Microsoft is killing support for Windows XP this coming April. That’s less than a month away. If you still have a computer that runs Windows XP, you should seriously consider upgrading the operating system, or finding new uses for the computer’s hardware.
If you’re not upgrading to a newer version of Windows, here are some great ways where you can still use your old hardware.
Use Parts In Other Computers
You can take parts out of your Windows XP computer and use them in other computers that are capable of running more modern operating systems. To start, the hard drive may be taken out and put in another computer to expand storage. If compatible, memory may also be transplanted or replace existing, lower capacity RAM sticks in another PC – same goes for the optical drives and even dedicated graphics cards.
Not every part can be reused because they need to be compatible with each other – for example, the graphics card and memory need to be compatible with the motherboard. To check compatibility, find out the model of the motherboard that’s used in the computer you’re planning to put the parts into. Then, refer to the manufacturer’s website to see which components it supports, as well as whether it has PCI-Express slots or SATA ports.
Repurpose Your Parts
You could try to repurpose old hardware parts so that they’re useful in other ways. For example, you can easily convert internal hard drives and optical disc drives to portable, external drives. All it takes is a case that accepts internal components and has outward-facing connectors such as USB or eSATA.
For more information on how to repurpose computer parts, check out Tina’s guides on disposing an old laptop and breathing new life into old hard drives. There are other hardware components which you can repurpose, but the hard drive and optical drive are usually the easiest.
Home Media and Data Server
You also could transform the old computer into a media and data storage server that holds non-critical files. This way, you can still use the computer without upgrading the operating system, and you’ll get the benefits of a media and data server without spending any extra money. By taking that computer offline and restricting Internet access, most of the risk of unpatched security holes is removed from the equation.
You can easily accomplish this by installing FreeNAS on the computer – FreeNAS is an operating system for network-attached storage purposes.
Media and Gaming Console
If you don’t think you can benefit from a central storage server, you could instead use the computer as a media or gaming console.
XBMC is a fantastic media center application that is capable of more things than you could imagine, and Steam’s Big Picture mode can give your system an awesome interface similar to a real gaming console.
If you want to use your computer for either of these purposes (especially as a gaming console), it should already decent specifications. Otherwise, you’d have to spend money on upgrading the hardware in the computer.
Can’t find a way to use the computer for yourself? You could better the world by contributing the processing power to crunch numbers for folding@home or make yourself rich by mining digital currency. However, the same issue of technical specifications applies here: this won’t be a good idea if your computer doesn’t have decent specs.
If you’d still like to use your computer to its fullest extent on an updated and supported operating system, consider installing Linux as a replacement for Windows XP. Since Linux is free and completely supported, you can go back to using your computer for sensitive tasks such as online banking. There are applications for common tasks, so many users should be able to carry on computing with Linux without any issues.
Secure Your XP Installation
For some people, they don’t have the know-how to perform the above suggestions, but they need a computer they can use without spending money. In this case, you’ll need to secure your Windows XP installation as much as possible to keep yourself safe. Paranoia is completely normal now while using Windows XP, because any security holes that are discovered after support ends will not be fixed. You can be sure that hackers will exploit those holes as much as they can.
Recycle and Make Art
Lastly, if none of these ideas tickle your fancy, you could always take everything apart to your heart’s content and be creative. While unconventional, you could make some pretty neat-looking art with computer parts. All you need is the right inspiration to get started.
Hopefully these eight tips will help give you some ideas on what to do with that aging Windows XP computer. While you could sell or traditionally recycle those computer parts, it really is a better idea to try to use them somewhere else. Just because they’re old doesn’t mean they’re not functional to you.
What have you done with your old computer’s parts? What do you think is the most effective way to make use of that hardware? Let us know in the comments!