What To Do With An Old Laptop?

Back in November we asked what you would do with an old unused laptop. If you have an old laptop that’s not doing much more than gathering dust, chances are you could put it to better use. You could sell it, but you probably wouldn’t get too much for it. Donating or recycling can also get it out your hair, but if you’d like to try something different, read on for some ideas.

Salvage usable parts

Not the flashiest choice, but potentially the most useful one. Just because the processor and RAM no longer meet your needs doesn’t mean that the hard drive, optical drive, and even the LCD screen should be thrown out too. All of these parts can be easily removed, and, with the exception of the screen in some cases, do not require total dismantling. When removing any of these parts, be careful to remove all mounting screws and carefully detach any cables before removing it from the case. LCD monitors almost always have a cable that attaches directly to the mainboard, and tearing it could render the monitor useless. If you wreck it, you’ll have to buy a new monitor to extend your desktop display.

Of course, you can also get a wealth of small parts from an old laptop, including screws, jumpers, heatsinks, cables, LEDs, and even keys from the keyboard. FRC Tech offers a good instructional page on the basics of dismantling a laptop, and a forum on ThinkComputers.com offers a comprehensive set of guides to taking apart many different Toshiba laptops.

Make a digital picture frame

A digital picture frame can be a great gift that you made yourself. Your mom would probably like it more than the ceramic pencil holder you made in the third grade. Unlike that time, though, you’ll have to decide whether the frame will show only preloaded images or whether it will access an online source like Flickr. PopSci.com offers this useful guide to building your own photo frame, as does Repair4Laptop.org.

Install Linux and make a media extender

Old laptops aren’t great at running memory or processor-intensive software, but they can make great Linux terminals. You could outfit it with Linux for exclusive internet use, data storage, or even for controlling other devices like a home entertainment center. Unfortunately you may also have to retrofit it with a larger harddrive or WiFi card to get better use out of it. Yesterday we mentioned both MythTV and XBMC as alternative frontends. This article at Linux.com has more information on building a Linux home media center. There’s also this guide by The MediaCenter Expert or this article by ZDNet’s George Ou.

Get creative with upgrades
Sure, you could do the standard mods and add WiFi or Bluetooth, but why not get adventurous with your modding? You could give the old laptop a snazzy wooden case mod, an extremely potent air-cooling system, or switch to the qwerty keyboard out for a Dvorak keyboard. Your imagination is the limit.

In the spirit of our previous post, what would you do?

60 thoughts on “What To Do With An Old Laptop?

  1. I’m a collector for old laptops.Please e-mail me if you want to through out.This is for charity purposes to donate people in south america who doesn’t have a laptop. Thanks……

  2. I have an old compaq presario with a amd k6 (266mhz) neomagic 128XD with win98.
    I remade it to fit in my car. In the seat next to the driver i implanted it and now my friends dont complain about standing still on the runway because i just open the storage before that seat and a laptop screen comes out with external keyboard with trackpad (all original) The laptop has a few retrogames and emulators. so they just play with it until we arrived at the destination. Too bad i couldnt have profit of that.

  3. I have a 7-8 yr old Acer Aspire 5315 that I got back in 2008 as a Christmas present for college. It’s now a piece of crap if you will because even with Linux on it (Ubuntu 14.04) it still has a serious overheating issue and will turn off after about 30 minutes of being on and that is just with music playing and nothing else. I must note, it’s been dropped like three times already. The first time it happened was when I tripped over the cord and knocked it off the dresser. After that is when it started messing up. It now has a new power adapter so I know that’s not the issue. Right now I have done everything I could think of to fix it: removed the fan, took it a part and cleaned out all the dust, cleaned the heatsink fins, removed the heatsink and applied new thermal paste, and even sat it directly on ice packs, and it still has the issue, no change. BUT, if I remove the HDD and turn it on without it, it’s like it will run forever, even if the vents are blocked! It appears that all the hardware may need upgraded on it and that wouldn’t be worth it considering adding a terabyte HDD/SSD would be about $300, 32 Gb of memory would be like $250, an i5 CPU would be like $300. That’s almost $900 when the laptop only cost about $300-$400 and I don’t even think my parents paid that much for it. I could get a brand new Aspire V5 with i5 CPU dual core, 1 TB HDD, 8 GB of memory and a touchscreen for about $600-$700. It even has a backlit deck, though it’s not customizable. When I ever get it I plan to use it mainly for DJing and producing even though it seems like everyone is telling me to get a Mac. It has a cult following. LOL.

    Well, what to do with my old laptop? I have some rather weird and crazy ideas for it. It likes to get really hot, so it makes a better heating pad than a PC and I actually use it as a heated tush warmer sometimes as the deck gets really hot on it, not to mention I actually found it quite comfortable to sit on. It’s heaven!!! (told you I have really weird ideas!) Of course my parents are very baffled at the idea that I like to sit on a laptop. It’s just not a normal thing to do. If possible I thought about hacking it into a sort of X-Rocker like floor seat for videogaming if that isn’t a stupid idea. I’m thinking putting a nice force feedback vibration thing in the deck, a frame speaker audio element in the LCD screen area, some flashing LEDs, and a control module that would connect up to the game console. This would require gutting the entire laptop save the external elements. I don’t know if I would be up for it yet, but it sounds so cool. It would still look and feel like a laptop. it just wouldn’t be a PC anymore. It would be a great way for me to hang on to something old, repurpose it, and not tear it too much apart. Anyone else think is a really cool idea or am I nuts?

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