10 Things to Do With an Old Computer

Don't go to the dump just yet! Old PCs can still be useful

Do you have an old computer that's taking up space? Don't throw it away! This list provides ten things you can do with an old computer to keep it out of the dump and may even save you money.

01
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Upgrade It

A stick of computer RAM being inserted into a motherboard.

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Upgrading an old computer is an excellent way to squeeze more life from it. Though many upgrades are possible, focusing on the RAM and storage is best.

Running short of RAM can hamper performance, so adding RAM can refresh an old PC. A RAM upgrade is most useful when a PC has less than 4GB of RAM installed.

An old mechanical disk drive can also hold back PC performance, so consider replacing your old hard drive. If you can afford to do so, replacing it with a modern solid-state drive will make the PC more responsive.

However, not every PC allows upgrades, so research this before you purchase new hardware.

02
of 10

Use It as a Garage or Hobby PC

Two old computer monitors on a desk in a workspace.

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Old PCs can make great companions in ways you'd never use a new computer. A great example is an old ThinkPad used in the garage. It could be great for tracking to-do lists and recording the progress of a garden or other mess-making projects.

Most people would never use a new PC for such work. It's a dirty, sometimes even damp, environment. Since many old PCs are no longer helpful for many tasks, you don't have to feel bad subjecting them to more abuse.

Though its capabilities will be limited, most old PCs can access websites, document editing apps, and streaming video.

03
of 10

Play Retro PC and Console Games

A screenshot of the Sonic the Hedgehog video game on SEGA Genesis.

An old computer is still quick enough to handle retro console and PC games from the 1980s and early 1990s.

You can play these games through an emulator. The emulator uses software to mimic the original game console or PC.

A massive library of emulators is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. Retroarch, a program that can manage multiple emulators, is a great place to start.

04
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Use It as a Home File Server

A screenshot of the Filezilla FTP program on a Windows computer.

Filezilla

A home file server can be used as an alternative to cloud storage services. It will make files accessible to multiple computers in your home and even on the Internet.

Home file servers are best on a dedicated computer that's always on, which is an excellent use for an old computer. A file server is not a demanding task, so most old computers can do the job.

There are many ways to set up a home file server, but downloading free FTP server software is an excellent place to start.

05
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Use It as a Game Server

A screenshot of the Minecraft video game.

Most old PCs can run a game server. Unlike the clients connecting to it, the server doesn't need to render the game's graphics.

Turning an old PC into a game server can give you a dedicated virtual space to play with friends. You won't have to pay a monthly fee, as you would if you rented the server.

A Minecraft server is a great place to start, but many old, popular games offer a dedicated server option.

06
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Make It a Media Center PC

A screenshot of the Plex media center software.

Plex

Most old computers are powerful enough to work as a media center PC. You can stream media or host video files you own.

Installing software such as Plex can help you connect multiple services and media files with one interface. You may even be able to access files from smartphones and tablets.

Those who love over-the-air TV can install a TV tuner to watch or record local TV broadcasts.

07
of 10

Make It a Home Security System

A home security camera on a desk next to a smartphone.

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Want to use home security cameras to monitor your home while you're away? An old computer can help.

Many security cameras can connect to a computer on your local network and record video to it. Look for home security cameras known as "IP cameras." These connect directly over a local network or the Internet.

You will also need software to manage the cameras. Many options are available, but iSpy is the most popular free option.

08
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Keep It for Guests

A man sitting in front of a desktop computer on a small desk.

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Adding a guest PC can make a guest room more comfortable. It's handy if a family member or friend frequently visits since they'll no longer need to pack their computer.

Turning an old computer into a guest computer is simple. All you need to do is set up a new local account for your guest.

09
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Donate It

A donation bin with a computer keyboard, mouse, and desktop computer inside.

MG Photography / Getty Images

You can often repurpose an old computer. If not, don't throw it away. Consider donating it first.

The donation centers near you will vary depending on your location. Alternatively, you can put the computer up for free on a local ad board like Craigslist.

10
of 10

Recycle It

A man stacking laptop in a truck.

HollenderX2 / Getty Images

If an old computer is too slow to be useful or no longer working, it shouldn't go in the trash. Computers can be hazardous as they degrade and should be recycled.

A variety of recycling programs are available. Staples has a trade-in program that may provide store credit for old devices. Best Buy also recycles old electronics for free.

Most PC manufacturers have recycling programs, and many pay for shipping. These programs can be helpful if you live in a rural area without easy access to a recycling center.

FAQ
  • What can I do with an old Mac computer?

    There are several ways to repurpose your old Mac. For example, you can install Linux, turn your MacBook into a Chromebook, or set up your Mac as a temporary Wi-Fi hotspot.

  • Is there anything valuable in my old computer?

    Computers have small amounts of valuable metals like aluminum, copper, and gold, which is why some places recycle old computers for cash. If your computer includes high-end components, like a dedicated graphics card or extra RAM, you might want to remove and sell them.

  • What should I do with old computers with sensitive information?

    For computers with sensitive personal information, you should completely erase the hard drive. Simply deleting data isn't enough; you'll need to use special software to destroy the data.

  • Where can I sell my old computer?

    There are websites where you can sell used electronics like Decluttr, BuyBackWorld, and Canitcash. Amazon, Best Buy, and Craigslist are also options. To prepare before selling your PC, back up your data remotely and wipe the hard drive.

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