I bought 200+ Raspberry Pi Model B’s and I’m going to fix them! Part 1

Introduction

I’m sure some of my followers have seen my recent social media posts regarding the 200+ Raspberry Pi Model B’s I purchased on ebay – if you have not then follow my twitter for sneak peaks and updates!

I purchased the job lot of Pi’s for just £61 although there was a catch – they were listed as broken and I believe they are customer returns. They are all Model B’s with with either 256MB or 512MB of RAM and are in various conditions.

The first step in repairing these is to diagnose the issues, I created some tooling to assist with this which I will cover now.

Pi Diagnostics

So how do you go around diagnosing 200+ faulty Raspberry Pi’s? Regardless of how clever I get around this its not going to be a fast process but I needed a plan.

I will be categorising the Pi’s into two categories those that boot and those that are or appear dead. The “Dead” Pi’s will be revisited at a later date but lets take a look at how I’ve gone about testing the ones that boot up.

Using a cheap 3.5″ TFT Pi display and a hacky bash script I have created a diagnostic tool that will test the following:

  • USB Ports
  • Ethernet
  • Display Output

This also gives me an opportunity to test the GPIO to an extent as the display uses the I2C, VCC and GND pins and also gives me a chance to assess the physical condition of the device.

So far I am around half way through the diagnostics and 59 of the Pi’s boot and work with minor damage such as snapped SD card slots or physically damaged USB ports.

10 of the Pi’s are fully working although their is no Ethernet – These will not be fixed as such although the Ethernet chip and port will be removed transforming the device into a Model A.

A further 4 devices are fully working although the HDMI port doesn’t work, all 4 of these look to have damaged traces on the PCB around the HDMI circuitry – I will not be fixing these although I can make them safe to run headless.

A further 40 Pi’s are dead although some of them are likely just broken power delivery circuits which should be easy fixes – I will revisit these in the near future.

Here are the remaining devices that need to be diagnosed:

Over the next few days I will diagnose the remaining devices and add a follow up post that will have a total count of Pi’s in the box and a count of the ones that I believe are repairable.

Repairing the Pi’s

Although I haven’t finished diagnosing the Pi’s I couldn’t help but repair a few of the easier fixes, lets look at a few repairs I carried out this morning.

Bent GPIO pins

Bent GPIO Pins on one of the damaged Pi’s’

How the hell does this happen?! one of the Pi’s had the GPIO pins swashed flat. I could have replaced the header but as no pins were snapped I carefully straightened them a metal ruler.

Whilst they didn’t come out perfect it is once again a fully working device.

Broken USB Ports

Ok broken is an understatement! This poor Pi has had the ports ripped right off it, fortunately there is plenty dead Pi’s that will not be fixable so rather than buying parts I salvaged the USB ports from a dead Pi.

I then carefully unsoldered the remains of the broken port:

Added the salvaged port along with plenty of no-clean flux and soldered it on:

There we have it, another Pi saved from the scrap pile!

I know people are excited to see the board level repairs but I can assure that they are coming, there are just a lot of devices to go through and I want to get the easy fixes out of the way first.

I fixed several with broken USB ports and added them to the box of working Pi’s. I will be covering SD card slot repairs when my AliExpress parts arrive but for now this is all on the repairs.

Here is a final photo showing the so-far working devices:

What am I going to do with 200 Raspberry Pi’s?!

I’m sorry to disappoint but I won’t be building a cluster or decorating my walls with them! In fact I don’t have a project planned for these instead they will be sold on starting at £4 for a “Model A” and up to £9 for a fully boxed un-repaired Model B. I’m not doing this to make a quick buck I’m doing it for the blog content and the experience and to hopefully provide you guys with some very cheap Raspberry Pi’s for your projects!

I had a lot of suggestions to send the Pi’s to a developing Country for students to learn IT on and whilst I really like that idea the logistics of it and finding someone trustworthy enough to hand them out aren’t straight forward. Then there is the issue or 200 Pi’s requiring SD cards, Keyboards, Mice and Displays A board alone just isn’t enough here and its just not simple or easy for me to do. Instead I will be donating the proceeds of the sales to the Raspberry Pi Foundation and they can decide what to do with the Money!

I will post an update tomorrow with the results of the diagnostics and a link where you can purchase the repaired devices – UK only though I’m afraid unless you are willing to cover the shipping.

Let me know what you think of this mammoth task in a comment below and please consider following this blog for updates.

Edit: 24/01/21
Part 2 is now out here.

Part 3 is now out here

16 comments

      1. Cool, for some reason the top usb port won’t run my usb wifi module (but the bottom one will). I would like to know what the script reports.

        1. The script will only show if a device is detected so may not help in your case. Which model is it? If it’s a Model B rev1.1 I’d have a look at the polyfuse, it’s a common issue and can be bypassed with relative ease.

  1. Did you find anyone with faulty sd card reader? I had a pi 2 that stopped reading the sd card. Or at least I think so, since the led indicates it. Don’t know how to proceed with diagnosing for repairing it from there, but it would be nice to try.

    1. The biggest failure point I’ve came across so far is failed SD card readers – I’ll be posting a guide on how to replace them although it is a very different process on the Pi 2

  2. That’s an awesome little quarantine project. I hope you can get them all working again and get them easily distributed

    Does the raspberry pi foundation have a list of nonprofits that work at developing it skills in 3rd world locations.

    Either way you are doing awesome work.

  3. Great post. The Raspberry Pi Foundation currently have a program running, providing Pi 400s to children with no access to computers, to help then in their studies, while under lockdown. It would be perfect if you could earmark your donation for this.

  4. I have one older RPi that does not boot. If you want it let me know and I will send it to you. I will pay shipping costs.

  5. Your script to test Pis is a great asset and I have wondered why there hasn’t been a way to test a Pi.
    Thank you for showing us generosity of spirit and that superceded doesn’t mean waste.

  6. I’m trying to build the same project in china, fix pi and donate old pi will be the same effort. collecting them sending to other contry.

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