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8 Ways You Can Still Use Your Old Windows XP Hardware

Danny Stieben 01-04-2014

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 Upgrade From Windows XP to a Modern OS in 7 Simple Steps It's time to say goodbye! Microsoft is ending official support for Windows XP on April 8 2014. Are you at risk? If you are still running this ancient operating system, it's time to upgrade. Read More , 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 Disposing Of An Old Laptop - What To Recycle, What To Keep Laptops are a treasure trove of parts that can live more than one life. Whether they continue a life as spare part or become the subject of a DIY tech project, you can get a... Read More and breathing new life into old hard drives 3 Ways To Breathe New Life Into An Old Hard Drive It's in the human nature to collect stuff and in the digital age we mostly collect data. For a long time, the storage capacities of hard drives seemed to increase too slow to match user... Read More . 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 How To Set Up Your FreeNAS Server To Access Your Files From Anywhere FreeNAS is a free, open source BSD-based operating system that can turn any PC into a rock-solid file server. Today I’m going to walk you through a basic installation, setting up a simple file share,... Read More .

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 How to Set Up Your XBMC Media Center XBMC may have evolved into Kodi, but if you have an old version installed this guide will help you set it up and get started. Read More 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 Should I Put My PC To Sleep Or Leave It On & Save The World? Most people put their PCs to sleep, hibernate them, or turn them off when they’re not in-use. However, you can also choose to run your PC 24/7, contributing your PC’s processing power to distributed computing... Read More or make yourself rich by mining digital currency A Full Guide To Getting Started With Mining Litecoin Read More . However, the same issue of technical specifications applies here: this won’t be a good idea if your computer doesn’t have decent specs.

Install Linux

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 Making Linux a Genuine Windows Replacement With Windows 8 casting a long shadow over the PC industry and Valve committing to create Linux-based gaming PCs, there's never been a better time to start using Linux. For many users, the Linux desktop... Read More . 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 4 Ways To Bulletproof Windows XP Forever Windows XP is slated to be exterminated for good by Microsoft in April of 2014. It is the last stage of a multi-year effort to kill off the operating system. Windows XP is one of... Read More 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!


Image Credit: blakespot, JF Sebastian, Neal Gillis, Lorna is

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  1. William S
    April 2, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Try selling off your memory, drives and oddball cards that mainly work with XP on ebay or other sites. There are many that won't work in newer WindowsOS, especially capture cards, TV cards, Memory cards (what we call SSD now.) IF it works in 7 or 8 (Vista? does anyone actually use that?) then keep it if you want. But making a sculpture out of old memory modules is kinda' dumb when you can make some $$ of it.

  2. Damon
    April 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Bad advice to run XP after extended support. There has been a decline in new exploits, so you might think it's okay. In fact everyone is holding their breath to come out with those when MS wouldn't do anything about them.

    Install Debian or Win7. Or don't connect to the web.

  3. A G B
    April 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    If I Assembled Together All The Small Parts, I Have Collected Over 20+ Years, I Could Mount 10+ Old Machines.
    Dealing With Any Possible Future Malware Scares Me Less Than Dealing With M$, Right Now.


  4. Ionut Zamfirescu
    April 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    I still own a 4.8.6 running windows 95

  5. shiv
    April 2, 2014 at 11:37 am

    UnRaid is better for general people home use than FreeNAS IMHO

    • Loman
      January 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Too bad it isn't free like freenas

      I like its features, but not enough to spend money on something that is at very best a hobby for me.

  6. benbay
    April 2, 2014 at 5:13 am

    @bben - not every Linux distribution works on every computer. Try another distro. Go to http://www.DistroWatch.com for a list.

    If you have 512M of memory or more, try Linux Mint (choose the Xfce version). If you have only 256M, try Puppy Linux or VectorLinux (Standard Edition). Ch

  7. bben
    April 2, 2014 at 12:54 am

    I just spent the entire day trying to restore an old XP system - NO!!! Linux doesn't 'just work'. I wish it did - but I tried and it failed over and over AND OVER!!! to install - Until it can just be installed by grandma like Windows it is still not ready for prime time. Maybe next year.

    • Navanski
      April 4, 2014 at 2:05 pm

      If you pick the right distro Linux is usually easier to install than any form of Windows. In most cases you can also try the distro prior to installation. I just tested out my octogenarian mother-in-law and she passed with flying colours installing Sabayon, one of the least user friendly distros.
      I think it would have been sensible if a LiveCD had been your first step.
      It would certainly have been easier than spending a whole day trying to restore an old, now insecure, XP system.

    • bben
      April 4, 2014 at 6:49 pm

      @Navanski - actually, that is exactly what I did - and I have yet to find one that works with this particular Dell. For some reason Linux just doesn't like this Dell. Every one seems to hang on the keyboard - And , using a different KB or different type also doesn't work - Not a PS2, USB or wireless. Tried 3 different PS3 plug in KBs. Not even a genuine IBM Model M which is the standard that other KBs are based on.

  8. Casey
    April 1, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    OR.. just keep bloody using it!

    It's a storm in a teacup, a beat-up story!

  9. Rani
    April 1, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    For the gaming console part... Even if it has older hardware, it can still be used to run retro console emulators!

  10. OScloud
    April 1, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    I did this to a old Vista laptop. I installed Windows 8 on it and its now way much faster.

  11. CharlieOS
    April 1, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    I certainly would like to be able to still run XP safely even after support ends in April 2014. Why? Because I have a TON of old PC games that run well on XP but don't run at all on Win7 or Win8. That said, as Microsoft has nothing to gain financially, really, from XP anymore, Microsoft would do all XP users a big favor by finally allowing *all* versions of Win7 and Win8 to use "XP Mode". XP users everywhere would surely give Microsoft a HUGE collective thumbs up for such a move, a move that would show XP users that Microsoft hasn't totally abandoned them.

    • Danny S
      April 1, 2014 at 6:55 pm

      Do the compatibility settings for those games not work? I've managed to get FIFA 2000 to work in Win 7/8 using them.

    • CharlieOS
      April 2, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Danny S, to some degree the compatibility settings actually do work for running old XP games under Win7. That is, I can get some XP games to run in compatibility mode -- but only some. For example, I can't get Darkstone to run at all in compatibility mode. And there are many more old XP games that don't even install under compatibility mode. So... I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Microsoft will free up XP Mode for use in all versions of Windows 7 and 8 as that may give XP gamers the hope of continuing to play their old XP-based games well into the future.

  12. Ed
    April 1, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    My Mom actually has an old Windows ME computer that I built in 1999. It still works!!! It is sitting unused though.

    It hasn't been used in over three years because I replaced it with a used Windows Vista PC. Had to add an extra 2GB RAM to make Vista feel reasonably useful.

    So is there any use for an old 1999 machine with a 16GB hard drive, 192 MB RAM, 32MB video card and an Athlon CPU running at 900 MHz??? Obviously Windows ME would need to go.

    • dragonmouth
      April 1, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      "Obviously Windows ME would need to go."
      What is so obvious about it? Is the computer running well? You can still use all the installed applications as long as you don't connect to the Internet. If you can do without head-snapping speed of the latest and the greatest, that PC is still imminently usable.

    • Zoran N
      April 1, 2014 at 6:25 pm

      I have similar old laptop (P3 600MHz, 256MB SDRAM, 12GB HDD, 8MB ATI graphic card), and WinXP works nice on it. Even Opera 11.x is still good enough for many web sites :-)

    • Danny S
      April 1, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      You could go for a lightweight Linux distribution if you're wanting to use an updated, secure operating system.

  13. Zoran N
    April 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    What "old XP hardware"? I have new PC's with XP :)