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How to reuse an old PC: what to do with an old computer

Recycle your old computer at home. We offer twelve suggestions of what to do with an old PC

You've just bought a shiny new PC and you're wondering what to do with your old machine. Throwing it out makes you feel guilty as it's perfectly functional. You can do plenty of things with an old PC besides sending it to the recycling heap. Let's take a look at a few ways you might reuse an old PC.

2. How to reuse an old PC: Donate it to a local school

If your PC isn't too archaic, consider donating it to a local school or hospital. Even if it is way beyond its sell-by date it could go to a local school's computer lab (most schools have one) and be used as a test bed, to take apart and reassemble. Alternatively, local schools might use it for parts, although they may shy away from used gear, given the unknown pedigree or wear of older hardware.

If you donate it to a hospital or daycare centre, consider buying some low-cost educational software packages and preinstalling them before handing the system over. Also, as with selling a system, you'll want to remove all software that you've reinstalled on your new PC. And make sure to include all licence information for the software you're preinstalling on the old system.

Bottom line: no charitable of publicly funded organisation is ever going to be unhappy that you are offering them a computer. Even if they can't use it, they may be able to sell it or use it for parts, and you can enjoy the healthy glow of a righteous person. Some local authorities will provide you with details of local non-profit groups who may accept your PC. And Computer Aid International can send computers to underdeveloped countries, so long as the specifications are high enough.

3. How to reuse an old PC: Turn it into an experimental box

You've heard about this Linux thing, and maybe you'd like to give it a whirl. But the thought of trying to create a dual-boot system on your primary PC leaves you a little green around the gills. Now you can experiment to your heart's content on your old box.

Check out Ubuntu, the sexy Linux distro that geeks love to, well, love. The neat thing about Linux is all the built-in support for older hardware, so installation is usually easy. In fact, installing Ubuntu is sometimes simpler than installing Windows. And there's a wealth of free software for Linux just waiting to be tried out.

If you think you've got the tech savvy and a bent for tinkering, you might try creating a Hackintosh - a PC that can run Mac OS X. It can be done, but it does take a fair amount of effort. The main hackintosh site is a good place to start, but expect a long and somewhat bumpy trip. Oh, and you'll have to fork out for a legal copy of Mac OS X.

In addition, a number of true UNIX-based operating systems are available, ranging from FreeBSD or PC-BSD (based on the Berkeley UNIX version) to OpenSolaris, based on the Sun Microsystems version of UNIX.

4. How to reuse an old PC: Give it to a relative

I do this all the time. My brother-in-law has modest computing needs. So I'll often just hand over one of my two-year old PCs, though I'll usually drop in a mid-range or entry-level graphics card.

I don't generally recommend doing this with your kids, though - at least, not if your kids are like mine. They often need as much or more PC horsepower than I use on a regular basis (outside of gaming and photography, anyway). My older daughter is a dedicated photographer, and makes heavy use of Photoshop, while my younger daughter has become a pretty hardcore gamer.

Giving a system to family members can be fraught with peril, though. That's because you are now the go-to person for tech support. So you've been warned: Give a PC to a friend or relative, and you're now on call.

One thing you'll definitely want to do is completely erase the hard drive and reinstall the OS from scratch. If it's an off-the-shelf system from a major manufacturer, restoring it to its original condition from the restore partition or restore disc accomplishes the same thing.

NEXT PAGE: Dedicate it to 'Distributed Computing'

  1. Recycle your old machine at home
  2. Donate it
  3. Dedicate it to 'Distributed Computing'
  4. Secondary computing server
  5. Sell it

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