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Five tips on what to with an old computer

Use them as storage for music and film or as decoration

Article comments

Most of us have an old computer of some sort and we all have our reasons for keeping around. However, many times those reasons don't extend far beyond that these computers keep important files that we'd rather not lose. Why not have that heap of plastic and circuitry do something useful for you instead?

A few months back, PCWorld brought you 11 uses for an old PC; here are 5 more things you can do with that old computer.

1. Master of one trade

One way to get more life out of your old PC is to limit its use to a specific purpose. My old laptop isn't good for much anymore. It's six years old and runs about as fast as molasses move downhill. Since what I wanted to do with it eats RAM like crazy, I cleared out all the programs I didn't need. And I mean all the programs, which means nothing can run in the background and swallow processing power. Now I use it for only two art programs and only one at a time. The best part is that these programs don't eat space on my new laptop. This is a great method for keeping old programs and an old computer, whether you use drawing programs, design programs, photo editing, or even digital scrapbooking.

2. Upgrade it

Now, if your computer's not too old, upgrading it is a healthy and viable option. And it's also a great way to acquaint yourself with the guts of your machine. There are several places around the web to buy parts and learn how to put them together. If you've got the time and a bit of spare cash, why not rebuild that computer gathering dust in the corner. There are extensive reviews on just about whatever you can cram into it.

3. 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 Centre," 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 Centre" 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 Centre(WMC) 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.

4. Home entertainment centre

Most computers built in the past 10 years have DVD or CD burners, hard drives, USB slots, and multi-media systems for music, videos and pictures. Why throw all that out? Convert it into a home media centre instead! This essentially involves wiping your computer of anything not relevant to music and movies, then putting all your media on it - movies, music, pictures, or what have you. If you'd like, you could even use your home theatre system to help out.

What you'll need:

* S cable

* An audio cable

* A computer/TV compatible with the S cable system.

Plug the S cable gets into the video slot on both the TV and the computer. If you find yourself in need of visual aid, here is a handy guide for you. Next, open the Properties dialog box by right clicking your desktop and select settings. Find you TV and you're finished. Congratulations, you now have access to all your media from your television.

5. Arts and Crafts

But if you have no idea how do use the control panel, or rig a server, or even what the term RAM means, fret not. There is a healthy, eco-friendly alternative: art.

Yes, that kind of art.

Open that bad boy up and disassemble it. Then reassemble your PC into whatever you'd like it to be. You can make a dinosaur or a "painting". It's up to you. Heck, you could even build a birdhouse out of parts. Instructables has lots and lots (and lots!) of tutorials for making something useful out of your old tech.The book 62 Projects to Make With a Dead Computer can give you some good ideas as well


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