In a financial pinch? Try mining your old computer for gold

Mike Wehner, Tecca

As the economy rides the stock market roller coaster, investing in gold is a popular choice. Gold holds its value much better than paper currency, and these days, there is no shortage of gold buying firms ready to take the shiny stuff off your hands. But if your personal gold reserves are running on empty, you can embark on the complicated and somewhat dangerous adventure of mining gold bits from your old computers and electronic devices.

Many gadgets use gold as contact material because it is a great conductor and extremely resistant to corrosion and degradation. These tiny bits of precious metal aren't worth much individually, but if you have several pieces of vintage computing gear lying around, you may be able to farm enough to make it worth your while.

BBC's Jem Stansfield put that theory to the test in a video segment where he attempted to harvest gold from a plethora of old motherboards and even a discarded mobile phone. Through a complicated and time-consuming process, Stansfield was able to produce a tiny chunk of pure gold.

The road from electronic gadget to gold nugget is a dangerous one. The process involves slicing apart the hardware itself, bathing the hardware in several highly acidic chemical bathes that dissolve the less desirable bits of circuitry, and then converting the gold into a toxic black stew. A few chemicals and a great deal of heat later, you are left with a tiny bit of gold for your troubles.

The resulting gold is pure and highly desirable, but as the valuable contact areas on computer components are usually thinner than a human hair, your reward may be considerably smaller than you initially hoped. Still, if you have enough unwanted electronics — and have a safe area and the right supplies to perform the delicate project — you could turn old computers into something worthwhile.


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