How Not to Reuse a Windows ME Laptop

Geek!This is Christi’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Recently, I found several articles and videos discussing ways to reuse and recycle old laptops. Since I try to be an eco-friendly geek girl, I was certainly inspired with some ideas. There were a many variations on the idea including:

  1. Dismantling and selling the parts
  2. Making a digital picture frame
  3. Using it as a portable DVD player

We happen to have an old Compaq laptop packed away (it’s been taking up space and collecting dust). The operating system is Windows ME, and the hard drive is only 16 GB – so I knew there would not be a rush to get parts for it! But I was interested in turning it into a print server / media drive. The basic reasoning behind my decision was related to space, and laptops generally tend to use less electricity (compared to desktop). Another green advantage.

Yesterday, I took a trip to my favorite local tech store, where I purchased an Ethernet port adapter, a 500 GB hard drive and an enclosure. My plan was simple:

  • Strip the computer of almost everything but the operating system and printer.
  • Install the Ethernet card
  • Connect the External Hard dark
  • Connect the Laptop to the Network
  • Install Antivirus program
  • Set-up a Shared Folder connecting to the External Hard Drive
  • Set-up the Network Sharing

I had discussed the concept at great length with a few of my tech buddies who agreed that (in theory) it’s a wonderful idea. Well, that is if all went as planned! Everything was moving according to schedule until the installation of the antivirus utility, when the laptop went into super slow motion.

I tried several of the free AV suites (that still worked with Windows ME) without success. I even looked for one that I could purchase and install, but there weren’t many that did. The Taurus in me stubbornly insisted on trying to find a way to make the idea work – to no avail. I worked for hours yesterday (and almost all day today) before finally giving in to defeat.

I have not given up my plans to have that wireless print server and networked media drive. I will simply look to purchase a Netgear print server and connect it to my wireless router. For the media drive, someone mentioned using a hard drive to USB / Ethernet NAS Enclosure (which I am looking into this further).

So, from my experience, you now know how NOT to reuse a Windows ME laptop. CNET offers some advice on what to do with your old gadgets, including how to dispose properly of them. More than likely, I will follow one of their suggestions.

I love creativity so please feel free to leave comments, suggestions, or tips!

24 thoughts on “How Not to Reuse a Windows ME Laptop”

  1. Pingback: Malicious Intent
  2. Don’t give up yet!

    Give Ubuntu or another somewhat user friendly version of Linux a try (just turn off the eye candy). The laptop is pretty old so there’s a really good chance it would be nearly fully supported by a good distro and if the printer isn’t brand new hot off the presses it should be well supported too.

  3. Ha! Funny I ran across this, just today I was playing around with my old WinbookFX and wondering what I could possibly do with a computer that is as old as me.

    Too bad it’s far too old to recycle in the ways you suguested (2.8 gig hard drive isn’t going to sell well either =p) Thanks for the direction to CNET, I will most definitely be checking that out.

    Good luck!

  4. I’d try installing some form of Linux on that laptop. My particular choice for a laptop of would probably be Ubuntu Server. With a little work, you could get exactly what you wanted. If you didn’t mind going with the NetGear printing server, you may refer to Chris’ video: ( ), and try an optoin called FreeNas.


  5. How about trying FreeNAS? It’s a linux variant, where you’d simply install the FreeNAS operating system instead of using that bloody Windows software. It’s a great solution… plus it’s FREE and that antivirus problem would simply disappear while running a Linux OS.

  6. Hi, I had a Windows ME desktop with similar specs as yours from 2001. I installed OpenSUSE and turned it into a server. (Web / File / Print). It was all free, and no AV required! I accomplished this using CUPS, the print server built into Linux, and SAMBA, which allows you to use Linux files on a Windows network. Search around places like HowToForge for a tutorial on it.

    Things I had running on it in linux before it became a web/file/print server: music player/server (like a home theatre pc, but audio only), video player (look for some USB thing to give you a video card with S-Video out, then connect to TV), alarm clock, dedicated bittorrent box (you can also do this in Windows ME with uTorrent, and it has a web interface.)

    Everything can pretty much be controlled by SSH or a web interface. Also check out webmin if you do use linux.

  7. I don’t really see the need to run A/V software on this computer if its only function is printing and being a media drive. If you play it safe and only install trusted software you should be safe. Better yet run an unix os (linux, bsd, mac) and you won’t need any A/V 🙂

  8. The first mistake you made was running Windows ME.
    Get a copy of Windows XP – the “Fundamentals for Legacy PC’s” release from Microsoft, and load that. Then load your AV and share you’re folders. It’ll run quicker than ME and be much more reliable

  9. It’s nice to see someone trying to do something different than just letting old tech sit in a garbage pile. I saw something on 60 mins talking about how old gadgets are sent over in Indonesia just to rot.

    Good Luck!

  10. Turning it into a digital picture frame would be cool as long as you don’t need to put a lot of extra money in. Otherwise it would be smarter to buy one.

  11. Your idea gives an intriguing notion for recycling old laptops. I actually converted my old PS2 into a mini computer, of course I ran into a few issues before it worked.

    Somone great once said…. I discovered a thousand ways not to make a light bulb work, Thomas Edison. However Edison didn’t invent it, Humphrey Davy had. So like him don’t give up and you’ll find a way

  12. That is a great idea… Definately an eco friendly idea. I usually recycle parts out of my old computers. I made a back up drive out of the old 200GB Hard Drive for backing up significant data. A little easier than saving it on a flash or disc.

    It seems you might have to check the O/S or I had seen an article on the following site maybe it will help. Good Luck ~ X

  13. Well, that is certainly very green and eco-friendly, and I must say it beats how my bf decides to use old machines sometimes (target practice for his guns, and no I”m not kidding. I’ve seen really really old e-machines and broken monitors go out that way)
    Thanks for sharing! Once you get things running like you want them to, I’d be interested in hearing how it went.
    Also, funny how many things seem to work in theory but somewhere in the transition to reality they just don’t want to, even though you have everything you need there where it SHOULD work.
    Good luck on finishing up this project! 🙂

  14. We were clearing out the attic and I found our old Commodore 64. After reading your article and checking out Cnet, I’m going to put it on my local Freecycle! Thanks for the idea!

  15. It’s important to be responsible for how we impact the environment. It bothers me that there aren’t any opportunities to recycle and re-use electronics.

    I also wish there were more established resources for selling or trading things that you have upgraded from, or which didn’t work for you, other than what it takes to put them up for sale on Ebay or Craigs List.

    Thanks for the ideas!

  16. My favorite way to recycle computers is to donate them to organizations or individuals who need one.

    There is a national database which will let donors connect with potential donees at You can search the database for people in your area or perhaps even in your city who need computers.

    The database listing will tell you the type of organization which is looking for used computers and what their proposed usage of the computers will be.

  17. Good Ideas that I’ll have to put to use some time and I’ll have to agree with others though about using a linux distro especially on an older laptop

  18. We all have to do our parts to be eco-friendly. Keep up on what you are doing. Many of us can use this as an example on what can be done if you try…so keep trying.

  19. Great ideas, all. I know that feeling to have hours gobbled up by tech issues…and suddenly, you’re surrounded by darkness when it seems like just minutes ago you poured your first cup of morning coffee!!

    Good luck.

    Rodney (and Ed)

  20. Sure hope you find a solution, Cleo. I’m not very creative when it comes to stuff like that, but would love hearing what you finally ended up doing!

  21. Hey I got an old laptop just like your but only it had 10 gb or hard drive. I dual booted it between ME and tinyme and super light weight easy to use distro.

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