Dumpster divers find all kinds of things in the trash. From a full pallet of cold brew coffee in hundreds of metal tins for Yu-Gi-Oh cards, there’s no shortage of cool stuff buried in the piles of junk you’re likely to find in the trash. But while some of it may be useless, redditor Rydirp7 took the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” to heart and built an entire PC out of discarded computer parts.
It’s no secret that electronics are not as recyclable as other materials, such as certain types of cloth, glass, metal, and plastic. According to a 2019 UN report, approximately 50 million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are produced each year worldwide, with only 20 percent of this being formally recycled. This means that the other 80 percent—which equates to an annual cost of $62.5 billion—is sent to a landfill or is “informally recycled,” the process of throwing unwanted items in the trash can end up in poor communities, resulting in environmental contamination and hazardous health effects. This is where dumpster divers, or people who dig through trash to find cool or interesting things, can relieve the strain by repurposing the unused into something actually usable.
Rydirp7 did just that recently, posting his trash PC build on the popular subreddit r/DumpsterDiving and reveals that he only bought two parts for the custom-built machine. The rest, from the graphics card to the processing chip, was found in a local dumpster. One redditor said it was “amazing.” Another user said they have “crazy respect for people” like him. Most comments are simple He was congratulated on the construction and I hope he continues it. Kotaku caught up with Rydirp7 to learn about the process behind building a trash PC and the benefits of looking at trash for gaming setups.
Dumpster diving for PC parts
Rydirp7, a resident of South Dakota, said he was inspired by things he heard about dumpster diving online, and in the summer of 2022, he thought he’d give the activity a chance. He visited a local computer store in his hometown “in the middle of nowhere” to see if he could find anything and was surprised by his findings.
“There’s a few things there,” Rydirp7 said Kotaku in a telephone interview. “Since then, I’ve occasionally checked the store’s dumpster and yes, with that PC you saw in the Reddit post, it was built almost entirely with parts pulled from that dumpster over the course of six or seven moon.”
The only components he bought were the power supply and RAM, which came to about $120 in total. Rydirp7 said that he already had these two parts as he bought them for another computer but thought he would reuse them for this build since he just had them lying around his home. Interestingly, he had an issue with the graphics card he found, because it was a 10 year old EVGA GeForce GTX 570. Although it “runs games decently,” he had to troubleshoot it a lot because “the drivers wouldn’t install correctly.”
After countless hours of trying to fix the graphics card, he decided it was time to just bake the thing in the oven. Seriously. It is known as the trick of the oven in the PC community and, as Rydirp7 said, the card has been working fine ever since.
“Essentially what the oven trick is is that you remove almost everything from the graphics card,” said Rydirp7. “The heat sink, the shroud—basically, you strip it down to the bare PCB and then what you do is wrap it in aluminum foil to help protect some of the more sensitive parts on the PCB. Preheat the oven to somewhere around 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then place the graphics card, or whatever electronics you’re trying to repair, in the oven. It’s usually like 8 to 12 minutes for a graphics card, I believe. But yes, that’s really the trick in the oven. I’ve done this with two different graphics cards: One was a GTX 240 and then this was a GTX 570, and the trick worked twice for me.
Baking a graphics card works like a cookie in the oven because broken connections due to loose or old solder joints are re-melted, allowing power to reconnect and flow back to what is likely to be broken points.
The challenges of building a trash PC
Rydirp7 admits he’s “a bit of a hoarder when it comes to PC parts,” so this junk PC is actually the second one he built from junk parts. The first one—with an AMD FX 6300 CPU, 8GB of RAM, that GTX 240, and a 500-watt power supply—went to one of his friends earlier. While he said his first attempt at a trash PC was perfectly usable, the second was “a little bit better,” because it put in double the RAM and pumped out more power. However, one of the most challenging parts to find for the build is the 256GB SSD.
“The SSD was the last part I found,” said Rydirp7. “I’ve been checking the dumpster for a long time but I can’t find anything. When there is something, it’s like a hard drive that has been disassembled. When I first found this SSD, I thought it was a new one without any data on it. But when I hooked up the SSD to the system to install Windows 10, it turned out that it wasn’t new and had someone else’s data on it. So what I do when I see a part with someone else’s data is immediately wipe it for the privacy of the previous owner because it’s none of my business.”
Meanwhile, the Dell OptiPlex 9010 motherboard was one of the first ingredients that Rydirp7 obtained from the junk of his local computer store. Unlike the graphics card and SSD, this part worked well and did not need to be discussed. He said the store, whose name or location he would not disclose for privacy reasons, was “mostly throwing away older hardware” that still works. Because of this shop he was able to build what became his “main rig.” Although he doesn’t play many games, he lists a few that he plays regularly, and mentions that his trash PC “can get a little hot” when he’s playing.
“Probably play Crysis,” said Rydirp7. “But yeah, I don’t really play a lot of games. The only thing I really play is Minecraft, Robloxand Scrap Mechanic. That’s it, and my PC runs all those games just fine.”
The benefits of making a trash PC
Making junk PCs is one way to fight back about 70 percent of e-waste that Americans do, Rydirp7 said, acknowledging the frequency with which most of people’s old electronics end up in landfills.
“This tactic of making junk PCs from scrap parts keeps perfectly usable electronics from going to landfills,” Rydirp7 said. “It can be easy for someone to build a computer with little or no money invested in it.”
As far as the viability of a trash PC, well, it depends on what you find and how you use it. Beyond its ability to do your daily tasks, like writing emails and watching YouTube, there’s another thing Rydirp7 says he does a lot with this computer. But as my colleague Claire Jackson said, “In 2010, this was a great rig!”
In 2023, these aren’t the ideal components for playing more modern games with 4K visuals and ray tracing. Rydirp7 can escape the run Crysis on his trash PC, especially since Crytek’s sci-fi FPS is optimized to run on the Nintendo Switch these days. But he probably won’t be able to play Cyberpunk 2077 or any of the PlayStation games—like The days passed or God of War—to make the jump to PC.
However, to each of them. And you can’t really complain when you just spent a cool $120 on something that can run most indie and Xbox 360-era games. That’s not a bad trade-off, especially if you’re not playing a lot of games to begin with. You can check out Rydirp7’s trash PC specs below:
- EVGA GTX 570 Graphics Card
- Intel Core I7-3770 Non-K Processor
- 16GB Corsair Vengeance RAM at 1600mhz
- 750-watt Corsair Power Supply
- iBUYPOWER Snowblind Element Case
- Dell OptiPlex 9010 Motherboard
While it may not be the most powerful PC in the world, what really makes this PC stronger than most is the fact that it’s built in the most literal sense of the phrase. By recycling and reusing old computer parts, turning them into a functional Frankenstein PC, Rydirp7 has come up with a way to reduce his overall environmental footprint. I can’t say the impact of his energy consumption on the world, but the generation of PC waste will go a long way in reducing global e-waste.