5 Great Things to Do With That Old Computer

Written by mcarberry on. Posted in Tech Musings

Okay, so you’ve got a brand new computer. This thing is blazing fast. It’s state-of-the-art, and it’s all the rage in those fancy European countries. You’ve got yourself quite a fine machine there. Well, wait. What’s that old metal box there in the corner? Oh, that’s your OLD PC. Yuck. Whoa, hang on a second; you don’t want to throw that thing away yet. There are plenty of great uses for that dinosaur. Create a Media Center Not that it would matter with the size of hard drives these days, but if you’d prefer not to clutter up your new computer with a bunch of mp3s and video files (all obtained legally, I hope), then leave them on your old computer and create a media center.

XMBC interface - clean and easy

There are several ways you can set up a media center, from installing Boxee to using XMBC which is what I prefer. XMBC can get a little complicated, so if you feel uncomfortable, then you don’t have to do this, but keep in mind it’s an old computer so you’re not looking at any real consequences to screwing this up. For the sake of length I’ll provide a link to a tutorial on how to get everything set up. One last thing before I finish. I’d like to think that everyone reading this has a graphics card capable of connecting with a television, but if not you can pick those up extremely cheap these days. If you have a High-Def system in your home, for $29.99 plus shipping you can pick up one of these. If you don’t have a High-Def system in your home, well then you have other things to worry about besides making a media center, don’t you? Make a Server If the only reason you got a new computer was because it was too slow to handle your needs, then a server may be a really great option for you. You can create a print server, or a file server. Print servers are usually only called for if you have multiple computers with multiple printers, and you’re just looking for a way to consolidate. You can simply hook all the printers up to your old computer, and as long as you’re networked properly, all is well. A file server would allow you to share photos, music, and documents with any computer in the house. It isn’t necessary, but I like FreeNAS which is software that turns your computer into a server with configuration controlled from a web interface.

Your server room doesn't HAVE to look like the one Facebook has, but it wouldn't hurt

Donation/Recycling You could always donate the computer to a school or a family in need. You can find out more about how these programs work and where you can donate here. If you really have no use for your old computer and want to throw it out, DON’T! At least, don’t toss it in the garbage. Recycle it instead. It’s much better for the environment, and companies like Apple, Dell and Gateway have great programs to help you do so. Take it Apart If you’ve always wanted to know how computers really work, or are even considering building one next time around, this old computer can be really great practice. You can take it apart and rebuild it to get a better understanding of what makes your computer tick. While you’re at it, you may even be able to upgrade some of the parts in that old clunker and turn it into a gaming machine or something.

If your computer looks like this after disassembly, you're doing it wrong.

Install a New OS To add to your repertoire of computer skills, why not go ahead and put a new operating system on that old machine. Try Linux. It’s free and it supports a wide range of older hardware. You can even find versions especially suited for slower hardware. Check out this great beginners guide to Linux on Lifehacker. If all else fails, there are some other tweaks you could give to your computer, but they’re not ScreenTek recommended…

I've heard CPU BBQ is popular on Scrap Iron Chef

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