|Avoid the Trash Heap: 15 Creative Uses for an Old ComputerDon't junk that ancient laptop or desktop. Reuse it! Turn an old gaming PC into a NAS, experiment with a new OS, build your own security cam, plus a dozen more creative recycling ideas. Demand for PCs surged during the pandemic, as people shifted to work-from-home setups amid quarantines. That left a lot of older computers sitting alone, unused. |
You may be tempted to just junk your old PC. But if that laptop or desktop was created any time in the last decade, you'd be surprised by how much life you (or others) can get out of it. I'm not talking about limping along, but of ways to bring an old PC back to useful life.
You may need to do some light upgrades here and there; more RAM and a big new storage drive may benefit some (okay, probably all) of these projects. In many cases, the PC will require access to the internet and/or the ability to access software written to a USB flash drive for installing it on that old junker. Take a gander at the options. You'll be glad you kept that old PC around.
1. Experiment With New, Lighter OSDo you like to try new things? Nothing will seem newer than a freshly installed operating system on your old PC—even a downright elderly computer will feel brand new.
Most alternative operating systems (translation: not Windows or macOS) are based on Linux, which comes in a variety of options called "distros." Popular examples include Ubuntu, Mint, elementary OS, and Manjaro. You'll find interfaces similar to Windows, and they come with software packages, like LibreOffice (a free, open-source equivalent to Microsoft Office). Most work pretty great on PCs with 4GB of RAM or more, but check the specifications needed.
You might also want to try creating your own version of a Chromebook. That's usually a laptop you'd buy that runs Google Chrome OS; it makes the Chrome browser and Google cloud services/storage the center of the OS. You can now download and install Chrome OS Flex, on old PC or even old Mac systems; it will even run from a portable flash drive.
2. Serve Up Some MediaEven if you're a video-streaming service addict, you probably have hours of music, podcasts, movies, or TV shows stored locally, which you want to access on PCs, game consoles, tablets, or phones. For that, you need a media server.
"Theater software" like Kodi will take care of that. Install the server software on any device running Linux, Windows, macOS, jailbroken iOS devices, rooted Android devices, or even a Raspberry Pi; there are "remote control" apps for iOS or Android users not willing to go for broke(n).
Plex (above) has most of the same features. The server can install on PCs running Windows, macOS, Linux, FreeBSD, and even on NAS devices. The playback software is available for about every device you can imagine. Plex even offers some live TV options.
To get the best performance, put the server software on your old PC with a clean OS install and dedicate the system to playing media, and nothing else.
3. Turn Your Old PC Into a NAS Home ServerA network-attached storage device is a server for your home or small business network used for storing files you share with all the PCs on the network (or externally via the internet). Prices vary from a pittance to the hundreds. But if you've got an old PC with lots of storage drive space, you don't need to buy a NAS: Make one. Free, usually open-source software for doing just that is easily available. TrueNAS Core, Rockstor, FileCloud, XigmaNAS, and more can put your old PC into the center of its own version of the cloud.
4. Hack Together an Anonymous PC