7 Creative Ideas for Old Computers

Posted on | Technology News

If you’re even moderately savvy toward technology and computers, there’s really nothing more satisfying than upgrading to a sparkling new computer. Jumping up a level or two in computing power with a system that has more memory, storage, faster processor, and even a new operating system can feel like a totally new experience.

repurposing computers

Once you have the new system up and running, as well as all your files and applications transported to the new system, the question arises – what do you do with the old computer? Nearly every locality has strict guidelines against carelessly discarding technology equipment from computers to printers and even smartphones. These devices all include materials that have been designated as hazardous to the environment.

The U.S. EPA offers guidelines related to recycling and donation of electronics, including benefits achieved from recycling or other options such as upgrading existing equipment vs. replacing it.

What Should You Do with Old Computers

green recycle key on this keyboard

Fortunately, there are many options over the complete replacement of computers these days. With modular manufacturing of desktop and laptop computers, it is a simple process to add memory, storage, and even upgrade processors of most systems, bringing new value to your system at minimal cost vs. completely replacing it.

Nonetheless, when you’ve made the decision to replace your computer, you have several options over discarding the hardware, especially when the old computer still works.

No, even if your old computer has given you a lot of grief, chopping it into pieces or throwing it out the window is not the best choice.

1.     Recycling

Nearly every city offers guidance for how electronics are to be recycled. It may include drop-off points for local residents to dispose of such items as computers, televisions, and smartphones, or referrals to recycling businesses that accept such items. Before you recycle items like computers or smartphones, take special precautions:

  • Delete any personal information or private files that you, friends, or family would not want others to discover. Pay extra attention to financial records, social security numbers, and photos or videos.
  • Remove batteries from all electronic equipment. There may be individual requirements for recycling batteries in your community.

Many of the components used in computers and other electronics can be recovered for reuse including metals such as gold, copper, silver, and more. Other elements can be repurposed for manufacturing new electronic devices.

2.     Create Network Attached Storage

Especially if you have multiple computers or computer users in your household, you may find it useful to have backup storage or a place to store files that everyone can access. Repurpose your old computer into a network attached storage server (NAS). With a minimum of software and administrative work, you can transform your old computer into a NAS server that serves everyone in the house or your small business. Open source software such as FreeNAS or programs like Tonido can help you establish your own internal storage or cloud storage that you can access from anywhere on the web.

3.     Gift It

There may be someone in your family or circle of friends that has no access to a computer and would benefit from having even an older system for accessing the internet or staying in touch with loved ones through email or social media. Though your system may no longer have the power you need, it may be very satisfactory for their use.

Of course, if you provide the computer to a non-technical family member, you can count on calls for help with using it. Fortunately, you can alleviate some of that by setting the system up to minimize problems. Reinstall the OS (WIN 10 for example), and then go into “settings” and create an account for the family member as a standard user.

Just start typing “settings” in the search window, or click the settings icon:

Select “Accounts” and the option to add a family member (for more details, click the “learn more” link).

By creating the family member as either an adult or child, you can limit their access accordingly, including internet access controls and their ability to install or uninstall programs from the computer (hopefully limiting the number of support calls you receive).

The option extends the useful life of your old computer and introduces technology and internet access to someone who can benefit from it.

4.     Contribute It

Donating your old – but still working – computer to charities or other organizations with limited budgets will not only give the computer new life but will create a learning opportunity and open the world of technology to individuals who may otherwise not have that chance.

Young male student isolated on white

Many schools, non-profits, or charities will gratefully accept working computers that can be used in multiple ways:

  • Low-income homes can benefit from free computers that give their children access to the internet for schoolwork and other educational purposes.
  • Libraries can make use of your old computer to provide internet access and research capabilities to the public.
  • Developmentally challenged children and adults can utilize computers to learn and to develop new skills.
  • Some non-profit organizations refurbish and repurpose old computers for use by other non-profits. Others may reload operating systems and clean up your old computer for resale. Either way, your old computer avoids the trash heap, and recycling can wait until the computer is truly unusable.

5.     Make Things

Are you creative, or do you know someone who is? With a little ingenuity and skill, you can transform computer boards, and other components into everything from technology-related pencil holders to computer jewelry. These make great eye-catchers and conversation pieces for your techno-geek friends or coworkers. Ideas include:

  • Craft desk sets from cutting motherboards or other PC boards and cementing them together
  • Use keyboard letters to make clever signs that friends can relate to – as simple as “out to lunch” or “not my type”.
  • Make earrings, cufflinks, or charms from small components

Your imagination is the limit once you open your computer case, or even when dismantling individual components like hard drives.

6.     Turn it into Your Video Conferencing Center

Nearly any computer has plenty of processing power when the OS is new, and the system is not loaded down with CPU-consuming applications. Reinstall WIN 10 on your old computer from scratch – Skype is included with that install. Simple as that, your old computer is ready to function as your video connection to family members and friends.

Of course, you’re not limited to Windows 10 and Skype. Skype can still be used on a Mac system, and there are tools as well:

  • FaceTime for iOS devices
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Google Hangouts

7.     Make Your Old Computer a Dedicated Game Machine

Your old system may not be a good candidate for modern, high-powered graphics and 3D game playing, but it can still be a great source of entertainment, especially for the kids. Many of the older, retro-style games will perform respectably on older machines.

Here again, it pays to start from scratch with a fresh install of WIN10, to remove any of the old overhead or clutter of past installed applications. You can uncover numerous websites for downloading games if you don’t already have them. You can also install emulators that allow you to reminisce playing old Nintendo 64 games on your system. You can even leave the computer offline when not downloading, to ensure total parental control when children are accessing the computer.

Making the Most of Old Computers

Remember that in all cases, reuse is preferable to recycling. Transferring an old computer to another party or charity that can use it productively, or finding another use for your older electronics is much better than recycling since it extends the life of your equipment.

One way to make sure your old computer retains as much useful life as possible is through keeping your software updated – including system and device drivers. Utilizing the right drivers that match your hardware and operating system will optimize performance to give your computer the longest life possible.

Driver Support is a reliable way to make sure your drivers are up to date and installed properly. After registering with Driver Support, the software:

  • Analyzes your system for outdated or missing drivers
  • Searches for and locates the best drivers for your computer
  • Installs the right drivers securely and automatically

Our experts will help you get the most from your old system, and will also help your new computer perform at its best.