6 ways to repurpose a retired PC
By Craig Lloyd
Oh, joy! You’ve unboxed your new computer and are a ready to enjoy the faster processor, better display, and shiny new keys – but what do you do with your old computer? Many folks might just sell it to earn back some of the money spent buying their new machine, but you might be wondering how you can repurpose your old computer to keep it around longer.
If you’re like most of us, you’ll probably just stick it in a closet or leave it on a shelf to collect dust. If you’d rather make use of your old PC instead, there are actually several clever ways to reuse your old clunker. More often than not, it can fill a void that’s been missing in your home computing repertoire. Here are six new uses for your old PC.
Turn it into an HTPC
Home theater PCs don’t need a lot of computing power to do basic home theater tasks, which makes an old computer a great option. Plus, all you really have to do is connect the computer to the TV using some sort of video cable, like HDMI, S-Video, DVI, or VGA. From there, you can watch Netflix shows, YouTube videos, and your own movie collection right on your TV from that old computer.
If you want to get even more advanced, you can install media center software, such as XBMC or Plex, in order to have a TV-friendly user interface to browse through your content. If you feel that your HTPC needs are growing over time, you can even upgrade it by putting a larger hard drive in to make room for more media files.
Turn it into a home NAS/media server
Old computers make great NAS boxes, mostly because they don’t need a lot of power to run in the first place. If you have multiple computers in your home and want a central storage system that each of these computers can access, turning an old computer into a NAS is a great way to go. There are a number of free NAS software solutions out there, including FreeNAS. Ubuntu is a great alternative as well.
NAS home servers can also do more than just be a glorified external hard drive. They can also stream media to your computer and even download and seed torrents. And since hard drive prices are slowly coming back down, you can grab a few terabyte drives for cheap to stuff in your old computer. This will assure you that you’ll have plenty of storage for all of your files.
Donate it to medical research
Okay, so you wouldn’t physically donate your old computer to research, but you would donate the computer’s processing power. Programs like Folding@Home allow you to donate this processing power to help find cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, etc. Discovering cures involves understanding how complex proteins work, and it takes supercomputers to make that happen. Folding@Home essentially takes participating computers from around the world and combines them into one giant supercomputer.
This means that not only are you donating your resources to cancer research and the like, but, in a way, you’re actually taking part in the research itself. It’s also a fun game to take part in as there are many Folding@Home communities around the world that aim to have the “most folds” and see who can come out on top. It’s a fun way to compete against friends, as well as donating to medical research.
Use it as an experimental computer
If you’ve always wanted to try out Linux but didn’t want to experiment with it on your main computer and risk messing something up, use your old computer! By using your old PC for experiments, you’ll feel more liberated to try new things without the fear of wiping all your important files. Use it try out different distros and become familiar with the open-source operating system that everyone is talking about.
Furthermore, if Linux doesn’t interest you, you can still use that old PC to do experiments on, such as trying out buggy beta software, or simply just giving a new program a trial run before you commit to it and install it on your main computer.
Use it as a research tool in a specific room
Wouldn’t it be nice to look up a recipe online right from your kitchen? Or look up a how-to video on fixing your car while you’re in the garage? Putting a computer in a room that you spend the most time in (besides your home office or living room) can be beneficial for a lot of reasons. It can be useful for looking up recipes on the fly while in the kitchen or using it to watch videos to pass the time while you prepare and cook food.
A computer can also be an indispensable tool in your toolbox out in the workshop or garage. If you’re a novice carpenter or are DIYing a car repair, having a computer at your fingertips to look up tutorials can be extremely handy. Just make sure you get a keyboard and mouse that you don’t mind getting dirty, as your hands will no doubt be covered in grease and oil from car parts and such.
Just donate it!
If all of the above options don’t really interest you, just go ahead and donate your old computer, either by giving it to Goodwill or Salvation Army, or handing it down to a relative or friend who needs a computer. It’s quicker and less of a hassle than selling it, and you’ll most likely make someone’s day in the process.
Of course, before you hand off your old computer to someone else, be sure to wipe it clean and delete any personal information that you might still have on there. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to back up all that info before you wipe it, just in case you ever need it in the future. The built-in tools in Windows are usually sufficient enough if you’re just handing your old machine over to a relative or friend, but if you’re donating it to a stranger, it’s always a good idea to use a more robust piece of software to completely erase everything on the hard drive.
This article was originally posted on Digital Trends