Five Things to Transform an Old Computer Into

Geek!This is Brennan Jones’ 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:

Do you have an old computer lying around your home somewhere, and are you thinking about throwing it away, or sending it to the recycling depot? Before you do that, read this top five list on useful things that you can possibly transform your old computer into.

Please note that this is not necessarily a how-to article; it only suggest things that you can transform a computer into, it does not instruct the average computer user how to transform an old computer into something new. If you want specific instructions, search Google, or even try searching or for instructional articles or videos.

  1. A jukebox. If your computer was capable of playing music when you used it as one of your main machines, what makes you think it can’t play music today? If it has no operating system, install a distribution of GNU/Linux designed to run on older machines (Xubuntu, Damn Small Linux, etc.), install music software on your machine if it does not already have music software (try out either Songbird or Amarok), upload your music library onto that machine, and let it play on loop and on shuffle. If it has a CD drive, pop in one or more of your favorite CDs, play them, or rip the tracks into your music library. If your old machine has an internet connection, play some internet radio, or even XM or Sirius radio if you are subscribed to one of those services.
  2. A personal video recorder, or a PVR. You can take an old machine (so long as it’s capable of playing video and audio), connect a TV tuner/capture card into it, connect your television cord to the tuner card, buy a media center remote for your PC (or any other similar remote), and install the software necessary for it to act like a PVR. The software you might want is a distribution of GNU/Linux called Mythbuntu, because it contains preinstalled PVR software on it called Myth TV. If your machine has a DVD drive, you could view DVDs on it as you would on any regular DVD player. If it is connected to the internet, you could also use your machine to view internet videos from sites such as YouTube, Google Video, and Vimeo, or even to view live internet streams from sites such as, all on your television. You could also use your homemade PVR to listen to music from CDs, a music library, or even internet radio.
  3. A home server. Do you use more than one computer around your home or small business centre, and are you tired of constantly emailing files to yourself or transferring files with a USB thumb drive? Then why not turn your old machine into a home server. If you have Windows on your machine, you can install FTP server software onto your machine (try Cerberus FTP Client), and set it up for transferring files between computers. If you have GNU/Linux, or if you plan to install GNU/Linux on your machine, you can obviously do the same thing with your machine. Since GNU/Linux is among the best operating system for server use, it is recommended that you install GNU/Linux on your machine. You could set up your home server to transfer files between computers at your home, business, or you could even set it up to be accessed on any computer in the world that is connected to the internet.
  4. Refurbish your PC to be used as a kid’s computer, or a grandparent’s computer. You could take the machine, install a distribution of GNU/Linux, or even an older version of Windows on it, and give it to your kids or your grandparents for games, office work, emailing, browsing the web, or listening to music.
  5. Set up a globally accessible home web cam system with it. Buy one or more web cams, a USB splitter, and install some web cam software onto your machine. Connect the web cams to your machine, and place them all around your home so you can view all of the different rooms in your home at once. Use the system as a security system, or even allow your web cams to stream across the internet so you can check up on your pets or kids while you are away from home. If anyone robs your house when you are on vacation, you can record the footage, and use it as evidence.