8 Ideas for Using Old Computers
Why are we continually upgrading to something newer and bigger and shinier? We all want to power up a level with more memory, storage, power, and speed. It just feels like it makes life better, doesn’t it? No matter the reason, if you get excited about new tech, you are bound to want to upgrade your PC whether it is necessary or not.
But before you do, why not think of some ideas for using old computers. You can do plenty of things with old computers instead of tossing them in the trash, which is technically not allowed anyway.
So if getting rid of an old computer is not a good idea, especially if it’s in good working order, what can you do with the old clunker? You’d be surprised by how much life you can still get out of a computer, especially one that was made in the last decade. You can do many things with an old computer; ideas range from keeping it as a backup machine to gifting it to a community in need. There are plenty of ways you might put that old system to work and bring it back to life.
Here are a few ideas for using old computers:
Electronics are not easy to recycle. The EPA has specific guidelines on how to recycle and donate electronics. You more than likely need to go to a particular drop-off point to dispose of computers, televisions, smartphones, and other electronics.
Before you do that, make sure you have deleted all personal information and private files and documents you may have on your old computer. You will also need to remove any batteries from your computer as these are recycled differently.
The recycling depot will reuse metals from your computer’s electronics, and other elements can be repurposed for making new electronic devices.
2. A Media Center
Do you have hours of music, podcasts, and movies that you need to access on your computer, tablet, or game console? Why not set up a dedicated media server on your old computer. Put the server software on your old PC with a clean OS install and dedicate the system to your media. Media center software is pretty lightweight and won’t require many resources, so very old hardware will suffice.
You can find some ‘theater’ software to use and install it on your old device. Set up a remote control app on the device you use, and voila, you can access all your media on your devices via your trusty old computer.
3. Create Network Attached Storage
If you have multiple devices and users in one home, why not create a helpful backup storage system or a place to store files that the whole family can access. This is called a network attached storage server (NAS). With only a minimal amount of software and admin, your old computer can become a NAS server that can work for the whole house or even a small business. However, a PC with lots of storage drive space is best.
There is open source software that can help you establish your own internal storage or cloud storage system that you can access from anywhere on the internet.
4. Gift It
Do you have friends or family that aren’t into having the latest and greatest PC? Perhaps an older relative needs access to the internet to stay in touch with loved ones or store some photos. This will not require the latest specs and is a great way to reuse your old computer rather than just getting rid of it. And someone you love benefits too.
Be mindful, however, that you may be the go-to person to call when your family member or friend is having PC trouble. And remember to erase the hard drive and reinstall the OS again.
5. Donate It
Many charities, schools, and non-profit organizations need computers but don’t have the budget for them. Why not consider donating your old PC to help out in one of these areas?
- Charities: They can pass along a free computer to low-income homes that can then offer their children access to the internet for educational purposes.
- Schools: A school can use old computers in libraries to provide internet access for research projects and email access. If your computer is way past its sell-by-date, it could be used as a testbed in a computer lab for taking apart and reassembling.
- Non-profit organizations: Some non-profits, like Computers Without Borders, work towards sending your old computer on to underdeveloped countries, while others will refurbish it for use by other non-profits.
6. A Video Conferencing Center
Whether you are a small business or a family with loved ones far away, why not set up a dedicated space for Skype or Google Hangouts calls. From daily meetings with work-from-home staff to regular catch-ups with family members worldwide, an old computer setup with a new OS that isn’t bogged down with CPU-consuming applications will have enough processing power to function as your video connection space.
7. A Dedicated Game Machine
If you have young kids at home, why not turn your old computer into a dedicated game machine? Most likely, it won’t be for high-powered 3D game playing but will be just fine for older, retro-style games.
Remove all applications and do a fresh install of a new OS. Many websites are dedicated to downloading games, and the computer can be completely offline when you are not searching for new games. And if you’re a Steam client, you can install games on one machine and stream them to other devices on your network – bonus!
8. A living room or kitchen PC station
A laptop is the ideal old computer for this idea. Put it in a spot that is out of sight but easily accessible for following recipes on the kitchen counter or a side table in your living room when guests come round and need to look something up online or check the work emails.
If your children are still relatively young, having a communal computer is great for parental control and working on school projects that may require your help.
Hot Tip: Don’t forget to add security software onto these communal computers.