12 Uses for an Old Laptop: A Comprehensive Guide
Depending on what is wrong with your old laptop, you might be able to find a way to repurpose instead of just throwing it away. While it may not be able to work as intended or be too slow for work, you may be able to turn it into something creative or unique.
Take a look at these 12 uses for an old laptop and see if one of them works for the electronic brick you currently have hiding in the back of your closet.
12 Uses for Old Laptops
1. Network-Attached Service
Also known as NAS, this service is usually pretty expensive. It involves buying an enclosure, which alone can be a couple of hundred dollars. Then you have to fill it with hard drives, which are also not very cheap.
As a starter NAS, you can convert your old laptop into one for next to nothing. There are communities on Reddit that are dedicated to helping people convert laptops into NAS systems. Generally, though, the first step is to download NAS software so that your computer can run correctly.
To extend the size of your NAS, you can purchase external drives down the line and plug them into your laptop. If you are looking to do a big system, this won’t be a permanent option but can last you quite a while and get your NAS started.
2. Game Server
Some multiplayer games need a server constantly running to allow everyone to play whenever they want. For small groups, this usually means that one person is basically in charge of when people can play on the server, and either has to leave their computer on all the time or risk the ire of their group.
Minecraft is a good example of this. While people can play locally together in one world, if you want a big community where people can get on and play whenever they want, whether anyone else is on or not, you need a server that is constantly running.
Some games, like Minecraft, allow you to pay to get a server, and they keep it running for you, or you can join big servers with dozens of other strangers. But not everyone can afford that fee or wants to and some people aren’t allowed to join online communities. Plus it might not be fun to play with a bunch of strangers when you just want your small group to play together.
Most people’s solution is to have one gamer that leaves their computer always running or tries and coordinates when they can play together.
Instead of keeping your nice new laptop or a desktop powering the game 24/7, consider your old laptop for the job. As long as it can turn on the game and keep it running, you can use your old laptop. It doesn’t even matter if it runs well because no one is going to play on it.
Its only purpose in this case is to keep the game up and running so that the server is always available, and you don’t have to pay for the game company to run it for you.
This, unfortunately, only works with somewhat newer laptops that can handle heavy games. Really old laptops aren’t usually up for the challenge. The laptop must also be able to turn on and connect to the internet without a problem.
3. Video Server
Like certain games, there are TV and movie services that also run on servers. The most common are Kodi and Plex. These allow you to store lots of audio and video files, such as movies.
Instead of storing these all on your current laptop and filling up the storage, though, it works by having a server. The server stores all of the data, and then allows you to play it from any connected device as long as there is an internet connection.
By having your laptop become the server, you can constantly play any of your videos from anywhere, from another room in your home to a hotel miles away.
4. An Emulator for Old Games
Emulators are fun ways to play old and retro games you couldn’t otherwise get your hands on. However, to do it, you have to turn your old laptop into a gaming console. To do this, you need to make a DIY console.
To make it feel really authentic, pair it with a controller similar to the old-school ones. You can find all sorts of controllers online, so you can tailor your emulator to your needs and desires, including the games you want to play.
If you’re not sure if your computer can play some games, there are websites available that walk you through what games can be played on certain software. If you are unsure, you can also ask around on places like Reddit or Quora and find people willing to help walk you through it.
5. A Bit of Extra Cash
Of course, the simplest answer is to just sell it. Even if it only partially works, you can look at getting trade-in credit for a new computer, or sell it for parts.
Trade-ins are usually the best value, but if you already have a new laptop, look at selling it on websites like eBay. People will take your computer and break it down into parts. Sometimes, this may be for parts that are hard to find nowadays, or just backup parts for other people’s computers.
No matter how old your computer is, it is worth listing it and seeing if anyone is willing to buy it. Just make sure you do your research so that you know you are listing it correctly and for a decent price. And make sure you label whether it works or if you are selling it for parts to avoid any arguments.
6. Citizen Science Work
Scientists are busy and often don’t have the funds to run everything as they would like. In that case, they often call in citizen scientists. These are people who help out scientists by recording information that they see or observe.
One common case is using citizen scientists to track animals. For example, birders are a great help to scientists because they will mark which birds they saw, how they looked, their age and gender, and where and when they saw it.
Similarly, old laptops can be used to help scientists. There are plenty of online programs that will use your laptop’s computing power to search for alien signals, calculate math, solve problems, and more.
You don’t get any money for this, usually, but you do get to keep your computer, so this is a great option for a laptop you aren’t using until you can find something to do with it. You get to feel pretty proud as well, knowing that you are helping to advance science.
7. Security System
A security system isn’t often more than just some cameras and a storage device. By getting smart cameras that only turn on when there is movement, you can use your computer for a while before the storage gets full. This allows you to look back at recordings, and save some of the more important ones.
If you put them on a server, you can even look at the recordings from anywhere. There are smart systems out there that do a lot of fancy stuff but also come with a hefty price tag. This is a simple but effective option to protect your home and keep an eye on things.
If your computer has a camera built into it, you can also use it to see what is happening in your home. Set it up, and you can see how your nanny is treating your children, or who keeps stealing your secret candy stash. It’s also useful for checking to see how your dogs do when you are gone.
Who knows, you may even find yourself with funny videos you can post online and get famous with.
8. WiFi Hotspot
While a laptop can’t turn a cell signal into a WiFi hotspot like a cell phone can, it can still be a useful tool to have as a laptop. Most homes are now too big for a WiFi router to easily provide a signal across the entire house, even when placed in the center of the building.
This leads to many people buying a signal booster to extend the range where the router can go. However, this costs extra money. If you have an old laptop that has a WiFi hotspot option, this can be a free way to boost the signal in your home, at least until the laptop dies for good.
9. Music Player
Are you usually chosen to be the DJ in your home, and are tired of using your phone to play music all the time instead of using it for other things? By turning your laptop into a dedicated music player, you can have your phone back to yourself, and everyone can add songs to the playlist.
Just set up your music streaming service on your computer, or download the songs you listen to, connect your laptop to your speaker system, and you are ready to go. You can play music 24/7 without having to worry about your phone moving out of range.
This is great for parties, but also for anyone that just likes a little background music in their life. You can just keep the music going without having to ever think about it.
10. External Hard Drive
External hard drives can be expensive, usually a couple of hundred dollars. While they can be nice to have in case your laptop breaks, or just to give you a little extra storage space, it can be hard to shell out that much money.
While most laptops don’t have the same amount of storage as an external storage device, they still usually have quite a bit of space. If you are no longer using your old laptop, you can factory reset it and use it as a place to save important documents, pictures, and videos.
Of course, this only works if your old laptop can reliably turn on. If it can’t, or you think it might stop turning on at some point soon, then it may not be a good idea, as the data in it can be potentially lost if it does die for good.
You will also want to check for viruses on the laptop first as well, to make sure there isn’t anything on the computer that will corrupt the files you are putting on it.
11. Electronic Picture Frame
This option can be as complicated as you make it. If you don’t mind just having a laptop lying around showing pictures, just leave it as-is and create a photo slideshow that constantly plays.
However, if you want it to look a little nicer, look at some instructions on how to take the monitor of your laptop and turn it into a picture frame. It takes a little DIY skill and a slight understanding of computers but is overall pretty easy to do.
12. Digital Mirror
Alternatively, if the DIY digital picture frame seems easy enough to do, but not exactly what you want, you can look at making a digital mirror. It is a little more complicated but can look really nice if done well.
This one can cost a little bit as you need quite a few tools and equipment, but if you’ve always wanted a digital mirror, this can be a much cheaper option than buying one outright.