In Pictures: 19 Ways To Recycle Old, Unused Hardware

Make Cool PCB Sculptures

One good way to prevent computer components from filling up landfills over the next few thousand years is to use them in artistic ways.

Steven Rodrig did this in 2009, creating electronic sculptures using old printed circuit boards (PCBs). His portfolio, seen here, showcases a variety of designs, including insects, flowers, reptiles, cityscapes, and more. Granted, these sculptures will still end up in landfills one day anyway. His heart was in the right place, at least.

Make Nifty Christmas Ornaments

Why not use those old, scratched-up CDs and DVDs to create unique ornaments for your tree this holiday season? As shown above, almost anything could work--motherboards, graphics cards, old modems, or hard drive platters--you name it. The disc-based versions would probably be a better choice, reflecting the strands of lights draped nearby. Heck, for an even geekier tree, you could paint unused Ethernet cables to replace the garland. Old CPUs and fans, sporting festive colors, could serve as unique makeshift decorations, too.

Build A Component Coffee Table

David Maloney hoarded old PC components over the years and boxed them up in his garage so that one day they would be recycled into "some sort of project." The idea of a coffee table came to mind after spotting a pile of black walnut from a tree he cut down years ago. "It's basically two tables," he said. "One internal table to screw the boards to and another set of wood frames with glass that slide on top of the board table. It's basically a wood diorama. It will be very easy to swap out the computer boards with something else once we get tired of the look of the boards."

Make A Pair Of PCB Shoes

The Blazer Pentium 1.0" shoes are part of Gabriel Dishaw's "Junk Art" collection, using what appears to be mutilated motherboards and other PCBs. Completed in just three weeks, the shoes are a men's size 9.5 and they weigh approximately 15 pounds.

"This sculpture is part of a shoe series I'm currently working on where I revisit some of my favorite classic sneaker silhouettes," Dishaw said. "With this piece, I again tried to create a complete piece with both box and shoe. Notice some of the details--shoes lock down inside of the box for easy portability. I also tied this piece around a theme, Pentium, which is the name of Intel's chips. You will notice this is repeated throughout the shoes and box."

Make A Robot

Finding the source behind the Mouse Robot was difficult. However, Nihat Ustundag apparently created it, which is one of many designs incorporating unused mice, peripheral components, and various objects. A few other examples of his designs include a porcupine, an alligator, a potted plant, some kind of four-legged beast comprised of keyboard keys, an airplane, and more. Honestly, this mouse robot resembles Jar Jar Binks from the Star Wars prequels--must be the reptilian-like face.

Make A Hamster Cage

Enter "PC hamster cage" in the Google search field and you'll pull up multiple versions of monitors turned hamster cages. Unlike the variation shown above, one model incorporates a white and pink Hello Kitty design and a hinged top for easy access. Another hamster cage employs what appears to be a transparent iMac chassis mounted on a clear stand. In this instance, a hole was drilled into the side for an entrance to access the interior without moving the front grille. 

The version seen above doesn't seem to involve anything special, and it simply uses an old PC monitor husk to provide a unique rodent resort. If anything, the designer should have included some kind of lighting using LEDs or a miniature disco ball.

Build A Model Motorcycle

What better way to recycle old hard drives than to rip them apart and use the pieces to construct a miniature motorcycle? Created by Alex Andromeda, the model shown above is called Champion and features a DC motor for an engine and a belt-driven rear wheel. "The idea came from finding the symmetric metal pieces, which are used as the motorcycle frame," the bike's description reads. "The fender, gasoline tank, seat, and wheels are chosen according to the model size." Champion is 11" x 6" x 4" and is also comprised of VCR parts.

A second motorcycle, the Unlimited Drive, is more hard drive-specific, and its magnetic platters serve as wheels. According to its description, this version represents "the spirit of independence, and Unlimited Drive means thousands of [gigabytes] of hard drives [are] driven on the Internet data highway." Ultimate Drive is a little larger than Champion, measuring 18" x 7" x 7".

Build A Colorful Wall

Here's a good example of making good use of a stockpile of computer monitors--provided that they still work, of course. This particular wall--called Mauritian Sunset--was one of six designs created by Sandy Smith over in the UK.

"I started this body of work in January 2005 using a pile of broken and obsolete computer equipment I had salvaged from skips and offices," Smith said. "I set about making these work again, then used them as building blocks to create various architectural structures."

Another one of Smith's structures consisted of a wall of 26 monitors supported by empty PC shells, forming a towering, multi-colored cross called Crucifix.

Smith ended his particular series of artwork in January 2006.

Cool Your Hot Cup Of Tea

Need a way to cool that hot cup of coffee or tea? Why not connect a small chassis fan or--better yet--an old GPU fan to the power supply? The rigged fan seen above looks just right for a small cup.

For those wanting to take the cooling fan concept a step further, it may be possible to assemble a device with five or six fans positioned directly in front of the display that can cool your face or fingertips. Throw in a few LED cooling fans and you might have an annoying display of lights along with a light breeze.

Brew Coffee

Obviously, the PC chassis pictured above doesn't really brew coffee. While at first glace it looks like it is the real deal, what gives it away is the illuminated strips lining the burners. Still, the idea is amusing--converting a coffee maker into a PC-like device that would match the rest of your desktop. The drawback here should be obvious: the risk of spilling a pot of hot coffee all over the desk. Electrical-shock risks and burn issues aside, a matching brewer sitting next to your PC could spark heating problems. With that said, perhaps a coffee-brewing PC machine should remain in the kitchen. The idea was neat for a moment, at least.

Make Music

Admit it: you've tried to create music by using a group of glasses filled with various levels of water, or you picked up a marker and started beating it on the desk, PC chassis, monitor, and keyboard trying to create some kind of makeshift tune. James Houston took that idea to the next level by grouping obsolete hardware and peripherals together to mimic Radiohead's Nude. The mechanical ensemble included a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 8-bit PC (guitars), an HP Scanjet 3c scanner (bass), an Epson LX-81 dot matrix printer (percussion), and a group of hard drives to distort vocals. To see this band of old fogies in action, check out the YouTube video here.

  • KingArcher
    But can the dragonfly fly?
  • zooted
    Some of them were flat out hilarious
  • Randomacts
    #3 I would put that in my house #13 that is a bunch of fermi cards not coal you see. The black balls is just for looks.
  • gamebrigada
    #13 you aren't supposed to close side vents for a kebab cook thingie. You want that for fresh air to the coals so that the temperature goes way up. Hes doing it perfectly right.
  • Ramar
    My town just finished a three year project building a new parking building and some park and office space, and used the extra pipes to build an artistic statue featuring RGB LED's refracting wonderfully off of old smashed CD-R's through holes cut in the pipes.

    Wish I had a picture, but it's pretty neat.
  • dEAne
    I like the first one. When I was a little kid I use to glue things thrown in the garbage.
  • Luscious
    I think you guys forgot #20 - iPad cutting board
  • randomizer
    #8 would use a lot of power if left on.
  • Randomacts
    randomizer#8 would use a lot of power if left on.
    It looks like its gutted CRTS with colored lights.

  • randomizer
    RandomactsIt looks like its gutted CRTS with colored lights.Looking at this photo it may be the case, but she's done other ones where it looks quite likely that the monitors are operational:

    Power lights on the monitors and some computers.