When your laptop is old and it has lost some functionality, when you can’t even open a Word document or play your favourite games on it, the tendency is to scrap it. For the tech lovers, when the latest model comes in, the itch to get it just leaves you wanting to trash the old version.
In the last months of 2020, Apple released the 13” MacBook Pro with M1 and the MacBook Air also with M1. These two models have an incredibly fast SSD and run on Apple’s new Big Sur operating system. They are amazing.
We also realised from the Best Buy Deals that Microsoft followed suit and released the new 12.3’’ Surface Pro 7 with a touch screen, in a matte black colour. When technology is evolving so fast, you may feel left behind if you don’t immediately upgrade. But, before you head to the bin with your old laptop, here are some ways you could put that old model to good use.
1. Refurbish it
After saving and transferring all your valuable data to an external hard drive, cleanse your laptop, replace the battery and any missing keys, add some more RAM, install a new storage drive and reinstall your operating system. You will be surprised at how much faster you can now operate that oldie afterward, in fact, it may actually feel as good as new.
2. Try a lighter Operating System
If you are willing to try something new, how about Linux? It comes in a variety of options called “distros”. Popular examples include Mint, elementary OS, Ubuntu, Manjaro, and PinguyOS. The interfaces are similar to Windows, and they come with software packages like LibreOffice – a free open source equivalent to Microsoft Office.
You may also want to try creating your own version of a Chromebook – a computer that essentially runs Google Chrome’s browser as the Operating System. You will not be able to buy the Chrome OS, or get it for free from Google, sorry, but the open-source, Chromium OS project, is available and based on the same code. You may need the home edition of CloudReady, an installer that can help with the creation of a Chromebook or ChromeBox. You will just need a USB thumb drive to install it.
3. Make a Network-Attached Storage Device
This is a server for your home-based business that you use for storing files you share with all the computers on the network. Sounds cool right? Try FreeNAS. It’s open-source software that can be accessed by any OS on your network. It’s also a perfect way to make a shared back-up for your many devices. FreeNAS also streams media to mobile operating systems like Android OS and iOS. You will just need 8GB RAM and a 64-bit chip on the computer to run it properly.
4. Create a Home Theater PC (HTPC) / Media Server
You can configure your oldie to play your movies, music, and images only, on regular home theatre components like your TV, stereo, or multimedia projector. Yes, it’s possible.
If you have a large collection of movies, TV shows, or hours of music stored locally, and you want to access these on your PC too, begin by downloading Plex. Next, set up your computer for streaming to your television and speakers, and voila! Your new HTPC will allow you to manage your entertainment files in the most efficient ways possible.
5. Create a Retro Arcade
If you enjoyed the arcade and old school games, good news, you can create a Multiple Machine Arcade Emulator (MAME) from your old laptop. MAME is a project that emulates old arcade games for use on PC hardware. Many of the games are compatible with controllers so you will be able to enjoy the games with family.
However, if your laptop is really archaic, a fresh install of Windows 10 and a hook onto Steam or GOG.com, you will have plenty of games to choose from.
6. Make a Tablet
Sounds absurd right? Well, it is actually very feasible. If you have the patience (because it will definitely be easier to just buy a tablet), take a gander at the website Instructables. You will find many lessons that will take you on a step-by-step journey on how to pull it off. Of course, you are not going to get the touch-screen quality experience as the smarts of the system typically reside with a keyboard, which you will have to tether to the screen in some way. Taxing, but fun.
7. Create your own Security Camera
Not a subtle move, but, if your oldie has an integrated webcam, or you can attach one to it, install Windows again and download iSpy. Set up the pc and let it run. You will get remote access on the webcam to view whatever is in view; your kids, pets, babysitters, the house – anything you want. You can also covertly, or overtly, watch what’s happening via apps on Android or iOS.
8. Resell, Donate or Recycle
So DIY is not for you, and you just want a new laptop or the latest iPad, donate the old model or sell it to someone in need. Newer laptops or gently used ones can be refurbished and given to local non-profits or libraries who can definitely still make good use of them.
However, if you feel your oldie may end up in the landfills anyway, drop it off somewhere you know it will be disposed of correctly. Sometimes pc parts are mined or melted down to extract rare earth minerals within. Remember that the chargers and wires can be recycled too so take all the components of your old pc.
So it may not just be your old laptop you want to get rid of, it could be your camera, your phone, your TV, or batteries from various devices; whatever you do, do not throw them into the trash can. If these electronics wind up in a landfill, they release toxins like lead, chromium, and flame retardants, which are harmful to the environment, and to us, humans. If the toxins wind up in groundwater, which ends up back in our taps, we end up with damage to our kidneys, blood, and nervous system. As the environmentalists motto goes, reduce, reuse, recycle.