What Do You Do With Old Computers That Have No OS?

I recently received an email from a new community member named Michael Neary. I don’t know for sure how to answer this one, guys, so I’m throwing it out to all of you for help! What would you recommend he do? Be sure to read his entire email, so that you know his options. Please don’t just say “OMG buy a new Mac” or some dumb thing like that! Let’s show Michael what a great community of minds we have here!

My fiancĂ© used to work for a video game company that went under and it sold her two Dell XPS600s with no OS installed. Currently, all of my computing is done on my iPad mini, but I would like for at least one of these Dell systems to work. I would do the right thing and buy an Apple Computer, but it’s a little too rich for my blood right now (unless you know someone selling one cheap. Hell, a MacBook Air first generation would be great at this point).

Anyways, for the the Dell XPS600s, here are my questions; which is the best option?

  • If I buy Windows 7, will it be a simple process to make this beast work again?
  • Since I have two identical computers, what do I do with the other one? Can I morph the two into one bad ass computer? Do these have any value to sell?
  • Instead of trying to salvage the Dell, is it even worth my time to try and sell them to get a Mac, or should I just buy Windows and deal with it?

I know this is a lot of info, and I know you are probably busy, but I don’t trust any retail stores or Geek Squad for advice.

What do y’all think? What’s the best option here?

What Do You Do With Old Computers That Have No OS?

12 thoughts on “What Do You Do With Old Computers That Have No OS?”

  1. It goes without saying; those are old computers. Decent specs for their day – a P4 with 7300GT graphics. They would probably run windows 7 fairly well, assuming of course they still have their ram and hard drives, and are in working order. That said…
    In this day and age, P4’s are becoming less useful. The P4 wasn’t a great chip when it was released – great for heating up your room, but in terms of computing? no.
    You might be able to make something from them; as for how much, that would entirely depend on the condition and what’s left of them. Same goes for making 1 out of 2 – though it certainly wouldn’t be a “bad ass” computer.
    I think you’re just going to have to come to terms with the fact that they were dumped for a reason. They’re not worth much, are probably missing parts (I’d be surprised if the hard drives are still there), and are just, well, old. Yes, old computers have their uses; but these days, not for a daily machine.
    I’d see if they still have all their components; if they do, stick Linux on them and sell them for whatever you can get. It probably won’t get you anywhere near a mac; but it’ll provide some afternoon fun.

  2. I was just commenting on the NAS article so my brain is still thinking on those lines. But, you do have an opportunity to turn one of those machines into a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device. There is FreeBSD based open source NAS software available called FreeNAS. Now the catch is this. FreeNAS is best known for utilizing the ZFS file system to create RAIDZ volumes. Now, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, Adam Leventhal does a pretty decent job of explaining it here: Without going too deep into it, RAIDZ is superior to more conventional RAID’s because there is no write-hole, plus the performance and drive health monitoring is better. The only problem with RAIDZ is that it is a software based RAID, so you have to have some pretty heavy duty equipment to be able to get the throughput you want from a NAS box. But, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from using FreeNAS to create a RAID-5 array, or any other type of array and serving it up on you network. The best thing about FreeNAS is that it runs off of an 8GB flash drive, so the only thing you need to buy would be the hard drives. If you want to read up on FreeNAS their web site is here: And there are quite a few YouTube videos out there, too. Although, I’ve noticed some of them have incorrect information, but that’s the internet for you. I hope you got something helpful out of my ramblings.

    Good Luck,

  3. I’m not entirely certain on the legalities of this, but you could always check the side of the computer for the OEM Product Key sticker and find the OEM version of Windows online. Then you could just download the drivers from Dell’s website. Or just buy Windows 7 anyway. Or install Ubuntu or some form of Linux, so you have something to use, and download Wine so you can run Windows programs. Or if you just want to browse the web, install Chrome OS.

  4. I have to agree with the others these computers are well passed their prime. If all their hardware is still there and functional than yes technically they could run windows 7. Though I believe you would find that they would perform rather poorly. A better option would be to install Ubuntu or some other linux distro. These computers would perform much better under linux’s less tasking hardware requirements. Any way for what it’s worth that’s my two cents best of luck.

  5. It really depends on what you want them used for. While you may be able to combine the hard drives together and possibly upgrade the RAM (doubtful) you still have the problem with “Do I buy Windows/” Personally, I wouldn’t buy an OS for an old computer. Instead I’d install a version of Linux (Kubuntu for the more Windows look or Xubuntu for a more lightweight OS). These are great on old machines and you should be able to surf the net with no problem.

  6. Both suggestions (Win7 or a Linux distro) are good ideas; however, considering the age of the machines, you would find yourself pulling your hair out dealing with lack of speed and general computing power compared to what you are used to on your iPad Mini. My suggestion would be to put all of the RAM and both hard drives in to one of the boxes (keep the other box in storage for spare parts) and use it as a file server (for data back-up/live archive storage). It could also double as a print server in a pinch. To sit in front of it and do any real computing will have you wishing for a root canal. A third option for its use would be as a test machine (something you can re-image over and over) and not care if it gets a virus/trojan/malware (because you will simply re-image it).

  7. Linux with a light Desktop Environment such as Cinamon or may be Gnome can boost a new life in these old computers .

    All of my old laptops/desktop (oldest one being a pIII with 512 MB RAM) are running versions of Linux and they are working like a charm

    I’ve fixed one of my Laptop in my kitchen and use it To play Music via Wi-Fi

    And in Contrast to popular belief Linux is NOT hard to master and YES it DOES look beautiful even on older systems

  8. Hand it in to Keepod, they’ll make better use of it than any other person or group.

  9. Yea linux is for poor people if by poor u mean every big organization out there
    BTW A fun fact : this website is hosted on a ‘Poor’ linux machine on which u are ranting

  10. I have an old Pentium classic computer that runs Slackware Linux without a hard drive in it. It runs off of two cf cards on the IDE interface. It’s amazing what you can do with any old computer with Linux on it.

  11. Linux is almost always the OS of choice on older machines (I have friends to have it running on old DEC 20s); Windows 8.x also runs on less-powerful machines, unlike Vista and 7, which has caused a resurgence in the sale of lower-powered machines running on Celerons and Pentiums.

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