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Creative Uses For Old Computers: Here’s What You Can Do With Your Used Computer

Have you recently upgraded to a newer model computer? Wondering what to do with your old computer?

A bunch of old laptop computers. See all of the cool things you can do with an old laptop!

When I bought a super-powered new Dell PC, the question was what to do with my old HP computer.

It still worked fine — and still had quite a bit of space to store programs and run basic tasks — it was just too slow and bogged down for my day-to-day work.

I did some research and found the following great ideas for anyone who’s wondering what to do with an old computer.

After all, if it’s 4 years old (or older), then you’ll barely get more than $50 if you choose to sell it at a yard sale or on eBay. So selling it is not an exciting option. There are some other interesting options, however.

Here are 15 clever things you can do with an old computer

#1 – Trade It In

Yep, you can turn your old computer in for credit toward a new one!

Many electronics stores accept old computers, as do most computer manufacturers.

For example, places like Best Buy, Office Depot, and Apple accept old computers at their stores across the country.

With HP’s trade-in program, they’ll give you a free quote for your old computer online first. Then, after sending them your old computer, you have 30 days to buy a new HP unit. Finally, after you fax in your proof of purchase for the new one, you get a check from HP.

Dell also has a trade-in program. And IBM has trade-in program, as well.

See what your old computer is worth right now.

#2 – Donate It To Charity

What should you do with your old computer?

Many places won’t take computers that are more than a few years old — not even for parts.

If your computer is less than 5 years old, chances are it can be put to good use by someone else. Usually, the lifespan of a computer is 7 to 8 years.

~ TechSoup

Places like the National Cristina Foundation are well-known for their acceptance of old computers that no one else wants.

InterConnection, one the largest nonprofit computer refurbishers in the U.S. also specializes in charitable computer reuse. They have the capacity and expertise to ensure that all computer donations are handled safely and efficiently. They receive donated computers, manage all logistics, data wiping, refurbishment, and distribution. For each donated computer, InterConnection will give you credit to buy new computers.

I’ve also taken our old computers to Goodwill before.

Find computer donation centers in your area.

#3 – Use It As A File Server Or A Print Server

This is the option I chose for my HP computer.

old computer used as a server

I simply tucked it away in a small hutch with doors to hide it away, then ran the proper cables to network this computer with two other computers in the room.

You can even get a special adapter to view the contents of your “old” computer from — if you don’t want to use the old computer’s monitor (to save space).

This way, you’re creating your own home network, linking one or more computers with a printer and Internet service — so you can easily share files, play games, and print documents between machines.

Here’s how to turn your old computer into a file server.

#4 – Listen To Music From It

Your old computer can be used to download and store mp3’s and other music files that usually take up a lot of hard drive space on your personal computer.

Keep the speakers attached, and you have a “computer jukebox” that can be accessed in your home office that becomes part of your home entertainment system.

You can also use it to burn CDs for saving your favorite songs, or tune into online radio stations for listening to sports programs or your favorite music channels.

Here’s how to turn your old computer into a jukebox.

#5 – Watch TV On It

Another example of what to do with old computers - watch tv on it

Simply install a TV tuner card and you can record TV shows onto your old computer hard drive.

If you have (or buy) a newer monitor with TV viewing capabilities, then you’ll have a brand new Digital Video TV/PC.

Or purchase a scan converter which changes your computer’s VGA monitor signal to a regular TV signal so you can watch TV from your old monitor.

It’s easy to turn your old computer monitor into a TV screen.

#6 – Create A “Live” Weather Station

If you’re in need of a new hobby, you could become a weather geek.

Simply purchase some software weather programs and sensors, then keep the computer on at all times to track and monitor the current weather conditions. Offer your data to local TV stations or as a complimentary service available to visitors of your web site.

Here’s how one man set up his own personal weather station.

#7 – Turn It Into A Digital Picture Frame

See how to turn an old laptop into a digital photo frame!

If your old computer is a laptop, then use it as a large digital picture frame. (You could also do the same thing with a desktop computer — but since it’s larger and clunkier, it would be harder to find the space to put it where everyone can see it and enjoy the photo slideshow.)

Seriously, I’ve done this with several old laptops — and our visitors can’t even tell that they’re laptop computers. They all think that they’re actually digital photo frames… that I bought. Nope!

Here’s how I turned my old laptops into large digital picture frames.

#8 – Create A Work Station

Place your old computer in a room near the kitchen, then install cooking and recipe programs on it.

This makes it easy to to access recipes while you’re cooking, as well as a cinch to create and print shopping lists.

You could also hook this computer up to the Internet, making it easy for family members to a access their e-mail and browse the Web from this convenient location.

To save counter space, purchase a flat screen monitor and hide the computer’s hard drive in a cabinet.

#9 – Designate The Living Room As The Family Workstation

Used computers make great workstations in other rooms, or for guests

Purchase a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse, then use your large TV screen as a computer monitor.

Store the hard drive in a bookshelf or behind a piece of furniture. If you’re concerned about what your children may be up to online, this is a great way to keep an eye on them and to keep them safe online.

Activities such as watching television and playing video games in the same space where your child sleeps can have a negative impact on sleep quality — which in turn leads to more anxiety, disruptive behavior, and inability to focus during the day.

Here’s more about the importance of limiting screen time.

#10 – Turn It Into A Workstation For Guests

Travelers like to check their e-mail and browse the Internet to find interesting things to do in your area.

If you set up your old computer in the guest bedroom, your houseguests will be able to do a little work, have a little fun, and kill some time should they ever be left in the house alone for awhile (when you’re working, for example).

#11 – Set It Up Solely As A Data Center

Consider setting up your old computer in the garage, basement, bedroom or some other room that you happen to work from a lot. Then, use it solely as a place to jot notes, write letters, or update lists on the fly.

By the way, every computer doesn’t need to have Internet and print capabilities. Instead, save your work to a thumb drive, so you can transfer it to your main PC later.

Here’s how to go about making your old computer into a data center.

#12 – Use It As A “Live” Web Cam Or Security Camera

Using an old computer as a security camera.

Buy a web camera and use your old computer to beam live pictures out on the Internet.

You could also use it as a security camera (to see inside your house while you’re at work, for example).

Here’s how to set up your old computer as a security system.

#13 – Turn It Into A Firewall Or Router

Your old computer can serve as a firewall or router. All you need is a working motherboard, 2 network cards, and usb drive. It’s incredibly important to have a strong firewall to protect all of your devices.

If you want to use your old computer as one, you don’t need a CD-ROM, DVD, or hard drive.

Here’s some advice for turning your old computer into a firewall.

#14 – Create A Mobile Computer

If you’re out and about more than you’re at home, then you might consider using a 12-to-120 volt inverter to power your old computer in your RV, van, or boat.

Check out these tips for using your computer while RVing.

#15 – Use It As An Experimental PC

Wondering what to do with old computers? Let your kids take them apart and put them back together!

For the wannabe computer geek, use your old computer as a learning tool to try new things on.

You can practice doing things to your old computer that you’d be too scared to try on your new computer — like reformatting a hard drive, reinstalling an operating system, installing memory or a new hard drive.

You might even want to experiment by installing a whole new operating system.

Here are some other ideas about what to do with old computer parts.