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12 ways to reuse an old PC

Recycle your old machine at home

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 put that old system to work.

8. Make it a Secondary Computing Server

If you're a content creator using a title like 3dsmax, Adobe After Effects or Sony Vegas, having another PC to help with distributed rendering chores can greatly speed up final renders for complex projects.

Each application handles distributed rendering a little differently, so you'll need to consult your documentation. But typically, you'll install a lightweight application on the secondary rendering system, which will take data and commands from the primary system and then return results when done. The main application on your production system, or a separate manger app, manages the rendering across multiple networked systems.

9. Set it up as a light-duty 'Living Room' PC

We have a small PC in our living room that's often used for quick web surfing and to check email. Occasionally, our kids will come down and do homework on the communal PC when they get tired of being holed-up in their rooms. This can work particularly well if you have networked storage somewhere in the house, so people can get to their files whether they're on a personal system or a communal one.

If you do have this type of communal PC, your first inclination might be to create separate accounts for each person. I've found this isn't really necessary. Since it's communal, no one really keeps private information on it.

The flip side is that you'll want security software that's as bullet-proof as possible. Since you have multiple users on one system, eventually someone, sometime, will hit a website that may attempt to download a Trojan horse or other malware.

10. Recycle it!

Contrary to reports, it is that easy being green - but it's not always cheap. The simplest way to ditch your PC without damaging your conscience is to visit Recycle-more.co.uk and find your nearest recycle bank. Your local authority should be able to collect the PC for a small fee, but some will simply dump it into landfill, so be sure and ask.

These days, legally, you shouldn't have to foot that cost. Under UK WEEE regulations, PC retailers are honour-bound to provide take-back facilities for customers to return old equipment whenever a replacement item is purchased - free of charge.

The standard and variety of service offers differs depending on the size of the organistaion. Some of the bigger ones, including PC World and Dixons, will recycle old electronics if you’re buying a similar product. Dell, for instance, will collect your old item for free, regardless of brand, when you’re buying a new PC. Others, like Amazon.co.uk, will direct you to a designated collection facility for recycling your PC when you make a purchase. 

11. Salvage it!

If you have a do-it-yourself frenzy and build your own systems, you may reduce the cost of your new system by salvaging parts from the old one. Good candidates for salvage include the case (if it's not a proprietary, prebuilt system), the optical drive, the power supply, and, sometimes, the memory modules.

Depending on how much you actually reuse, the distinction between new system and one that's simply been upgraded is a hazy one. If you replace the motherboard, CPU, memory, and primary hard drive, but keep the case, power supply, optical drive, and graphics card, is that a new system, or one that's been upgraded?

That will still leave you with a few old parts. Which brings us to our next point

NEXT PAGE: Sell it

  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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