Category: Recycling

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Hard Drives

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Hard Drives

Recycling Spotlight: Hard Drives

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at PC Pro? We say we recycle your old electronics, but what really happens? Follow us to see what happens to each and every component in the devices you donate. This week, our focus is on one of the most delicate components you can find inside your PC: hard drives. These monolithic slabs of aluminum and steel keep our precious data safe and deliver it to us within a moments notice, which is often taken for granted considering their mechanical complexity. We've previously shown you how we recycle laptop batteries, desktop computers and flatscreen TVs.

Recycling hard drives Colorado PC Pro
You'll need a set of Torx driver bits to get into these hard drives. Watch for hidden screws under the label!

Most hard drives, also known as Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), come across our workbench inside unwanted, broken, or unused computers destined for final disposition. As you may suspect, many of these hard drives have personal information from previous owners still present, highlighting the need for wiping your data before getting rid of your devices. If you're ever in doubt, we offer free data transfer from donated devices - that means that if you donate a laptop, desktop or tablet we will recover and return your data to you, absolutely free!


Once we remove the hard drive from the device it came in we use a USB hard drive bay, lovingly called "the toaster", to connect the drive to our shop computer and run a health check using CrystalDiskInfo. This check is called S.M.A.R.T., or Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Tool, and is built into essentially every hard drive for self-diagnosis. S.M.A.R.T. checks the drive for statistics like how many times it has been powered on, the amount of hours it has been in use and the number of bad "sectors" (data storage locations) to determine when the drive will fail and assign a health rating to it.

Recycle Hard drives dock with Colorado PC Pro
We use an external hard drive dock to recover your data and format your drives

If the S.M.A.R.T. test returns any result other than "Good", it means the hard drive is no longer fit for use (or for sale) and the hard drive gets recycled like all other e-waste; but wait! The circuit board attached to the back of the hard drive is still worth something to data recovery companies who may need a replacement circuit board for a hard drive with a bad one. In order to do such a swap, circuit boards must match exactly to the specific version and even manufacture date in some cases, which makes it particularly hard to find working donor boards and gives us a reason to keep selling them. Donor boards could take a while to sell, but when they do it means we've helped someone recover their lost family photos or important documents by providing the rare part they needed.

Recycling hard drives Colorado PC Pro
This screenshot from CrystalDiskInfo shows a hard drive with a "Bad" health rating.


The rest of the hard drive, while requiring Torx screwdriver bits to disassemble, is rather easy to recycle. Removing the top lid of the hard drive reveals the guts: metallic platters centered on a spindle, an articulating arm with a read/write device on the tip to access the platters, and the magnets and data transfer components that keep that arm moving and talking to the computer. The platters are coated with silver, which can be valuable to specialty recyclers, and the Neodymium magnets found in every drive can be used for a wide variety of purposes.

Recycling hard drives Colorado PC Pro
A small stack of hard drives yields about a dozen types of parts. Almost everything is worth something.

A few small screws are all that stand between you and a 100% certainty that your data is safe or destroyed. Removing the platters and shredding them will do the job, as will a hammer or even a rock. Not comfortable doing this yourself? That's what we're here for! E-mail us at to schedule your free pickup. Remember, we offer free data recovery and transfer from any donated devices, but the hard drives still have to be functional.

Want to see something special recycled? Let us know at @ColoradoPCPro on Facebook and we'll see what we can do.

E-waste Recycling Spotlight: Flastscreen Televisions

E-waste Recycling Spotlight: Flastscreen Televisions

Recycling Spotlight: Flatscreen Televisions

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at PC Pro? We say we recycle your old electronics, but what really happens? Follow us to see what happens to each and every component in the devices you donate. This week, our focus is on the wide variety of televisions that come through our shop, ranging from 19" fluorescent-lamp-powered LCDs to plasma screens and 70" LED displays. Recycling televisions can be difficult and hazardous, but it is just part of what we do. We've previously shown you how we recycle laptop batteries and desktop computers.

A large, dusty plasma television with the back panel removed
Some plasma televisions can be humongous. This one also had spiders inside.

By and large, most of the televisions that are donated to us simply have broken screens. That means that with a little bit of technical knowledge and the right tools we're able to harvest the remaining usable components (and don't forget the stand the television is on - imagine if yours broke and you needed a replacement). This is how we make money and also helps pay for recycling the raw and hazardous materials these televisions contain. If you're comfortable using both Ebay and a screwdriver, you could do this yourself at home while following basic safety precautions. Of course, if the television is broken for any other reason, it gets the typical PC Pro treatment of a full diagnostic check to identify which parts are still usable and which need to be recycled. If there's a chance a part will break, there's a chance someone is looking for a replacement. Reuse is even better than recycling!

A clean plasma television with the back panel removed
Other plasma televisions are much better to work with, but still more difficult overall.

Most recent flatscreen televisions come in three types: Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) using fluorescent bulbs, LCDs using Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), and plasma displays, which are illuminated by gases trapped inside the display. As you might imagine, there are hazardous materials in just about every television. Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, plasma and LCD displays contain heavy metals like beryllium, chromium, cadmium and occasionally lead, and many contain toxic flame retardant treatments.

A plasma TV open on a workbench with the internal components stacked on top of each other.
Once all the usable parts are out, you should give the rest to a recycler.

It's easy getting the valuable parts while recycling televisions - you usually just unscrew the back cover to easily access every component. It's much harder to separate the rest of the television for recycling, which is why it is recommended to take the whole display to a recycler and pay a fee to have them process it the rest of the way. We do this separation in house, but we're ultimately left with an LCD screen, fluorescent lamps or a plasma display that we still have to pay a processing facility to take off of our hands. If you go in blind, you are very likely to break a fluorescent bulb or end up with powdered glass all over your skin from a cracked LCD screen. Don't ask us how we know.

A photo montage of a television that has been shot and the bullets recvoered from it
One television owner was mad enough at their TV that they shot it 6 times. Here are the bullets we recovered.

All in all, it can take up to an hour or two and a few cut fingers to completely separate some of these televisions. With a little experience, and a little patience to remove the 20 parts from a plasma television, it gets much easier, faster and safer.

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Desktop Computers

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Desktop Computers

Recycling Spotlight: Desktop Computers

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at PC Pro? We say we recycle your old electronics, but what really happens? Follow us over the coming weeks to see what happens to each and every component in the devices you donate. Last week, we discussed laptop batteries. This week, our focus is on those big, bulky machines gathering dust in your office or garage: desktop computers.

Desktop PCs come in a variety of sizes ranging from just a few square inches to hundred-pound steel behemoths, but they all have similar guts. Major components inside desktop PCs include the motherboard, power supply, memory or RAM, hard drive or solid state drive, and a number of other common or uncommon peripherals. After a comprehensive test to identify any faulty or broken components, a thorough cleaning is typically required before we harvest the working parts to refurbish and sell. We use an antistatic electronics vacuum and electric canned air to get most of the hard work done. Trust us, once you use electronic canned air, you will want to dust everything in your home.

Electrostatic vacuum and electric canned air cleaning out the inside of a computer case
Our antistatic vacuum and electric canned air are must-have tools for a technician

Not all of the working parts are usable right away. In many cases, the computers we receive store personal or professional data that must be properly dealt with. We always offer to return all personal data to the client on an external hard drive or thumb drive. In all cases, whether we find client data or not, we securely wipe the hard drives using industry standard data erasure standards to be sure that no data can be recovered. In some cases, this process can take several hours per device. If the hard drive is unusable, we simply disassemble it and separate the parts for recycling - passing the data platters of the hard drive over a strong magnet (a process caled dagaussing) ensures no client data is recoverable. Throughout this process, we use a dual-bay hard drive dock that you can see in the photo below.

Recycle Hard drives dock with Colorado PC Pro
We use an external hard drive dock to recover your data and format your drives

Once all usable and recyclable components are removed, we are still left with a massive steel skeleton. Typically, these leftover computer shells still have some good parts, specifically the power and reset buttons, card readers and other small gadgets built into or onto the case itself. We even keep or sell the front bezel from each computer to limit the amount of plastic entering the waste stream. If a computer part could possibly break, and if someone might possibly want to fix it, we retain the part for our ever-growing inventory and expand our online store, which you can visit here if you're curious.

Colorado PC Pro takes apart a computer case for parts
Now that everything is clean and removed from the case, we can deal with the parts individually.

After all remaining parts and plastic are stripped off the case chassis, it is broken down with a hammer and crowbar, flattened into manageable sizes, and stored until we accumulate nearly a half-ton of scrap metal. Wondering how many computers it would take to yield a thousand pounds of scrap steel? It's anywhere from 50 to 200! We could use your help growing our scrap pile, so if you have a laptop or desktop to donate, no matter what condition it's in, contact us today and ask if we are running any promotions. You may be able to get a $10 Visa gift card or similar reward!

Once the entire process is said and done, the only parts left behind are several chunks of plastic. These are broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces and collected for later recycling. It can be very rewarding turning a giant hunk of metal and wires into useful, reusable and recyclable components. Every device donated contributes to a healthier environment and injects a small amount of money into the local economy and small business community.

Donate your broken or used electronics today!

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Laptop Batteries

E-Waste Recycling Spotlight: Laptop Batteries

Recycling Spotlight: Laptop Batteries

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at PC Pro? We say we recycle your old electronics, but what really happens? Follow us over the coming weeks to see what happens to each and every component in the devices you donate. This week, our focus is on one of the most likely components to go bad in your laptop: the battery.

Most modern laptop batteries are the rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) type. Inside the black plastic shell of your laptop battery is anywhere from four to twelve individual cells, shaped like your household AA battery but around twice the size. Over their lifespan, these batteries degrade for a number of reasons including overuse, underuse, improper storage or manufacturing flaws. Once one or more of these cells lose their ability to perform properly, your laptop battery as a whole may stop working. Once that happens, the battery is typically replaced and discarded even though most of it is likely still useable.

Bad lithium-ion laptop battery 18650 cell
One of the cells in this laptop battery has leaked electrolyte and failed, causing the whole battery to stop working

That's where we come in. With some simple tools and a bit of knowledge, these laptop batteries can be torn down, separated and tested for safety, capacity, and a number of other characteristics. We use the Zanflare C4 Smart Charger, capable of testing four cells at a time, to test all of our batteries. It's not fast by any means, but it gives us a way to keep hazardous e-waste out of the landfill and make a few bucks every once in a while. In fact, it took us over a month of nonstop testing to test all of the batteries shown in the photos on this page. Hobbyists are always interested in purchasing tested lithium-ion batteries for use in Tesla Powerwalls, vape pens and portable electronics, and we intend to get them into the right hands.

Laptop lithium-ion 18650 batteriy cells
300 individual cells were recovered from donated laptop batteries in March


Of course, there are safety concerns. We have to keep fireproof containers on hand to store damaged or dangerous batteries. Additionally, a good portion of the batteries we test fail to meet quality standards. That means we have to store these little sticks of dynamite by the dozen until they can be recycled through a larger facility. Piercing a lithium-ion battery causes a short-lived inferno that is capable of burning a house down. If you plan on recycling these at home, store them insulated from one another to keep the contacts from touching and possibly causing a short. Tape works to cover the ends of bad batteries, but you can buy storage trays for batteries you plan on keeping.

Lithium Ion battery exploding outside
This is what one exploding battery looks like. Stay safe if you're storing hundreds. Photo credit: FliteTest;

Donate Now

Do you have electronics to donate for reuse or recycling? Call us at (719)345-2345 or e-mail We provide free in-home and in-business pickups and will arrange transportation for larger donations. Rest assured, we erase your data securely and can even give it back to you on an external hard drive or thumb drive upon request.