If your old laptop or PC is gathering dust, you might wonder whether to recycle it, give it away, or use it for a creative project. When it comes to what to do with an old computer, there are loads of creative ideas you can get stuck into, and we’ve got 10 of the best right here.
1. Use it as a Media Server
One of the coolest things to do with your old PC is to use it for streaming media. Software like Plex, Emby or Kodi is free and can be installed on any computer running Windows, macOS, or Linux.
The playback software can be downloaded to almost any device, from smart TVs to games consoles. You can watch all your favorite locally stored videos or listen to music and podcasts from any device, and this type of software is designed to be lightweight, so it can be used even on old systems.
2. DIY a Video Projector
If you happen to have both an old laptop and an old overhead projector just lying around, this is a pretty fun project. You can repurpose your old laptop into a video projector to watch all the movies stored on your Plex server. You’ll need a device with a TFT screen (though it doesn’t matter if the backlight is broken). This project takes some DIY skills, but a great video guide on YouTube breaks things down step by step.
3. Set up a Web Server
If you have your own website and currently pay for hosting, why not save yourself a few bucks by setting up your old PC as a web server to host your site? You could even host sites for friends and family too. Or you could set up your web server for FTP so you can share files over the web with friends.
4. Play Old-School Games
There’s nothing like a retro gaming session to give you all the nostalgic feels, so why not repurpose your old computer into a retro gaming machine? Installing an older OS will let you play retro games like DOOM or Lemmings.
If you use Steam and DOSBox, you can emulate a legacy DOS environment. Also, if your PC is already running Windows 7 or 8, you likely won’t need to install an older OS.
5. Use it as a Family PC
Tired of your family spending hours holed up in separate rooms checking email or browsing the web? Set up your old PC as a communal family machine in your living room so everyone can surf the web, check email, or complete homework. Networked storage is also a good idea here so everyone can access their files.
6. Create a Digital Photo Frame
Wondering what to do with an old computer? You can use your old PC to display your photos if your laptop is still functional. All you need is a decent screen and a bit of know-how to turn it into a digital photo frame. If it still connects to your home Wi-Fi you could even use it to display your social media photos.
7. Game Online with Friends
If you prefer gaming online with friends on Destiny 2 or Fortnite, you could set up your old PC as a dedicated game server. Most multiplayer online games support dedicated servers, but make sure you check your game of choice does. Because this type of server doesn’t require a powerful system, even a really old PC makes a great dedicated game server.
8. Turn it Into Art
Creating a wall-mounted PC is a great way to turn your PC into something that looks good and still functions. You’ll need your computer’s hard drive and motherboard, and a video tutorial. You’ll also require some basic tools and materials such as plywood and Plexiglas. Not only does this look pretty cool on your wall, but you can also use Wi-Fi sync to share files.
9. Upgrade it
If none of these projects seem right for you, why not upgrade your computer? It’s not possible to do this with all computers, such as those which have the SSD and RAM integrated into the motherboard. It’s also not always worth upgrading an old laptop due to the time and cost involved — and it depends on what you want it to do. With most machines, you can upgrade the RAM and/or the hard drive, so you might get some more use out of your old laptop yet. There are also some pretty cool things you can do with old RAM.
10. Turn it Into an Arcade Machine
The final idea on our list is the best one yet. Stop wondering what to do with an old computer and turn it into a retro arcade machine! You can use an arcade emulator like MAME, short for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator to emulate arcade machine hardware. As long as you have the right computer and monitor for the job, it’s easy to turn your old computer into an arcade machine.
We hope this has given you some great creative ideas for what to do with an old computer. While you’re here, why not check out some of our ideas for what to do with an old router if you’ve got one lying around?