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Fin the Human

Hitch Hiker's Guide to PC Dumpster Diving

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Posted · Original PosterOP

Safety:

  • Always get permission to obtain PC parts from the owner.
  • Always wear long pants, gloves, and closed-toe shoes when searching in abandoned locations or dumpsters.
  • Never enter sketchy buildings or creepy white vans.
  • Do this all at your own risk.
  • Never open up power supplies.
  • Always test full PCs outside with a surge protector.
  • Never lie or attempt to bamboozle someone.
  • I am not a professional, just someone with some knowledge they would like to share.

Uses of Dumpster PCs: 

  • NAS: Many dumpster PCs come with weak CPUs and a small amount of RAM, which is perfect for hooking some hard drives into for a cheap NAS. (Most cheap motherboards have 4-6 SATA ports.)
  • HTPC: Most Core 2 Duos and newer can handle HD video playback, therefore it can make an awesome home theater PC.
  • Emulator: A lot of computers being thrown by the wayside can handle pre-PS2 emulation and make for a great alternative to buying the original console.
  • "Gaming PC": I wouldn't recommend anything below a Core 2 Quad, 4GB of RAM, and a GTX 550 for even eSports gaming, but if you can find the parts, you can easily get a gaming PC for free.
  • Parts: It is very simple to harvest RAM, PCIe cards, and HDD from old prebuilt computers.
  • For-Profit: If you have to buy a part off of Amazon, it is very easy to sell off your unwanted systems on Craigslist once you put an OS on them.

Where They Hide (Ask the owners):

  • Schools
  • Old Offices
  • Abandoned Buildings(BE SAFE)
  • Dumpsters
  • Craigslist

Strategy:

Now to the most interesting part, how to get one of these old beasts. First, you want to talk to people about any electronics that they want to get rid of, and if you find one abandoned attempt to find the owner.  Once you have a PC evaluate if you can refurbish it if so sell this first PC on Craigslist.  As you accrue more PCs keep the most powerful one for your personal project, keep swapping out better and better parts (while selling the ones you don't use), this could take months of hunting but is worth it.  I would recommend saving up to about 100$ USD for any random replacements you may need for the PC you are going to keep. 

 

GPUs:

This will be your most expensive part for a gaming or emulation PC, but you may have to use your earnings to buy a used GTX 950/1030 off of eBay. The less power hungry the better as your PSU will probably be very cheap.

 

CPUs, MOBOs, and RAM:

These should be something you don't have to buy.  The more modern the platform the better, anything in the DDR3 range should be reasonable. 

  • Retro PCs (pre-2000) can sell for quite well, don't leave these out as an option.
  • Pentium 4s have terrible resale value.
  • Pentium Ds are not very usable.
  • Core 2 Duo systems should be passable for very simple tasks and have low resale value.
  • Core 2 Quad systems should be passable for simple tasks and have low resale value.
  • Any FX systems should work decently for basic tasks and have okay resale value.
  • Any 1st and 2nd generation Core I systems should work decently for basic tasks and have decent resale value.
  • Any 3rd, 4th, or 6th generation Core I systems should work great for advanced tasks and have great resale value.
  • Any Ryzen, 7th, 8th, or 9th generation Core I systems should work great for almost all tasks and have amazing resale value.
  • Try to have at least 4GB of RAM in your personal system as anything below isn't very usable.

Cases and PSUs:

Most cases that are somewhat modern (and in a standard form factor) should work, anything with two fan mounts, a few HDD bays, and case hardware will work fine. Power supplies are very tricky as they can be deadly. Try to only use semi-reliable ones in your re-sold and personal systems, you don't want your PC blowing up. Test them in outside and with a surge protector and recycle any that have been damaged.

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HDDs:

When throwing away a PC most people tend to take out the hard drives, this can lead to some availability issues.  One way to find them is in old laptops, as most people don't know how to take them out. In older cases, they may not have enough (or any) 3.5 or 2.5-inch bays, this can be fixed with some clear duct tape, as it is strong, non-conductive, and cheap. For a NAS you may want to invest some of your profits into new hard drives.

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Extra Features:

Most older motherboards don't have WIFI, Bluetooth, M.2 slots, or other basic features. A lot of older pre-built PCs come with a variety of PCIe 1x cards which you could use to add features.  Once again, older laptops save the day as many of them use M.2 Bluetooth and WIFI solutions that can be taken out. 

 

Operating System:

If you don't have money for an OS or any software, there is a lot of free stuff on the internet.  For a free OS, I would recommend Ubuntu Linux but, if you want to spend 5$ you can get a Windows 10 key off of eBay. A lot of pre-built PCs do have Windows 7 keys which do work with Windows 10.

 

Final Thoughts:

I have built two systems for free after reselling parts that I didn't use, I believe that this article completely ends the myth that PC gaming is expensive.  If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to comment below. Thank you.

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My "Amazing" Guide to Getting a Free Computer:  https://linustechtips.com/main/topic/1037246-hitch-hikers-guide-to-pc-dumpster-diving/

PC 1:

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X    GPU: EVGA Superclocked GeForce GTX 1080

RAM: 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz DDR4    SSD: Crucial MX500 500GB

PSU: Corsair CX750M V2   HDD: Seagate Barracuda Compute 3TB 7200RPM

Case: Phanteks Eclipse P400STG Red/Black   MOBO: ASRock X370 Killer SLI/ac

OS: Windows 10 Pro  Keyboard:  Corsair K68 Red  Mouse:  Corsair M65 Pro RGB

 

PC 2:

CPU: Intel Core i7 3770    GPU: Sapphire PULSE Radeon RX 580 8GB

RAM: 1x8GB Adata 1600MHz DDR3    HDD: Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200RPM

PSU: Corsair VS450     Case: NZXT H440 Red/Black

MOBO: Intel BOXDH77EB H77    OS: Windows 10 Home

Keyboard:  Rii RK100  Mouse:  Rosewill Fusion C40

 

LINUX:

CPU: Intel Pentium E5400   GPU: Intel 82G41 Chipset

RAM: 1x2GB Kingston 1066MHz DDR3    HDD: Seagate Barracuda 250GB 7200RPM

PSU: Sparkle-Power 300W     Case: Nobilis Micro ATX OEM

MOBO: Intel DG41WV 775   OS: Ubuntu LTS 18.04

Keyboard:  Apple A1048  Mouse:  Rosewill Fusion C40

 

MAC:

CPU: Intel Core i7 3615QM    GPU: Intel HD4000

RAM: 2x2GB Crucial 1600MHz DDR3    HDD: WD 1TB 5400RPM

PSU: Mac Mini PSU    Case: Mac Mini Case

MOBO: Mac Mini Motherboard    OS: macOS "Mojave"

Keyboard:  Apple MB110LL/A   Mouse:  Logitech M325

 

Consoles: Wii, SNES, NES, N64, Atari 7800, Commodore VIC-20, Genesis, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, 2DS, Steam Link, and GBA

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