10 Things To Do With Your Old Computer

One of the constants in this world is the fact that technology will change, and it will change quickly. The average lifespan of a computer these days is between 2 to 5 years. Since technology is changing so quickly this equates to a lot of garbage from your old computers. Here are a few ideas of what you can do with your old computers instead of sending them to the garbage dump.

1. Create a Server
If you’re into web development or gaming you could turn your old computer into a server. The easiest way to do this would be to install a server OS and possibly buy a few new parts to make it run a little quicker. After this connect it to the internet and away you go. Here are a few tips on setting up your own server.

2. Play Multiplayer Games
Get a family member or friend playing along with you on your favourite multiplayer games. Make sure that your old computer can handle whatever games you’re wanting to play before getting the other person. Most web-based games should work fine on your old system.

3. Install a Different Operating System
Here’s your chance to get to know a different OS. If you’re a Windows person you could install a version of Linux on your old machine. Linux supports a wide range of older hardware. Debian Linux is well suited to slower machines, and it is also friendly and well documented enough for beginners. If you’re a Mac person you could try out Windows XP, or maybe even Windows 98 (old school).

4. Donate Your Old Computer
If you really have no use for your old machine, call your local school or school district and see if they want it. Many districts have minimum donation standards, so be sure to ask. Some PC makers have their own donation programs. Gateway buyers can request a donation form, which, when validated by a recycling center or charity group, entitles them to discounts on future purchases. This will get the computer out of your hands and will help someone out (maybe even giving you a little cash).

5. Turn it into an Aquarium
Lately people have been turning their old CRT monitors into really cool aquariums. Basically you take a perfectly fine but old Cathode Ray Tube monitor, strip it of all of its parts (except for the glass at the front), make it so it doesn’t leak and fill it with a plethora of colourful fish. The upside of this is that you get a really cool aquarium in your house, the problem is with the construction. Unless you build a box and place it inside the monitor, making it leak proof can be a very hard job.

6. Create a media center
Turn your old computer into a media center. Large hard drives are becoming cheaper and cheaper. If you want to upgrade to a new computer but don’t want to leave your old computer in the dust you could just slap in a few large hard drives and turn it into a repository for all of your media. Using Windows XP Media Center you can hook up your TV to your old computer and watch all of the movies you’ve “bought legally” and all of the music files that you’ve downloaded bought.

7. Create a Render Farm
If you’re into editing videos or graphics this will mean more than to your everyday user. A render farm is basically a cluster of computers that are used for the purposes of rendering graphics and/or video. If you had 5 old computers you could network them together and render your videos roughly 5x faster than before. While the cost of electricity, the excess heat caused from having this many computers, and the extra room needed might make you wary of having this many computers, the benefits can be greatly than the costs. Frantic Films provides a great suite of software for your render farm.

8. Take it apart
If you really want to know how a computer works you could take it apart. I’ve taken apart five or six old computers and it really helps you understand how a computer works. Did you ever wonder how a CPU is connected to a motherboard? Are you not sure how to remove a hard drive? Do you want to practice inserting and removing RAM modules? An older computer is an excellent practice PC for maintenance and upgrades.

9. Make an office mascot
This one might seem silly/stupid to some people but I’m being totally serious. During those long days of compiling your code why not make an office mascot out of your old computer. You could dress it up, attach things to it, maybe even attach it to an RC car and have it zoom around. Get creative and I’m sure you’ll have your co-workers laughing at you in no time (maybe they’ll help create it).

10. Drop it from a high building
This is my personal favourite but shouldn’t be done without adult supervision. Now of course if you are an adult go right ahead! Dropping your old computer from a high building can have extremely satisfying results. While this might not be the most environmentally friendly alternative it can provide extremely exciting results as it slams into the earth and smashes into a million pieces. To prep the crash area make sure there is no one standing there. Then drop away and watch it fall to its inevitable grave.

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  1. 1 07.17.08
    9:57 pm

    I’ve actually done most of these. I’ve created a server, I’ve broken a number of them and I’ve tried to make the fishbowl from a mac (it turned out very poorly).

    I personally would try to create a cluster of webservers that could support multiple stories on the front page of digg :P

  2. 2 07.18.08
    2:25 am

    I happened to smash up my laptop, but it was dysfunctional AFTER, not before smashing it up. At first, it relieves alot of tension, then when the heat settled down, you’re like “damn, now I have to buy a new one”.

  3. 3 07.18.08
    2:47 am

    Great advice! I have a SONY Vaio under my desk, and installed Ubuntu on it about a year ago. Though I haven’t used it much, I should update the OS and do something with it. Maybe a video surveillance server for some webcams by the gate…

  4. 4 07.18.08
    3:05 am

    I liked the last idea.

  5. 5 07.18.08
    8:34 am

    There is a flip side, too.
    Buy all the games that can play on your NEW computer.
    Wait five years.
    Turn your (now old) computer into an inexpensive arcade.

    This is a serious tip, because you can’t even play some vintage games on new computers.

    I have to go to my kids’ room to play Spaceward, HO!

    Once you start doing this, you can augment your game library by visiting the bargain bins and scoring those “old” games that hard-core folks stopped playing five years ago.



  6. 6 07.18.08
    10:23 pm

    That’s an interesting idea Mitch. I occasionally find my self going back and playing some of the games I played 8 or 10 years ago. Games like Command and Conquer, Transport Tycoon, etc.

    I’ve set up old computers as servers in my home, used them for media centers, installed Ubuntu on one and set up a CVS server on another.

    The CVS was particularly helpful, as it lets me keep decent versions of all the work I do.

    I also managed to use an old laptop enough to cook the motherboard a couple months before Dell’s 3 yr warranty expired. Brand new innards to my laptop for free.

    Next project is to try and get OSX running on that laptop. We’ll have to see if it works though…

  7. 7 07.19.08
    9:00 am

    [...] What To Do With Your Old Computer [...]

  8. 8 07.19.08
    10:20 am

    Never thought to turn my old computer into a server. I wish I would have read this article last year.

  9. 9 07.24.08
    6:04 am

    If the old computer is a Mac ColorClassic, PowerMac 5500 black, Mac Portable, Apple eMate, Apple Lisa, Atari 400 or 800 (no XL), IBM PC/XT original, Commodore SX64, SGI Iris Indigo or SGI O2 and you are in Germany then send it to me! Thank you!

  10. 10 07.25.08
    7:05 am

    You’ve a nicely done site with lots of effort and good updates.

  11. 11 07.25.08
    6:39 pm

    10 things you should do with your old computer.

    I personally would turn mine into a fishbowl :P

  12. 12 07.28.08
    6:29 pm

    here are some other things to do:

    - a MAME (0.67) box, filled inside true arcade cabinet
    - take the pieces and primp a free wall with all your cd/dvd bad burnt together
    - try to use it inside a car (especially an old one too)

  13. 13 07.30.08
    5:14 pm

    what about putting it in an arcade cabinet and setting it up as a mame machine with all the old school arcade games?i have wanted to do this for like 8 yrs now.

  14. 14 07.31.08
    4:38 am

    I have dropped my computer off many a building, its great fun.

  15. 15 08.01.08
    8:19 pm

    Two words: boat anchor

  16. 16 08.05.08
    8:26 am

    True lifespan of computer hardware is certainly closer to ten years than to 5, not to speak about two years. Just install Linux, and you can still use your old computer for your day-to-day chores for a few more years.

    Only Windows and 3d games make people believe that they should constantly upgrade their hardware.

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