Let's Make Robots!

Figuring out what to salvage

So I've got several computer parts lying around and while I was replacing a button in one of my mouses with one from another mouse that was broken I was thinking to myself what could I salvage to be used again?

So how do I know what parts are goodies to salvage and what I should throw in the recycling bin for computers(once I find where to recycle computer parts).

When I get back from picking up some stuff from a local shop I'll be going back at the old mouse to remove it's LED that it has to light up the scroll wheel, not sure if while I'm at it should desolder the little black circuit thingies(yes I really don't know their name lol I wanna may microcontroller but feel that's incorrect)

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Thanks for the website. WIll bookmark it

I don't recommend looking for micro controllers in a mouse. Even if you can identify it, it may require a unique in-system programmer or circuit to program it. It's not often that you will find an Atmel or Microcontroller chip that you could easily remove and reuse. If you do find one, you would be really lucky if it's one you could use with an Arduino or Picaxe bootloader (not all microcontrollers have a bootloader written for them). Even if it is one that can be used with some bootloader you have the problem of flashing it with the bootloader. Not to be rude but if you don't know what an IC is (Integrated Circuit...black thingy) then trying to reverse engineer microcontrollers is beyond your skill for now. It's not worth the $5 the thing would cost you. Telefox is right - stick to simple components especially when you are just starting out. 

To find a data-sheet read off the numbers found on the IC and try googling it going or going through a database of data-sheets (I use http://www.datasheetcatalog.com/function/). It may take a few tries depending on the naming convention, one line of numbers identifies the IC whereas others may just be manufacturer part number or some other number that won't help you locating a data-sheet.

Happy hunting,

Didn't come off as rude, we all need to start from idiot and work our way up to where ever we want to go.  Looking at two images of an IC and a MC and I can't see anything that is physically noticable that would distinguish which is which.

IC - http://www.circuitstoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/integrated-circuit.jpg

MC - http://www.solarbotics.com/assets/images/atmega8l/atmega8l_pl.jpg

I'm assuming I'd have to actually read the text to differentiate them. If not how can I tell the difference from looking at them?

Unless you're familiar with the part numbering system used by the IC in question you can't say for sure until you look it up.
Virtually all microcontrollers come in standard IC packages, but not all ICs are micos =)

Ahh... Thanks for the info. If while I'm clearing out electronics and salvage then and I come across a reprogrammable microcontroller I could use I'm guess I should snag it? Would there be any use towards me grabbing ICs, if so what?

Taking it out and keeping it wouldn't hurt, but again as I said it's probably not worth the hassle. Every electronic component has use somewhere (otherwise no one would bother making it). Some, you may not be able to use because they are very function specific while others can be adapted elsewhere. The only way is to read off the numbers and try finding a data sheet, then figure out if the IC in question has any use to you for example;


Micro-controller = Think of it as a miniature CPU. Can store code and give outputs based on input/programming code.

Shift In or Out Register = can be used to expand the number of input or output signals a micro-controller can process by transmitting them in serial as opposed to parallel.

Op-Amp = Can improve signal strength or be used in filtering circuits.

Logic Gates = AND, NAND, OR, NOR ect. gates, used to perform logic functions/operations.

Resistor Array = Basically a set of resistors. Can be useful in circumstances when you need many resistors or to be certain that multiple resistors are identical (individual resistors have small manufacturing differences between each one).

ect.....there are many more. I've been doing this for a while and still find new ones....

For a quick little clarification, a microcontroller is a type of IC? Or did you just list a bunch of component that a circuit could have that's worth salvaging?

A micro-controller is a type of IC. I listed a bunch of things that I would salvage and came to mind but again it depends on what you plan to do with them.

Alright :) Thanks for clarifying that for me.