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I find myself constantly trying to recycle old components in my new projects. Yesterday, I needed a demultiplexer so I just took it out from some old phone board... Demultiplexers cost basically nothing and the one I took out is quite old. So my question is this:

Does it make sense to reuse old components the way I did or is it better to use new ones?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by duskwuff, Brian Carlton, PeterJ, Dmitry Grigoryev, Scott Seidman Aug 27 '17 at 3:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes...as you tread your ancestors \$\endgroup\$ – GR Tech Dec 16 '14 at 13:15
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I guess the answer is maybe.

Yes, if...

  • you're in the process of fixing something and the hard-to-get spare part is readily available on a junk board in the corner of your lab. Hard to get can even be a standard 10k resistor, if it's Sunday afternoon and you don't want to order parts online or wait for the next electronics shop to open. Sometimes, I even re-use old parts when hacking something at my company and don't want to wait two days for ordered parts before putting the design in production.

  • you're trying to learn from an existing design and rebuild a sub-circuit found on a larger board. Besides solid knowledge about the required theory, existing designs are your best teacher.

  • you're after exotic components (high voltage from CRT monitors, vintage parts from old equipment, cool-looking stuff like nixie tubes or a magic eye from an old radio)

No, if...

  • you're building a large new project and the components we're talking about are standard, cheap diodes, resistors, ...

  • you're going to sell your circuit and must know where your components come from. Who tells you that a part on a junk board has never been subjected to stresses beyond those listed in the data sheet's absolute maximum ratings, causing permanent damage or deviations from the values you must count on?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess you are right. I usually do that just to save me some time and recycle the garbage. And the projects i use those components in are just hobby stuff. For example hamster cage temperature monitoring system that logs temperature every 15mins to some old EEPROM that i soldered out of an old network card. \$\endgroup\$ – avuthless Dec 16 '14 at 12:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, if... you only need one part, it doesn't matter too much which, and you don't want to spend 10 times the amount of that parts cost in shipping. \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Dec 16 '14 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the magical maybe \$\endgroup\$ – vaxquis Dec 16 '14 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @zebonaut: you can add to "Yes, if... " => you like to recycle \$\endgroup\$ – machineaddict Dec 17 '14 at 9:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelT RoHS falls into my last bullet. AFAIK, RoHS is relevant if you sell your design, and no one cares about anything you breadboard for proof-of-concept purposes. You can consider RoHS=yes/no as yet another datasheet parameter, if you like. \$\endgroup\$ – zebonaut Dec 17 '14 at 14:19
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For me, the decision depends on a few criteria:

  • Speed
  • Reliability
  • Cost, availability

When to use a junk part

If I can't wait for the part and don't have on in my materials, I'll turn to the junk pile.

If I can verify the part will operate correctly within parameters (ie, isn't damaged), or the project doesn't require high reliability, I'll turn to the junk pile.

If the part is expensive, rare, or has some intrinsic value that a new part won't come with, then I'll turn to the junk pile.

When to use a new part

If I have the part new in stock, I'll generally avoid the junk pile because reuse takes longer than using a new part.

If I cannot easily verify correct operation of the junk part without a lot of effort, or the project/part is going to a client or will be used by others than myself, I'll typically wait to get a new part.

I'll tend towards using the new part by default because even if the part is good, when I run into a problem I tend to assume it's a problem with re-used parts of unknown reliability. This causes me to spend more time debugging issues than I would with new parts.

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Sometimes when I just have a spare evening and want to get my mind of off more important matters, I take a random PCB from my "junk bag" collected from some strange contraptions, and solder out everything that looks cool from it. That's how I got my hands on lots of totally rad, but also 95% totally useless ICs, some mysterious parts which I wasn't able to identify despite many sleepless nights spent digging through photos and datasheets, and some totally regular and common stuff, which was probably worth about 1/10th of the juice my soldering iron used in the process. Still, soldering is a nice way to heat up in winter, and the smell of fresh solder in the morning is something a true man will surely appreciate.

OTOH, a) you can get brand new samples for free in stock amounts from many vendors (YMMV), b) most of the stuff you'll get from disassembly will probably be worthless and/or neither reprogrammable nor refittable for any serious purpose, and you'll never know when they'll fail direly, requiring you to fix entire circuit that got reckd, c) some parts will get FUBAR during your "board games"... still, you'll probably learn how to solder efficiently after about 100 hours spent on desoldering/soldering them.

As a result, I have a nice box with lots of brand-new samples & fresh-from-the-shelf stuff, which I use for brand-new fresh-from-the-shelf ideas, and a bag of old junk, which I use for all those "it'll probably burn or explode... SO LET'S DO IT NOW!" ideas. I think (no citation nor hard proof here, sorry) that most people with some hobbyistic EE experience have a system similar to mine.

tl;dr the only real answer is, quoting zebonaut - maybe. If you're doing EE for money - don't bother with reuse even for prototypes or tests; it's essentially like asking for trouble. If you're doing it for fun though, the rule is more trouble == more fun instead - so the answer is "Of course it's worth it, it still probably has the magic smoke inside!".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What to do with the mystery components? They can't be used for anything except heat, smoke or light. But are too interesting to throw away. \$\endgroup\$ – Oskar Skog Apr 15 '17 at 11:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OskarSkog heat is the best way to go IMO - they can be used as EPIC-equivalent trigger for pyrotechnic devices ^_~ alternatively, you can go into arts \$\endgroup\$ – vaxquis Apr 15 '17 at 13:12
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Back when electronic components were (a) more standardized (so what you pulled was likely to be something you could actually use), (b) larger (on pins/leads rather than surface-mount), (c) more expensive relative to everything else (seriously, we're now down to something like femto-buckabytes), and (d) the only game in town (these days many things are easier to do by throwing an Arduino or Raspberry at them), rescuing parts made sense. I can remember when some hackers at MIT came up with a poor man's "wave-desoldering" technique for rapidly removing large numbers of logic chips from a scrapped PC board... but at that time it was virtually guaranteed that these were all simple, standard chips that were easy to reuse, 7400 family or its relatives.

These days, unless you need the part in a hurry and know it's present in something in your scrap pile, and/or you're on a teenager/third-world budget with a lot more time and junk than money, it's probably not really worth the effort.

On the other other hand, disassembling something complicated while trying not to cook the semiconductors will exercise skills that will be useful when you have to build or repair something, as @vaxquis points out.

On the other other other hand, finding a way to take something already working and modify it to do something new ("circuit bending") might be both easier and more interesting.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since you mentioned it, i solder out components mostly out of old boards. The ones that are on pins that go through the board. But at least i get some soldering experience by doing that.. \$\endgroup\$ – avuthless Dec 17 '14 at 7:33

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