What to Do With Your Spare PC?


As there have been many ‘ things to do with old computer ‘ or ‘ things to do with extra pc ‘ blogs all over the internet over the last few decades, web designer RaydioRay has taken the liberty to combine all sources into one blog for your convenience. You will find these ideas all over the internet so I will save myself the trouble of quoting each source individually, as most, or close to none of these ideas are new or even my own.  Computers are tools.  One does not ask a screwdriver if it wants to be a hammer today.  Take what you do for computing and go from there if you are searching for something deeper than these ideas.

Old or new, those spare computers have a use.  Even those old Pentium 3′s can become excellent web servers, so don’t sell your equipment short.  I’ve purposely left the lame ideas out such as a footstool or donate, because you are not here for that.  Instead you are here for the following general list of ideas for your spare laptop or desktop so that YOU can usefully make it a:

  • ElectricSleep.org – I wanted to post this first, because it is amazing and my life wouldn’t be as amusing without it.  Don’t forget to use 3D glasses for this awesome screen saver.  You can save all your favorite mpegs and turn your computer into an electricsheep server as well, so that it saves new renders throughout the day, thus making use of your spare pc cycles when your computer is not in use =)
  • Perfect Server – search for ‘the perfect server’ in Google Search and step by step instructions can be found.  Your hand can be held through entire installs of different operating systems.
  • Web Server – run your website from home like me. Here’s a few guides : http://www.dslwebserver.com or http://lifehacker.com/124212/geek-to-live–how-to-set-up-a-personal-home-web-server — both excellent guides with step by step processes.  Check out http://www.RaydioDesign.com if you need someone to design your site.
  • BOTs - create a bot to help optimize your website in search engines (SEO).  Teach your bot to post in forums, chat, and much more!
  • LAMP / Apache Server
  • Mail Server
  • Synergy – 2 computers, 2 monitors, running through the same keyboard and mouse.  Talk about botting in World of Warcraft…
  • Emulation Station – play older games with nes, snes, n64 and many other emulators.
  • Dedicated Game Server – Host hundreds of games such as Crysis or Counter-Strike…  It wouldn’t even need a monitor.
  • Rendering Server – if you do lots of 3D animation you can render your graphics with your new dedicated machine.
  • Cloud or Cluster Computing – just like dedicated rendering, if you have more than one spare computer, they can all work toward the same job.
  • Print Server – manage print order over networks
  • Firewall – try to get into your own network/computer
  • Honeypot – put your computer into the demilitarized zone so that hackers go after this computer decoy instead of your important files.
  • FTP – download your files from anywhere.  FreeNAS
  • Guest Computer – let your guests use this computer specifically.  I know I hate when other people use my computer and come back to it to find useless icons all over my desktop and software I don’t remember installing.
  • Applications Server / Thin Client – run applications impossible to run from piece of crap computers.
  • Dual Screen – use your laptop as a dual screen for your desktop.  Check out Maxivista
  • Try Linux or another OS – test operating systems you’ve been curious about such as Ubuntu, Xubuntu, Slackware, Debian, Fedora, DSL, PuppyLinux, TinyXP, MicroXP, TinyVista, and way too many more to name.  Check out http://www.distrowatch.com for more.
  • Number Crunching – donate your cpu power while you aren’t using your computer, it could be used toward more worthy causes such as Folding@HOME, and 12 others  here http://www.pcworld.com/article/171126/12_worthy_causes_seek_your_spare_pc_cycles.html
  • Asterisk – turn your computer into an answering machine
  • Media Server – stream video or audio. http://www.Mythbuntu.com
  • Take it Apart - if you don’t already know how your computer works and what cable does what, then that’s just sad.  Quit being the laughing stock of this community and figure it out.  Maybe even use some spare parts and mix and match to create the most optimal system out of all your parts.
  • Router - create a hub with a firewall…perhaps even make your new router a wireless hotspot!
  • DVR system – if you’ve got a webcam or any camera laying around you could record your room or house or yard, creating a motion detecting security system.
  • Torrent Server - get all those torrents securely by doing a test install/scan before putting them on your main computer.
  • Backup/File Server – don’t worry about losing all of your precious files again! Samba is a great program.
  • Virtual Computers - don’t limit yourself to just one of these ideas.  You can turn your spare computer into several computers with VMware or VirtualPC.  Imagine making one single computer able to make use of ALL of these ideas!!!!
  • Make it boot in less than 10 seconds – xPud or check out http://downloadsquad.switched.com/2009/12/30/10-free-fast-booting-linux-distros-that-arent-chrome-os/
  • Install to Car – I have always wanted to do it, but never got around to it.  If you do it before me, post some pictures; I’d love to see your customizations.

You may want to check here to see if your server is worth running all day.  Some of those older computer can use up quite a lot of juice.  Here’s a helpful link: http://www.complang.tuwien.ac.at/anton/computer-power-consumption.html

Feel free to update the list with your comments so that I can try them myself and/or add your great ideas to this growing archive.

Don’t forget to visit the OTHER page to check out ideas on spare game consoles and ipod/itouch products and submit more ideas there.


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