such as transulcent fans, tubes, lights
  • Clear side and/or top panels
  • "Mini-ITX" form factor

(Any thing that will remind you of a racecar from Fast and Furious :P) Aside from shapes, they can also be identified by the manufacturers: "Antec", "Lian-li", "Alienware", "Thermaltake" are a few makers of special cases.

  • If they are very likely to be special, or just in doubt, please contact a staff to notify about the "nice case". If indeed is a nice case, we would like to keep the case, along with the following:
    • Power supply mounting bracket/cage
    • Drive rails
    • Any other specially designed piece that improve looks and/or aireflow, such as the card air-shroud for Antec P180.

Motherboard disassembly

1)Remove and sort the battery

  • Typically one piece of battery is on the motherboard, a button battery. It can removed by either using a flathead to gently remove it, or by pressing a small metal tab. (see FG Portland list of battery types)

2)Remove the processor fan, heat sink, and processor chip

  • For Slot-Style processor: Take it, with heatsink, into its own bin
  • For socket-based processors:
    • Seperate CPU Heatsink from CPU
      • if it's made out of copper or have copper core --> keep; placed at their own pile.
      • Otherwise, place in the "scrap" bin
    • Socket based CPU should be removed carefully from their socket as to not bend or break off the pins. Most CPUs socket have a side lever that can be lifted up, allow easy extraction of the CPU.
  • Place CPUs in their own pile
    • Pentium 4, Athlon XP, and newer processors should be sorted seperately if they can be distinguished
  • If heatsink cannot be seperated from the CPU, they get their own pile

3) Check for Ram & remove if present (send to 'pre-dismantle')
4) Remove any large chunks of metal (eg: chipset heatsinks) and plastic heatsinks mount (usually around the CPU socket/slot area) before placing clean mother board in the appropriate bin

  • All Chipset heatsink will be placed into "Copper-heatsink" pile currently.
  • All plastic-y stuff go into "scrap" bin currently.


After ensuring that everything we want is removed from the case and motherboard...

  • Toss the motherboard into the motherboard pile
  • Except for the special cases, the now-emptied case should usually be placed in a pile of other cases as per the coordinator's instructions. Before doing so, ensure that the case is closed with at least one screw binding every loose case component, such as panels or shells, to the case, so that it does not fall apart during later handling
  • Clean the station!!
  • If there are no more more boxes to dismantle: tape batteries, empty the scrap bin into the white bag, empty scrap power supply bin into the white bag, dismantle slot style processors...

See also

Dismantle Flow Chart