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What to Do With Your Old Computer: A Comprehensive Guide

As technology advances, the lifespan of our computers seems to shorten. It’s common to find ourselves with an old computer that’s no longer suitable for our primary needs. However, just because it’s outdated for some tasks doesn’t mean it’s useless. Here are several practical and creative ways to repurpose your old computer, ensuring it continues to serve a purpose.

1. Upgrade and Refresh

Before deciding on a new role for your old computer, consider whether it might benefit from an upgrade. Simple hardware improvements, such as adding more RAM, replacing the hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD), or installing a new operating system, can significantly enhance performance. This is often a cost-effective way to extend the life of your device.

2. Use as a Secondary Computer

An older computer can still handle many tasks admirably. Consider using it as a secondary machine for less demanding activities:

  • Web Browsing and Email: It can be dedicated to basic internet activities, such as browsing, checking emails, and online shopping.
  • Media Center: Install media server software like Plex or Kodi to turn your old PC into a media center for streaming movies, music, and photos to your TV.
  • Backup System: Use it to regularly back up important files from your main computer, ensuring you have extra copies of your data.

3. Create a Home Server

Old computers can be transformed into powerful home servers. You can use it to:

  • File Storage: Centralize your files in one location, accessible from any device in your home.
  • Web Hosting: Host a personal website or blog without paying for external hosting services.
  • Network Attached Storage (NAS): Convert it into a NAS device for storing and sharing large amounts of data across your home network.

4. Educational Tool

If you have children or are interested in learning more about technology, repurpose your old computer as an educational tool:

  • Programming Practice: Install programming environments and use it to learn or teach coding.
  • Linux Experimentation: Install a Linux distribution to explore a new operating system and enhance your tech skills.
  • Software Testing: Use it as a testbed for trying out new software or beta versions without risking your primary machine.

5. Contribute to Science

Your old computer can contribute to scientific research through distributed computing projects:

  • Folding@Home: Assist in medical research by simulating protein folding, which helps in understanding diseases like cancer.
  • SETI@Home: Help in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence by analyzing radio signals from space.
  • BOINC Projects: Choose from a variety of projects in different fields, from climate modeling to mathematics, and let your computer contribute its processing power.

6. Make a Retro Gaming Machine

Transform your old computer into a dedicated retro gaming machine:

  • Emulation: Install emulators to play classic games from consoles like the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis.
  • Old PC Games: Revisit and enjoy older PC games that might not run on modern systems.

7. Create a Smart Home Hub

With some additional hardware and software, your old computer can become the brain of your smart home:

  • Home Automation: Use platforms like Home Assistant or OpenHAB to control smart lights, thermostats, and security systems.
  • Voice Assistant: Set up a local voice assistant, similar to Amazon Echo or Google Home, without relying on cloud services.

8. Charity and Donation

If you don’t need the old computer, consider donating it:

  • Schools and Non-Profits: Many educational institutions and non-profit organizations can benefit from donated computers.
  • Recycling Programs: Participate in electronic recycling programs to ensure your computer is disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

9. Creative Projects

Get creative and use your old computer in unique ways:

  • Digital Photo Frame: Convert it into a digital photo frame that displays your favorite pictures.
  • DIY Projects: Use parts for DIY electronics projects or turn the monitor into a unique piece of furniture.

10. Sell or Trade-In

If your old computer still has some value, consider selling it:

  • Online Marketplaces: Platforms like eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace can help you find a buyer.
  • Trade-In Programs: Some manufacturers and retailers offer trade-in programs, giving you credit towards a new purchase.


Your old computer doesn’t have to gather dust or end up in a landfill. With a bit of creativity and effort, it can be repurposed to serve many useful roles, from a secondary machine to a home server, educational tool, or even a charitable donation. Evaluate your needs, explore these options, and give your old computer a new lease on life.

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