I want to find junk yards to get components, transformers etc.

When I search google, all I see is "we buy junk"

How can I find where the junk is like broken microwaves, tv's etc?

I live near Denver, CO

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hey folks, give the kid a break. When I was his age and tinkering with electronics I got a lot of parts this way. It's a lot harder to do this today, but it's still a reasonable question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop / skyler, I agree it's a reasonable question but IMO off-topic as a "a shopping or buying recommendation" and very localized which is why I voted to close but didn't downvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterJ
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Vehicle breakers / auto scrapyards may have some stuff (instruments, 12V batteries). Our local municipal waste site has a pile of separated junk at one side, including appliances. Charity shops may have working old appliances. Then there's craigslist/freecycle, ebay, "electronics surplus" (good source of strange things) \$\endgroup\$
    – pjc50
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Peter: It's not really shopping since he isn't asking about acquiring specific parts. He is asking about a general strategy for how to find discarded parts. That may vary with different places, but I think there will be considerable commonality. You guys are being too hard on a highschool kid trying to tinker and learn some electronics. He is already way above some arduinee wanting to know what "shield" to use. He seems to really want to learn and is trying reasonable things given what he has. Give the kid some slack. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ This website is a nice "virtual" junk yard: goldmine-elec-products.com. Specifically their "surprise" boxes: goldmine-elec-products.com/products.asp?dept=1424 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 20:05

6 Answers 6


When I was starting to tinker with electronics, I've done a fair bit of resourceful activities, such as junk yard scavenging and dumpster diving. At the time I lived in Russia, the year was 1992, there were no interwebs, electronic components were very difficult procure. DigiKeys and Mousers were out of the question; the concept of catalog distributors wasn't known. For the most part, scavenging was about the only option. Electronics components were currency between our little group of friends.

But. There is a problem with scavenging, especially with scavenging out of modern appliances. You don't really know what you're getting. First, you need to establish if the component is in working order. Even if it is, you may or may not be able to identify it and to find its datasheet. Suppose you get lucky and you make a device with a scavenged component, which works.
And it works well. And you want to build another one. Where would you get another one of those scavenged components? **

At the same time. Price of components is comparatively low on catalog distributors such as Jameco, Mouser, DigiKey. For $10 worth of new parts, one can get a fair bit of tinkering done. Importantly, the parts will have datasheets.
cardinal rule: No datasheet ⇒ No sale

Still. Taking apart various devices is worthwhile. Not because you can scavenge parts, but because you will glean design ideas. Medical and military electronics is particularly interesting from this standpoint, if you can get your hands on it.

** Similar procurement issues occur with surplus parts. So called "new from old stock". I had a mentor/boss, who would consistently discourage surplus parts in the R&D lab.


It doesn't really work that way anymore for electronic stuff. Also, the parts you can find in junked electronics aren't as useful or as easy to harvest as in past years. Even big-iron power transformers are not used much anymore, and the componets that replaced their functions will be difficult to harvest and difficult to identify even if you can harvest them.

You might get lucky and be able to grab whole subsystems from junked stuff, like the power supply from a junked computer. However, that may be the reason the computer was junked. Lots of people don't know how to replace a power supply, so if the computer is old enough they just junk it and get a newer faster one. You might find some interesting mechanical parts, like various motors, in printers and the like.

In many places, it's not legal to just toss out old electronics like that. In a city like Denver, there is probably a formal pickup program. You may be able to get at junked stuff more easily in a small town. I live in a small town in New England, and we have to pay to throw stuff like that in a pile at the transfer station. The reason we have to pay is because the town eventually has to pay to have someone haul the pile away. I have never tried this, but I expect that if I asked I would be allowed to pick thru the pile and take anything I wanted. Anything I take would reduce the hassle and expense they will eventually have to get rid of it. Again, I haven't actually tried to do this, so don't know if it really works that way. I have seen things like dishwashers and washing machines in the pile, so there should be some motors there to harvest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ what I pay 100Rs for a broken power supply and I repair them and sell around 450/- Rs. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 8:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that in a lot of areas in europe, the companies/counties that manage this big pile will own the stuff as soon as someone puts something there (and often reselling is illegal too), so it is considered stealing in many jurisdictions, and asking will sometimes even make them kick you out of their grounds. This is a sad development since these places are at least here in germany often so big that it is almost a guarantee that you find something very intresting and useful, if you know what you are looking for. \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 9:35

I'd recommend joining a group called FreeCycle that is a nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. The process of joining is simple and basically consists of dropping them a line to request access to your local group to stop automated sign-ups and spammers. At the moment there have been 149 posts in the last week for the Denver group so it seems quite active in your area.

People are especially receptive to giving away things that are broken for recycling and educational use. Depending on who is active in your area you may also have some luck asking for general electronic components, several months ago in my area I offered a box of surplus parts, circuit boards and prototypes that were largely still current and had datasheets available. It just wasn't worth my time commercially attempting to desolder and reuse them.


I established a connection with the local Ewaste recycler, and it's been a GoldMine.

For decades, Ive been providing IT support across the SF Bay area and needed a place to responsibly get rid of my customer's dead PC's, printers, monitors, etc. I'd bring my "junk" to eWaste "fund-raisers" sponsored by/held at local schools, churches, etc.

The hard work of running these events (the paperwork, the heavy lifting, driving trucks, hauling away piles of monitors etc) is not provided by the school or church, but by a local eWaste management company. (They make their $$$ by taking a cut of the "fund-raising cash).

These eWaste folks had gotten used to seeing me, they needed IT support,... one thing led to another, and I've been priviledged to spend the last few years cherry-picking stepper motors, solenoids, photo-interruptors, odd-ball DC motors, hard drives and assorted PC parts of course, gears, lasers out of CD burners, occasional nice optics, and all sorts of electromechanical parts I was lucky enough to cannibalize from an amazing variety of devices, all declared "dead" by their owner, but still very much alive (albeit comatose) to me.

Be alert to the fact that these eWaste folks work in a verrry competitive business. They sell "dead" laptops for a few bucks a pound, and have no patience with folks like us who see value in the little parts and want to spend time admiring the guts of a device... Their business model demands that these devices go to a crusher somewhere in the world no later than the end of the week, so they can get their cash fast...

I've been very lucky. Perhaps you can be too.


Another way to get parts for tinkering is to ask local electronics companies. Any company that regularly designs or builds electronic devices will have a junk pile. There will be old prototypes that are no longer useful, units that failed test and nobody is ever going to get around to investigating why, etc. Then such companies will have a stock of new parts. I think you will find that most companies will be happy to give stuff to a high school student interested in electronics.

We have occasionally helped such students. So few come to us asking for anything that they usually walk out with a pile of new parts and sometimes working but old equipment. I have given away a old mostly working analog oscilloscope, a bunch of old microcontrollers, wall warts, prototyping boards, various parts like resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc. We probably have a few 100k parts here, so I'm happy to give a few 10s of parts to any student showing a true interest in learning.

We have a pile of old or reject boards that are good for harvesting inductors and the like. The only reason we don't do that ourselves is because it's cheaper to buy new ones than pay for the time to unsolder the old ones. Someone making the junk pile smaller for us is actually doing us a favor, so it works both ways.

I'm sure we aren't unusual in this regard. Most electronics companies should have a similar situation, and most professionals are happy to help a student that is truly interested in learning their discipline. You may be surprised how much stuff peope will be eager to give you once they know about you.

The hardest part is getting introduced to the right person. This is best done word of mouth. Do you know someone that knows someone that works at a electronics company? You probably do if you ask around. Maybe there are local email lists or the like. Did someone from a electronics company do a presentation at your school, judged a science fair, etc? Contact them.

I once had a high school student from a nearby town call me because I exhibited a year earlier at their reverse science fair (companies show off technology stuff and the students walk around looking at it). He wanted to make one of those spinning LED displays for a senior project. He came here, we talked about his concept and circuit for a while, and he walked out with a few microcontrollers, some opto-interruptors, a bunch of LEDs, and a whole bag of other parts. These were all new parts too. It wasn't worth trying to salvage stuff like that from the junk pile. Later I got to see his finished project at their Senior Fair. He mounted his board on a old fan lying flat on the ground. The LEDs were spelling out "SENIOR PROJECT 2009" as the fan rotated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The phantom downvoter strikes again. I think we have a vandal on the loose. If someone has a legitimate issue with this answer, they should stand up and say so. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 2, 2013 at 21:00

One thing I've done is post an ad on Craigslist or other such classifieds. I specify in my ad that I'm looking specifically for broken electronics to salvage, that they are willing to give me for free.

I live in a smaller area an hour or so from any large metropolitan area, so there's not a whole bunch of people, but I have gotten a few good responses. However, even if you get a few people with a bunch of stuff, your salvage pile can grow drastically. I was lucky enough to get a response from an older lady who's a bit of an audio geek, and has a bunch of vintage tape players in varying states of disrepair. She normally took them to a recycling place, but after seeing my ad takes them to me. They're mostly older stuff, which makes them a pleasure to salvage quality parts from.

Anyways, hope this helps any who happen to look at this thread. ;)


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