To WhiteTruckMan: Opening CPUs

  skeletal 09:58 16 Aug 2006

On another thread WTM said:

“I quite often use obsolete or broken hardware to show the kids the innards. I'm still trying to open up a cpu without totally destroying it to show the chip inside. So far it has been total destruction, and I'd welcome any suggestions.”

Rather than hijack that thread I thought I’d offer some suggestions in a new one.

Firstly, a word of warning: some electronic components, notably some power transistors, can contain highly toxic substances and I strongly recommend you don’t try to open them. I do not know if CPUs do; they may, as they are allowed to get hot and some of the dodgy stuff acts as heat carriers. Try to find this out before continuing. However, I welcome your enquiring mind, just be careful!

One way of opening components (like a CPU) is to carefully grind them down. When the cover gets very thin, you may be able to peel it off from the bottom half to reveal the chip in the middle. This will create dust though; see above!

Another thought is to check out computer fairs to see if you can come across some types of UV erasable memory chips. These devices have a window on the top and you can clearly see the chip underneath. A CPU is similar, at least in terms of what a chip looks like.

I recently paid a visit to a manufacturing plant in Switzerland and observed some incredibly sophisticated machines that could weld gold wires onto the surface of chips. Under a microscope I could clearly see the wires (much thinner than a human hair) “squashed” onto the chip’s connection pads.

Most of the time we just take so much of this clever stuff for granted.

Happy (but careful) research.


  spuds 11:45 16 Aug 2006

Seeing the BBC's Real Story, Monday 14/08/06 at 7.30pm on BBC 1, and the 'recycling' yards in places like India. It make you think of the amount of harmful materials used in producing everyday computer and IT components. Scary in the least, especially for the poor people living 24/7 in the same highly infectious and dangerous environment.

  oresome 16:51 16 Aug 2006

Just to confirm Skeletal's advise,

When I worked in a service department, any RF power transistors that were replaced had to be stored in a container which was collected by a specialist disposal company when there was sufficient quantity. There was no immediate hazard providing the encapsulation wasn't damaged.

Berylium oxide springs to mind as one hazardous substance used.

Defunct rechargeable batteries were dealt with in a similar manner. Stored in what looked like a large oil drum and collected by the same firm.

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