Things to do with an old computer (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty May 22, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - Thanks to Windows 7, a lot of people have purchased new computers or are planning to. And that leaves them with one of life's more pleasant problems: what to do with the old machine.
With prices for used computers so low, reselling an older PC is often more trouble than it's worth, and you can actually get more value out of your old machine by keeping it and using it for another purpose. Here are some ideas to get you started.
--- Create a Windows home server
If your old computer is a desktop with a decent amount of storage or the capability to hold more storage (hard drives) than it currently has, it's a good candidate for duty as a Windows Home Server (http://bit.ly/q85Fb).
Buy an OEM copy of Windows Home Server on a site like Newegg for 99 dollars, install it on your old machine, hook the computer up to your in-home network, and you'll never again have to be embarrassed when someone asks you whether you back up your data. The answer will be 'yes, every night.'
Install the free client software for Windows Home Server on each computer in your home that is connected to your network - either wirelessly or with wires - and Windows Home Sever will automatically perform backups every night when you're asleep.
Even better, the Windows Home Server box will also act as a multimedia repository, allowing you to stream and share music, video, and digital photographs. It will also provide you with remote access through a standard web browser to any connected PC in your home.
So, if you forget a file while traveling, you'll be able to log on to your home machine and download it. You can't beat that for convenience. And don't worry if your old computer is slow - speed is not an issue for a machine that's primarily a file server.
--- Create a test bed
How many times have you installed an application - only to regret it later when it causes your computer to become slower or, even worse, to crash?
Put your old computer to use as a 'test' machine, and you can say goodbye to nightmare installations of new software. Install them first on the old machine and see how they work, then you can decide to install them on your main machine or to just forget the whole affair.
--- Experiment with an operating system
Windows isn't the only operating system out there. In fact, many would argue that a lot of the action these days is in open source operating systems and free, open source applications. What better way to test all of this out than on an old machine?
The Ubuntu operating system (http://www.ubuntu.com/GetUbuntu/download) is the hands-down favourite among those who want to get their first exposure to Linux- based computing.
Ubuntu is easy to install, as it recognises plenty of hardware automatically, just as Windows does. Once installed, you'll feel pretty much at home if you're familiar with Windows, since Ubuntu follows many of the interface conventions to which Windows users are accustomed.
The operating system even comes loaded with a bunch of open-source productivity applications. And because Ubuntu has a light touch, you may find that your old computer suddenly gets a new lease on life.
--- Set up a multiplayer gaming network
If you're into computer games, you already know that multi-player action is where the fun begins. But without multiple computers in your house, there's no multiplayer action. A spare computer clears up that problem.
If you're not a gamer but you've always wondered how much fun it would be to play multiplayer games (lots), then put that old machine to work on your game of choice.
--- Donate it
Your old computer might not be up to the task of running Windows 7, but there are people who won't care and will be happy to take it.
Start by surveying members of your family. If your old computer is a notebook, chances are good that someone in your clan will love it, even if Windows XP Home is the only thing it can run with any degree of success.
If your old computer is a desktop, perhaps a member of your family who needs a computer primarily to surf the web or play the occasional game of solitaire will be just thrilled to have it. Check around. It's probably worth more in good feelings of being generous than any resale would be.
--- Dismantle it
When you hear people talk about hard drives, memory, video cards, or motherboards, do you secretly want to run away? Lose the fear by taking your old PC apart and seeing what's in it. A Philips-head screwdriver is pretty much the only tool you'll need.
Find a tutorial online that helps you identify the parts you see inside of your computer, and you'll no longer be at a loss to understand how hard drives, graphics cards, memory, and other components are attached.
Plus, when you need to replace or upgrade one of these parts in the future, you'll have a clue about how to do it yourself. Dismantling your computer doesn't mean breaking it, either: After you're finished, you can put your old machine back together and put it to use in one of the other ways discussed here.
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