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Saturday, 29 June 2013


Uses of an Old Computer

You've finally gone and bought a new PC. It has a boatload of memory, lots of cores, and a fast, modern graphics card. But now your old computer sits in a corner, and although you know it's just a machine, it seems to be sulking like a puppy that missed its morning biscuit. It's weird, but you feel guilty with the whole idea of throwing it out.

After all, it's perfectly functional. When you first bought it, it was near state-of-the-art. If your new PC is replacing your old one which is absolutely good for nothing then its OK. But it's amazing how many users ditch perfectly good machines when they pick up a shiny new system.
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.

1- Convert It Into a NAS or Home Server

If you're running a home network and have multiple users--you, your spouse, your kids--reuse as network-attached storage or even as an actual server may be just the ticket for an old system.
However, it's not just a matter of plugging an old PC into a network connection and starting it up. Most desktop systems aren't configured to be effective servers or storage systems. For one thing, they probably use too much power. You'll want to set BIOS power management to run cooling fans in quiet mode, if that option exists. You'll also need to set up the operating system so that it doesn't shut down at inconvenient times, yet run in a low power state when it's not being actively used.
Bear in mind that you'll probably want to run your server "headless" (that is, without a monitor), and sans keyboard and mouse as well. While you'll need a display and input devices for the initial setup, make sure the system will work properly without them. Having a scheduled reboot hang because the system halted during startup (it couldn't find a keyboard, perhaps) is annoying, to say the least.
Also, the operating system is likely not well suited for storage applications, particularly for multiple users. While Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 can function well as a storage repository for a couple of users, you'll want to take the time to create user accounts for each person who might need access. In some cases, you may want to set storage quotas.
A better solution would be to install a proper network operating system. One choice is Windows Home Server. However, that will cost you somewhat near Rs 5000, and WHS may prefer newer hardware. An alternative is FreeNAS.
FreeNAS is open-source software designed to turn a PC into a network-attached storage device. It's based on FreeBSD, a UNIX variant. If you're uncertain whether you want to commit to an unfamiliar OS, FreeNAS can be downloaded as a LiveCD version. This is an ISO file which, when burned to a CD, will boot off an optical drive and run completely from memory. You can keep your old OS on the hard drive until you determine if FreeNAS is suited to your needs.

2-Donate to a School or a Relative

If your PC isn't too ancient , consider donating it to a local school or a relative. Giving it to a school is not only a noble cause but would even help children get access to computer education in remote areas that are not too scarce to find in a country like ours. Help them and be the initiator.
Giving it to a relative is something that I do all the time. My cousin has modest computing needs. So I'll often just hand over one of my two-year old PC components, like a midrange or entry-level graphics card.
Don't consider giving them to your kids especially the younger generation of today. They often need as much or more PC horsepower than I use on a regular basis! 
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.

3- Use it as a Dedicated Game server

Do you have a favorite multiplayer game? If so, check and see if it's a game where you can host a server on a local computer--you might consider making your old system a dedicated game server. Most multiplayer games capable of playing online often support dedicated servers. I've already tried Command and Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath, DOTA and Counter Strike.
Especially if you are in college where there are a lot of gaming cults you can either take it there and be the star or ask everyone for small amounts and make some profit if you want by selling it.
The neat thing about many of these dedicated game servers is how little system horsepower they actually need. I ran a Freelancer server on an old Pentium 4 laptop system, at times supporting eight simultaneous users, with no performance issues.

4- Make it a secondary Computer 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.
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.
This would even lower down the price of your new system by helping you divide the work load between two system rather than one.

5- Dismantle it!

If you have a do-it-yourself bent 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, the optical drive, the power supply, and, sometimes, the memory modules.
You can even use the HDD by converting it into a portable storage drive saving you some more buck.

So that was all that I had to share guys, if you have any more suggestions or ways that I missed out on, do suggest I'll definitely add them here. And as always your queries and comments are welcome.

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  1. Hello, Nice Artice. A little off topic, Can an old TFT monitor be used as second monitor with LED Monitor as main? For some of the benefits of multi monitir setup?

    1. any monitor can be used in a multi monitor setup unmindful of the fact whether its an LED, LCD or even a CRT......just make sure that it has the same port to match your Graphic out put.
      An article on multi-monitor setup is coming soon so stay with us.

  2. Thanks for the reply. Tested it yesterday with my monitor and HD TV. Setup was as easy as it gets. Wondering why i never tried before. The one problem was that it dont feel alot eye and neck comfort when one monitor is 19.5 inch and other a 44. Lol

    1. It sure is easy and I'm happy that I was helpful.
      Yeah it is a bit awkward and uncomfortable when you use two monitors with such a huge size difference, try using the 44' for dynamic viewing like gaming, movies etc and the small one for static images like desktop or office work at most. Place them at a distance from each-other if possible like mount the HD TV on the wall and keep the monitor at a side on the table to avoid distractions.
      Feel free to ask any further questions.

  3. Nice article....
    Gave all the options.. Keep up!

    1. I'm happy that you liked it....
      Would keep posting more such articles that you may find useful enough....keep visiting.