What's Worth Recycling Inside Laptops?

10 January 2018
 Categories: , Blog


Do you have a few old laptop, notebook, or netbook computers that aren't useful anymore? Whether they're physically broken or simply too far beyond obsolete, there are still some valuable materials inside the systems that could give you a small return on your investment--or even better, a nice payday if you're collecting old laptops from others. Here are a few laptop recycling details to help you figure out if scrapping laptops is worth your time.

What's Valuable Inside Laptops?

Laptop computers have fewer recycling payout points than desktop computers, but there are a few interesting pieces to keep in mind.

When you dismantle a laptop and break it down to its bare parts, one of the first materials will be the cooling system. Unlike desktops, the heat sink is actually part of a heat spreader and air ventilation system.

Most laptops utilize a copper tubing system that touches the processor, graphics processing unit (if applicable and separate from the processor), the northbridge, the southbridge, and other heat-generating components.

The copper tubing connects to a vent and fan system. Because of the guided air function and the importance of the component, the heating pipe system can be quite thick. Pull it apart for recycling if nothing else.

Hard Drives Versus Solid State Drives

Does your laptop have a hard drive or solid state drive? This is largely a question of laptop age, but the two drive generations can still mix and match in modern devices.

The hard drive is the most well-known option. It's so well known that many people say "hard drive" when they really mean any type of computer storage, mostly because hard drives were the main option for decades.

Hard drives have a set of silicon-like platters that spin inside of an aluminum case. Although the platters seem shiny any metal, you're just seeing a very thin coating that is better recycling as a whole platter rather than scraping away at the layer--unless you have a specific use for the proprietary metal and mineral layer other than recycling sales.

Most importantly, hard drives have rare earth magnets. These magnets can be recycled for destruction or distributed through the electronics industry and hobby world due to their strength. The magnets are used to hold specific components in place instead of using screws, which can shake apart during the hard drive's vibrating cycles.

Solid state drives (SSDs) are a newer application of old technology. They have no moving parts, and don't need magnets. The drives may have lower recycling rates unless encased in thicker hard drive shells.

Contact a laptop recycling professional to discuss other recycling options inside your computers.