Thursday, April 15, 2010

What to do with Old Computers

Okay, when I say “old computers”, I am not talking about collectable retro computers like a Tandy 1000 series, or the Atari 8-bit systems.  What I am talking about are the machines you bought within the last 5 or so years that are updated to the max, but couldn’t go any further.  The computer you now have sitting in the garage/attic/basement after you went out and bought a brand new computer.  So, what can one do with that old clunker?  Here are a few ideas that I like.

First off, any computer released in the last 5 or so years should have a minimum of Windows XP running on it.  That will be great for two options I will present to you.  With Windows XP, you have more ability to do a variety of different things.  Plus Windows XP is stable and still supported by Microsoft.

Option 1: DVD/CD Burner

With a decent processor and around a full gigabyte of RAM installed into the system, you should be able to use your old desktop to burn CD’s and DVD’s relatively easy.  As we all know, burning any form of media to a CD or DVD can be resource intensive.  When doing it on your regular desktop PC, you get a slow down because of it.  That can be annoying.  However, if you can set up a desktop off to the side that is used only for creating media like this, you are set.

Software that you could use is wide ranging.  I am a fan and user of Slysoft’s AnyDVD and CloneDVD products.  They are sleek, and not to resource intensive applications.  You can easily copy DVD’s with CloneDVD and CloneCD lets you clone CD’s quickly and easily.  ConvertXtoDVD is also a super easy application that lets you take AVI’s and some MPEG’s and convert them to full fledged DVD’s.  Since Windows comes prepacked with Windows Media Player, you can also convert MP3’s and WMA’s to CD.  And also with Windows Movie Maker, you can convert WMV’s and some other formats to DVD as well!

Option 2: Media Center

If your old desktop is a Windows Media Center PC, then you can dedicate it to being a simple Media Box.  You can use it to play DVD’s, Video Files, and Streaming content right to your television.  If you have a special video card with a Coax In connection, you can also use it as a DVR box to record shows.  This is a great means to access Netflix, Hulu, Fancast, and many other great websites for streaming content.

Option 3: Video Game Emulation

If you are like me, you love retro video gaming.  If you are a lot like me, you have a bunch of emulators on your computer to play those retro video games.  If your old desktop has a decent video card, USB ports, and a processor running around 1.8 ghtz and higher, you can easily convert it to a simple video gaming machine.  With a good combination of processor, video card, and usb controller, or controller adapter, you should be able to play PSone games relatively easily.  Trying for PS2 and Xbox may be a bit of a stretch, but not entirely unattainable.

All-in-all, you should be able to do any of these three, or a combination of them, to achieve your goal.  A Media Center/Media Management system would be easy enough.  Also, using the emulators on a Television is a great method of reliving the old days, helping add some authenticity to the feel.  I do have one last Option for you though…

Option 4: Linux

Linux can run on some amazingly weaker systems, surprisingly.  Because of that, if you have an old computer sitting around that you aren’t sure what to do with, give Ubuntu a run.  If Ubuntu isn’t your flavor of choice, there are tons of different types of Linux out there.  You can dedicate the computer as a full fledged Linux set up and experiment until your hearts content.

So there ya go.  Don’t throw away that old desktop!  You can do so much with it.  If none of these options appeal to you, there is always the option to recycle the computer.  Lots of organizations are out there that will take old desktops and laptops as donations and will give them to children of low income and poor families.  It gives them a chance to use a computer, and to have a new tool for education.

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