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5 (more) things to do with an old computer

Put unused machines to good use

Most of us have an old computer of some sort, and we all have our reasons for keeping them around. Why not have that heap of plastic and circuitry do something useful for you instead? Here's five things you could turn an unused machine into.

Media server

You'll need to clear your computer of any unnecessary data and download the most recent service pack for your OS before you start.

What you'll need:

  • A high-speed Internet connection, including the appropriate network card
  • Enough hard drive space to store your media files
  • A router

Once you have your components installed and your router plugged in per the manufacturers' instructions, you're going to need to set everything up. Click on Start, select Control Panel, then click Network and internet connections. From there, select Network connections, then click Network and Sharing Center, under which you should see a list of potential actions. If you don't have a network, click Set up a new connection or network. If you do, your computer should already be connected. If you have just set up your connection, reboot your computer to have it take effect.

You'll now need to rename your computer to be something you'll recognise. To do this, right-click on My Computer and then Properties. You can rename your computer through the Change setting option under Computer Name, domain, and workgroup settings. Now you'll be able to connect to your computer from any other on the network to access the Shared Files area of your new server. It is recommended that you create a shared files folder under the Computer/C:/Users/Public area of your computer.

If you are using either Windows Vista or Windows 7, your computer should already be able to find other computers connected to your network, and vice versa. To access your shared files remotely open up the Explorer window and click 'Network'. If your computer asks you to reconfigure your share settings do so. Now simply connect to the computer you'd like by clicking on the proper icon.

In Windows Vista, you can create a 'homegroup'. Creating a homegroup is a quick and easy way to create a network to share files. Simply go to the Network and Sharing Center" under Network and Internet in the Control Panel and click Choose homegroup and sharing options. If one does not already exist it will have a create option, if one does there will be a 'Join now' button. You'll need to join with every computer you intend to use on the network. Afterward, follow the instructions in the paragraph above to connect between computers.

Now that your computers are now talking to each other, you can share your media files between them. By saving files to the area designated use you can freely exchange music, pictures, or videos. Many Windows computers come with Windows Media Center installed. WMC already has options to look for music and other media in the shared folders of other computers on your network. Just click the shared options in the category of your choosing.

If you use iTunes instead, you have the option called Home Sharing. To turn on Home Sharing, merely click on the Home Sharing icon in iTunes and enter your apple ID. Rinse and repeat for all the computers in your network. Once your computers are connected you can open the Home Sharing sub menu and choose the category you want and begin either streaming media from computer to computer or import media from computer to computer. It is not necessary to create a shared files folder for this method.

NEXT PAGE: Home entertainment centre

  1. Put unused machines to good use
  2. Media server
  3. Home entertainment centre

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