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old computersDon’t chuck out your old computer, just yet. Though it may not seem like it, there are still some jobs it can serve. It’s not obsolete just yet, whatever the tech companies would rather have you believe. In the fast-moving world of technology, a year may seem like a decade. Gadgets are thrown out every year, sometimes with little consideration for whether they are still useful or not.

That 5-year old computer may seem like a snail, but even a snail can get to the other side.

1. Turn It Into A Web Server

Many of us here probably own a website. Well, if you’re up to the challenge, you can set up your own server to serve your websites from. Having your own server gives you the advantage of controlling what software to use, as well as the freedom to upgrade flexibly. Running out of server space? Just add another hard drive!  Are the pages loading too slowly? Just add more RAM What Is the Difference Between DDR2 & DDR3 RAM What Is the Difference Between DDR2 & DDR3 RAM Read More !

old computers

Dave has previously detailed how to build a Linux web server How To Build A Linux Web Server With An Old Computer [Part 1] How To Build A Linux Web Server With An Old Computer [Part 1] Read More in two parts How To Build a Linux Web Server With An Old Computer [Part 2] How To Build a Linux Web Server With An Old Computer [Part 2] Read More .

2. Experiment With Viruses

things to do with an old computer


If you can’t turn it into a web server, you can use it as your torture machine. Abuse it anyway you want, install anything and everything. If you ever saw some free app you like the look of, but aren’t sure whether it’s a virus or not, you now have a sandbox to test it in. This is a real sandbox, not those fancy software sandbox techniques that are so common nowadays.

It doesn’t even have to be a virus. If you’re experimenting with dangerous software, you can do all your damage here. Just make sure to keep a Windows install disc handy.

3. Modify It

things to do with an old computer

The next thing to try is to turn it into art. At least you can appreciate the supple curves of your computer as it sits there collecting dust. There are many mods on the Internet, such as these ones here. Some mods also serve a purpose. For example, you can turn the computer into a photo frame. If it’s new enough to have a built-in WiFi card, you can also connect it to your Flickr feed, or something similar.

4. Destroy It

Failing any useful task that the computer can handle, you can enjoy watching it die. Why just throw it away? How about destroying it?

If you haven’t got a new computer yet, your old computer may help you raise the cost of the new one. It may not be worth the new one, but the amusement of blowing it up certainly is, as this YouTube user has proven.

5. Recycle it

old computers

For the more environmentally-conscious, there’s always the option to recycle it. First, make sure all the useful and surviving parts are out. This could be used later. You never know, your new computer’s RAM may fail and 2GB of working RAM is better than 8GB of non-working RAM. Before you attempt that though, make sure your new computer can take your older one’s RAM.  Also make sure that any personal sensitive information has been securely wiped from the hard drive How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive How To Completely & Securely Erase Your Hard Drive Read More .

There are many computer recycling programs around. You can go to a manufacturer or to your region’s local recycling program. Here’s Apple’s recycling page, which also holds a list for some US states. Saikat wrote a great post last year detailing 10 websites that help you recycle or reuse old stuff 10 Websites That Help You Recycle Or Reuse Old Stuff & Protect Our Environment 10 Websites That Help You Recycle Or Reuse Old Stuff & Protect Our Environment Read More .

So do you know of any other possible uses for an old computer that we haven’t listed here?  Or have you tried one of the above?  If so, how did it go?

Image Credits: Monochrome, zdw, Enric Martinez, The Official CTBTO Photostream, SobControllers

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  1. Chris maginn
    July 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    I used my old imac as a chicken nest box. Meanwhile my g5 is about to die. (one processor is already dead) so I will happily do something awful to it for real money. Pay some dosh and make a suggestion. The best (do-able) idea for idestruction wins.

  2. Beadeeye
    July 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    download your music on the old computer.  Not only does this help you eliminate the clutter of CD's, but some music download sites are malware heaven.  In our house we are downloading the cds to an old computer and then sending the cds to live upstairs in my husband's cave/den. 

  3. Mark Shaw
    July 1, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    well, since the 'Server' idea has been taken, as well as 'sandboxing' how about using it for 'Productivity'... might be a bit of a shock, but i still have a P1 (133 Megahertz) , with 64 Megabytes of RAM and a 1.2 Gigabyte hard drive..... top of the line back in 1995... it can run Windows 95, 98 and 98 SE, though there isn't much difference in the last two operating systems mentioned.... oh, i forgot, Damn Small Linux as well. Anyway, back to Productivity... if you are a student, like me, then you would want a computer that can access the internet, for research, facebook and emails... but, there is one problem that i experience with a computer connected to the internet, and that is Procrastination. so using it for Microsoft Office, only up to Office XP as future versions dont support the 9x version of Windows. Office XP takes roughly 20 seconds to open a 512 kb document on this configuration. and as for using the internet, i use my laptop and my prepaid internet stick... a bit more costly then ADSL interent, but oh well, you get that.

    so, RECAP, you can use your old computer to type reports up, do BASIC accounting and, depending on your software, you can do SOME BASIC image edition and possibly printing.

    Sent form Mark in Australia

    • Anonymous
      July 1, 2011 at 11:48 pm

      Not a shock to people like myself. I am a proponent of using older hardware for useful purposes. Regular visitor of and I do realise that older computers can still be useful. Up until recently, I was working on a 1.6Ghz Power Mac G5, the lowest-end model. It was about 5-6 years old, I think. It served me well for 2 years, until sadly the graphics card broke down. I had already replaced it once, so I just decided to sell it and move on.

      Using an older computer for productivity is a good idea. You could set up a computer with a small SD card, have a really old OS, like Windows 3 or System 7. I know one person who loaded up System 7 on an SD card, replaced his hard drive in his OLD PowerBook and was able to get SILENT operation, no Internet access, etc. He was a writer and this boosted his productivity dramatically.

      • Guest
        July 27, 2011 at 5:38 am

        You could also try the Basilisk II emulator, which is sort of like VMWare or VirtualBox but for classic Mac systems. I used to have a Low End Mac -- a Performa 450 way back when they still sold Macs at Sears through the then emerging "family market."

        Basilisk II doesn't require much in the way of resources, since the older Macs of yesteryear didn't have all the bells and whistles we associate with newer systems of today. In the late '80s when I got my Performa as a birthday gift, hard drive capacity was in the hundred-meg range -- the terabyte monsters of today would have been considered roughly the equivalent of the land mass of Russia (which was then still the Soviet Union)!

        I, too, am a writer and my last Internet-related "project" for the summer before the fall/winter of my disconnect will be getting ClarisWorks or MacWrite II up and running on a 512MB-RAM Acer Aspire One under WinXP. There are some great resources at and :-)

        After I finish my day's writing work, *then* it's off to play Oregon Trail. ^_^

        @c61d36dadece984f1dfec189e0e68e58:disqus I use Office 2000 :-P I don't mind being in the proud minority of people whose best friend for ten years was Clippy the Office Assistant. (And doggone it if I don't still love Rover the Windows search pup!) *Woof!*

  4. Roger
    June 30, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    If you have some quantity of them (10 or more) you could call a company like and they will buy them from you... They refurbish computer, and I have worked with them and found them to be very fair.  Must be in the US for them to purchase your computer equipment.   Roger

    • Anonymous
      July 1, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      Cool! Thanks for that. Keep commenting guys, any more ideas for how to MakeUseOf an old computer?

  5. bean
    June 30, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    we are currently re-cycling older laptops- wipe, load Linux and donate to the needy along with training and support.  contact oh.btw at live com for details.  we will be working with desktops as soon as space becomes available.  thanks.

    • Anonymous
      June 30, 2011 at 8:35 pm

      That is a much more noble use than some of the stuff I suggested. You are a good man!

  6. Saikat Basu
    June 29, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Great ideas. But the best way according to me is to outfit an old computer with Linux and OpenSource software and donate it to the needy.

  7. Chase Vandiver
    June 29, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Man, recycling sure is cool! lol

    • Anonymous
      June 29, 2011 at 3:50 pm

      It prevents global WARMING, though. Hehe. Sorry, I know that's lame, but I couldn't resist xD.

  8. Dovebless
    June 29, 2011 at 2:19 am

    Recycle through BestBuy. They pay you for outdated electronics. Even a little is something and covers the governments fee of $16.00 for just purchasing a computer these days.

    • Tina
      June 30, 2011 at 12:24 am

      Thanks for the info!

  9. Edmenje
    June 29, 2011 at 12:56 am

     If you have multiple computers in the house, you could set it up as a NAS for sharing files across your network. When the Computer Lab at work received new computers I did just that and now we have a central location for saving files, essential since as added security I locked down the other computers with a virtualization setup and files have to be saved off of the local machines or they're lost on reboot.

    • Anonymous
      June 29, 2011 at 3:49 pm

      That's a cool use, and I was going to say that, but it was taken by the previous cool uses post. I'll find the link for you!