When you’re upgrading to a new PC, you might wonder what to do with your old hardware. You could sell it or keep it as an emergency backup machine, but you could also put it to more creative uses.
Here are several DIY projects to repurpose and reuse an old PC.
1. Media Center
One of the most useful things you can do with an old PC is to move it into your living room and repurpose it as a media center. You can watch movies and TV, listen to music, and play games by installing and setting up Kodi or similar software on your machine.
Kodi is designed to be used with a remote control, so you can link up your old computer to your TV and browse from the comfort of your couch.
A nice benefit is that media center software is lightweight and doesn’t require a lot of system resources, so you can use it even on very old hardware.
2. Build a Home Server
If you live with housemates or family, it’s great to be able to share your music, videos, and photos with them. Even if you live on your own, you can benefit from having a place to store all your media.
This is where a home server comes in. You can use your old PC to host your media and other files and access them whenever you need. This is handy if you only have a limited amount of hard drive space on your new PC.
You can also give access to the home servers to other users on your network, allowing you to share your files with them.
3. Set Up a Web Server
Alternatively, what if you want to host files on the internet? If you have your own website, you can host your site yourself from home instead of paying for hosting or using free hosts which can be bad for your site.
You can set up your old PC as a web server relatively easily. Once the web server is set up, you can host your own and your friends’ websites.
You can also set up the web server for FTP use if you want to share files over the internet but not create a specific website. When you or your friends want to access the FTP server, you can use Windows Explorer as an FTP client.
4. Run a Games Server
If you’re a gamer, a really neat feature of the Steam client is the Steam Stream option. This allows you to install games on one machine and then stream these games to other devices on your network.
This means you can host your games on your old PC and play them from a media center or other device in your living room. Or you can pick up a small and fairly cheap device called a Steam Link which plugs into your TV or monitor and streams the content from your server.
With a Steam Link, you can even play Steam games on Android which is great for phone and tablet users.
5. PC Testing Rig
If you build PCs often, or if you frequently benchmark components, then a test rig is extremely useful to have on hand.
It’s easiest to use if you have an open test bench, so you can swap parts in and out quickly. And you can buy a solid, well-made test bench if you’re a serious builder. But you can also throw together your own test bench from metals, bits of wood, or whatever else you have on hand if you want a cheap option.
Once you have a bench, you can transfer parts from your old PC onto it, safe in the knowledge that all the parts are good and working. This will let you troubleshoot new components easily.
6. Build a Frame PC
A PC isn’t just a functional object: it can be art as well. This unusual project puts your PC into a picture frame which you can hang on your wall.
Using Wi-Fi sync functions, you can modify your framed PC and send and receive files. And you can power the PC with a single power cord from the bottom of the frame.
You will need to do some modifications to your components and to your frame to allow for issues like air flow, so this is a project suited to the handy and experienced system builder.
7. Wall Mounted PC
If you like the idea of a frame PC but you want something a little easier to put together, try a wall-mounted PC. This example uses the Thermaltake Core P1 case which holds standard components but is designed to be wall-mountable.
You can buy just the case on its own, transfer the parts from your old PC to the new case, then hang it on the wall. The case is open-sided which is great for airflow but does mean you need to be aware of dust. But it’s a fun way to turn your PC into an art piece.
8. Home Security System
If you have a simple webcam, you can connect it to your old PC to make your own home security system. Using software that detects motion and triggers an alert, you can get a notification or set off an alarm if there is unexpected movement in your home.
Follow this tutorial to turn your computer into a video surveillance system.
9. Desk PC
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can build you old PC components into a custom desk. You fit components in to a compartment below the desk level and then put glass or clear plastic on top.
This way you can see your components beneath the surface of your desk. This looks absolutely amazing, but be warned – it’s not an easy project!
You’ll need to design and build your own desk with a compartment big enough to fit all your components. And before you begin, you should know that getting the layout right and performing maintenance on a desk PC is a big hassle.
But if you have the time and the patience, your own custom desk PC is an incredible and unique project.
10. Mineral Oil Cooled PC
Another impractical but stunning PC project is to build a mineral oil-cooled PC.
Because mineral oil is not electrically conductive, you can submerge many components into it without damaging them. In fact, it will increase their lifespan by lubricating them. And you can get terrific cooling performance as the oil dissipates the heat.
This is another case in which maintenance is a real pain though, and trying to re-use parts which have been in mineral oil requires an enormous amount of cleaning. So it’s better as a show PC rather than being your everyday workhorse.
One thing to remember is that when using old parts, you’ll need to clean them very thoroughly before submerging them in oil. Or else any dust or grime left on them will float around in the oil, and that’s no good.
Don’t Throw Out Your Old PC Parts—Put Them to Use!
Just because your components are outdated doesn’t mean they’re not useful any more. Working but old hardware is ideal for using in experimental and unusual projects. Or the hardware can be repurposed in a more practical way and turned into a server.
Alternatively, you could resell, repurpose, or upcycle components instead. See our tips on how to reuse your old hardware like a pro.