5 Uses for Your Old PC

We all have an old PC that we’re not quite sure what to do with. You know the one, it was blazing fast when you took it out of the box and probably cost you a small fortune at the time you bought it. It’s no wonder that you feel a bit guilty recycling it even though you’ve upgraded to a better machine. Luckily, there are many ways to breathe life into that old PC and make it useful again. The most obvious thing to do, of course, is to donate it to a school or organization but there are a number of other things you can do that you might not have thought of. Try one of these five uses for your old PC:


  1. Try a Lighter OS

If you like to experiment, there are several alternative operating systems (i.e. not Windows or MacOS) that are much lighter. These systems are based on Linux, which is an Open Source software. These free operating systems also come and come with useful software packages. If you’re interested in trying one out, I recommend Ubuntu. You’ll find that interface is similar to Windows, making it easy to use.


Installing a lighter operating system will make your computer feel brand new, especially if it has at least 4GB of RAM.


  1. Turn it into a Media Server

If you have a home network set up and have media such as podcasts, movies, TV shows, and music that you want to watch on different devices across the network, you could turn an old PC into a media server. Creating a media server allows you to access all of that media across operating systems on your network. Open source software like Kodi and Plex allow you to view most media from local and network storage. You can install this type of software on any PC running Linux, Windows, and MacOS.


  1. Use it for Retro Gaming

If you love old school arcade games, turning a PC into a retro gaming machine is a great way to repurpose it. To do this, you’ll need to install MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator) software and find the ROMs (games) online. Just make sure you check the copyright terms of the ROMs to make sure you’re legally allowed to run them. You can even find some of these on the MAME Dev website.


  1. Do Some Good with Distributed Computing

While your old PC might not be doing you a world of good, it certainly has the power to contribute to massive computational problems. Distributed computing projects allow large numbers of PCs to be tied together to work on projects to cure disease, make climate predictions, and analyze signals from space. These computers can be tied together using software, known as BOINC, developed at Berkeley. This software allows these computers to contribute their computing power to these large-scale computational projects. To get started with BOINC, simply download the software, choose a project, and let that old computer do some good.


  1. Set Up a Starter PC for a Family Member

We all have that family member who isn’t particularly tech savvy. You’ve likely spent countless hours on the phone helping them troubleshoot issues without being able to see what’s happening. To help make your life easier, you can set up a starter PC with a limited user account, keeping them from downloading things that will cause you grief down the road. To do this, simply wipe the hard drive, install a recent version of Windows and create a limited user. Since you’ll likely remain the go-to person for tech support, you can make things even easier for yourself by installing a remote desktop tool like TeamViewer or Chrome Remote Desktop.


By Mike Agerbo

June 21, 2016