A couple years ago I recall reading that back in the early 2000's there was enough gold in the central processing unit (CPU) and math-coprocessors to make it worth while to recover it computer recycling firms to smelt the chips to recover the gold from the prongs and heat transfer points.

As such, is there information in regards to the precise amount of gold actually used in the construction of both vintage processors (i.e. Intel 8080) and modern processors (i.e. AMD Phenom II)?

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    I upvoted so you are back to even...maybe a bit off topic, but I am not a hard a**. I will answer anything I can. – KCotreau Jun 23 '11 at 0:36
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    I've voted to close since it's out of SU's scope but it's an interesting subject. Downvote wasn't from me :) – Mike Fitzpatrick Jun 23 '11 at 1:25
  • I agree with @Mike, this question is not based on an actual practical problem as stated by the FAQ. – Tamara Wijsman Jun 24 '11 at 13:14
  • Automatically migrated this discussion to chat and outlined close reasoning. – Tamara Wijsman Jun 24 '11 at 15:45
  • Questions can't be deleted once they have been answered. You could attempt to flag for moderator attention or gather delete votes to do so. We're doing this merely to prevent similar off-topic questions like "How much gold is in a GPU?", "How much copper is in a heatsink?" and so on... – Tamara Wijsman Jun 24 '11 at 16:11

Here are some listings by processor for many CPU's, including sorting by yield:

Gold Content List in CPU Chips

Gold CPU Recycling Yields And Values

The second link covers some newer processors, like the core-duo, and lists it as "low yield".

Of note is this comment:

WARNING: Recycling can be very dangerous if you are not experienced. The chemicals used to extract the gold can be fatal if misused or inhaled.

  • Very cool, I actually have a couple of those in my personal collection from computers retired over the years. Interestingly enough, the Pentium Pro is actually selling for some fair money on eBay for gold recovery. – anonymous Jun 23 '11 at 0:20
  • @Rob Z That is where the real money is...many old processors sell for at least $20 on eBay. – KCotreau Jun 23 '11 at 0:27
  • Did not know that until today. I used to work for a recycling firm back in the day which is largely why I was wondering about this. Now I wonder if it would almost be worth while to get rid of my small collection of CPUs to someone wanting to scrap them. – anonymous Jun 23 '11 at 0:32
  • I'll give the question another day to see if anyone else has anything to add. I've been doing some of my own searching and found at least one article on the at home process - tomshardware.com/picturestory/… - no where near like what the large scale recyclers do. – anonymous Jun 23 '11 at 16:30

It costs more in chemicals for someone on their own to do it.

It is only economical to do it on an industrial scale, e.g. thousands of processors, boards and more.

I believe the average processor is only electroplated and has between 3 pence and 10 pence of gold in it!

Quite frankly, you would probably get more for copper in a heatsink and scrap metal of the case than gold in a computer!

  • William - Thanks for the response, but that's not really the type of answer I'm looking for: I'm not interested in trying to attempt anything on my own but rather just trying to satisfy some curiosity in regards to the actual numbers involved. – anonymous Jun 23 '11 at 0:17
  • I said... If you are interested, older CPUs can contain quite a bit (£5-£20), but, modern CPUS are just plated and contain next to nothing. – William Hilsum Jun 23 '11 at 0:19
  • True, but I'm interested in the exact numbers involved which @KCotreau's links actually point at. – anonymous Jun 23 '11 at 0:24

Of course 'CPU' means different things to different people. I think of it from a microelectronics point of view.

There won't be any gold to speak of in a silicon chip, but the packaging is a different story.

Gold plated contacts are used wherever good conductivity is required — and the high current consumption of modern cpu's makes them ubiquitous.

But the gold plating is very thin. As @William Hilsum said, it's only economical to reclaim the gold on an industrial scale.

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