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9 Ways To Repurpose an Underperforming Laptop

Published by SPK Blog Post
on March 18, 2013

In a recent post, I discussed how to resolve 3 common (yet significant) issues with a broken laptop. Chances are, even if the issue is fixed, your computer may not run as well as it used to. But all hope is not lost.

Say for instance you have an old 1.2ghz Celeron Dell laptop on your desk and it won’t run World of Warcraft like your Alienware laptop will: full HD, 100fps, with all the bells and whistles turned on. Before you deem the machine unusable and take it down to your local computer recycler or to somewhere like WeirdStuff and get a small tax write off — there is still plenty of good it can do for you.

Here are 9 Examples of how you can re-purpose your under-performing laptop:

  • NAS – Network Attached Storage
    • There are a variety of operating systems that are tailored for this type of thing, but setting up Windows is probably the easiest for someone who’s never done it before. Here’s an article from Microsoft on the process for Windows XP: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/304040
    • There are a lot of good guides out there for doing this in UNIX based operating systems like Ubuntu.
  • Media Center PC
    • XBMCPlexWindows Media Center
    • There are many different ways you can leverage an older PC to act as a media center PC and you’d be surprised how much a little can go a long way.
  • Web Server
    • While an old Celeron certainly isn’t going to host up Amazon.com, you can host a simple web page or a personal WIKI page.
    • Hosting your own web server is a great way to learn how to write HTML, CSS, PHP and any number of useful languages used to design web sites.
  • Test Lab PC
    • Maybe not as useful to most, but some people will see a lot of use in having an old PC out in their garage, maybe just for playing some old CD’s or maybe to run a fairly sophisticated oscilloscope or spectrum analyzer.
  • Print Server
    • If you have kids and everyone wants to use the printer, it can be useful to leverage Windows’ built in printer sharing functions. You don’t need a very powerful computer to do it and its fairly easy to set up.
  • Home Security Server
    • There are a number of free and/or inexpensive software titles out there that will allow you to make use of a USB camera to do as little as watch the pool or something more sophisticated like motion tracking/activation.
  • Home Automation Server
    • X10 automation has been around for ages and most of us have probably seen their wonderful popup ads at one point or another. They have their own software that you can run on your PC that will allow you to interface with X10 devices around your house. There are other brands doing this sort of thing, some fairly high end, but this is by far the most common.
  • MAME Box
    • MAME stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. In short, the software is designed to allow you to run old video games like Tron, Centipede, and old Nintendo, Atari, and other arcade games. MAME has a big enthusiast following and is great for older PC’s since the hardware requirements for these old video games were pretty simplistic by today’s standards. All you need to do is a quick Google search for ‘Mame Cabinet‘ to get an idea of what people have been doing with this software.
  • Virtual Machine Server
    • Depending on your needs and the specs on your ‘old’ laptop, a disused computer can be a good place to put virtual machines, especially if you’re looking to experiment with UNIX based OS’s, but don’t want to wipe the whole machine. This is also a great and common way to run a web server as it will allow you to do things like taking snapshots so that you can roll back changes if something breaks. How well your virtual machines perform will depend heavily on the specs of your computer and may not be practical for ye olde Celeron.

Your broken or old laptop does not necessarily belong in the recycling bin. By fixing common minor laptop issues that occur with old age or heavy usage, your machine can be used for a number of different purposes (even if it doesn’t perform as well as it used to.)

Next Steps:

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